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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Baggage Check

The Marriage Pact #3

ISBN: 9781250070951

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Publication Date: 7/12/2016

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars Baggage Check is the third in a charming series about a group of thirty-somethings in Atlanta making surprising discoveries about friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. At 35, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta. But despite Rebecca's best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. When Rebecca gets a frantic phone call from her mother back in Alabama, Rebecca is pulled back to the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind and forced to face the hard truths about her family and past. A past that includes Deputy Alex Chen, who thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend's kid sister. Can Rebecca navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she's always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?

M.J. Pullen returns in this final installment to the same captivating group of lovelorn friends, this time following the girl group's frenemy, Rebecca, as she's forced to confront her past. Raising the stakes, Pullen delivers an absorbing, romantic novel that poses the question, what if everything you were looking for was right where you started?

My Review

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. A very fitting title and cover. From Atlanta to Alabama, M. J. Pullen delivers her third installment (The Marriage Pact #3) with a group of thirty-something girlfriends, BAGGAGE CHECK. From emotional baggage, complexities, wit, wisdom, and love. The game of life. How will each play the game? As the book opens, Atlanta girlfriends, Suzanne, Marci, Beth and Kate are headed to Charleston, SC where they would all be at Kiawah Island and drinking soon. A luxurious rental house—technically supposed to be a bachelorette party for Suzanne. Rebecca and Marci had been part of the same circle of friends for more than fifteen years, since Rebecca had escaped to Georgia her senior year in high school, but they could never seem to get comfortable being alone together. Rebecca supposed the fact that she was in love with Marci’s husband, Jake-- didn’t help. Rebecca, age 35 a flight attendant out of Atlanta receives a phone call from her mother back in Alabama, and returns to the town and a past, she so wanted to leave behind. A town and people she wanted to forget. She had exchanged this unpleasant life for an orderly one. She was not looking forward to returning. When she was growing up, in the rural small Southern town, a town barely able to support the weekend dance hall that only served soda and doubled as a senior activity center during the day. Then there was (is) Sheriff Deputy, Alex Chen from the same Podunk town where they had grown up. A guy who played football with her brother, who still has feelings for her. She had no intentions of getting involved with him, or does she? Her mom, Lorena was a hoarder and has a psychiatrist. OCD plus now she is confused and dissociative. Mental Illness. A traumatic event. Rebecca’s brother Cory died in a car accident in 1997 when he was eighteen. After Rebecca moved to Georgia for her senior year and went to college it became harder for her father to keep her mother in check. Rebecca begins questioning her own life. For the last ten years she had been too busy lusting after a man who did not love her. Her career. She had been free on weekends and rarely made her way out I-20 West to Alabama. How would she face her own past and present? Now Marci wants to know if her husband is cheating? Rebecca had left all these things behind long ago. It was easier. There was something unhealthy in the way her mother clung to each piece of matter around her. As though by holding on to the everyday items, she could hold on to Cory. She herself, had replaced the past with a senior year trying to fit in with the kids from a rich Atlanta suburb, trying to live up to other people’s potential. From the sorority at UGA, still the regional alumni VP, where she hoarded social connections, the way her mother hoarded garage sale furniture. Rebecca loved her orderly clean life. Being the kind of person who could be a blank slate, a smile that reflected back what people wanted to see in themselves. No pets, no artwork, no low cut blouses or profanity to offend a potential suitor’s mother. She had built her life on being the girl-next-door clean, as asset to any man of wealth and reputation. And yet, she slept alone. The men of wealth and reputation wanted blue-blooded women like Suzanne, who could wear high heels and silk scarves and manage to curse while sounding feminine. Rebecca had never been able to pull off either. Was she trying too hard to be something or someone different? What about Alex? The boy who was there all along. However, on the opposite side, we hear from Marci Stillwell, through her Blog (The Care and Feeding of a Suburban Husband) with a series of entries about her life. Is her picture perfect husband, lovely home in the suburbs, beautiful daughter and amazing life, what it appears to be? Everyone is busy rushing to grow up, however, do we wish we had spent more time enjoying our time being a kid? Always striving, while losing the enjoyment of playing the game (journey).

