Summary: Teague O’Malley hates pretty much everything associated with his family’s name. And when his father orders him to marry Callista Sheridan to create a “business” alliance, Teague’s ready to tell his dad exactly where he can stuff his millions. But then Teague actually meets his new fiancée, sees the bruises on her neck and the fight still left in her big blue eyes, and vows he will do everything in his power to protect her.
Everyone knows the O’Malleys have a dangerous reputation. But Callie wasn’t aware just what that meant until she saw Teague, the embodiment of lethal grace and coiled power. His slightest touch sizzles through her. But the closer they get, the more trouble they’re in. Because Callie’s keeping a dark secret-and what Teague doesn’t know could get him killed.
The Marriage Contact, by Katee Robert, is a rollercoaster of a ride start to the O’Malley Series. Centered on the three families that run the Boston “underground” (the Sheridans, the O’Malleys, and the Hallorans), The Marriage Contract is one part romance, one part thriller, and one part rip your heart out storytelling. This is the first chance I’ve had to read any of Katee Robert’s books, but I was blown away by the depth of her storytelling. This isn’t a fill in the blank romance, but instead a story about family, loyalty, and how the sins of the father affect the children.
First and foremost, this is Callie and Teague’s story. The heir to the Sheridan Empire, Callie makes a fatal decision that leaves her engaged to Teague O’Malley. Seen as an insult and threat, the vicious Halloran family doesn’t take this news well, kicking off a war with a drive-by shooting during Callie and Teague’s engagement party.
Amidst the shootings and intrigues, Callie and Teague find themselves sharing a steamy kiss in an alley while escaping their own party. Meeting for the first time, neither knows what to expect, but the kiss connects them in a physical way (literally and figuratively) and they find themselves craving each other’s company more and more as things spin out of control around them, to include the vital secrets that both are keeping.
Both main characters are incredibly likable. Callie is a strong, independent woman who will one day run an empire built by her father and meant for her older brother Ronan whose death left a hole only she can fill. Teague is one of seven children, and, while not the heir, he has a part to play on the chessboard that is the O’Malley children’s lives. Always the protector, Teague wants nothing more than to get his younger siblings out of the world their father created for them. When he and Callie meet, she quickly becomes as important to him. They find common ground in their desire for living a normal life with recognition that “normal” isn’t in the cards for them. What was surprising to me (in a good way) was that despite Callie’s destiny, she is just as quick to become attached to Teague, open to romance and the shelter that he represents. They are the calm in the storm.
Throughout The Marriage Contract the reader is introduced to some of the strongest secondary characters I’ve seen in a while. Robert takes the time to flesh out all the key players, obviously because this is a series, but more so because they play important parts in this book. Reminiscent of Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series, Robert brings to life and showcases the second generation of all three families in such a way that within the space of one book the reader already cares deeply what happens to them. And the plot, both in this book and going forward into the next book (though I’d point out that The Marriage Contract can easily be a standalone novel) is thrilling and each scene moves the story forward with anticipation for the next one.
My only complaint with The Marriage Contract is the narrative-heavy first half of the book. There’s a distinct lack of balance between the dialogue and narrative and in the beginning, the story dragged a bit. As The Marriage Contract is the eldest child in a (hopefully) long series, I can understand why there was a lot of wordy world building, but at times I found myself pushing through to get to the payoff. But the payoff is well worth it.
*The Marriage Contract is available for preorder. Its release date is June 2.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for honest feedback and a review*