Karen Robards, New York Times bestselling author
“Anything Jane Heller writes, I buy. Her romantic comedies are the absolute best. An Ex to Grind was a joy from beginning to end.”
Carly Phillips, New York Times bestselling author
“Come along for a witty, fast-paced, and clever ride! Jane Heller is at the top of her game.”
Karen McCullah Lutz, author of The Bachelorette Party
“An Ex to Grind is the perfect battle-of-the-sexes tale for today’s world. Every woman reading this book will empathize with the heroine and revel in the fresh take Jane Heller provides on marriage and the rules of dis-engagement.”
Amanda Brown, author of Legally Blonde and Family Trust
“Lively, warm, and wise, Melanie Banks is a heroine to root for, and I couldn’t put this book down! I really loved it!”
New Yorker Melanie Banks fears returning to the poverty of her childhood, and consequently has worked hard to become a top financial planner. An injury has ended her husband Dan’s football career, and his failure to find a new career induces her to file for divorce, only to find out that she now has to support Dan in the style that she can afford. Her only hope is a clause in the settlement stipulating that if Dan cohabitates with someone for 90 days, her alimony stops. So she enlists the help of a matchmaker to surreptitiously find the perfect woman for her ex. Then the plan works too well. With the help of this new paragon, Dan turns into the man Melanie tried to mold him into, and how she wants him back. Heller explores the changing dynamics between men and women in our society with her usual wit and intelligence, drawing a funny and insightful picture of divorce and beyond when dreams are attained and lost.
May 9, 2005
Nowadays, a woman might bring home more bacon than the lazy pig she married does – an idea Heller (Best Enemies, etc.) runs with in her latest breezy, easy read. Melanie Banks, wedded to her job as a financial planner and freshly divorced from former football star Dan Swain, hates writing him that monthly alimony check, which he spends on Cristal and Gucci moccasins as he languishes in their fancy apartment, while she must settle for dingier digs. Since he’s sworn off remarriage and a new career, nursing old injuries to his knee and his pride, Melanie’s only out is a bit of legal fine print: If Dan shacks up with a woman for 90 days, he forfeits his right to Melanie’s money. Her scheme to find him his ideal woman works all too well: Dan falls for a vixen veterinarian, invites her to move in and shapes up into the man who first stole Melanie’s heart. Catastrophically obsessed with the new couple and hell-bent on winning Dan back, Melanie lets her work slide and deflects the advances of her heartthrob neighbor. Readers drawn to Heller’s zippy style and culturally astute wit will forgive the ham-fisted plot, which rollicks toward a reassuringly happy ending.
June 5, 2005
A new term is coined in this wisecracking novel: bumbo – a freeloader who chooses not to work because his ex-wife, who’s paying him alimony, has broken through the glass ceiling. Jane Heller (“Sis Boom Bah,” “Name Dropping”) slyly plays with stereotypes and modern expectations in her 12th novel.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 29, 2005
A financial planner who hates writing alimony checks to her ex-husband, a layabout former athlete, schemes to wiggle out of the deal and ends up double-crossing herself.
New York Post
“Required Reading” by Billy Heller July 3, 2005
Give Jane Heller (no relation) points for the title of her newest novel, “An Ex to Grind.” In her comic 12th novel, she mines the world of women paying alimony. Sick of supporting her ex, a retired football player, Manhattan financial whiz Melanie Banks hires a matchmaker to find him a new sugar momma.
Tired of paying alimony to her ex, financial planner Melanie Banks schemes to find him a new girlfriend so that she can invoke the cohabitation clause in their divorce settlement and stop him from spending her hard-earned cash on private jets and Cristal champagne. In an interesting twist, she hires a matchmaker to hook up Dan, only to have her plan succeed too well. When he becomes the man she always hoped he’d be, she decides she wants him back.
Heller makes this unlikely scenario work by carefully peeling away the layers of Mel’s character as she continues to manipulate Dan’s life, even while beginning a relationship with her handsome neighbor Evan. When all of her machinations come crashing down around her, she could be left with nothing – or finally have everything she wants.
