All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Grass Is Greener by Loretta Hill

on January 4, 2016

Grass Is GreenerThe Grass Is Greener
Loretta Hill
Random House AUS
2015, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The grass always seems greener on the other side . . . until you get there.

For generations Bronwyn Stevenson’s family has thrived in the legal profession and a position at their prestigious firm is hers by right. Only problem is: she doesn’t want it.

Her best friend Claudia has always dreamed of being a lawyer, but tragedy struck and she took up the reins of her father’s vineyard instead. It was supposed to be temporary . . . now there’s no end in sight.

Bronwyn wants Claudia’s life so badly. Claudia can’t imagine anything better than Bronwyn’s job. So the friends hatch a crazy plan to swap places.

Both are determined to be the person they always thought they could never be. But achieving your dreams isn’t easy – and falling in love with the men who oppose them isn’t a good idea . . .

The Grass is Greener is a captivating novel about best friends, family and fighting for what you want, against all odds.

Bronwyn and Claudia are friends, living very different lives none of them particularly satisfying. Bronwyn comes from a family of formidable Perth lawyers but finds herself not really suited to the cut-throat industry and one difficult client too many ends up costing her her job. Claudia is desperate to put her law degree to good use but instead finds herself trapped on her parent’s vineyard in the Margaret River, trying to pull it out of the financial hole it’s found itself in as well as keeping the peace in her fractious household.

When they meet for lunch, it somehow seems a good idea that Claudia should attend an interview for a job at a law firm instead of Bronwyn. Instead Bronwyn will head down to Oak Hills Winery and see if she can take over from Claudia there, perhaps finally finding something that fulfills her. Both knew that each of their roles will not be easy – Claudia will have to deal with accusations of nepotism and fraud as well as cutting her teeth in a world she’s not quite used to. Bronwyn doesn’t have much experience in winemaking other than helping during her university days but she needs to convince Claudia’s family that this is something that she’s passionate about. It’s their livelihood and they feel very strongly about it. There’s also the added complication of the impending return of the prodigal son, Claudia’s brother Jack. Bronwyn has never quite gotten over her teenage crush on him and having Jack around is going to make things more difficult than ever.

I had some really high hopes for this book, I love Loretta Hill and the premise sounded fun. However upon reading it, I have to admit that it didn’t engage me quite as well as I’d hoped. I think that essentially both Bronwyn and Claudia were fine on their own but it was when they were thrown in with other people that it felt a bit tired.

I didn’t warm to either Jack or Sebastian Rowlands, the lawyer Claudia works under for the firm that employs her. Jack was laughably arrogant and cocky in a way that was quite unappealing to me and treated Bronwyn quite badly. He seemed to enjoy making her feel uncomfortable, such as in their first interaction when he returns and his devil-may-care attitude tends to make it difficult to sympathise with him about his mistakes in the past, including the one that injured his brother. The two of them didn’t really strike me as a realistic couple and their interactions didn’t do much for me. Sebastian was more interesting (although a bit of a dick in his first scene as well) but I think ultimately his character was really only skimmed over and would’ve benefited from a more thorough exploration. Both romances felt a little underdeveloped and although romance isn’t the primary focus here, it didn’t feel like it took up enough of the plot so when it happened it left me feeling a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to experience it fully.

I enjoyed the strong friendship between Bronwyn and Claudia and the family relationships the best I think. Both Bronwyn and Claudia have some family problems -Bronwyn struggles to live up to the expectations placed on her by her mother and doesn’t really fit into the lifestyle carved out for her. She doesn’t want to be a lawyer but can’t seem to find the way to best articulate this, instead fleeing Perth to the winery. Claudia’s family has been struggling for years, even since the events that led to Jack’s departure. The family dynamics were all very well written and I liked the exploration of how family members can become estranged and how things can escalate and wires can be crossed and it becomes such a tangled web to unravel. For me this was by far the novel’s strength and the process of working everything out so that Bronwyn and Claudia could ‘keep’ each other’s lives was well done.

Overall I enjoyed this but I didn’t love it as much as I did her other books.

7/10

Book #203 of 2015

aww-badge-2015

The Grass Is Greener was book #90 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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