Queue My Review

May 19, 2008

Review: The Charm School by Susan Wiggs

Filed under: Review — Tags: , , , , — jjmachshev @ 2:04 pm
The Charm School by Susan Wiggs

What a wonderful story about love and transformation Susan Wiggs has penned in “The Charm School”. It combines the lure of “Pygmalion” with the fairy tale of “The Ugly Duckling” and even throws in a dash of anti-slavery activism. And it all comes together beautifully in a story that validates hopes and dreams of love and freedom. This is a reissue of a 1999 release.

Isadora is the ugly duckling. In her family of slim, pale blondes, she’s a full-figured, tall brunette; and in 1850s Boston high-society she was the fish out of water. Too well-educated, unwilling to merely smile and keep silent, Dora spent her teen years folding in on herself like an old accordion. Humiliation and embarrassment finally drive her to escape the only way she can – she decides to hire herself out as a linguist on a family friend’s trading ship.

Ryan, on the other hand, is beautiful, sexy, and full of charm. He grew up the privileged son of a southern plantation owner. It wasn’t until his childhood friend, Journey, was forced to live apart from his wife and children that Ryan came face-to-face with the true ugliness of slavery. In that moment, his life changed. His purpose became to free Journey and his family, whatever the cost. Now he’s only one voyage away from his goal.

Although not a fan of American pre-Civil War novels, I did enjoy this well-written novel. Ms Wiggs skillfully included many sailing and historical facts that I found very interesting. She balanced the seriousness of her subjects with bouts of humor; the hero and heroine first make love while under the influence of marijuana!! I’m pretty sure I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve seen pot used as a plot device!

The author’s writing is vivid and descriptive. I easily imagined myself caged with the heroine in Boston and learning freedom onboard the ship and exploring Rio de Janeiro. The passion between the lead characters was believable and paced realistically. While I may never become a rabid fan of novels from this era, Susan Wiggs’ “The Charm School” has certainly made me a fan of this author.


Reviewed by Julie


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