All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller & As You Wish by Jude Deveraux

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Your Fairy Godmother is slacking.
There’s no magic spell, no white-mice-turned-horses, and Meghan Markle gets the Prince. You’ll never have a diamond-studded crown. As in the new book All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller, maybe there is no Fairy Godmother.

Though she was a child whose mother had died, ten-year-old Agnes’ father decided that he didn’t need two daughters at home so he sent Agnes, alone, to Aviceford Manor, where a job awaited. There, she toiled from sunup to sundown as a laundry girl until she was tasked with nursing the habitually besotted lord of the manor through an illness. That and a little cheeky scheming got young Agnes loaned to Ellis Abbey to work as a nurse for the Abbess Elfilda’s mother, the countess of Wenslock.

Kinder than anyone had been to her in years, Lady Wenslock taught Agnes to read and allowed her a bit of free time. It was a life of servitude, but Agnes also made friends, including a charmingly handsome messenger for the abbey and ward of Mother Elfilda. Fernan was a smooth talker with doe eyes; soon, Agnes was with child, yoked to a man who never wanted a wife.

First came Charlotte, then Mathilda and Catherine, and Agnes’ life was complete, until the pox took her baby and her husband and the family was uprooted by the Abbess Elfilda, who seized Agnes’ alehouse in an inheritance disagreement. Her children in a convent, nowhere to go, Agnes returned to the place where she started: Aviceford Manor, where the lord had married a “wild” woman and begat a child who needed a wetnurse. Agnes missed her daughters. She missed her old life and friends. Fairies don’t exist, but was it too much to ask for a bit of fairytale ending?
Chances are, the four-year-old you scrunched up your nose at the Evil Stepmother and Two Ugly Stepsisters; now you can unscrunch. Far from being cartoonish, nowhere near humorous but certainly not as gruesome as the original German version, this re-told Cinderella is wonderfully elegant in its medieval manners and aristocratic language. Danielle Teller woos readers into taking a better, more open-eyed look at a character that’s been maligned for centuries, one with strength and who’s worthy of stunned sympathy. And those ugly stepsisters? Beware: they’ll break your heart. All the Ever Afters is hard to put down, once started. Should you read it?


As You Wish by Jude Deveraux
If you could, would you take it all back? Every misunderstanding, cross word and cold shoulder, erased. Hurtful situations never happened. Would you eliminate them or, as in As You Wish by Jude Deveraux, would you change the entire course of your life?

Olivia Montgomery had never met her two new charges; 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 needed someone to escort her patients there for a weekend retreat. 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; 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. He didn’t know what to do.

Elise 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 wanted a divorce but circumstances prevented it.

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

Don’t feel bad if you don’t wish to return to As You Wish. The beginning of this novel includes lots of overfamiliarity; two female characters undress and go streaking within hours of meeting one another. They then have an inappropriate conversation with a male character, also basically a stranger, about his sexual fantasies. Much of this feels cringeworthy and gratuitously giggly.

Fortunately, these squirms don’t define 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 with a magical, wonderfully fantasy-inspired finish. Get past the tee-hee-ing and stick around. As You Wish is a story in which you’ll take great pleasure. ■