When you are twelve-years-old and believe that you’ve already met the man of your dreams, where do you go? What do you do? Wait? Commit? Flee?
This is the conundrum facing Alexa in Barbara Freethy’s novel, Just a Wish Away. Alexa spends her summers in Sand Harbor Beach, a tiny vacation haven on the coast of Washington state. She lives for the time she spends there, where she connects with her father’s family and, more importantly, Braden, her best friend and summer pal. Only Alexa wants more than summer friendship. When the two find a blue bottle, half buried in the sand, they imagine that a genie springs from it, and they make a wish. Alexa’s is for Braden to love her.
Fifteen years later, Alexa returns to Sand Harbor, a rare trip back in the ensuing years since she was twelve. Her parents divorced after the wish was made, and her mother moved her east. Braden stayed behind, but not for long. At twenty, he married and enlisted in the Army. Alexa quickly discovers that Braden is out of the Army and out of his marriage.
At first, Braden takes a backseat to the reason Alexa is back in town: her Aunt Phoebe was injured during a break-in at her antiques shop, and Alexa has come to help out her aunt. Who broke into the shop? What were they looking for? And is it possible that a 15-year-old suicide is linked to the crime?
As Alexa, and, quickly joining her, Braden, investigate, they look back on their romance as 12-year-olds and the adults they became. Braden needs to get over his divorce and make peace with what the Army did to him, while Alexa needs to discover that not all men abandon their families, as her father did. Along the way, the two attempt to reconnect with the dreams they had as kids.
“Stop questioning my choice of career. Accounting can be very interesting. Figuring out where the money came from and where it went can be just as big a mystery as anything else.”
“It’s just not you, Alexa. You were never about math and numbers. You told stories, you collected sea glass, you wanted to be a glassmaker.”
She was surprised and touched that he remembered that. “Childhood dreams, Braden. When I grew up, I needed a job that was stable and that paid well. I wanted to add up, to make sense, and there was a comfort to working with numbers. There weren’t as many variables.” She sounded incredibly boring, she realized, but at least she wasn’t drowning in a world of chaos anymore.
Honestly, a little bit of chaos would help this book quite a bit. There is no real conflict. We know Alexa and Braden will come together, and we even can predict how it will happen. Who broke into Aunt Phoebe’s shop? Do we really care? Sadly, not a whole lot. Barbara Freethy displays her hand too much. We are too privy to these people, so there is no question as to how this story will end.
It’s not bad, though. It is mildly entertaining, and the love scenes aren’t awful. There aren’t enough of them, but that’s another matter. The problem with Just a Wish Away is that it’s just kind of boring.