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The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst | Book Review

In Books on 03/08/2012 at 5:56 PM

Lately I’ve been reading books about impossibly screwed up people, so I just wanted to find something easy and lighthearted to entertain myself. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst seemed to fit the bill. Miss Probst is a serial bestseller she has been in two different The New York Times Bestsellers lists for a couple for fifteen weeks now and she has made an appearance in the bestselling lists of USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. So it’s natural to assume that this book would be somewhat amazing, however that can be argued.

The Marriage Bargain reads like one of them chick lit dramas, this is how the story goes – the fate of  these two childhood friends of some sort cross when  Alexa McKenzie needs $150,000 to save her family home and billionaire Nick Ryan needs a wife as soon as possible so that he can claim his full inheritance instead of just 51%. When Nick’s sister and Alexa’s best friend Maggie suggests Alexa to Nick as she is aware of both situations, Alexa seems to be the  perfect answer to his prayer and vice versa. So the two of them enter a marriage contract for a year:” a marriage by name”, they are to keep the facade of a happy couple without dealing with the messiness that usually comes with love and happiness. And Probst gets it out from the beginning that the two will never work as they are polar opposites. Nick cold, distant, practical and has issues with emotional attachment while Alexa is warm, loving and kind-hearted and she wants loads of cuties running around house (something that I bet you appears in Nick’s nightmares). But of course as in every love story, you know the ending from the begging  so surprise, surprise – the two find true love against one or two odds. I don’t know what possessed me to think that this would be an amazing read.

Jennifer Probst is a decent enough writer. She repeatably switches point of  from Alexa to Nick and back again I think she mastered this art well and managed to not make it annoying( a lot of writers can’t do that without annoying me to death) so kudos to her. Her writing style is very laid back, it has a simple flow and it’s very narrative – in a good way. The story line isn’t very solid but Probst is a good enough story teller, it all flows quite smoothly, that is until towards the end when she rushes things. You know this book is just not that great. Why? well, the answer goes like this – I honestly fail to understand the purpose of it. It’s just there. God knows how it made it on major best selling lists. It’s barely engaging, semi enjoyable. It’s just one of them things you read – for the sake of reading.

Why you may ask. Well, Probst did the worst thing a writer could do, she made it possible for the reader to take the characters at face value. They have no depth .The Marriage Bargain is supposed to be a love story it may not be a conventional love story, but it’s a love story nevertheless. Probst failed to make Alexa and Nick likable in anyway. It’s not like they were annoying, unrealistic or bad characters, they were just not right for a romance. They also didn’t mesh well together, Probst didn’t show us that they are into each others, she just kept on telling us, and the secret to good writing is to show and not tell. I didn’t find my self rooting for them and I honestly didn’t believe that they were in love. Messing up the two main characters mess up the whole love story.

The Marriage Bargain will not possess you, it will not have you wanting more until toward the end because it’s wrapped up way too fast,  it will not have you rooting for Alexa and Nick, it will not have you plotting the death of a particular character, it will however make time fly. I was thinking about it and books like The Marriage Bargain are the perfect cure for when you can’t sleep at night, so you decide to read a book to doze off, but you end up staying up at some crazy time of the night because your choice is just too good to put down. This book is simple and entertaining full stop. I give it 5 out of 10 stars

Thanks for reading, more to come.

  1. I know exactly what you mean about books like “The Marriage Bargain,” because I read oodles of them growing up (unfortunately). I think the worst thing they do is perhaps give adolescent girls unrealistic expectations about love and life (see one of Annie Cardi’s links offsite on the topic this week–funny as hell). And though it’s only sometimes true (especially these days, when the “only showing, no telling” thing itself is no longer new, but is swinging back just a bit in the other direction too) that a lot of telling can cause a work to fail, I’m willing to follow your description of this book and take your word for it that it’s just basically mind-candy. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you. We all have our private indulgences. I see what you mean, though, about the mystery of how it ended up on a best seller list. Go figure!


    • It may be a bit far fetched but I honestly believe that girls are set up to be slaves to romance from their bed time stories day, think about it…… Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel they seem to live for the sake of being rescued dashing princes (I always wonder why Cinderella didn’t move out, I know it’s a fairy tale but…. so). And what do real life girls want these days, “true” love from someone who treats them like a princesses. (“excuse me, but the man I end up with better know that I am and treats me like, a Queen, the sun, oxygen, respiration, and all that kind of stuff”- sorry for getting a bit carried away.) Further more, females in a lot of the stuff that are hot right now are not strong and when it comes to love they just surrender all power. E.g 50 shades of grey and Twilight especially Twilight; I swear women like Bella Swan should not exist. This does not teach adolescent girls nothing at all. And books like “The Marriage Bargain” just completely kill it. I feel so sorry for girls who are growing up in our times as they have nothing to look up to, yes they can read Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte but they need modern day inspiration, it’s just easier to relate to.
      Show and not telling seem to have been shot to hell and I’d like to kill who ever pulled the trigger. I think that writers are on crack, thinking that they can break the number one rule of good writing and get away with it. We are living in sad, sad, times. I know so many writers who deserve every number one spot in best selling list, it’s a shame that books like “The Marriage Bargain” gets the attention.


