by Susan Wiggs

October 2001
ISBN: 1-55166-837-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Mass Market Paperback

Abigail Cabot is not the sort of woman men are instantly attracted to. She isn’t beautiful and doesn’t care overly much about her appearance – her passion is for astrology and not the latest fashions or gossip that occupies most women’s time and interest. However, just because her interests are different, she is still very much a woman with a woman’s heart and she has fallen head over heels in love with Lieutenant Boyd Butler. Unfortunately, Lt. Butler barely knows Abigail exists and is instead avidly pursuing her sister, Helena. Helena is as different from Abigail as day to night. Helena is stunningly beautiful – physically perfect in every way, if a bit flighty. Abigail feels woefully inadequate to compete with her sister even though Helena, with her legions of suitors, could care less about gaining Lt. Butler affections.

Jamie Calhoun initially gains an introduction to the Cabot sisters to further his own political agenda. Abigail and Helena’s father is an important Senator and Jamie hopes a relationship with one of them could be fortuitous. However beautiful Helena may be, she doesn’t interest him nearly as much as the prickly, ill-tempered Abigail so Jamie decides to use Abigail’s infatuation with Lt. Butler to his favor. He reasons that if he contrives to get Abigail wed to Lt. Butler – a match the Senator is much in favor of – the Senator will be indebted enough to Jamie to set his political aspirations in motion. Therefore, Jamie offers to help Abigail gain Lt. Butler’s love with poetic love letters and by turning her into a “proper” lady.

Jamie teaches Abby how to dress, dance, carry on a conversation about the weather and more. The results astound even him and it seems as though everyone’s wishes will come true when it appears as though Lt. Butler is planning to propose to Abby. But why isn’t Abby as happy as she thought she would be? And why is Jamie wishing he had never transformed her for another man?

Jamie and Abby are multi-faceted, complex characters that Ms. Wiggs brings to life with remarkable skill. The characters become real to the reader and make you really care about the outcome of the story. I actually found myself holding my breath hoping that Abby wouldn’t fall and embarrass herself! Their problems are realistic and understandable and the reasons keeping them apart are beyond simple misunderstandings which makes a happy ending that much more satisfying. But the story is not always serious and somber and there are plenty of moments where the humor of the situation causes a genuine laugh to burst out – which seems even funnier when it sort of sneaks up on you!

The reader could actually see Abby and Jamie’s relationship transforming into love as the story progressed and it was so much more than the “I-can’t-stand-him-but-I-think-I-love-him-anyway” scenario that we see so often. It was also refreshing that the characters had problems that falling in love were not going to remedy – just like real life. Susan Wiggs has a talent of adding just enough historical information to enrich the setting without taking away from what we all want to read about – the romance. Additionally, there wasn’t a mystery, villain, or murder plot anywhere in sight to distract readers from the blossoming love story. Rather than causing the story to seem one-dimensional, this left more time to really delve into the character’s personalities and emotions.

If I had to search for a negative aspect to the story, I suppose it would be that there is not a lot of steamy sex in the novel to speak of – it is more along the lines of passionate kisses and embraces. However, what is there is so emotionally touching, I didn’t really miss the sex – and this comes from a fan of Susan Johnson and Thea Devine’s hot scenes!

I can’t say enough good about Halfway to Heaven and I will eagerly be anticipating Ms. Wiggs novel due to be released in October of this year that focuses on Abby’s sister, Helena.

Reviewed in July 2002 by Nicole.

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