Wish Me Tomorrow
An interesting philosophical question about romance novels: what’s more important, the journey or the ending? A romance is usually not considered a romance without the happy ending, but if the journey isn’t interesting, then the novel isn’t a worthwhile read, either. Well, however interesting this question is, you’re not going to answer it by reading Wish Me Tomorrow, which is neither an interesting journey nor a conventional HEA.
Christie Bates, a nurse and grief counselor specializing in cancer, meets Eli Roberts when he brings his cancer-patient neighbor to one of her sessions. It turns out that Eli, too, is a cancer survivor. His disease and treatment of several years previously blew up his marriage and career, leaving him a single dad with two confused children and a fear of entering a relationship.
If you long for the good old days of cheerful sparkly heroines who turn everything they touch to glitter and rainbows, congratulations! Christie is the heroine for you! With her oh-so-adorable inspirational quotes and superstitions, her infallible maternal instinct, and her trauma of not having sacrificed herself enough as a teenager to take care of her cancer-patient brother (she went to PROM, can you BELIEVE it?), Christie couldn’t be more of a Mary Sue if you put her in a fanfic. I mean, in one scene, a legendary New York City park chess player overlooks the fact that a player is one move away from checkmate, but Christie doesn’t. It’s ludicrous how perfect she is. Except in one scene, where a woman in a short skirt (how DARE a lonely, divorced mother wear a short skirt?) flirts with Eli, and Christie goes full claws. It was disturbing, actually. And don’t get me started on Christie’s sassy, gratuitously Irish grandmother who is contractually obligated to appear in every book set in Boston or New York.
I’m ambivalent about the book’s approach to cancer. Yes, the author notes that people respond to cancer in different ways, but it doesn’t always work. When Eli’s daughter visits a teenage cancer patient as a health project, the girl enthusiastically welcomes her healthy visitor and sets her at ease, which felt forced and backward. Christie reacts with smiley faces and unicorn toots, which has not been how I’ve reacted to cancer in my family, but some people are like that. Eli, by contrast, is grumpy and isolated, and actually at one point annoyed by Christie. (I liked that part, but it didn’t last long enough). I also had a problem with the fact that neither the author nor Christie pointed out to Eli that his fears of a cancer recurrence and his refusal to let other people into his life and his childrens’ lives were mutually incompatible. Where did he think the children would end up if something happened to him? I disliked him for never having thought of that.
And then you have the SPOILER. I’m sorry. I can’t write about this book without telling you about the SPOILER. You just shouldn’t pick a book up thinking it’s a Harlequin Heartwarming romance novel, and find out – and again, SPOILER! – that the hero will be dealing with cancer in some form again, without the author telling us what will happen. That is not going to work for a lot of readers and I think you deserve to know that the HEA is left a little ambiguous here.
This wouldn’t necessarily have ruined the book for me. It’s a bold risk, but for it to pay off, the author would have had to use it to challenge Christie’s chipperness and to push Eli into character growth. Unfortunately, both characters stay exactly the same. Christie remains rah-rah and Eli returns to shutting out everyone, including the only adult who could be there for his kids if the worst happens. It just felt like one of those dreaded Last-Minute Obstacles intended to stretch the page count, and cancer deserves better than that.
Overall, regardless of the HEA situation, the cheesy, cliched characters and well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate treatment of severe illness would have prevented me from recommending this book. With the ending as it is… No.