Mel is an intriguing character, outwardly strong but emotionally insecure, and Dan and Evan are worthy foils for her. Heller does a fine job of balancing character against plot, creating a story that is both heart-touching and full of wisdom.
More than 30 years have come and gone since the inception of the women’s movement. In a complete role reversal, some women are now bringing home more income than their partners are. Author Jane Heller explores this issue in her romantic comedy, An Ex to Grind.
After her divorce from ex-pro football star Dan Swain, successful financial planner Melanie Banks seethes about the court-ordered alimony that lets him continue to live the high life and forces her to rent a meager apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. There’s one loophole: Melanie is off the hook if Dan cohabits with another woman for 90 days, so she employs a high-end matchmaker to get Dan off her payroll. After a series of failed matches, Dan falls for a gorgeous veterinarian and undergoes a complete transformation: toning up, partying less and searching for a coaching job. Melanie can’t believe how much he’s changed, and soon finds herself attracted to Dan all over again. But is it real love, or nostalgia?
Witty, romantic and insightful, Heller’s latest offering is a true delight. Readers of all ages will identify with Melanie as the woman scorned who searches her soul to find true purpose in her life.
The Seattle Times
July 20, 2005
Ladies, to tide you over through Labor Day, we’ve gone through a stack of chick-lit releases…so you can zero in on your ideal beach companion…An Ex to Grind gets our “most amusing title” vote, and the novel itself is almost as funny….Melanie, a hardworking and successful Manhattan financial planner, is appalled at the idea of paying alimony to her shiftless ex, the slacker and ex-footballer Dan, who is spending her hard-earned money on Cristal and Gucci designer duds. Furious, Melanie finds a loophole: If he cohabits with another woman for 90 days, the alimony ends. Melanie hires a matchmaker and sneakily sets him up, only to discover that Dan has transformed himself into a motivated guy with an actual job. Melanie wants him back. Or does she? Heller has fun with the ambiguities.
Connie Martinson Talks Books / Syndicated Column
July 22, 2005
Men have grumbled about it for years and women are now learning why. The subject in question is alimony. Jane Heller has written a true but funny novel called “An Ex to Grind.” Yes, an Alpha female named Melanie Banks, who is an investment advisor in a New York firm, is getting a divorce from her husband, Dan Swain, a professional football player, who has had an accident that has killed his playing career. They had met in college, married and Dan had paid for Melanie’s MBA degree during his flush years. The marriage has disintegrated with his lying about the apartment, which she paid for, watching day time television and now he has possession of the apartment and his alimony allowance.
Melanie is steaming but there is an out if she finds that he has cohabitated with someone for 90 days; this will cancel the alimony payments. She turns to a a professional matchmaker to find Dan the perfect mate, who shapes Dan up into being the man Melanie fell in love with. Is it too late?
Cleveland Plain Dealer
August 21, 2005
Boy meets girl. Girl dumps boy. Boy gets alimony, and girl gets even. Or at least that’s what she thinks. Jane Heller’s 12th and latest novel, “An Ex to Grind,” left me begging: begging for an additional 100 pages.
Readers familiar with her work, such as “Cha Cha Cha,” “Crystal Clear” and “Princess Charming,” know Heller’s main themes are love, money and love gone sour. She continues to play on these chords in “An Ex to Grind.”
The woman scorned is Melanie Banks, a financial planner. She has a great job in New York and a handsome husband, Dan “Traffic” Swain, a professional football player. All is well until Dan suffers an injury that takes him out of the game permanently. Feeling dejected and angry, Dan drifts. He has become a “bumbo” in Melanie’s eyes. “That’s what you call a male bimbo who doesn’t have a job.” She seeks a divorce.
Melanie finds out that divorce is more than she bargained for. She has to pay her lazy ex-husband alimony. Dan gets the fancy apartment and part custody of their pug dog, Buster. Melanie gets a depressing apartment and a grudge.
