Friday, December 31, 2010


Love is a complicated affair.

Susan Mallery's Irresistible tells the tale of two young Americans who pledge to avoid relationships and love at all costs.

Walker and Elissa, partners in an "it's-not-a-relationship" relationship, are brought together through a series of unfortunate events. Car troubles, bad dreams, overexcited children, unpleasant grandmothers, and restaurant jobs lead to increasing contact between the couple. Elissa's past as a struggling single mother and Walker's ex-Marine lifestyle create commitment issues for the pair, respectively. As this is a romance novel you know what eventually 'should' happen. However, I'll save you from any spoilers.

Central to Mallery's book are the visitation and custody rights drug addicted fathers have to their children. Mallery seems to suggest that under no circumstances, including supervised visits, should a drug addicted parent come into contact with their children.

I found this concept hard to swallow. Should a child be aware of the world around them, the downfalls of people, and learn from others mistakes in a 'supervised' and safe manner? Does a parent have the fundamental right to be in contact with their biological children?

While these are very big questions, I was perplexed by a different theme in Mallery's work. Walker and Elissa continually claim throughout 365 pages of text that they are not in a relationship. This is despite their serious chemistry, obvious compassion, and engagement in sexual activities.

What causes people to create "it's-not-a-relationship" relationships? Why do we lead ourselves into situations that seem so very complicated, and confuse the matter more by claiming that nothing has happened? Are we merely acting on guttural desire? Guilt? Or do we simply not feel worthy enough to warrant a relationship in the proper sense?

Mallery's work presents me with questions that I don't know how to answer. Despite being an enthralling romance novel, Mallery creates a tale that makes her readers consider the intricacies of love between parents and children, siblings, and romantic partners.

I particularly enjoyed Mallery's depiction of the modern family unit. At the beginning of the novel Elissa, the central character, states that she allows her daughter to watch television as it shows "plenty of perfect families" composed of the traditional nuclear family unit (p 61). Yet, at the end of the book she claims that a father does not become a "Dad" through biology but by providing care and love to a child (p 349). Mallery promotes strong feminist principles with this kind of message.

I would recommend this novel to those who want the fast paced action of a romance novel, the depth of emotion that exists in drama, and enjoy thought provoking feminist themes. Mallery is anything but a "fluffy" romance writer.

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