At thirty-three years of age, magazine writer Anne Blythe (her mother was so obsessed with Anne of Green Gables that her brother is named Gilbert) always seems to pick the same type of man: dark hair, blue eyes, and not right for her. She can’t help that she seems to habitually be attracted to Pierce Brosnan (in his younger days) types. She explains, “It’s an old crush.”
Only minutes after breaking up with her two-timing Stuart, Anne finds a business card lying on the sidewalk. “Blythe & Company. Arrangements made.” It can’t be coincidence, can it? Surely it is fate foreshadowing her destiny. Soon she is sitting in the office of the icily-professional Ms. Cooper and actually considering paying a lot of money to have Blythe & Company find a husband for her, hoping that they might do a better job than she has managed to do on her own thus far.
When Jack Harmer is presented to Anne as her perfect “eight point” match, she decides that she will take a chance on Blythe & Company’s promise of a marriage founded on compatibility and friendship, rather than mutual attraction. Jack is also a writer, thirty-four years old, with a long history of relationship failures and he definitely is not the type of man that Anne usually falls for.
But fate has more than a few surprises in store for Anne and Jack. Could true love be one of them?
With the publication of only her second novel, Catherine McKenzie is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors of contemporary women’s fiction. Her debut novel, Spin was a clever, surprising, and touching a coming-of-age story with a very big heart about a young woman whose denial and avoidance of reality had consigned her to sleep-walking through her own life. With Arranged, McKenzie demonstrates that she is an author with a distinctive voice and the rare ability to craft memorable, emotionally satisfying, and thought-provoking romantic tales.
Anne Blythe is hapless when it comes to men. She has repeatedly fallen for the same type of guy, each time with disastrous results. Case in point: Stuart with the sculpted abs and unfortunate attraction to his own stepsister. Thankfully, Anne has a best friend, Sarah, with the courage to tell her the truth. But it seems to Anne that fate has stepped in when she finds the business card just lying on a New York City sidewalk. After all, she wants to marry and have a family, and knows that the time remaining to her to do so is rapidly elapsing. She insists that she no longer believes in the fairy tale notion of finding a perfect mate, and gambles on the possibility that Blythe & Company may actually be able to facilitate her dream. Anne is like so many educated, professional women who don’t seem to be able to find the right man with whom to settle down that she is instantly empathetic. She is also extremely likable because she is talented, earnest, and quite gullible.
You just need to be honest with yourself about what kind of life you want. And once you do that, you’ll know what you want and how to get it.~~ Dr. Szwick to Anne Blythe in Arranged
And that leads to complications once she decides to take the biggest chance of her life. In fact, her naivete perfectly complements the wise-cracking charm of Jack Harmer. He carries a few extra pounds — he definitely does not have washboard abs — and sports a trimmed beard. Anne has never been attracted to men with beards. But there is something about him and Anne is convinced that their instantaneous connection is genuine. He reassures her and, much to her surprise, she is attracted to him. Could Blythe & Company’s notion of basing marriage on friendship rather than romance actually be sound and lead to long-term relationship success? To Anne, it all sounds crazy enough that it might just work.
Of course, a few surreal days in a luxurious vacation resort give little hint of the day-to-day realities of married life in Manhattan. Anne lets down her guard and her vulnerability further pulls readers into the story, suspending disbelief incrementally. The plot never slows and McKenzie expertly weaves surprises into the story at perfectly timed intervals, with maximum emotional impact. As in Spin, McKenzie explores the impact of hidden truths and betrayals, as her characters struggle to resolve moral and ethical dilemmas and contemplate whether forgiveness can be forthcoming. Through it all, McKenzie injects humor and contemporary sensibility into a surefire romance formula. The result is an engaging and entertaining story about deciding what kind of life one wants to live and discovering how to construct it.
Like Spin, I highly recommend Arranged.