The Golden Couple is the latest offering from the writing duo of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I’ve loved every book they’ve published and this one is no exception.
Avery Chambers is of the firm conviction that losing her license as a therapist and the resultant necessity of doing independent life coaching/counseling is one of the best things that could have happened to her. Free of the restraints that typically bind psychologists, she has been able to come up with a ten-session approach that really helps her clients move forward. She can quickly direct them towards the best possible solution to their problems rather than taking the rather long, rambling approach a typical therapist utilizes, of endless conversations that respect the patient’s choices without ever calling them out for their bad decision-making.
All is not bliss, however. The two clients Avery broke the rules for, the people who ultimately cost her her license, had powerful enemies. People who have now become Avery’s adversaries as well. There have been break-ins at her condo and carefully veiled threats sent in various manners. She has to be careful what new clients she takes on - the last thing she needs to do is land herself in more danger.
Matthew and Marissa Chambers don’t really look like trouble though. They seem to be a golden couple - beautiful, wealthy, successful - who have simply hit a rough patch in their marriage after Marissa had a one-night stand while Matthew was out of town. But as the old saying goes, appearances can be deceiving.
Our story alternates between two viewpoints - that of the clever, street-smart Avery and the fragile Marissa. Marissa is horrified that she allowed a bit of wine, a sense of loneliness, and a wish to once more feel desirable to jeopardize everything she has. She adores her life running an exclusive boutique and taking care of her son Bennett. She loves that Matthew can afford to buy them the best of everything, that they can send their son to private schools and make sure he never wants for anything. Marissa is determined to hold on to all of that, no matter what it costs her - but she just may have invited a very dangerous person into her safe, perfect world.
Avery is everything Marissa isn’t. She is determinedly single and uninterested in the domestic bliss Marissa so clearly craves. She’s tough and suspicious of everyone, whereas Marissa is warm, open, and caring. Avery is also astute - she can tell Marissa and Matthew aren’t being completely honest with her but then, no client ever is. Her unique curative approach involves a lot of sleuthing, and so she begins to insert herself into Marisa and Matthew’s lives, determined to intrude into - and inspect- every aspect of their existence. But the more she tries to figure them out, the less she understands them.
The Golden Couple is a very readable mystery that revolves around a puzzle rather than violence. While threats of danger hover over the characters, the most graphic thing that occurs on the page for most of the tale is some slashed tires. The narrative centers on Avery outwitting her problems - both the people from the past who are threatening her and the possible issues surrounding her involvement with Marissa and Matthew. Avery can be odd, nosy, and tough as nails, but I found myself liking her a lot. She really is concerned with making a positive impact on her clients’ lives, with an emphasis on impact. She doesn’t just want to help them cope with their problems, she wants to help them solve those problems so they can be in a better place when their time together has ended. I appreciated her desire to be a force for good.
I think many women will relate to Marissa, a woman who feels that any passion in her marriage has been drowned by the mundane nature of everyday life and who only wants to recapture the magic of loving and being loved. Her mistake is easily understandable once we see the cold distance that has built up between her and Matthew, and her desperate desire to fix - and improve - what she broke can be very touching. It would have been easy for her character to come across as selfish and greedy but the authors do a great job of making her sympathetic, someone readers can root for in spite of her mistakes.
The authors also do a nice job of creating a wonderfully atmospheric, gentle suspense tale that kept me guessing till the very end. Several possible villains are presented, and we are never sure just who is doing what and why they are doing it. I did wonder at the fact that the ultimate villain had been able to disguise themselves so thoroughly and I frankly didn’t believe the transformation of some of the red herrings - they go from looking guilty to being not just innocent but a true friend too quickly. I also strongly disliked one particular character who comes across as a stalker with controlling and obsessive tendencies. The ending doesn’t deal with them appropriately but all of the above are quibbles - this tale is otherwise very, very good.
The Golden Couple will be an enjoyable read for anyone who likes mystery novels that revolve around competent, intelligent women. I would strongly recommend it to that audience.
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