Her lawyer advises Melanie that there is a three-month clause in her divorce agreement. The clause states that if Dan shacks up with another woman for 90 days that the terms of the alimony will be terminated.
So Melanie seeks the perfect woman for Dan. Melanie enlists the services of Desiree, the Heart Hunter. Desiree suggests Leah. Leah is perfect: “She’s beautiful, independent, good at her job.” Here, Melanie’s responses to the new Dan responding to Leah get complicated.
What’s so great about Heller’s writing is her wit. Not one chapter is a sleeper; the plot and characters lock the reader in. The twists continuously tempt us to skip to the final page.
“An Ex to Grind” deserves a sequel. Please, Jane Heller, give us more.
The germ of the idea for An Ex to Grind came to me during a luncheon I attended. The other guests at my table were successful professional women, most of them involved with the media in some capacity. During the meal, there was talk of the demands of a career; there was talk of office politics; there was talk of yoga as a stress reliever. And then the talk turned personal: how tricky it is to be the bread winner in a marriage. Very interesting, I thought. Here are all these women who are bringing home the bacon and admitting that there’s a big shift in the dynamic of their relationships because of it – and that this shift is causing conflicts.
And then one woman piped up that what she really resented was having to pay her husband alimony now that they were splitting up. I started thinking about how the genders really have traded places in many instances. Years ago, it was the man who resented the woman he was forced to support after their marriage ended. Now, it’s the other way around.
A short time later, I read a cover story in New York Magazine called “Power Wives,” which quoted this startling statistic: in over a third of marriages where the wife works, she’s the breadwinner. What’s more, she’s not always thrilled about it. Yes, there were anecdotes about career women whose husbands stayed home and took care of the children. No problems there. The women who complained had husbands who were not even trying to find work. When I read that, I came up with a new term for these couch-potato spouses: “bumbos.” Male bimbos without a job.
About a month after the magazine article came out, a career woman friend called to say she was divorcing her bumbo. She added that she would be required to pay her ex alimony, given the disparity in their incomes, and that – here’s the line that got me thinking – “I would do anything to get out of having to write him those monthly checks.”
She would do anything? Hmmmm. I wondered if that would include hiring a matchmaker to find her ex a new woman and, thereby, lure him into violating the terms of their divorce agreement!
And so An Ex to Grind was born. I really believe it’s a novel that tackles a growing issue in society and adds a comic twist to the battle of the sexes. See what you think!
Read the First Chapter
An Ex to Grind
Let me begin with a few words of caution for women in their thirties and younger: if you think sexual equality is a non-issue, a relic from your mother’s or grandmother’s bra-burning past, a subject that’s so yesterday, think again. The debate over it is back in a new and particularly insidious form, and I need to warn you about it. Please don’t groan and say, “Sexual equality? She must be an alarmist.” I know what I’m talking about.
You see, this isn’t about whether women can succeed in the workplace. That’s a given. It’s about whether our success has cost us; about whether the fact that we’re running companies and winning Senate seats and performing delicate brain surgeries has made us vulnerable to men who will glom onto us for our bucks, not our boobs.
I’ll be specific. I was a thirty-four-year-old woman in the once-male-dominated field of financial planning, pulling in a high six figures as a vice president at the Manhattan-based investment firm of Pierce, Shelley and Steinberg. I was well regarded and well compensated, because I was good at helping my already wealthy clients become more wealthy. The sexual equality thing never crossed my mind.
But then something snapped me out of my complacence. I began to notice that with women grabbing more and more of the big-ticket jobs, men were being relegated to the so-called pink- collar ones. Suddenly, women were the doctors, the lawyers, and the college presidents, and men were the nurses, the paralegals, and the librarians. We were undergoing a seismic shift in our culture, and I realized there had to be a consequence.
Well, there has been a consequence. Men, discouraged by our growing dominance, are starting to shrug their shoulders and drop out of the workforce altogether, leaving it to us to support them. Take a look around if you don’t believe me. Ask your friends. It’s happening, and it’s throwing off the balance, impacting both the way we hook up and the way we break up. This still isn’t hitting home for you? To be honest, it didn’t hit home for me until it hit my home.
