One Wish by C.J. Card
(Jove, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12354-4
Jenny Blake, a young farm girl, has inherited her late uncle's curiosity shop in Washington, D.C., circa 1890. Jenny is smitten with all the antiques and collectibles. Along with the shop, she's also inherited her late uncle's tenant, a handsome but stuffed-shirt math professor, Miller Holbrook. These two are as compatible as flowers and hay fever.

In the basement investigating all of the hidden treasures, Jenny uncovers a trunk with some incredible finds. One treasure is a multifaceted aquamarine stone the size of a robin's egg. Jenny decides it's a pendant and, using one of her leather shoelaces, wears it around her neck. Unaware of her actions, she rubs the stone. And what to her wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh . . . whoops, wrong story. Of course a genie appears. He can retire to Genie paradise as soon as he fulfills a wish of Jenny's choosing.

Ninj the genie decides that Jenny needs a man and a love to last a lifetime. Jenny acquiesces to his decision and asks for the man of her dreams. Well, Ninj has been in his bottle a long time and is a bit rusty. When he conjures up a baby elephant, who, incidentally leaves, uh . . . stuff behind, Jenny realizes that she really does own a bonafide genie.

Of course logical, crusty Miller is at first skeptical of Genie's tale. Soon, he, too, is shown enough magic to make him a believer. What neither Miller nor Jenny knows is that Ninj has decided that Miller is Jenny's dream man. However, convincing these two of the truth in front of their very noses will test Ninj's considerable magic powers.

Jenny is very much the ingénue, a Tammy and the Professor clone. Her artlessness is charming – most of the time. The humor does seem forced occasionally. One such time is at a dinner dance. Miller has invited Jenny, hoping to introduce her to eligible men. Even hayseeds know better than to discuss animal castration in a group of socially elite women. Or so I thought.

Another incident that I think was meant to be humorous, fell flat. After Miller invites Jenny to a dinner dance, she explains that she can't dance and doesn't know what to wear. Ninj saves the day. He'll teach Jenny to dance and will gown her appropriately. Uh oh. When Jenny eagerly shows Miller her newly learned dancing skills and appears dressed in 'golden gossamer veils, a gold coined top and girdle, with finger cymbals', Miller realizes that he might have been hasty in accepting Ninj's offer. Ever been clairvoyant before reading a scene? This whole scene was so predictable that it really never has any effectiveness.. Wouldn't it have been nice if Jenny had decided that Ninj's choice of wardrobe might be a teeny bit inappropriate for a college dinner dance?

A bizarre and melodramatic episode involves two villains we've met earlier in the story. Their inept attempts at stealing Ninj are overblown and don't add much interest to the story line. If I'm going to have villains, then I want bad ones, not stupid ones.

Jenny added sparkle to the story. Miller is the straight man . . . very, very straight. Ninj is the heart of the story and adds the texture. His charm and gentle goodness permeate the story. He's what kept me reading. I can't give One Wish an unconditional recommendation. When a secondary character adds most of the interest, then the main characters need some more definition, some more fleshing out. I enjoyed One Wish and found it gentle and sweet, but I wanted more from the main characters.

--Linda Mowery

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