Halfway To Heaven
by Susan Wiggs, historical (2001)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 1-55166-837-8


Poor, poor Abigail Cabot. The daughter of an American senator and the sister of a prettier woman, she tries so hard to fit in, but she is so clumsy and awkward and too intelligent, alas. She also has a crush on one Lt Boyd Butler III who, of course, as we all know is a dumbass who deserves her love. Whoever heard of a romance hero named Boyd anyway? While causing havoc and being a clown for the party's amusement at the White House, Abby overhears one naughty Jamie Calhoun, rake with a political agenda, acting naughty with the VP's sister.

Jamie thinks she's funny. Cute, and funny. She asks him to teach her to fit in socially, and as he does, it's love.

Hold it! Didn't I read this before? The Charm School, that's right. Did MIRA put the wrong story in? I'll sue! I'll... wait a minute. The Charm School is set on sea. This one is set in the late 19th century America.

Okay, so Ms Wiggs has pulled out the plug and drained The Charm School and created Halfway To Heaven: The Charm School II for landlubbers.

Hmm, I just don't like this one because of the blatant recycling of characters and premise. Plus, Abby's hobby and passion is astronomy. Oh, please, can we get more contrived than this stars as an analogy of loneliness thing? But that's just the tip of the iceberg of my discontent with this story. Another annoying thing is how Abby's changes always have Jamie's hand in them. At least in The Charm School, the heroine changes because she wants to. Here, Jamie has to push, prod, and coerce Abby all the time. It's quite insulting. And her crush on Boyd goes on and on that I want to shake that ninny. Lighten up. Go play checkers or something.

Jamie is so cute! Will we romance readers get pole-axed in horror if Ms Wiggs state Jamie's political allegiance? I sure Ms Wiggs know that the Republican readers will stop buying her books if she says that Jamie's a Democrat and vice versa for Democrat readers. Nice for her and MIRA to keep Halfway To Heaven a political story that doesn't have a single political element to it. We romance readers of the delusional, weak-hearted conditions applaud thee. And I love this book's portrayal of a heroic politician: waste all your teenage years on wine, women, and song, only to grow a conscience when your brother died while following you. Then, move reluctantly to Washington, fully intending to go back to life of Wine, Women, and Song after getting a legislation passed that you are sure your dead brother would rip his coffin lid in joy over. Spend time drinking and seducing politicians' wives. Marry bluestocking, grateful virgin, and be romanticized in a romance novel. Oh, Jamie. Oh, me. Bad enough that this one has a toothless politic subplot, the toothlessness comes with a bit of a brainlessness as well.

There are some beautiful scenes, especially excerpts of Abby's letters to Boyd. But the characters of this story are carbon copies of a much superior story. The premise is a copy of that of a much better story. Halfway To Heaven, with all its uninspiring clichés and all, seems more like a cry for help than anything else. Someone please send Ms Wiggs a muse.

Rating: 58


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