Helena Cabot was not in love with her husband when they married nine years ago, but pregnant and rejected by her lover, she had little choice but to make the best out of the situation. Helena’s marriage with Senator Troy Barnes had been loveless, but not traumatic – that is, until her father died and Troy no longer had a reason to hide his true self from Helena, that of an abusive and cruel man.
Helena did not know whom to turn to with no close friends and her sister out of the country, so she asked the one man she had ever loved for help – Michael Rowan. Michael had discarded Helena many years ago, choosing science and a lab over her, or so she thought. When Michael receives Helena’s summons and learns that she wants his help in obtaining a divorce from her husband, he believes that she has just become bored with her life and refuses to become involved. That is, until he sees his son – the son he never knew existed.
Fleeing her husband brings Helena to Moon Lake Lodge, an abandoned property that she intends to turn into a refuge for battered women. Besides drawing abused women, the Lodge also brings Michael Rowan back into Helena’s and her son, William’s, life. Jobless and eager to make up for the years he missed watching his son grow, Michael is determined to stick around, something that Helena has a hard time believing after his abandonment years ago. Can she take a chance on love again, when not only her heart is involved, but that of her son also?
I had been eagerly anticipating reading Enchanted Afternoon after being introduced to Helena and Michael in Halfway to Heaven. Unfortunately, Enchanted Afternoon did not meet up to the expectations I have begun to anticipate from this wonderful author. The bits and pieces we saw of Helena and Michael together in Halfway to Heaven were more stimulating than this entire novel devoted to them.
Susan Wiggs has been one of my favorite authors for some time now, mainly for her ability to write realistic, multi-dimensional characters and because she focuses on the romance rather than allowing a villain, etc. to steal the show. However, the characters in Enchanted Afternoon seemed flat and the romance was more of a side point, being overshadowed by the tale of abused women and the discovery of a hot spring.
Additionally, Helena did not seem to have much of a personality at all. The reader knows that she was abused and that she is afraid to love again, especially to love Michael because of their history, but little else. Michael is a bit more rounded, being the “absent-minded professor”; his character was a little more colorful, with secrets in his past.
Towards the end of the novel, we are introduced to an interesting and different character that also has an unusual name, Isabelle Fish-Wooten. Her story is due out in August of 2003 and while Enchanted Afternoon was not my favorite Susan Wiggs’ novel, I will still be sure to pick up a copy of her latest work when it is released.