If you could turn back time, would you?

If you could, would you take it all back?

Every misunderstanding, cross word, and cold shoulder, erased. Time wasted, retrieved. Hurtful situations never happened. Would you eliminate each of them or, as in the new novel “As You Wish” by Jude Deveraux, would you change the entire course of your life?

Olivia Montgomery had never met her two new charges.

For that matter, she hadn’t met the therapist who sent them, either.

This wasn’t her idea. Olivia’s husband, Kit, was away on business and the doctor, who owned a cottage near the Montgomery ’s new home, needed someone to escort two of her patients there for a weekend retreat. Olivia wasn’t supposed to otherwise be involved but a chaperone had dropped out at the last minute; to her annoyance, Olivia had to step in and play den mother to two strangers.

Ray was a nice guy and, as it happened, he was at the retreat to figure out if he wanted a divorce. His wife, Kathy, was clingy and he’d met someone else but he couldn’t bear to hurt Kathy’s feelings and he didn’t know what to do.

It was a different story for Elise. She arrived at the cottage with a tale of escape from a psychiatric hospital, having been institutionalized by her father and her husband, who’d almost killed her. She, too, wanted a divorce but circumstances prevented it.

Olivia was good at listening and she was willing to do that with these young people but she had her own problems, including angry memories of time wasted. Still, she almost had to get involved when Kathy showed up and Ray departed for a business meeting, leaving Kathy behind.

Suddenly, the reasoning behind this retreat felt different and Olivia began to share her deepest hurts, just as Elise and Kathy shared theirs. They all knew that the past was past but, when offered an extraordinary chance to set things right, they knew it was time to find their own, better futures…

Initially, you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t wish to return to “As You Wish.”

Not to be prudish, but the beginning of this novel includes a lot of overfamiliarity: two of the female characters undress, for instance, and go streaking within hours of meeting one another. They then have an inappropriate conversation with a male character, who is also basically a stranger, about his sexual fantasies. This randy informality runs on and off throughout and while the girl-bonding parts fit into the story, the rest feels cringeworthy and gratuitously giggly.

Fortunately, these squirms don’t define author Jude Deveraux’s book. Once Olivia, Elise, and Kathy get over the über-lecherousness and into their narratives, readers are taken back and forth in time and there’s a delightful tale to be had, with a magical finish that’s wonderfully fantasy-inspired.

Charmed is what will happen by this books’ end, but there’s a lot of tee-hee-ing to endure first. Get past that, though, and stick around. “As You Wish” is a story for which you’ll take great pleasure.

[flipp]

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