Marriage by Design
Marriage by Design strings together one pleasant, mildly entertaining scene after another. But reading it is like getting only a bowl of soup for a meal. It’s nice at first, but eventually you want the main course to arrive. In this book, it never does.
Mia Savard is thirty, unmarried, and tired of brides. This is unfortunate as she’s in charge of designing wedding gowns for Savard Creations, her father’s company. She demands a change, but her father and boss refuses. So she does what any member of her family does when her boss acts unreasonable — she quits.
Her timing could not have been worse. The exclusive wedding dress she designed for the governor’s daughter was just shown without her permission – and under a competitor’s label – in a major magazine. Her boss throws a fit and fires everybody (actually not the first time in the company’s history), but Mia is the main suspect in the sabotage. Joe Kerr, a handsome blue-eyed private investigator, steps in to the rather crazed and quirky world of the Savard family and business to discover the truth behind the theft. He finds Mia adorable (and the attraction is mutual), but he’s got a job to do and Mia must clear her name.
Joe and Mia like each other from the beginning, but the investigation and a slight misunderstanding prevent them from taking action. I was entertained by an early scene in which Mia gets drunk and Joe becomes her caretaker. And though I initially liked how the author built their attraction, I kept waiting for something more memorable to happen. I’m still waiting.
Once they decide to take their feelings a little bit further, Joe finds it difficult to do both the right thing for the investigation and in his relationship with Mia. Too often though, the roadblocks stemming from the mystery of the stolen design that are thrown up in front of Joe and Mia’s relationship seemed rather trivial. Perhaps that’s simply because the issue of the stolen dress design seemed trivial as well.
The majority of the book is devoted to the dynamics of the Savard family. I liked Mia’s parents and enjoyed reading their banter and learning about their family history. A layer of intrigue is supposedly added because their main business rival has a personal history with Mia’s parents, but I cannot say that this was enough to make the book worthwhile. While it is humorous the first time family members are fired, it gets old. Scenes featuring Savard family members squabbling were somewhat fun, but the overall plot did not satisfy, and I never gained a great understanding of the characters.
The romance develops in bits and pieces, which gets frustrating later; the love relationship is continually interrupted by insignificant twists in a mystery that I did not find compelling. There are many side characters who are practically indistinguishable from each other, thus there are numerous suspects. Possible motivations are not sufficiently explored and explained.
Joe and Mia are nice, pleasant characters. Their backstories provide a bit of baggage and each is nicely vulnerable. The truth is that I liked them well enough early on, but eventually lost interest because of a lack of tension and growth within the relationship.
The author has a smooth writing style that I found very readable but, given the book’s length, I expected more of a romance and more of a plot. I was sadly disappointed as I waited for both. What’s there is nice and pleasant and occasionally fun, but there are never any fireworks. In the end there was little that was special and little that was horrible.