I have read quite a few books by Susan Wiggs this past 12 months (Horsemaster's Daughter & A Summer Affair, Miranda, The Firebrand and Halfway to Heaven - all really good and historical in content). She is one of my most favorite authors now. I prefer historical romances and this one had a definite taste of the past. This author is great at weaving a detailed story line, pulling you back in history and creating interesting and unique characters. She spends little time in developing passionate love scenes so, if you want that, look elsewhere. She spends little time making the main content of the book about sex and attraction, if you want that, look elsewhere. If you want a warm hearted story deep with emotion and is fulfilling from beginning to end - stop here.
I wasn't sure I would like this book as a number of readers didn't care for this follow up to Halfway to Heaven. The first book was about sister #1 - Abigail. This book was about sister #2 - Helena. I think anyone who read the earlier book was interested in hearing the story that made up Helena and Michael's broken love story. Although this book was intricate and detailed, I think the most glaring thing lacking in this story was the true connection that was made again between Michael and Helena the second time around. Clearly, their joint son William was the main link and then the woman's retreat they created together at Moon Lake Lodge was the second link. Their continued love and attraction for each other seemed almost lost in the background of all the other events going on in this book (battered woman, suppressed woman's rights, a legal system in place for a male dominated society only, impossible divorces even when a woman needed it, raising a son alone, being an outcast from society and so on).
I liked that Ms. Wiggs tackled the important topic of battered woman - especially in a time as strict and male dominated as the late 1800's. I think she did a good job of allowing Helena to evolve from a pampered and beautiful daughter of a rich and powerful Senator into a mature, independent and intelligent woman in her late 20's - early 30's. She didn't crumbled up and loose it in the face of adversity as expected. Instead, she got smart and she got strong. I liked that Helena didn't stay just a pretty face - instead - she became someone to truly admire and like. I also liked that many of Michael's quirky characteristics remained in this book too - that his socks didn't match, his clothing was often rumpled and messy, his hair too long, his beard too thick, his mind brilliant but, scattered and his heart big but, tender and shy. Micheal and Helena's son William was a joy to read about. He was curious, interesting and appealing as a boy. You could really feel his wonder regarding the world at large and his ever growing fascination with everything around him. Another little mad scientist in the making.
I would have wished for more direct romance between Helena and Michael. Most of their previous lightness, joy and passion were found in the first book and even then, we only got a sprinkling of what happened. I would have enjoyed more flashbacks to warm and tender times and what caused all the attraction in the first place. I think the author had them at odds and fighting and arguing of the past and their differences a bit more than I would have liked. I would have enjoyed some more NEW loving and affectionate moments between the two. There was only one or two moments at the most in the whole book. Their relationship was often contentious regardless of their attraction and long suffering desire for the other. I do read these for the powerful emotions created and although this one had remnants of desire and deep love, it did get a little lost along the way with all the side events happening.
As all stories, this one works out nicely in the end and frankly, the bad guys get their due (Troy Barnes, etc) and the good guys & gals (the ladies at Moon Lake Lodge, etc) - find a way to make a nice life for themselves. This was an enjoyable novel to find out Helena's story and put closure to the lives of the two sisters.
This is always a great author to read. If you start with this book, just know she has many others that are really amazing and will blow this one away so, keep buying and reading Ms. Wigg's stories -you won't be sorry you did. If you are a fan already - you'll probably agree with a lot of things I said. I can't give four stars as this book was missing that passionate and deep element called "amore' - love". Five stars are reserved for only the best of the best - this one was pleasing but, fell short of true greatness. So...I gave three stars for a solid read and a top author.