by Susan Bishop Crispell
Published on September 6, 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal
26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.
Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.
As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.
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Prepare for a dose of magical realism in The Secret Ingredient of Wishes, featuring a woman with the ability to grant wishes and pies that keep secrets.
Rachel is lost. Like really lost. She has the gift to grant wishes which appear to her on little slips of paper that, if she sees/reads, come true. So she runs and ends up in Nowhere, North Carolina, a tiny town where she has more connections than she realizes and a place where the strange isn’t unusual.
For a good deal of the book, Rachel is running from her gift. She stays with an older woman, Catch, who bakes pies for the town that are more than crust and fruit. The two make an interesting pair, very grandmother-granddaughter-esque which Rachel needed. For all her running, she needed to face herself and what she could do. And for a protagonist, I’d consider her fairly likable (or at the very least easy to relate to). She’s faced with something that caused a traumatic loss in her life at a young age. That’s bound to leave some scars.
The plot is fairly straightforward, with connections to Rachel’s “old” life popping up all through town which just strengthened the idea of fate and magic at work. I would’ve liked to see a bit more of this, actually, outside of white slips of paper appearing (and no one noticing them??) and writing a desire in a pie crust. But I’m a magic and fantasy girl so perhaps that’s just coming out here.
I enjoyed the cast as a whole dynamic. Catch is the crotchety old woman who takes a liking to Rachel and they form a friendship of sorts. I liked Ashe’s character but I can’t say I really believed the romance between him and Rachel. He goes from hurt to angry to hurt to suddenly all about Rachel. I just didn’t get the spark there and would’ve preferred a strong friendship this time around (shocking, for the one who ships EVERYONE, I know).
To be honest, the biggest letdown of this book was actually the ending. Up until then, I thought it was a light, fun read. Quick. Easy. A pinch of magic, a dash of courage, and a hint of romance (that wasn’t my favorite part but it played its role). But then the ending came around and I flipped to the next page to find… the end. I was completely unsatisfied with how Rachel’s story wrapped up and even more so remembering it’s a standalone novel. All it would have taken was another chapter or two to round things out the way the rest of the story was. It felt like the author hit a max word count or something and had to suddenly end the story then and there. Too rushed and too open. I didn’t feel the closure I craved.
It’s a quick read and other than that ending, I’d recommend The Secret Ingredient of Wishes for anyone looking for a little modern mysticism. I’d certainly read more by this author but that ending… just lost me for this one.