REVIEW: Marriage by Design by Lynn Michaels
Dear Ms. Michaels,
I’ve not tried any of your books before but after finishing “Marriage by Design” I plan on changing that. It has a lot of elements I like and avoided some of the typical romance pitfalls that I abhor. It’s not without some niggles but they’re fairly minor and didn’t affect my enjoyment that much.
Mia Savard lives and breathes fashion. Which is not surprising since it’s the family business. Savard Creations is known for their custom designed bridal gowns and trousseau apparel and Mia is one of their top designers. That doesn’t mean that she gets along with her artistic and volatile father better than anyone else who works there but she’d rather wear thrift store rejects than hurt him or the company. When the design for her masterpiece creation, a wedding dress for the governor’s daughter, suddenly appears in a bridal magazine under the banner of Savard’s chief rival, she forgets her differences with her father and vows to help the PI hired to find the traitor who’s betrayed Savard.
Joe Kerr doesn’t think that finding the person who stole the design for a wedding dress is a minor job, especially when the temperaments and long standing bitter rivalry between the two owners cause it to escalate into a turf war that can irretrievably damage the reputation of both firms. Kerr’s business centers on white collar crime and he intends to get to the bottom of the mystery. His instincts tell him that this is a campaign aimed at Lucien Savard and to uncover the culprit, he needs to know everything possible about the business and the family. But even if he thinks Mia is as cute as a bug’s ear, he’s determined to keep their relationship strictly business until the thief is found.
I don’t know much about PI work but I appreciate the fact that Joe uses his brain more than his brawn. And that the breakthrough is achieved through methodical work rather than a “eureka!” moment. Mia also doesn’t charge around trying to be a detective and putting herself in danger’s way. When she knows she might have a clue, she calls Joe and turns it over to him. I think the dialogue between Joe and Mia is smart and funny but not in a “oh, can’t I write witty dialogue” way that is used in place of advancing the plot. And there’s a minimum of mental lusting! Oh, happy days! No characters standing stock still with drool running down their chins while they ogle each other. God, what a relief.
And even though the action takes place over a short period of time, I didn’t feel as if the relationship was rushed. Joe’s loved and lost before but he doesn’t let that turn him off of a future relationship nor rush him into one. Mia has had a relationship go bust but after a brief, “I hate all men” spurt, she opens herself to the possibility of finding someone else.
Now for the niggles. Lucien Savard is one volatile guy with a volcanic temper. I guess this is supposed to be an “artistic temperament” but I agree with his family members who think he’s lucky his employees haven’t entered into a class action suit against him. There are also a heck of a lot of secondary and tertiary characters to learn and keep straight. I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth to remind myself who everyone is. And Joe seems to have an abundance of employees to devote to this one case.
“Marriage by Design” is not as slapstick comedic as the cover might lead readers to expect. It’s a fun contemporary with layers of family dynamics that are exposed as the mystery is solved. It also makes me want to go back and try some of your backlist. B+ for this one.