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By Lisa Darcy

IR Rating:
THE PACT by Lisa Darcy is overall a drama-packed, intriguing story of two characters discovering their own identities.
Sisters Samantha and Annie Callahan are the toast of women’s doubles tennis. But after a dramatic falling-out, both will have to come to terms with their inner demons to discover what they truly want in life.

Samantha and Annie Callahan are joined at the hip. They’re top-tier at doubles tennis, especially under the watchful eye of their coach “Bear.” With brand deals and press coverage keeping them in the public eye, the Australian sisters seem to have everything going for them—until Annie starts a serious relationship with Erik, the ex of a rival player. Annie suffers both professionally and personally from this, and things keep going downhill. Finally, after their double act is broken up on the professional stage, Samantha has an outburst that gets them both the worst possible kind of attention. The sisters are going their separate ways, both in tennis and in life.

The bulk of Lisa Darcy’s THE PACT is the falling-out of the Callahans, from Annie’s downward spiral to Samantha’s on-again, off-again feelings for Bear. The narration swaps between Samantha and Zach, a photographer friend who carries a torch for Annie. The action weaves between intense tennis matches and emotional personal battles. While there’s plenty of rivalry to go around (especially when Bear begins coaching other players and Samantha feels her jealousy rising), the heart of this novel is the Callahans. There are a lot of unprocessed feelings between the two, especially concerning their unseen mother—whose tragic story becomes sadly relevant once again.

For the most part, THE PACT is a rich and interesting examination of the world of professional tennis. Even the smallest characters have clear goals, from a French model using the court for self-promotion to Dragana, Erik’s tough-as-nails ex. In scenes like these, and in the later scenes where Samantha and Annie begin to understand themselves and each other better, the book shines. Slightly undercutting this is the depiction of affection, specifically between Bear and Samantha. While there’s nothing ultimately toxic about it, and it’s made clear to the reader that Samantha is fighting her feelings, there’s something somewhat troubling about Bear’s boundary-crossing (he repeatedly calls Samantha by an affectionate nickname after being asked not to, insists “You’re in love with me” while she is processing delayed grief, and so on) being considered both romantic and the right thing to do. Especially when held up to Zach’s actions, which are depicted as the exact opposite; one step over Annie’s boundary is instrumental in kicking off a massively destructive chain of events.

This is, however, the only thing that truly feels off-kilter about the book. Samantha’s growth as a character is compelling, as she eventually learns what she wants in life and even begins to teach others the lessons she has learned along the way. Even “unlikable” characters receive redemption, whether it’s legitimate growth or just a bit more context about their personal lives. The ending is realistically positive, suggesting that the cast will continue to discover new truths about themselves even after the last page has been turned.

THE PACT by Lisa Darcy is overall a drama-packed, intriguing story of two characters discovering their own identities.

~Kara Dennison for IndieReader

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