      • How’s about feeding your prose-frustrated soul with a little cutting, biting, poetic voice who speaks truly of women’s dilemmas? And of love in general? Not too long ago, I wrote a post on the poet Louise Bogan (from the 20th century at least, that’s more modern than Austen and Bronte). She has a book of poetry I just love called “The Blue Estuaries.” Her commentaries on love are very pointed and spot on, in lovely acerbic language that reminds you of everything you’ve ever wanted to say to a plain, stupid, irritating, superior-sounding dick-headed (excuse me, language!) man who cheated on you, lied to you, or just made life impossible in some way or other. That at least addresses the question of balancing the story out for all of those supposedly adorable heroes we’re asked to tolerate in cheap fiction. Don’t worry about “showing and telling” having been “shot to hell”–it hasn’t quite yet, and is still the norm in some quarters, such as some creative writing classes (I think you’d do well in a creative writing class due to the amount of passion you bring to every issue you write about. Having a topic is after all the first thing–shaping your stuff comes next). I say this not to condescend or be superior-sounding: I’ve taught creative and critical writing before in freshman seminars, and therefore have a little experience. Anyway, I’m not suggesting that you flatter my ego by reading what I said about Louise Bogan, I’m suggesting that you find her in a bookstore or library and see if her anger doesn’t chime in with yours just dandy. We all need literary ancestors, and she’s one of mine. Maybe you’ll like her too, that’s all I’m saying (and it’ll give you a change from all the sloppy, drippy prose we’re sometimes exposed to these days). Keep up the writing enthusiasm!


        • Can you please send me the link to your Louise Bogan post, I can’t seem to find it. I am currently on a mission to get my hands on her works, I’ve looked at some of her poems on the internet – is it crazy that I think that she knew me in the past life? Creative writing is kind of like my thing or at least it used to be. My imagination has always been dangerously over active. Short stories, I actually have several TV shows in my head and a couple moves (call me crazy) and poems! I am the boss of poems. But now I appear to have contracted what I like to call “Acute Writers Block Syndrome” One of the reason why I started this blog in the first place was to get back on my creative element, it’s really not working……….. any other suggestions for a cure.
          P.S thank you for the support.


          • You flatter me by asking for advice (who doesn’t love hearing the sound of their own pontificating voice?). Look on my website (http://creativeshadows.wordpress.com) and go to Archives. You’ll find the post on July 26: it’s called something long and tedious; “A great free website, some copyright terms, and irony (when is it ironic and when is it not?).” As to any other suggestions, the main things I notice that distract me from your message when I am reading are: 1) a certain degree of disorganization of topic and 2) lack of proper punctuation. Not to worry, both are readily solved by just restraining the passion which I’ve previously noticed in your work, and slowing down as you work a bit. 1) Try not to repeat the same point over again; once you’ve made it, go on. If it’s something you really need to reiterate, put it in different words the remaining times you use it. About this, I’m not speaking through my hat–I used to do the same thing. And I was told that even in creative writing it was possible to use an outline of my topic. First outline, then write. I’m also not going to pretend to you that I did exactly that–I found my own way around the problem, as you no doubt will too. I simply jot down a series of notes in any old order all over a clean sheet of paper; look it over before I start to write; then once I cover a point, I mark it out. That’s enough organization for me (at least that’s what i tell myself). 2) Punctuation is dismissed as an unimportant matter by many so-called writing teachers these days, to the detriment of clarity everywhere. It’s certainly not the most important thing about writing, but bad punctuation can really get in the way of conveying your message effectively, even when you’re doing creative writing, where the rules are more flexible. As I’ve heard it said, it’s not that you can’t break the rules, but you have to know what they are before your choice has meaning. Get a good writing guide or two, Sheridan Baker’s “The Practical Stylist” if it’s still in print, or E. B. White’s “The Elements of Style,” or some other traditional and OLD SCHOOL guy or gal like these. Then, you know what they know about punctuation and style, and can break their rules when you have adequate occasion for doing so. Those are the main things I notice distracting from the messages you try to convey on your website, which I otherwise have quite enjoyed reading (one thing that I especially like happens when you review contemporary best sellers so that I can figure out whether or not I want to read them and try to form an opinion. You really have a lot to say, and you owe it to yourself and your readers to say it at the top of your form. Keep writing!


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