Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Quick note, up front. I have an ARC of What You Wish For by Katherine Center and the release date noted on the cover is July 14 so it's not out yet, but it will be soon.

In What You Wish For, Samantha Casey is a librarian at an elementary school in Galveston, Texas. It's a happy place that's privately owned and run by the same couple from whom Sam rents a garage apartment. The school is in an older building with cheery painted walls and a beautiful mural, a butterfly garden, and big plans to build an adventure garden for which the funds have already been raised.

But, then tragedy strikes and a new principal is brought to the school. Sam not only knows the new principal, Duncan Carpenter, but once had a terrible crush on him. In fact, she left her previous job when he didn't respond to her attraction and Duncan was on the verge of becoming engaged. She knew him as an enthusiastic, goofy, entertaining and fun-loving teacher. Now, he's anything but fun. When Duncan swoops in, all he talks about is how he's going to improve security and his plans to paint everything gray for better visibility. He is no longer the life of the party; he's become severe and humorless.

Meanwhile, as Samantha reflects back on a time when she and Duncan Carpenter were working at the same school in another state, she is reminded of how different she is. At the time, she dressed in unobtrusive colors that fit her personality. When she left because Duncan had found love elsewhere, she decided not only to start over but to change herself. Now, she is colorful and full of life in a way she wasn't, before.

What happened to change Duncan Carpenter from a fun-loving guy to a humorless man who is only focused on security? Did Duncan marry the woman he was about to become engaged to when Samantha left town? And, most important, what can Sam do to change Duncan's mind about using the school's hard-earned funds for security instead of the adventure garden they've been planning to have built? And, if she can't change his mind, can she find a way to drive him out of the job?

Recommended but not a favorite - Since the focus in What You Wish For is clearly on the two characters and it's obviously a contemporary romance, I don't think it's really a spoiler to say that eventually you find out Duncan is single and Sam and Duncan begin to interact in a flirtatious manner. What You Wish For is a clean romance, though, so it's based on personalities rather than the mostly-physical attraction of something like an Avon romance.  I like that and I liked the romance, once we got to that point, but I found the story a little contrived so it was not a favorite. Romance fans might be able to look past what I considered the story's flaws.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (link leads to my review) was one of my 2019 favorites and I still have two of Center's backlist titles to read. I'm looking forward to reading them, in spite of the fact that What You Wish For wasn't a favorite. It was a fairly quick, fluid read and she's a good writer. I just found the characters a little too over-the-top for my taste, the story way too predictable.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press for the review copy!

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