In the early years of my thirteen-year marriage, my ex-husband was the breadwinner. Then his career ended abruptly, and I became the breadwinner. At first I wasn’t concerned about our change in roles. A study had just been released reporting that wives were outearning their spouses in over a third of households, so I knew I wasn’t the only woman bringing home the bacon. I accepted the fact that if you’re the partner who’s up, you should assume responsibility for the partner who’s down, no matter which gender you are.
But then my ex-husband’s bout with unemployment became chronic, which is to say that he didn’t lift a finger to find himself a new career. The marriage unraveled. We couldn’t handle the role changes after all. But as distressing as that was, the divorce was worse. Why? Because I got stuck assuming responsibility for the partner who was down, even though we were no longer partners!
I was forced not only to hand over a huge chunk of my assets to my ex but to pay him alimony too. “Maintenance” they call it in New York state. Whatever. We’re talking about me having to write checks to the guy every month for eight years. I was a good and generous person who gave to numerous charities and never cheated anybody out of anything. But this? Well, I balked, to put it mildly.
Maybe you’re thinking that if we’re the big achievers now, we should stop whining and just fork over the cash in the divorce. But here’s the thing: when it’s your turn, you won’t want to fork over the cash any more than men did when they were hogging the power seat.
Did I go to extremes in my effort to wriggle out of my legal obligation to my ex? Sure. Do I regret what I did to him? Deeply. But I was caught up in that nutty fantasy about men — that even as we’re out there conquering the world, they’re supposed to be the strong ones, capable of rescuing us, or, at the very least, providing for us.
It’s all so confusing, isn’t it? Well, maybe this little story of mine will help sort things out.
Or maybe it’ll simply confirm that equality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholden.
“Sign here,” said my divorce attorney, Robin Baylor, a fortysomething black woman with impeccable credentials. Harvard for her undergraduate degree. Yale for law school. Louis Licari for the auburn highlights that were expertly woven through her short, spiky hair. The two of us were sitting in her elegantly appointed, wood-paneled conference room at a table the length of a city block. She had just passed me the gazillionth document pertaining to Melanie Banks (me) vs. Dan Swain (my ex). “It’s the last one,” she announced.
“Promise?” I said with pleading eyes as I glanced at the huge file she had on Dan and me. So much paper. Such a waste of trees.
“Trust me, yours wasn’t as complicated as some,” she said, and she wasn’t kidding. She’d handled my friend Karen’s divorce, which became a truly unsavory affair after it was revealed that Karen’s ex was not only an insider trader with the SEC breathing down his neck but also a bigamist with two families on opposite coasts. “You’ve waited out the year of legal separation, and now you’re just signing the conversion documents. Once these are filed, you’re divorced. Case closed.”
“Closed?” I said. “I wish. Thanks to this settlement, I’m tied to Dan for seven more years. Having to pay him while we were separated was no picnic, but having to write him checks for the next… Well, the whole thing makes me sick.”
“We had no choice. If we’d gone to trial, the judge could have awarded him more, given the disparity in your incomes and the duration of the marriage. I explained that to you.”
“I know.” I nodded dejectedly at Robin, who, despite having a conference room that reminded me of one of those men-only grill rooms at country clubs and practically cried out for cigars to be passed out and smoked, wasn’t a shark. She was compassionate as well as conscientious. She baked little sweets and brought them to the office for her clients, if you can believe that. How women with demanding careers found the time, not to mention the motivation, to actually turn on their ovens was a mystery to me, not being a multitasker myself. But at that very moment, there was a plate full of homemade cookies on the table — chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin — and over the course of our meeting, I scarfed down several of each. And I didn’t even like raisins. But “like” had nothing to do with it. I’d gained fifteen pounds since Dan and I split up, and while I wasn’t a tub of guts by anyone’s standards, I’d discovered that eating, along with plotting his death, had become enormously satisfying. “I’m not blaming you at all, Robin,” I added between bites. “It’s the situation I can’t stomach.” I avoided looking down at mine. I was sure that fourteen of those fifteen pounds had settled there.
