Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

3 Jan

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: January 3th, 2011
Genre: Chick-lit, general fiction
Review copy from publisher

Anne Blythe is lucky. She’s got a brand new book contract, a great newspaper job and a steadfast best friend, and she can land just about any man she sets her sights on — and the ones that appeal are typically tall, dark and handsome.

Problem is, the men she chooses never last. Shortly after yet another relationship goes down in flames, Anne comes across a card for what she believes is a dating service, and pockets it just in case. If she’s so unlucky in love, maybe she could use a little assistance. Then her best friend announces she’s engaged, and envy gets the better of Anne. Now’s the time, she decides, to give the service a try — and she is shocked to discover that what the company specializes in are exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriages. After learning of the company’s success rate, however, she overcomes her reluctance and signs on. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, and she’s not done so well selecting a mate on her own. So why not use a professional service that claims it can produce the perfect match?

Some time later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack, the man they have chosen for her. And against all odds, it seems to be working out, until Anne learns that Jack and the company who arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

From HarperCollins Canada website.

 

So yesterday Catherine McKenzie’s first book, Spin, made it on my list of favorite reads for 2010. I know we’re only three days into 2011 but I can tell you that Arranged will make it on my best of 2011 list. I loved it that much. I stayed up until 3 am to finished it and immediately wanted to reread it again. Arranged may seem on the surface like a light “chick lit” read, but underneath it’s about more serious issues like loneliness, stability and trust. And it’s a book that I know will stick with me for a long time.

Anne Blythe isn’t always the most likable character in the world. She has a certain “type” of guy she’s into and she’s, well, kinda shallow when it comes to looks. For the first part of the book I spent a lot of time wanting to smack her upside the head. I mean, quit complaining that you can’t find a decent guy when you only go for men who have movie star looks. Honestly. But as the book went on, and McKenzie let me slowly see deeper into Anne’s psyche I felt a connection to the character that I rarely feel when reading. I think a lot of women are going to see aspects of themselves in Anne. I know I did.

Okay, here’s a bit of background on moi. You need to know it so that you can understand how fully and completely connected I felt with Anne by the time I got about half way through the book, and why I became so entrenched in her story and her happiness. The hubs and I met in a bit of an unconventional way: I answered his personal online ad . I was sick and tired of the dating game and wanted to meet someone I knew I’d be compatible with. I also wanted to avoid that awkward does-he-like-me-like-me stage when you first meet someone of the opposite sex. Since I was answering a personal ad, all I had to do was meet the guy, see if we clicked, and if we didn’t, so be it. Sure it’s not as serious of a commitment as an arranged marriage, but I could still identify with everything Anne was feeling pre and post wedding. For me the connection was at times painful, and some of the things Anne goes through broke my heart so bad that I had to set the book down for a bit and gather myself.

As an Island girl, I got a kick out of all the Anne of Green Gables reference. I mean, there’s no one on PEI who doesn’t have some kind of a connection to Anne. Most of us have the seen the musical. And, if like me, you’ve ever worked as an usher at The Confederation Center of the Arts, then you’ve seen the musical enough times to know it off by heart 15 years later.

The author’s writing was once again great. McKenzie has a straight-forward writing style that lends itself perfectly to the story. She has the amazing ability to handle some tough issues in a light way without being condescending, rude or awkward about it. In her books it seems effortless but I know that it must be hard to maintain that balance.

Arranged was way more romancy than Spin and -gasp- there may even be a bit of a sex scene it in, something that would normally turn the extremely prudish me off from finishing the book. But I felt such a strong connection to Anne and was so tied up in the plot and the writing was so great that I didn’t give a hoot. I loved the book despite the fact that it had elements in it that I normally don’t love. And that, my friends, is the sign of excellent writing, an amazing plot and stand out characters. All of which Arranged has.

Still not convinced this is a must read book? Browse inside Arranged and see for yourself.

Oh, and pop back to the blog because in the next week or so I’ll be hosting a Q & A with Catherine and giving away a copy of Arranged, thanks to HarperCollins Canada and The Savvy Reader.

 

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6 Responses to “Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie”

  1. amymckie January 3, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Interesting sounding book. I’m not sure if I’d like it, but maybe I’ll ask to borrow it after April if I am intrigued then 😉

  2. Pam January 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Great review! Looks like a really great book, I think I’d probably like it.

  3. Catherine McKenzie January 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Thanks for the great review!!

  4. steph January 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    The idea of this novel really intrigues me so I was pretty happy when the Harper rep sent us a box of ARCs and Arranged was in it. It’s in my pile to be read. I like the sound of Spin, too. Even though both are totally not what I normally read. But I am a woman of many moods, and one never wants to be without when the urge to read “chick-lit” hits!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. First review of ARRANGED blog tour | Catherine McKenzie - January 4, 2011

    […] Lavender Lines writes: “I know we’re only three days into 2011 but I can tell you that Arranged will make it on my best of 2011 list. I loved it that much. I stayed up until 3 am to finish it and immediately wanted to read it again.” « 2nd Edition of SPIN – Harper Weekend […]

  2. Arranged: The Blog Tour « The Savvy Reader - January 11, 2011

    […] Stop #8: Lavender Lines […]

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