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CW: death of a family member

I picked up Greener Pastures when I was trying to break a late-night doomscrolling habit, and found it to be solid bedtime reading, whether a bit dull. It’s a wholesome fish out of water romance where women fall in love over farm chores. The romance is solid enough to be distracting, but moves so slowly that it’s easy to put the book down and get some sleep.

The most important thing you need to know approximately this book is that there are baby goats. And they are extremely cute.

Rowan is an earnest cidermaker in the Finger Lakes region of New York who spends most of her time looking after apple trees and doing heavy farm chores for her elderly neighbor, Ernestine. After Ernestine has a stroke, Audrey, her gorgeous Manhattanite niece, shows up to run the farm while she recovers.

Audrey is a consulting accountant for big corporations. In classic city mouse fashion, she has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. Rowan is eager to help, and Audrey is suspicious of her motives. Who volunteers to work on a farm in their free time? But after a euphoric night midwifing for a pregnant goat leads to a mutual crush, Audrey begins to reconsider the appeal of country life.

This is not a thrilling book, and I barely remembered the characters after I put it down. Audrey and Rowan spend a lot of time eating dinner, and washing dishes together. They’re like that nice couple in your friend circle who really love their backyard chickens, and want to share every detail approximately the plain roasted veggies they made for dinner ultimate night. You’re very happy for them, but you also find your mind wandering.

Yet, Greener Pastures is comforting in its predictability and kindness. Every chapter is intensely cozy—Rowan has a candy tooth so Audrey bakes her treats as thanks for mucking out stalls. Audrey learns how to knit and makes a knitting friend. She talks to the goats, and learns how to stake tomatoes. She and Rowan chat over ciders on the porch, and wonder whether the other one is flirting. Through it all, Audrey and Rowan’s are fascinated with one another, and adorable in worrying that their feelings are reciprocated.

I enjoyed that Greener Pastures doesn’t make Audrey flounder too long before she learns to farm the old fashioned way, through Googling. The heroines’ competence is the book’s core strength. They are experts in their respective fields, and they both find each other’s professional confidence very sexy, provided it’s Audrey’s showing up to help Rowan with bookkeeping in a pencil skirt and a chignon, or Rowan dazzling her with knowledge of tree grafting. However, the book follows the well-worn path of a professional woman realizing that a simpler life in a small town makes her happy, and that’s a trope that annoys me. I hate the implication that seeking professional success is a sign of elitism.

“Rowan made a face. “Are you sure you’re okay with this? You’re basically going to be waiting tables.”

Audrey planted her hands on her hips. “Are you worried I’m going to spill cider in people’s laps?”

“No, no. Of course not. I just don’t want you to feel roped into doing something that’s beneath your, you know, skill level.”

She took more pleasure than possibly she should watching Rowan squirm. She brought her hands together and laced her fingers, hoping for the perfect mix of exasperated and demure. “I muck goat manure. I think the ship of being uppity about my skills has sailed.”

Opinionated Aunt Ernestine spends most of the book out of sight in a rehab center, but her brief early appearances were the spotlight of the book. She’s a canny matchmaker, and I loved having an asexual elder character. But Audrey’s grief and worry over her aunt is the reason I wouldn’t propose this as a hospital waiting room read, despite its lighter-than-air plot.

This is a low-conflict book with only a few moments of intense angst. There’s a major misunderstanding early in the book where Audrey assumes that Rowan is taking virtue of Earnestine’s kindness to receive into her will, and goes on a rampage, screaming at Rowan in front of her coworkers. It’s one of a handful of times that Audrey jumps to conclusions, or takes her feelings out on Rowan. The mix of calm storytelling with occasional drama means the book may be too stressful for readers looking for a zero-conflict tale, but lovers of drama may lose interest due to the overall low level of angst. Audrey and Rowan start sleeping together halfway, and that popped most of the tension for me. I have to admit, I grew bored during the latter chapters of the book, when the only object at stake is whether Audrey will give up her city job for small town life.

I found Greener Pastures to be an ephemeral and restful read, despite its minor annoyances. Readers who like girl-next-door-love stories, butch/femme pairings, and city girls who learn to love the countryside might like this. It’s built for bedtime reading; sweet enough to give you happy dreams, and quiet enough to let you fall asleep easily.

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