Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 0-8217-6828-X
Contemporary Romance, 2001 (Reissue)
This is my first Fern Michaels book. And it will probably be my last, unless I get really, really hardup for a book to read or if I get really drunk, whichever comes first. What You Wish for is probably what happens when Cassie Edwards, having watched too many episodes of Gilmore Girls and Barney the Purple Dinosaur that they start seguing into one single show in this author’s memory, had an inspiration.
The story is about Helen Ward, a lil’ poor rich girl who is stuck in an abusive marriage. One day, when hubby Daniel beats the smelly stuff out of her, she takes it, but she loses it when her hubby starts attacking her dog Lucie. In an unheard of show of assertion, she brings hubby down – KA-POW!
Was Daniel dead? She hoped he was. Mean, ugly people like Daniel didn’t die. They just lived on to torment other people. If Daniel died, she would be a murderer. She’d go to jail. Who would take care of Lucie? And love her the way she loved her? Maybe she should call the house to see if Daniel was alive or dead. If the police answered the phone, then she’d know he was dead.
She flees the house and is taken in by some kind vet, who is then subjected to Helen’s wailings. She must touch the unconscious Lucie, because (I quote) “she needs to feel my touch… dogs can tell even when they are sleeping”.
Anyway, next, when Lucie is A-OK again, Helen checks herself into a women’s home. This home, by the way, is filled with androids.
How strange, she thought, they look so normal, so ordinary, and yet they’re just like me. With that realization, the tightness between her shoulder blades eased.
Two small birds perched on the highest part of the wall. Helen stared at them as she envied their freedom to fly away at a moment’s notice, Like her, though, they had watch for predators. I was never a weak-kneed person until I met Daniel, she thought. I managed to raise myself, grow up, go to college, take care of myself – and destroy all my hard work in that one moment when I said “I do”. She wondered if others felt the same way. She asked.
The chorus of yeses rang in Helen’s ears.
Helen tries independence. She starts an online underwear business, Sassy Lassie, where orders start rolling in hours after her friend set up the website. Now, don’t get me started here. I run a website, and trust me, I know how hard it is to run a business website. A woman like Helen who has no idea how to do HTML, much less code Perl, CGI, PHP, SQL, etc – running a business website? There is no mention of submission to search engines, nothing. Who on earth will even know her site exists a few hours after she puts it up (search engine placement may take weeks, even months, to occur after you submit your URL to search engine), much less order something? Is the credit card order facility secure? And Helen makes a successful venture that would put Amazon.com to shame just by “logging on the Internet at eleven every night”? Haha, yeah right. I suggest Fern Michaels stick to bridal gown businesses for her passive, braincell-free heroines in the future.
I can go on and on. The heroine falling in love with the hero Sam Tolliver – even their dogs fall in love, eeeurgh. She also has an Internet chat confidante where she spends her time wailing “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” and this guy tells her “Yes, you can! Yes, you can!” in coochy-coo babyspeak even Hallmark greeting cards wouldn’t suffer the indignity of bearing. And her chat ID is TTLS – “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. And that’s me you hear vomiting my dinner due to a sudden rush of hyperglycemia.
The prose is juvenile. When her husband Daniel is sweating, his head is wet. One can only get away with his head is wet if you are writing bad online pornography. But at least Daniel, the one-dimensional monster he is, uses the word “fuck”. Fuck if that ain’t a fucking relief amidst this cloying, nauseating baby speak coo-coo gaga nonsense the entire prose is fucking mired in.
Cheap sentimentality is one thing, but What You Wish for is so overblown with ineptly written sentimental overdose that it exudes the cloying scent of the sewer. It is horrible, really horrible, to read about how everyone in this story – except for fucking Daniel, of course – pampering our heroine Helen as if she’s a fragile, brain-damaged porcelain princess. And Helen will cry baby tears and speaks in breathy melodramatic “I can’t do it! I’m so weak! I’m so useless!” Upon which everyone will go “There, there, dear, you can do it! You are the princess! The shooting star! I will buy you a Dumb Blonde Barbie tomorrow, Daddy promise.” And Helen would bat her eyelids in what she hopes to be a sad, waifish look and falls tragically back in bed, the back of her hand artfully poised on her forehead, as she bursts into tragic tears that I thought had gone out of fashion after that child actress horror Shirley Temple grew up. I fear for myself – my skin crawls and I feel a headache coming on.
The only way this book could have been redeemed if the author has shown, somewhere in this story, Helen enjoying a healthy snort of cocaine before she starts her eerie “I’m a child stuck in a voluptuous woman’s body, oh, Sugar Daddy, you wanna stick it in me?” act. Only then this story may have made some sense. As it is, What You Wish for is the worst nightmare for those with low tolerance for ersatz sap, English language fusspots, feminists, proponents for intelligent characters in fiction, rational dog lovers, and computer literate people all at once. Well, at least Fern Michaels is practising democracy when she is inflicting her bad writing on the general public.