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REVIEW: No Commitment Required by Seressia Glass

Dear Ms Glass:

158571028801mzzzzzzz.jpgOne of my main disappointments with contemporary Romance is that the heroine often seems emotionally isolated. If she has a career, it gets shorted for the sake of the romance. If she has friends, they are there more in spirit than actual character presence. If she has family, they may make an obligatory appearance during the wedding or present a meddling presence during the courtship phase of the romance relationship. So I was surprised and excited when I started reading your debut novel, No Commitment Required, because right from the beginning of the book I was thrown into the heroine’s complex world of career, friends, business associates, and family, both blood and surrogate. Although it reads in some parts like a first book, overall I found No Commitment Required to be an emotionally satisfying and well-developed romance between two multi-layered characters dealing with complex life issues.

Yvonne Mitchelson is on the verge of large-scale success with Your Heart’s Desire, a growing chain of Atlanta boutiques specializing in her own line lingerie and other romance-related items. When she hires Michael Benjamin’s marketing firm to take her business to the next level, neither of these independent, no-commitment types expect the strength of their mutual attraction. Both are successful and intelligent, both attractive and emotionally unattached, both focused more on their own success than on the prospect of marriage and family, and their professional partnership gives them both the opportunity to get to know each other as colleagues and creative entrepreneurs, providing a solid context in which their physical attraction can be nurtured, as well.

The thing about both Yvonne and Michael, however, is that they each harbor strong fears of emotional vulnerability, and both have been emotionally injured in ways that makes it very difficult for them to move past a superficial attachment to romantic engagements. Unlike some Romance novels in which the hero or heroine’s emotional hurt turns out to be a surface wound at best, Michael and Yvonne really are pretty emotionally damaged, especially Yvonne, who seems the healthier of the two initially but is ultimately revealed to be the one in need of a much more thorough emotional exorcism than Michael. When we first meet Michael, in fact, it is to see him disappointing yet another woman:

“I’m not the marrying type,” he said quietly. “I told you that when we started seeing each other. I wish you had believed me.”

His furious ex-lover laughed hollowly. “What woman in her right mind believes a line like that? That was a challenge, not a confession. What you should have told me is what a cold-hearted son of a bitch you are.”

True, but that wasn’t something that could be brought up in casual conversation. Or bed.

Despite this witty exchange, initially I thought I was in for yet another story about the rakish, commitment-phobic executive whose mommy done him wrong, finally converted to puppyish, loving husband by the understanding and emotionally generous heroine. Yawn. But as Michael and Yvonne begin their relationship, and as their old emotional wounds become apparent to one another and to the reader, we learn that Michael really has been done wrong by a woman (not his mother) and that somehow, in meeting a woman who is truly more emotionally shut down than he is, he is given the opportunity to grow up and give of himself emotionally to a woman who baffles him but also energizes and challenges him in a way he hasn’t ever experienced. The story of Michael’s maturation and Yvonne’s slow thawing really was a pleasure to experience, because these two characters were real adults dealing with real grown-up relationship issues.

I won’t go into detail regarding the traumatic histories of both Michael and Yvonne, because learning about those issues is part of the satisfaction in reading No Commitment Required, but I will say that in Yvonne’s case I was impressed with how emotionally realistic her commitment issues were, especially once we discover the whole of her story. And for a while, we, like Michael, must take a lot on faith, especially because Yvonne is far more stubborn in her emotional reticence than Michael, which is a wonderful little twist on standard Romance expectations. When Michael’s mother asks Yvonne about her feelings for Michael, she answers honestly and with fitting complexity:

“My ability to love was all but killed with my family. But since I’ve met Michael, since I’ve been with him, there’s this sensation in my chest, something that’s just as fragile as it is strong. It rules my every waking moment, yet I’m so afraid that it isn’t enough. I don’t love your son as much as I will, and probably not nearly as much as he deserves. But I care for him very deeply, to the best of my ability, and I hope that every day of the rest of my life brings a new way to show him how much I do.”

The obstacles to this couple’s happiness are both external and internal. The fact that Michael and white and Yvonne is black creates some backlash, although it is more an external tension than one within the relationship. Although Michael warns Yvonne early on not to “Put me on a pedestal. . . . I’ll only fall off,” he is genuinely surprised to find himself wanting more from Yvonne than she seems to want from him, and it forces him to face his own selfishness and to see someone else’s pain as more important than his. It was, in fact, so refreshing to read a Romance hero who has to be the one to take the emotional risk with the heroine that I pretty much forgave his “too good to be true” moments and the speed with which he seemed to devote himself to getting Yvonne to surrender herself completely to her emotional attachment to him.

As for Yvonne, she never felt self-pitying to me, and I loved that she continued to work and focus on her business for most of the book, despite the obvious emotional turmoil she was experiencing (at one point she is appropriately unfocused on her work, though, proving that she is not a super-heroine). In fact, there were numerous scenes that took place within and around the work environment and relationship between Michael and Yvonne, and Yvonne’s business was represented as much more than a prop to show how unbalanced her professional and personal lives had become. Further, the secondary characters, for the most part, had real roles to play, although I must admit that they did seem a bit too good to be true in some cases.