“Whether it makes you sick or not, he’s entitled to the spousal support,” she said. “This is the new millennium, Melanie. Things have changed. It’s not a symbol of weakness anymore for men to take money from women if they need it to maintain their lifestyle.”
“If they need it. Those are the operative words. Dan could maintain his lifestyle by himself if he went out and got a decent job.”
“He had a decent job. He was a wide receiver for the Giants.”
“Yes, and now he’s gone from being a wide receiver to a wife receiver. I throw him money; he catches it.”
She laughed. “Come on. He didn’t blow out his knee on purpose.”
No, the injury wasn’t Dan’s fault. It had happened in a game against the Redskins in only his third season as a starting receiver, and it extinguished the shining light he’d become. Before the accident, he’d been a hero in New York, the fans chanting his nickname — “Traffic! Traffic!” — wherever he went. But then came cruel disappointment. He was in the act of making a spectacular catch when he was clobbered by two defensive backs. One climbed on his shoulders, the other wrapped himself around his legs, and the result was a horrifying tackle, sending the top half of his body one way, the bottom half another. I could hear the snap of the cartilage all the way up in the wives’ box. When you’re married to a professional athlete, you’re supposed to steel yourself every time he gets hurt, reassure yourself that your guy is doing what he loves and be grateful for all the money he’s making. But then came the diagnosis, the surgery, and the end to his promising career as well as the nullification of his lucrative contract. He was lost and stayed lost. “What is his fault is that he didn’t try to do anything after he blew out his knee,” I said.
“That’s not true,” she said. “He did try sports broadcasting.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“He wasn’t that bad.”
We both laughed then, knowing he sucked. On the two NFL broadcasts for which he’d been hired to provide color commentary, he stammered, forgot to smile, seemed confused by the directions coming at him from his headset, wasn’t clear which camera was on him. He was devastated by his performance, but he was even more devastated when the phone stopped ringing and similar gigs were not forthcoming. I did what I could to prop up his spirits and boost his self-confidence. I adored him and hated to see him so miserable. But he couldn’t get over that he had failed. “He should have taken lessons,” I said. “They have communication specialists who train people to be on television, but he was too macho to ask for help.”
“I wonder if he might have improved with a few more chances,” said Robin.
“They gave him another chance, remember? He went on the air after four scotches and referred to a female reporter as ‘sweetcakes.’ And that was before he threatened to moon his co-anchors.”
She winced at the memory. “He was so out of it that night. I actually felt sorry for him. Why didn’t he ever go into coaching?”
“A good question. I kept telling him, ‘You love the game. Coach a high school or college team. There are schools in the Tri-State area that would be thrilled to have you.’ And every single time, he shook me off and grumbled, ‘I’ll never be one of those losers.’ Instead, he became a loser. Now, except for the occasional ribbon cuttings and collectors’ shows, he parties while I work. How is it fair that I have to pay him?”
“As fair as when men pay their ex-wives who don’t work.”
“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”
She smiled. “I am on your side, but I have a lot of male clients, so I have to see things from their perspective too.”
“Lucky you.” I reached for another cookie. As I chewed the first mouthful, I decided to try to see the situation from Dan’s perspective, just to prove to myself that I could be as fair-minded as Robin. But I couldn’t do it, couldn’t get past the twin images of writing him a check and then watching my bank balance shrink, couldn’t take the sight of those disappearing zeroes. The mere thought of losing money gave me nightmares, and it had been that way since I was a kid. My mother died when I was two, leaving me with a father who was only marginally employed, was often in a drunken stupor on the couch covered in empty beer cans, and was constantly moving us from one crappy place to another — sometimes in the middle of the night — just so we could beat the eviction notices. I made a decision at a very young age that money meant security, stability, and happiness, and that my goal in life was to accumulate a lot of it. How could I surrender even a piece of that security to a man who seemed capable only of frittering it away?
