The Grass Ain't Greener
by Monique Gilmore
(G.K. Hall, $26.95, PG-13) ISBN 0783-8805-083
The Grass Ain't Greener is one-part romance, one-part horror story and two-parts fantasy.

Six years into her marriage, Ramona Shaw was feeling a bit put-upon. Her husband, preteen stepdaughter and toddler son share her life, but little else. Domestic engineering tasks fall upon her with no visible means of support. Many of us have been there, done that.

"Initially, it wasn't that hard to give up her pharmaceutical job as a hospital sales representative to stay home with her son. But after two and a half years of Betty Crockering-it, her pots had runneth over, which was when she decided to go back to school and get her master's degree in family counseling. It was the least she could do to keep her mind sharp. She had always been fascinated by the cause and effect of family rearing and how it directly related to a person's current life."

If Ramona's current life was a take-home exam, she wasn't coming up with any of the right answers. The first chapter of the novel begins with glimpses of the early dual-income, no kids life she shared with her husband, Madrid. It digresses into the current reality and a chronology of a typical day in the life of Ramona Shaw. After one particularly stressful evening when the family had really gotten to her, Ramona has had enough.

"She was going to get to the bottom of this once and for all when he hung up the phone. She was going to finally tell Mr. Madrid Shaw about his shiftless, scrounging brother, DeMar, and his foraging partners; his recent nonchalant attitude about the going-ons of this house; the wise mouth of his daughter; the increasing stubbornness of his son; the grass that needed to be cut-- and a number of other things. Yes sir, buddy, as soon as his 230-pound, smooth-talking, Hugo Boss-wearing butt got off the phone, Ramona Shaw was going to express herself."

Of course, Madrid has easily fallen into the current routine. He is clueless. When her pleas for help and understanding fall on deaf ears, Ramona literally runs away from home. (That's the fantasy part of the novel.) She packs her Volvo station wagon and leaves her suburban New Jersey home for an open-ended visit with her sister in Detroit.

The road trip is instructive for Ramona as she has a chance to measure her life against her sister's less-than-perfect marriage, her aunt's new relationship and her grandparents' eternal love. Ramona learns that the one that got away probably should have. Madrid is getting a few lessons of his own that are a joy to watch.

The Grass Ain't Greener is a well crafted slice of life romance. Ramona and Madrid still love each other very much. Real life often has a way of intruding on real love. The Grass Ain't Greener is one of only a handful of romances that treat the "happily ever after" for married couples as a journey, rather than a destination. Anna Larence's Give and Take and Layle Giusto's Silver Love are other approaches on that theme I recommend.

The Grass Ain't Greener was first released by Arabesque in October 1996. G.K. Hall has reissued it in a hardbound, large-type version, making the story available to a wider audience. Copies of Arabesque's small-type, paperback version are also still available.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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