“Life isn’t perfect. Love isn’t perfect. People are taken from us too soon, lives unravel, families crumble. Even when we stay together, we take each other for granted, and the love that should lift us up to be better people sometimes leaves us room to become selfish, righteous, or controlling instead.”

How does love survive? Win or lose, just get back out there. Sometimes you have to know the tears of loss to appreciate the joy of winning. Sometimes the people who need love the most are the ones who seem to push it away. Being an Atlanta gal, and a Southern native, loved discovering this author. This was my first book in the series and working my way backwards to the prior books. I enjoyed the comparison of marriage, relationships, family and friendships (Life) to the game of (Sports). More than just about the "score" at the end of the game. " If you live in GA or AL, there is always sports. "Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.” – William A. Ward Beautifully written, with human insights, a contemporary look at the lives of modern women, their complexities, family, friendships, and the strong need of acceptance and love. Dealing with the past, in order to move forward with the future. The Marriage Pact series begins with Marci and Jake, Suzanne and Dylan, now Rebecca and Alex--from witty, quirky, emotional and inspirational. Love and Loss. Heartwarming, important life lessons, and self-discovery. Fans of Emilie Giffin, Sarah Pekkanen, Jane Green, and Jennifer Weiner will enjoy BAGGAGE CHECK! We are, in many ways, defined by our baggage. "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up."— Vince Lombardi

Review Links:

Praise for M.J. Pullen’s The Marriage Pact series

“In this story, no romance, friendship, or parent-child relationship is perfect, which makes it all the more uplifting and sweet.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Baggage Check

“This entertaining blend of comedy and romance—with a healthy dash of suspense—will delight fans of funny women’s fiction.”Booklist on Regrets Only

“Romance abounds in this sexy and modern love story.”Kirkus Reviews on Regrets Only

“[Suzanne and Marci] are incredibly likable, though flawed, and together their friendship-fueled chemistry sizzles…The reminder not to judge a person by assumptions rings true and timely.”Romantic Times, four star review on Regrets Only

“A deftly written and captivating tale…Don’t miss this sexy and engrossing romp!”Cherry Adair, New York Times bestselling author on Regrets Only

“Quirky and fun.”Susan Hatler, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author on Regrets Only

“Fans of Jane Green or Emily Giffin are sure to enjoy.”Shelf Awareness on The Marriage Pact

“A charming cross between romance and chick lit…Pullen’s characters are realistic, and the dialogue is funny, making this an excellent choice for fans of early Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, and Emily Giffin.”Booklist on The Marriage Pact

“This novel is chick lit to its core and makes for a light and easy read.”Library Journal on The Marriage Pact

“M.J. Pullen brings clever quirkiness to romantic comedy!”Penny Reid, international bestselling author of Neanderthal Seeks Human on The Marriage Pact

“Funny, wise and painfully true. Make sure you clear your weekend before you pick up The Marriage Pact!”Chrissie Manby, author of Getting Over Mr. Right on The Marriage Pact

“All five stars for The Marriage Pact; a roller-coaster ride through love, friendship and self-discovery.”Valerie Joan Connors, author of In Her Keeping and Shadow of a Smile on The Marriage Pact

About the


MJ Pullen

When she’s not chasing two little boys or trying to wipe something sticky off the floor, M.J. (Manda) Pullen is the bestselling author of women’s fiction and romantic comedies: Every Other Saturday (available now as a digital first), The Marriage Pact (11/3/2015 – St. Martin’s Press), Regrets Only (coming soon) and Baggage Check (also coming soon).

M.J. grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Writing has always been a big part of her life, both professionally and personally. She studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking a sabbatical to spend more time writing and raising her brood. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.

M.J. loves creating true-to-life characters who are flawed, relatable, and most importantly redeemable. She tries to explore all aspects of relationships, from romantic entanglements to battles between mortal enemies, and everything in between. She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.

After years traveling and living in places like Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, M.J. has now returned to her home city of Atlanta, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. She loves to hear from readers and other writers – so drop her a line! Read More






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