“Mel, you okay?” asked Robin.
“Fine,” I said, not fine at all.
She patted my shoulder with her perfectly manicured fingers — the same fingers that baked cookies. I guessed she was one of those women who wore rubber gloves in the kitchen. “Before I send you out into the world,” she said, “I want you to stop resisting and start accepting.”
I laughed. “You sound like a therapist. Do you charge extra for that?”
“No, and you should take my free advice. Stop making Dan the enemy. He may not have a high-profile job anymore, but his celebrity made it easier for you to do yours. He put you through business school, introduced you to his jock buddies, got you your first big clients. He was the ideal husband in some respects, and the eight years of spousal support is the court’s acknowledgment of that.”
“Ideal husband?” I scoffed. “He was the one who trashed the marriage. Not only did he give up on himself, but he also got on my back about my long hours at the office and my — what did he call it? — corporate attitude. That’s the irony of all this. He wanted me to cut back at work and then didn’t think twice about helping himself to the spoils of that work. He lives like a prince now, thanks to me, and it’s disgusting. He’s disgusting.” I slumped down in the chair and played with the ends of my hair, which was light brown, shoulder length, and wavy. Winding it around my index finger had become my other nervous tic, besides eating.
“Let it go, Mel. Let him go. Move on with your life and find somebody else.”
“I don’t want somebody else after this fiasco,” I mumbled.
“Then pray that he finds somebody else,” she said.
“Why would I want him to be happy?” I said, twirling my hair with even more gusto.
She shook her head at me, as if I were missing her point. “Didn’t you read this agreement?”
“Oh, right. If he remarries, I get to stop writing him checks. Like that’ll happen.” I forced myself to leave my hair alone and placed my hands in my lap. “After the way things turned out he’s as down on the institution of marriage as I am.”
Robin shook her head again. “I’m talking about the cohabitation clause, stipulating that if Dan lives with another woman for a period of ninety days, the spousal support is terminated.”
I sat up straight. “Right, right,” I said, remembering now. “He doesn’t have to remarry. He just has to shack up with someone.”
“For ‘ninety substantially continuous days.’ That’s how it’s worded. Which means that he can take a break from her every once in a while, but once he reaches ninety days total, he invalidates the agreement.”
I blinked at her, feeling a glimmer of an emotion I couldn’t identify. Hope? Glee? Something. “How awesome would that be if he had a three-month fling and I didn’t have to pay him anymore.”
“You’d be off the hook, it’s true,” she said. “But if he’s so turned off to relationships, I wouldn’t count on him entering into one. And let’s face it: he may be unemployed, but he’s not stupid. He’s not going to risk losing that monthly maintenance unless he falls madly in love, and what are the chances of that?”
“Slim to none,” I conceded and felt the hope, glee, or whatever it was evaporate.
“Okay, then. Back to business. Sign this last document and we’re through here.”
I scribbled my signature in between all the Whereases and Heretofores, put down the pen, and exhaled noisily. “That’s it. I’m officially divorced.”
No sooner was that pronouncement out of my mouth than I was overcome by melancholy — sort of a heavy, invasive sadness. Sad because I had loved Dan once. Sad because our marriage was the only period of my life when I’d felt the stability I’d craved as a child. And sad because it was now final and irrevocable that I was forced to share custody of Buster, my sweet pug, the dog Dan had given me for our fifth anniversary. That’s right: Buster was supposed to be mine. But the minute we started negotiating the settlement, Dan claimed that my twelve-hour workdays made me unfit to be the dog’s sole guardian. After months of haggling — he said he should get Buster and I should be granted visitation and I said I should get Buster and he should be granted a visit to hell — we agreed on the shared custody bit. We alternated weeks. Every other Monday morning, I would hop in a cab with Buster and drop him off at Dan’s on my way to the office. And the next Monday morning, Dan would hop in a cab and drop Buster off at my place on his way to — well — wherever it was he went on Monday mornings. To the gym, probably, followed by lunch with the boys, followed by a game of poker, followed by a massage and/or nap, followed by a hot night on the town. All of it with my money, mind you.