The weaknesses of the book registered mostly in pacing and in a shift between eloquent prose and clichéd expressions, and while they were not by any means fatal, it was really the first and last sections of the book that buoyed my ultimate enthusiasm. Although I must say that the final crisis, so to speak, was catalyzed by a scenario involving Michael and Yvonne’s mutual friend came across as emotionally unpersuasive to me and indicative of the shift between solid storytelling and borderline melodrama. It was an inconsistency that was largely overcome by the complex characterizations of Michael and Yvonne, however, and the small but significant ways that certain Romance clichés were turned on their heads. So on the strength of the characterizations and the wonderful surprises in No Commitment Required, I ended up finding this a B read and now look forward to another Seressia Glass novel.

This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

19 Comments

  1. (Jān)
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 15:26:30

    Ooh that sounds like a good one! I’m in the mood for atypical characters I can sink my teeth into. Thanks for the review.

    On a side note, are mm’s going for $8.95 now? I’ve not been buying that many but I’d thought I’d have noticed that.

  2. Rae Lindley
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 15:31:43

    Great review. This is by far my favorite romance novel and the best work I’ve seen from this author. Both characters literally jumped off the page and are complex, intelligent and flawed. Not to mention the sexual tension and love scenes are hot hot hot! ;-)

  3. Seressia Glass
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 15:34:56

    Janet,

    Thanks so much for the review. NCR was my first book, originally published in 2000. This cover is of the original trade size, but a mass market version was released last year. Thanks again!

    Seressia (quite relieved)

  4. Karen Scott
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 15:55:28

    I have this on my TBR, I’ll have to dig it out after your review.

  5. Janet
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 15:56:57

    Jan: I think I paid 6.99 for this one at Amazon, but I haven’t checked the price lately.

    Rae: One of the things I didn’t mention in my review but which your comment reminded me of is the way in which the sex between Michael and Yvonne really does heat up both physically and emotionally as they become more emotionally connected. And I appreciated that, because it really was a *part* of their relationship and not merely obligatory Romance sex scenes.

    Seressia: I bought the MM re-release of the book, and the cover was one of the things that initially intrigued me. Because I’m technologically challenged, though, I make Jane put up the book cover pics for my reviews, and obviously Amazon is selling both versions of NCR. Here’s a link to the reissue if anyone is interested in purchasing the MM version.

  6. Janet
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 16:03:19

    Karen: I hope you enjoy it, and then review it, so I can read your take on it, lol. I haven’t seen a bunch of reviews for this one, even though it was re-pubbed in 2007, which is the first I’d seen it.

  7. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 16:36:23

    His furious ex-lover laughed hollowly. “What woman in her right mind believes a line like that? That was a challenge, not a confession. What you should have told me is what a cold-hearted son of a bitch you are.”

    True, but that wasn't something that could be brought up in casual conversation. Or bed.

    Oh, I like this bit.

  8. Dance Chica
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 16:39:11

    What a coincidence! I literally just finished this book. I really enjoyed the story, and Ms. Glass’s writing. Yvonne and Michael really heated up the pages and I thought their characters were well developed. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Ms. Glass. Btw, I, too, find the MM cover attractive; it’s the version of the book I bought as well.

  9. (Jān)
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 18:59:02

    The link at the bottom of the review is to the trade, which is what confused me. But I found the mm pb which was $6.99 and bought that. (I actually like the trade cover better with all the pink flowers behind the couple – I’m such a girl lol.)

    This is the first romance novel I’ve been looking forward to in a while.

  10. Lynne
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 19:00:09

    Of her full length novels, this one is actually my second favorite. My favorite book of hers is Dream of Shadows, which is a paranormal. Of everything she’s written, period, my absolute all-time fave is her novella in Vegas Bites. LOVED that djinn hero!

  11. Hatsumomo
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 19:40:06

    Thanks for the review. I’ll have to look out for this one. I’ve been wanting to read some romance novels featuring interracial couples and this looks like a good place to start.

  12. Indy
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 21:40:58

    I’m an old fan of this story. Have owned a copy of it for at least 5 years and happy to see it getting some press.

  13. Seressia
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 22:28:16

    Thanks again for the comments and the review and to everyone who’s read it.

    Janet: When this book first came out there just weren’t that many review sites around, and even fewer that had reviewers willing to read MC books. Luckily there are more sites now, and more reviewers willing to diversify their reading lists.

  14. roslynholcomb
    Jan 22, 2008 @ 01:45:22

    This is one of my faves as well, and I’m not just saying that because Seressia is a friend even though she is. -lol- These characters are so well-crafted I despair of ever achieving her character-development ability. She’s one of the few authors that can make me cry.

  15. Karen Roongrojana
    Mar 07, 2008 @ 12:38:39

    Hi Seressia
    I read your first two books and wondering if you finished the Civil War one yet and if it is published what is the title.
    Hope all is well.
    I doubt you remember me -we worked at OD together several years back.

  16. Blogging « Jorrie Spencer
    Mar 16, 2008 @ 14:40:50

    [...] I found where this was mentioned: Janet’s review of Seressia Glass’s No Commitment Required. A book I now want to [...]

  17. 'Can’t Buy Me Love,’ or how the independent heroine challenges Romance | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    May 27, 2008 @ 04:00:49

    [...] for her to finally be convinced into marriage). I have seen more heroines like Yvonne, from Seressia Glass’s No Commitment Required, a woman who, despite her strong feelings for Michael, is quite adamant that she does not want a [...]

  18. Female Reproductive System
    Nov 24, 2010 @ 10:32:18

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