Halfway to Paradise
Halfway to Paradise is a good example of a book that has one ingredient too many. As a story about overcoming untimely tragedy, it works beautifully. But there is an unnecessary and intrusive paranormal side to it, one that made my skin creep, just a little bit. Just enough to keep the book from anywhere near my keeper shelf. And that’s a real shame.
Maggie Connell and Scott Bishop have both lost their spouses in the last year: Maggie’s husband Mark died in a Marine Corps helicopter crash, and cancer killed Scott’s wife Annie. After a dramatic meeting on an airplane from Dallas to Boston, these two lonely people discover that they’re bidding on separate aspects of the same project, a huge new resort to be built in New England. The attraction between them is immediate and strong, but Maggie resists, telling herself it’s too soon after Mark’s death. And besides, what would her seven-year-old son Ryan think? He’s convinced he can see and talk to his dad.
The thing is, Ryan does see his father. Mark’s ghost is hanging around, coaching his son at hockey games, helping him with his homework, and passing on his love for 50’s music. And it turns out that Ryan can see Annie’s ghost too, when she comes tagging along after Scott. She and Mark met on the plane when Scott and Maggie did; now she tries to convince him that his widow and son have a right to get on with their lives.
Scott and Maggie, meanwhile, have discovered there’s some hanky-panky going on in the bidding process for the resort. Maggie really needs the contract to save her struggling design business, to say nothing of her sense of self-worth. Scott becomes determined to do everything he can to help her land the job. He senses that the love he feels growing for her is different from what he and Annie had – not better or worse, just different – and hopes that she’s coming to the same realization about him and Mark. This is a couple who have to get through the pain of losing love, and learn to open their hearts again.
This would have been a more enjoyable read had there not been the paranormal element. The story of Scott and Maggie working through their grief and finding the courage to love again is strong enough to stand on its own. Having the ghosts of their dead spouses hovering around only added a yuck factor I could not ignore. Granted, Mark and Annie make their exit before their still-living spouses consummate the relationship, but they’re there when Scott and Maggie engage in some heavy-duty necking. As I said, yuck.
Reading Halfway to Paradise got me thinking a lot about voyeurism, especially the difference between reading a scene about intimate activity, and reading about someone watching a couple engaged in that kind of behavior. When there are only two people in the scene, the reader identifies with one or the other, and that’s OK. But if there’s somebody else there, human or ghost, that throws the equation off; the intimacy, the privacy, is shattered. It’s intrusive – hell, it’s creepy, and in this case it came close to ruining a marvelous story. Did we have to be there with Mark as he watched another couple (not Maggie and Scott, thank heaven!) in a hotel room? At least Annie had the decency to adjourn to the bathroom for that – I wish I could have joined her.
The rest of the book is good enough to make me overlook the intrusive presence of the ghosts – almost. The writing flows beautifully. There are touches of humor; I especially like the flaws of the hero and heroine (Scott could get lost in a playpen, while Maggie misplaces things with endearing regularity). Ryan acts like a real kid, and his reaction to the presence of another man in his mom’s life is pretty accurate. There’s plenty of emotion: you’ll want to cry with the characters as they get down to the raw emotions they’ve been holding back since they lost what they thought were the loves of their lives. And I have to tell you that I appreciate seeing a guy holding back from getting physical for once, until he’s certain the emotional commitment is there on his beloved’s part.
Maybe you won’t be as creeped out as I was over the ghosts of Mark and Annie hovering around. There is still a lot to recommend this book, but I think it’s only right to warn you about what I felt was a discomfitting element. By the end of the book, I knew Maggie and Scott were going to make it to Paradise together; I just wish Mark and Annie had gotten there a little sooner.
|Review Date:||April 14, 1999|