Firm Commitments
by Geri Guillaume
(BET/Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7860-0566-1
****
Simply Irresistible, Geri Guillaume's first novel, was published earlier this year. It was an offbeat romance in which a couple meets as she is attempting to take his car. Guillaume's second novel, Firm Commitments, is a mature, well-focused and humorous tale of high-tech love. It represents enormous growth and development in the author's work.

Cydney Kelly is quality assurance manager for a high-tech firm recently acquired by Daryl Burke-Carter. Daryl has made it known that there will be changes on his watch. Some employees won't make the cut. The jockeying for position begins.

Although Cydney and Daryl are attracted to each other, she makes it clear that she is not part of his acquisition. Cydney doesn't want to get involved with him and doesn't want people to think she'd sleep with the new boss to keep her job. Daryl is conscious of proper office behavior and the possibility for sexual harassment charges. As they try to keep their feelings in check, the sexual tension escalates.

Guillaume's background as a technical writer has served her well. She tells a good story. Firm Commitments is full of high-tech jargon – computer viruses, diagnostic software and autoexec batch files. But Cydney and Daryl's relationship is a WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get. It is clear that they love each other and want to be together. Once their relationship moves ahead there are no recriminations and no backtracking. The honesty is refreshing.

Because much of the relationship is connected to their jobs, the author fleshes out the main characters through their interaction with other family members. The tough on-the-job Cydney is replaced by a funny, self-deprecating Cydney when she's with her shopaholic sister, Courtney. Another dimension of Cydney's character is revealed through her relationship with her 13-year-old man-child, Cameron. Her scenes with her ex-husband underscore her growth since their divorce. Daryl's fiercely competitive nature is revealed during his in-your-face one-on-one games with his brother, Whalen, a professional basketball player. The Burke-Carter family traditions are strong and include mandatory dinners together twice a week. The strong secondary characters provide clarity.

After my lukewarm response to her first novel, Firm Commitments –with its humor, realistic characters and maturity – has earned her a spot on my Emerging Authors list.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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