2 stars and a half

Category Romance Review: Change of Life by Judith Arnold

Change of Life, Judith Arnold, Harlequin, 1990, cover artist TBD

Harlequin American Romance #362

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Change of Life, a category romance by Judith Arnold, seems less a romance and more a story of a woman’s mid-life crisis and journey to self-discovery.

The Plot

Lila Chapin is a long-time married woman with several rambunctious young boys. While Daddy is the fun parent, she’s a stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, disciplines, and is attentive to everyone’s wants and needs. On her 40th birthday, when her husband, Ken, and their kids forget all about it, she decides it’s time for a change in her life. She packs up her things, takes her keys, withdraws some money from their bank account, and leaves.

She settles into a hotel and figures it’s time to take care of her wants and needs. She informs her bewildered husband that she’s taking one month off from being a wife and mother. Lila feels she’s been taken for granted, and without her around, her family will realize how much they rely on her for everything.

Ken, of course, isn’t amused. He insists Lila come home, but she’s not budging.

A night or two of relaxation at a hotel is fun. However, Lila wants more than just to lay around and be pampered. She’s not fulfilled. Lila volunteers at a homeless shelter, feeding the poor. She gets to know them on a more individual level and wants to help out as much as she can. Then she starts classes for the indigent to try to enhance their educational skills to gain greater opportunities.

In the meantime, Ken is doing his best to convince her to come home. Husband and wife meet up for conversations which form into dates. But that’s not the only guy she’s dating! Lila meets a younger man with whom she flirts, even going as far as letting him take her out once. It doesn’t lead to adultery, but I wouldn’t like it in a romance if a married hero did this to his wife, and it’s not right for Lila to do this to Ken.

Ken’s not a bad guy; he loves his wife, works hard to provide for his family financially, and is a loving father. That’s not enough for Lila, who wants a man who will support her hopes and dreams and not be so forgetful about special events like a 40th birthday party (which was rather thoughtless on Ken’s part, so he’s definitely not without flaws).

Final Analysis of Change of Life

In the end, Lila and Ken come to a compromise, where he will spend time doing more housework and appreciation her, and Lila gets some “me time”…working to help the poor.

Being a full-time mother is a meaningful existence; I certainly felt that way when I was doing it. Although I can understand that not all women share the same opinion and need “more.” It’s wonderful and all that Lila is now being fulfilled, but couldn’t she have just talked with Ken? I know, I’m a woman, too, and sometimes we feel that it takes a big dramatic show to make us heard. Leaving your kids with your husband for a weekend to relax is one thing, even a week’s vacation. Abandoning them with no word is just as thoughtless as forgetting a birthday. And going on a date with another man while married? Bad form.

Change of Life proves one thing: women as well as men can be self-centered when they experience mid-life crises. It’s always a good thing to reevaluate your beliefs and situation in life, but it’s important to communicate with your life partner if you’re unsatisfied with how things are. In real life, walking out on your family could lead to divorce. Lila was lucky that her plan worked. As this is a romance, of course, it couldn’t end any other way.

2 replies »

  1. Thanks, Introvert Reader. I haven’t read this book, but the premise brings to mind a well-received film from the seventies, “Kramer vs. Kramer”. A wife did something similar, and it DID result in divorce. And nobody came out of it any better.

    A realistic scenario. But obviously not suitable for a romance novel!

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