To coin what has definitely become cliche, Timeless Wish can best be described as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A well-paced, at times exciting story with an interesting setting is combined with characters who are a bit too flawed for my taste, who require a suspension of disbelief greater than even a time travel should have the right to ask.
It is New Year’s Eve 1898, somewhere in Oklahoma Indian Territory, and emotionally tormented Sheriff Corby Hillhouse makes a wish upon the brightest star at the stroke of midnight. His wish is for a woman his love won’t kill.
It is New Year’s Eve 1998, and New York City interior designer Laura Bennett is broken-hearted and lonely following failed love affairs, a battle with alcoholism, and the death of her grandfather, the only family member who truly loved her. She makes a wish for a happy new life, and thus the adventure begins.
Laura’s best friend, Galen Hillhouse, calls on New Year’s Day to persuade Laura to take on the restoration of Galen’s Victorian family home in Warburton, Oklahoma. Galen has sent a package of old photographs for Laura’s use, and in one Laura finds the Choctaw man of her dreams, Corby Hillhouse. Her fascination with Corby’s photo leads her to take the job and travel to Oklahoma. While alone at the house, Laura falls through a railing and ends up in the previous century, where she opens her eyes to a face she knows well – Corby’s.
Corby is emotionally devastated after the loss of two wives, for which he blames himself, and is determined not to let his four year-old daughter, Sabrina, bond with him for fear he will fail her, too. Corby’s relatives think it is time he accepts the responsibility of parenting Sabrina, so they arrange for Laura to become the housekeeper for the sheriff and his child. Corby is overwhelmed with lust for Laura from the moment he first sees her, but his suspicion of her motives combined with his obsession about his daughter make for obstacles not easily overcome.
Parts of this book are immensely enjoyable. Ms. Sheridan does a good job of weaving the past and present together. Laura flickers in and out of the present, teetering between times in a serendipitous manner that adds tension to the story. The build-up to the big climax is wonderfully done, and I really felt Laura’s anxiety and frustration as she fights to save the lives of Corby and Sabrina.
The story is marred, however, by many problems with other elements of the story. First of all, Corby is a prime example of a jerk throughout most of the book. Despite the constant references to his angst over terrible happenings in the past, by the time the secrets were revealed I was disgusted enough with his behavior that it didn’t make much difference. His sexual relationship with an obnoxious secondary character (definitely part of The Ugly) continued far too long and was a turn-off. After his secrets were revealed I found this relationship even more distasteful. His total lack of belief in Laura and willingness to think the worst of her, despite bedding her every chance he got, grew old fast.
Laura, on the other hand, was Wonder Woman. I found it a little hard to believe that this modern, big-city woman could land in turn-of-the-century rural America and carry on as though she’d lived there all her life. She cooked and baked using a wood-burning stove, cleaned and scrubbed, and milked cows and mucked out stalls like a pro. She couldn’t have been more loved by children if she were Mary Poppins. She used modern slang and paraded around in cut-offs that barely covered her backside and only raised an eyebrow or two. Yes, people mentioned her idiosyncrasies here and there, but with about as much shock or curiosity as if they’d spotted an unfamiliar bird in the woods.
The villains of the book are The Ugly to the extreme. And as is so often the case, they are not developed as characters enough to really draw emotion, other than perhaps disgust, from the reader.
Despite these weaknesses, Timeless Wish is fast-paced, suspenseful, and imaginative. This is Barbara Sheridan’s first novel, and with deeper character development, more sympathetic heroes, and attention to detail, her future work might prove worth reading.