No Strings Attached
The hero and heroine of this story have a relationship that is friendly and non-sexual; no strings attached, they like to call it, “strings” meaning any sort of commitment or romantic entanglement. But strings can also anchor a person – to reality. The heroine of this story really does have no strings attached, because I thought she floated along like a balloon, buoyed up by other people’s kindness, consideration, and money.
Samantha Brady and Jack Turner are best friends since childhood and roommates for the last six years in New York City. Jack, a successful real estate broker, pays the bills and fixes the toilet. Samantha, an aspiring novelist, cooks and cleans and works on freelance magazine articles while waiting to get her big book contract. Samantha doesn’t have a relationship because all the men she’s dated are pigs and don’t have it in them to be a loving husband and father of her children. Jack doesn’t have a relationship because his father was an abusive drunk who put his mother through hell, and so Jack has vowed never to marry. They each consider the other totally off-limits, because having sex would ruin their friendship.
After babysitting for a neighbor one night, Samantha realizes that the her biological clock is ticking “like a time bomb” and that what she really wants is a baby. She’s not married and not about to be married – although wicked thoughts about Jack occasionally flit across her mind – so Samantha decides that all she needs is some donor sperm to make her dream come true. She cashes in a significant portion of her savings and starts seeing fertility specialists.
Surprisingly, her friends don’t think this is the best plan. Why do you want to be a single mother and tie yourself down, her friend Patty wants to know, when there are still so many men out there to date? Why don’t you find a husband first, Jack wants to know, and save your in vitro payments for the college fund? Samantha will not be deterred; she wants a baby now. She’s 31, after all, and if she doesn’t have a child now, she’ll never be able to have one. However, after two courses of artificial insemination, she’s out of money and still not pregnant. Even worse, the doctors have told her she has a sluggish ovary, and that any type of conception will be difficult for her.
When she and Jack go home for a vacation at her parents’ home, she doesn’t tell anyone. Her family is very traditional, and she knows they won’t approve of her wanting to be a single mother; why don’t you just marry Jack, she knows they’ll ask. But Jack is her best friend! Even if he’s sweet, patient, completely supportive, a good listener, and totally sexy to boot, Samantha is not about to try anything with him, because they’re just friends. He’s not into her! Then, on the way home, they have car trouble and end up marooned in a cheap roadside motel with two bottles of Jack Daniels and one bed. Naturally, once their inhibitions are drowned in liquor, they give in to their mutual attraction. Naturally, the woman with a sluggish ovary conceives a child from one night of sex. And naturally, neither of them acts very reasonably afterward.
When Samantha then turns up pregnant from her night with Jack, of course she doesn’t plan to tell him. Things have been strained between them since that night, and she knows he hated his father, so of course he wouldn’t care about being a father himself. Also, he’s been mean to her; he moved out of the apartment they shared, leaving her all alone (but still rent-free, because he owns the building). He has the nerve to go out with other women still. She doesn’t need anything from Jack! Well, except room and board. And the occasional toilet repair. Her friend Patty, a lawyer, points out that there could be legal paternity issues, but Samantha doesn’t care about that, either; something will work out, because it always does for her.
Samantha didn’t act like she was 31. I thought she was in her early twenties until she blurted out her age, to be honest. Her desire for a baby pops up after she babysits for a neighbor one night, and a few pages later she’s seeing fertility doctors. Wanting a child is very reasonable; deciding to blow a large part of your savings to have one as a single mother, when your only income is from working part-time at Starbucks and a future book contract that might never materialize, didn’t strike me as the best planning. Jack points out to her that children are expensive, and is she sure she can support herself and a baby? Of course, she protests, hurt that he would say that; she’ll ask to work more hours at Starbucks, until her book sells. Do Starbucks shops in New York City pay that well, offer full benefits, and provide daycare? Does she realize how much she’ll pay in self-employment taxes on any book contract she gets? Is it a bad sign I’m analyzing her actions like a financial advisor? You bet.
Jack is a great guy. He does fear marriage and emotional attachments because of his parents’ rocky marriage, which is why he only dates bimbos. Of course, he only needs sex from them because Samantha provides nearly every other function of a wife: she has dinner on the table when he gets home from work, she picks up his dry cleaning, she provides emotional comfort and moral support when he decides to quit his job and start his own business. And he’s as a good as a husband to Samantha: he supports her financially, he takes her out to dinner when he wants to celebrate something, and he offers unwavering moral support when her book is rejected. They live the life of June and Ward Cleaver, right down to the separate beds. Why Samantha thought such a guy would be a deadbeat dad is totally beyond me. Like with many things, Samantha makes up her mind that something will be a certain way, and then she sticks to her course, refusing to consider the hints of other people that she might be wrong, and even when what’s being urged on her is what she really wants.
If you like a heroine with a lot of childlike innocence and blind faith that everything will turn out fine, even as she does very little to make it turn out fine, this book will suit you. A lot of the book revolves around Samantha and her feelings and problems. Most of Jack’s part of the story is about him fixing Samantha’s problems and soothing her feelings. I certainly don’t think every heroine should be a kickass tough babe who can do it all herself, but it’s also not really entertaining to read about a woman who just wants to get what she wants, whether she’s able to handle it emotionally, logistically, or financially. The only reason I didn’t read faster was because I spent too much time rolling my eyes. There are better ways to spend an evening than with this book.