The Charm School
For those of you looking for an “ugly duckling” story, look no further! This is the first book by Susan Wiggs I have read and I look forward to reading more.
The story begins with the introduction of the heroine, Isadora Dudley Peabody, wishing the floor would open up and swallow her. It is 1851, and Isadora is a member of a socially elite Boston family. Unfortunately for poor Isadora, she wasn’t blessed with the beauty and poise her brothers and sisters were born with and come by so easily. Society contributes to this way of thinking by making her feel like an outcast, continually subjecting her to humiliation. Isadora was sent to live with a spinster aunt when she was a child, and was not given much of a focus on grace, charm, beauty, or fashion. Instead, Isadora was raised to hold her own against any man, so to speak, in regards to languages and education. She is continually shunned and rejected by the people she wants to be close to.
Our hero, Ryan Calhoun, is a ship’s captain working for the father of the man Isadora has a crush on. Ryan is considered reckless and a ne’er do well and resents Isadora’s being given the job of interpreter and clerk on his next voyage. He doesn’t want her underfoot and decides to prove to Isadora she isn’t cut out for life aboard a ship.
Along the way to Rio, the reader sees a magical transformation take place within Isadora as she sheds her somber and reserved exterior and a bright and happy Isadora is born. With that, she is able to open herself up to a friendship beginning to take root with Ryan that will lead them to an unexpected love. This book will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and keep you riveted with each passing page. There is a lot of action and adventure within the story that bring Isadora and Ryan closer together. I hated to see it end.
Both Isadora and Ryan were very lovable. Watching the rebirth of Isadora Peabody is something most people can relate to, as we have all at some point in time felt as though we didn’t belong. Isadora is not trusting of anyone – and with good reason – but learning to trust Ryan, and realizing how deep her feelings run, is a surprise to her and a great thrill to the reader. Ryan also has to learn to trust his heart to someone, which isn’t something he has done before. He learns that giving his heart doesn’t mean he loses part of himself.
This book left this reader with a very warm and happy feeling inside, and I look forward to getting my hands on some of Susan Wigg’s other books.