Title: Where the Grass is Greener
Authors: Debbie McGowan & Raine O’Tierney
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Release Date: 28th September 2015
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Mistakes were made, that’s for sure. But was it the night of passion? Or walking away afterward?
That’s the question Seamus Williams must face when he gets a late night phone call from someone he never expects to hear from again.
“I miss you, Shay.”
Chancey Bo Clearwater is a cowboy through and through. He spends his days finding work on whatever ranch will take him and his nights at the pool hall. He’s always done what needed doing and never thought much about what he wanted. ’Til that drunken night with Seamus.
A world of problems now stand between Seamus and Chancey exploring what might have been, the least of which being the Atlantic Ocean. On one side there’s Chancey’s daughter who mood swings from angel to demon in two seconds flat; on the other there’s the new lodger, hogging Shay’s telly and his cornflakes, and making private Skype time hard to come by.
Is this relationship doomed before it ever begins? Or can a surprise announcement from Seamus’s brother be enough to help the two find their second chance?
Where the Grass is Greener features Seamus Williams – the older brother of Patrick from Leaving Flowers.
A Charming Follow-up to “Leaving Flowers”
“Where the Grass is Greener” is a wonderful novel. In fact, it’s a bit of a relief – the characters do have their challenges, obstacles to overcome, a teenager who throws a wrench into the works, a relationship that spans two continents (much of which is a very big ocean), two ranches, and two cowboys, four thousand miles apart, who can’t quite seem to get together. It’s never the right time, never the right place. After all, this is a gay romance novel.
But unlike the majority of gay romance novels, ”Where the Grass is Greener” does not depend on an excess of angst, it isn’t driven by lies that shouldn’t have been told, and there’s no horrendous childhoods to haunt either man. In fact, the book is filled with color and light. The settings are lush, verdant and filled with life, the characters are authentic and sincere, and the dialogue is exquisitely crafted, with its fluid, seamless shifts between the voices of the American, Chancey, and the Irishman, Seamus. To be honest, it’s just a lovely read, a beautiful excursion into the minds and hearts of two men destined to be together, two men who desperately need to find a way to share one life – and do.
“Where the Grass Is Greener” opens with Seamus back in Ireland after five years working on a ranch in the American Midwest, and Chancey, his former foreman, drunk-dialing him in the middle of the night, all the way from Kansas. Fortunately, Seamus doesn’t pick up, but the next call, the next day, he does, and is stunned to hear Chancey’s familiar voice saying “I miss you, Shay”. They had been close once, all too briefly - intimately close - just before Seamus upped and disappeared back to Ireland without even the courtesy of a “good-bye”.
That’s the simple part: a basic misunderstanding about how serious they really were about each other, with Seamus leaving furtively so he wouldn’t have to embarrass himself with a tearful good-bye and the end of a relationship that he assumed was more intense on his part than Chancey’s. He was wrong.
Add to this equation a few more complications: Chancey has full custody of his daughter, Dee, the product of his marriage to ex-wife Kaylee, who is now an up-and-coming singer beginning to work her way up the Country-Western charts. She’s busy. Too busy to raise a daughter or acknowledge the man who is raising her, except when she shows up with a magazine reporter so she can “play the family card” for the press. Otherwise, she’s simply an ambitious singer and an atrocious, self-centered, absentee mother. Due to both necessity and inclination, Chancey is raising the pubescent Dee as a single parent, which has left him little time or opportunity to have a serious relationship. Until Seamus came along. He really thought they’d hit it off and wanted to see where their burgeoning relationship might lead. Apparently nowhere, with Seamus back in Ireland without so much as a word of farewell. Not even “talk to you soon”.
As busy as he is, as foreman of a successful ranch, and parent of a talented and involved teenager, there are certain times of every day when Chancey really misses Seamus. Seamus, to be honest, misses Chancey just as much. They need to find a way to bridge the 4000 miles between them. Skype to the rescue! At the end of a day running crews on a cabbage farm, Seamus returns home to his new laptop with bated breath, anxiously awaiting the familiar Skype ring that signals that Chancey is online. It works. The two men carry on the 21st-Century version of a long-distance relationship, Skyping and texting. It’s not like really being together, but it’s the next best thing. In fact, the Skype-sex is pretty damned hot. And the two men actually get to talk to one another.