On second thought, sad didn’t begin to describe my feelings that cold December day. Pained was more accurate. “Mel?” said Robin as she stood up and regarded me. “Are you crying?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I never cry.” I rose from my chair. As I did, a cascade of cookie crumbs fell from my skirt onto the carpet. “Sorry about the mess,” I said. “I’d offer to pay for a cleaning crew, but all my spare change goes to you-know-who now.”
She sighed, frustrated that she’d failed to bring me around. “You weren’t listening when I said it was time to let go and move on, were you?”
“Yes, yes, I was listening.” I forced a big smile. “And I’ll try to follow your advice, Robin. I will.”
Forced smile aside, I meant what I’d said. I really didn’t want to become one of those bitter divorcees who can’t go five minutes without bashing her ex — women who poison all their relationships with their vitriol, bore everyone to death with the same twisted stories, and end up miserable and alone, a pathetic victim. No, I would suck it up, act like the sort of gutsy dame I fantasized my mother would have been if she’d lived, and move on. That was the plan, anyway.
Robin and I said good-bye and gave each other a professional careerwoman hug — i.e., we held each other for a nanosecond, making sure not to smudge our lipstick.
As I walked out of the conference room, I felt her eyes on me, and I sensed that she hadn’t bought my declaration of goodwill; that she had deemed me yet another client who’d been freed from the bonds of matrimony only to become entangled in the bonds of acrimony. She had me pegged, all right. Yes, I left her office with the best intentions, but I’m sorry to report that the case of Melanie Banks vs. Dan Swain wasn’t closed, despite all the pieces of paper we’d signed. On the contrary, the acrimony — the madness — was just getting started.
The battle of the sexes rages on in Jane Heller’s smart, witty, and extremely timely new novel. This time she poses a provocative question: while it’s common for deadbeat husbands to dodge their alimony payments by nefarious means, what happens when a woman plays by the same fast-and-loose rules? In An Ex to Grind, Manhattan financial planner Melanie Banks likes being on top. She’s addicted to the money, the power, and the success only hard work and long hours can bring. When she first meets and falls in love with pro football player Dan Swain, she admires his work ethic too. But then they get married and his career comes to a screeching halt, and suddenly she’s the one bringing home the bacon – and falling out of love with him. In the years – years! – since he last held a job, he’s become a paycheck-devouring, couch-sitting mooch, and he likes it that way. And Melanie decides it’s time to lose the loser.
Divorce, however, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For starters, Melanie’s forced to share custody of Buster, the couple’s adorable dog. And married or not, she still has to support the income-less Dan in the princely style to which he’s become so infuriatingly accustomed. Whether the overpaid lawyers term it “alimony” or “maintenance,” the bad news is that she has to pay it – and keep paying it until death do them part.
But there is one loophole.
If she can dump her ex onto some other unsuspecting female for ninety days and get him to violate their cohabitation clause, she’s off the hook – forever.
Sound tricky? Not for Melanie Banks. The first step is to secretly hire Desiree Klein, New York’s premier professional matchmaker. It’s not long before Desiree supplies Ms. Right (or at least Ms. Right-for-Ninety-Days) and Dan walks straight into the trap. Before Melanie knows it, her lazy ex has a new love, and by the end of the ninety days he’ll be out of her life – and her checkbook. Revenge is going to be so sweet…
Unless Melanie gets caught in a little loophole of her own creation.
Dan’s fresh start has revitalized him. His new sweetheart is miraculously transforming him into a responsible, caring, focused go-getter. In other words, he’s becoming precisely the man Melanie always dreamed he could be. And now she wants him back.
With a finger on the pulse of women everywhere, Jane Heller, one of the funniest, most sly voices in fiction, turns the gender war on its head with An Ex to Grind, an unmitigated delight from first page to last.