cover image What You Wish for

What You Wish for

Fern Michaels. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-573-3

Bestselling romantic suspense writer Michaels delivers another gripping plot, though it's easy to detect predictable dramatic devices in the story of Helen Ward, a physically abused wife who finally stands up for herself and sets off for a better life. While beating Helen one night, her husband Daniel finally pushes her too far when he kicks her beloved dog, Lucie. Helen retaliates by bashing him with a fireplace poker. Fleeing their house in a California suburb, Helen finds refuge in a veterinary hospital, where she meets Dr. Gerald Davis, who immediately recognizes that Helen needs help as much as Lucie does. He calls local heiress and animal lover Isabel Tyger, who places Helen in a top-secret women's shelter. Much like a participant in the Federal Witness Protection Program, Helen assumes an alias and relocates to New Jersey. Now called Nancy Baker, Helen thrives in her new identity. She establishes an Internet lingerie shop, attends night school and falls for a handsome neighbor and fellow dog-lover, Sam Tolliver. As their relationship grows, Nancy longs to tell Sam the truth about her past, defying the first rule of the program. When her online connection to Tyger's program is interrupted, Nancy suspects her vengeful husband has finally found her. She is further depressed to learn she has been legally declared dead, thus making divorce impossible. Returning to California suggests all kinds of dangers, but Helen/ Nancy refuses to be a victim this time. Michaels (Celebration) builds up enough tension to fuel this contemporary novel, but an O.J. Simpson-style car chase gives way to a disappointingly quick climax. Fans will fill up on Michaels's direct prose in one sitting, while others may find it only a light snack. (Oct.)