That doesn’t mean they’ve got the communicating thing quite down yet. There’s the time when Chancey calls and sees a hot young gay guy in Seamus’ house. Now he knows why he couldn’t get a return text from Seamus. Actually not. Michael is a ranch hand on the farm Seamus manages who was tossed out by his “good Christian” parents when they discovered their son was gay. Out of an abundance of compassion, Seamus lets him stay in his guest room, and he is a help around the house. They’re finally getting to all those little repairs that Seamus had been putting off. And, truth be told, it’s nice not to be alone all the time. But through the cloudy lens of distance, Chancey fears that Seamus has found himself a younger, hotter man to pass his time with, home in Ireland.
Chancey has his turn on the long-distance firing line, when Seamus calls and discovers that Chancey’s miserable ex-wife has somehow wormed her way back into Chancey’s life. As it turns out, she olny showed up to inform her ex and her daughter that she was getting married again. And, of course, she needs her daughter as window-dressing. After all, that’s all she ever wanted her daughter for. Seamus doesn’t know about the impending marriage, and thinks the former couple might be getting back together again for the sake of their daughter. It just proves that gay men can have the exact same miscommunication issues 4000 miles away from each other that they have living together side-by-side.
Fortunately, the authors are gentle with us, and the periods of conflict and misunderstanding are brief and few and far-between.
The turning point is Seamus’ brother’s wedding. For those who, like me, are big fans of the authors’ previous book, “Leaving Flowers”, Paddy and Aiden are back, and they’re getting married. Of course they’re not getting married in Ireland or Kansas, but in Pennsylvania, almost exactly midway between Ireland and Kansas – which is a pretty convenient occasion and location for the two men to get together, once more, in the flesh. And they do.
The wedding is wonderful, light, moving, and a perfect coda to the drama and passion of “Leaving Flowers”, as well as a beautiful starting point for the burgeoning love between Paddy’s brother, Seamus, and Chancey, the man who loves him. All that’s left is to figure out how to be physically together, full time. These two men cannot stand being apart any longer. As well as Skype had worked for the couple, you can’t go to sleep and wake up spooning with a laptop. So where will they live? How will they get Dee to agree to such a big change in her life, and how will they hold off that miserable woman who is still Dee’s self-centered mother?
That’s for you to discover. When I started writing this review, I was lost as to what I might say about “Where the Grass is Greener”, what new insights I might bring to the readers of a book I really enjoyed, a book written two enormously gifted writers. And then I realized that, aside from introducing you to the characters and giving you a brief outline of the plot, there wasn’t much more to say. “Where the Grass is Greener” is not Shakespeare. The long-distance relationship is hardly a unique theme. And where their previous book, “Leaving Flowers” was a hard punch to the solar plexus with angst galore, “Where the Grass is Greener” is a much gentler, lighter and more endearing book. Dare I say it, and not as faint praise? This book is charming. It put a smile on my face to meet such engaging characters in prose that’s a pleasure to read. It’s like a breath of fresh air to live with normal, smart, good people for a few hours, to root for the happy ending you know they deserve, and you’re pretty darned sure they will get.
Sometimes it’s nice to read a gay romance that doesn’t rip you apart, that delivers a lot more gentle smiles than sobs and tears, that transports you back-and-forth between Kansas and Ireland with vivid settings, sometimes-funny dialogue, and a few of the most likable characters you may have encountered in a very long time.
Sometimes it’s nice to read just for superb writing and gentle characters whose story you experience, as though you’re really there. For that, and so much more, I recommend this book. It’s wonderful to see that the two books in this nascent series can share some of the same characters and history, but be as different from each other as night and day.
That bodes well for a wide variety of well-written and heartwarming stories from Ms. McGowan and Ms. O’Tierney. Please, keep them coming.
In celebration of the release of Where the Grass is Greener--we're having a sale on Leaving Flowers~ Normally $4.99, Leaving Flowers is on sale for 99 cents!! Available from
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