Review - As You Wish by Jude Deveraux

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

This book was received free, for review purposes.

Series: A Summerhouse Novel (Book 3)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: MIRA (March 6, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0778307611
Synopsis -  One fateful summer, three very different women find themselves together in Summer Hill, Virginia, where they find they have much more in common than they realized…

Sixty-year-old Olivia’s first marriage was long and unhappy, but now she is a newlywed, thrilled to finally be starting her life with the man she’s always truly loved—even if they are getting a late start. Kathy is in her forties and married to a handsome, successful businessman. Theirs would be a fairy-tale romance if it weren’t for one problem: he’s passionately in love with someone else! Twenty-something Elise is also in a troubled marriage, stuck with the man her wealthy parents chose for her. Now that he has a pregnant mistress, he seems willing to go to drastic lengths to take Elise out of the picture.

Though each of them wound up at the summerhouse for separate reasons, it’s not long before they begin to open up about their regrets, their wishes and their dreams. And when they’re presented with the opportunity of a lifetime—a chance to right the wrongs of their past—all three discover what can happen when dreams really do come true.

Readers, as you probably know, this is book #3 in the Summerhouse series. I haven't read the other books and while it's not immediately obvious, there is a sense of some things being repeated or carried over, which puzzled me until I realized this book was part of a series. Initially the story was really slow and disjointed and I almost didn't want to continue reading. But then I did and I liked it, generally speaking. Read on for an in depth review...

In the beginning, the story doesn't quite gel when three strangers - two women and one hunky guy - find themselves on a cottage on a dilapidated estate, sharing their pre- and post-marital woes. I was honestly hoping the story would run along the lines of these three helping each other platonic-ally, an honest give and take, dialogue and eventual understanding of relationship do's and don'ts from both the male and female perspective. Well, that never happens. Before you know it, the hunk goes away and his curvy but soon-to-be-divorced wife (who doesn't know about the impending divorce) takes his place. And there you have it - the three women central to this story.

The rest of the plot line loosely follows what I had hoped for, minus the male perspective. Age-wise, Olivia is the oldest, then comes Kathy and then Elise. Olivia's storyline is predominantly explored from start to finish. As such, it's mostly easy to understand and like her. Second-lead Elise's story is the most unbelievable. I actually found it almost Dynasty-like. This annoyingly beautiful and whiny young lady, with all the depth of a chewing gum, miraculously manages to morph into a near impossible opposite towards the end. Kathy's entry into the story is later and her story is the least explored. Overweight and professionally sidelined Kathy is the most realistic character of the three, but she is relegated to being the most forgettable. In fact, she is so forgettable that for most of this review even I kept writing her name as Katie. More Kathy and less Elise would have been ideal.

Without giving away a neat twist that happens in the third half of the book (which is the ONE reason I stayed with this book all the way to the end), all I can say is that the three women manage to rewrite their lives. Kathy's eventual transformation is the most believable of the lot. But most of her storyline post-twist remains as sparse as it was pre-twist. That her sexy thuggish husband was given way too many unnecessary pages towards the beginning of the book, is a feeling that remains with me. The only semi-redeeming factor in Elise's story is her Hispanic knight on a literal black steed, Alejandro, who is just too perfect in looks and character (a sort of Spanish McDreamy, if you will), and Alejandro's siblings who add a lot of reality and depth to an otherwise utterly shallow Elise-storyline.

The Olivia-storyline is also not without its pros and cons. The woes of her married life largely associated with her abject self-sacrificing that's predominant before and also a little after the twist, made me queasy with the sheer noble-ness of it all. No amount of guilt can excuse the self-sacrficing, no way! Also Olivia's lover Kit's reaction, during the twist, feels fake. I can't go in depth into it without giving away the plot, but I just didn't believe it. The twist itself is an utter impossibility, but redeems itself as a tool that serves to enable a happy ending to the three women's otherwise utterly depressing "Why does anyone ever get married anyways?!"  lives.

The men are at most Hollywood-style sexy props, but to give the author credit, she does make them almost human. That's all I can say about them. The kids as well as the old men from Olivia's storyline are the best of the background characters and really make her story enjoyable. Those from Elise's storyline, sans Alejandro and his family, are caricatures of typecast rich, hard-hearted snobs, as over-the-top and uninteresting as the general Elise storyline. All three of the central characters are overall unhappy, unfulfilled and always seem to have sex, sex and more sex on their brain. So, unfortunately, sex-starved comes across as the cliched central theme of the book.

I'm a sucker for happy endings which this book delivers joyfully. That's the only reason why, overall, I like this book. But will I give this book permanent and precious real estate on my bookshelf ? The answer would be a resounding 'NO'.

As always, these are my personal thoughts on the book. Have you read it yourself? I recommend you do. Make up your own mind about any book, regardless of what I or anyone else says.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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