The Charm School
by Susan Wiggs
May 1, 2008
Available in: Paperback (reprint)
Setting: Boston and Rio de Janeiro, 1851
Isadora Peabody is the brilliant but socially inept sibling in an otherwise perfect family. And although she struggles to fit into Boston society, her awkwardness dooms her to repeated failure. Fate intervenes when she learns that a sea captain, Ryan Calhoun, is in need of an interpreter for his next voyage to Rio. And despite Ryan's adamant opposition to hiring a female interpreter, Isadora gains a berth on his ship, thanks to a little blackmail.
Life aboard ship and away from the strict confines of Boston society finds Isadora losing weight, gaining confidence, and blooming like a rose. She befriends the motley crew of rough sailors, and in turn, they become a charm school of sorts, tutoring her in gracefulnesswhich comes in handy when climbing the rope riggingdancing, and friendship. Isadora's transformation fascinates Ryan, but he is determined to stay away from her for he has secretive, dangerous plans. Unaware of Ryan's interest, Isadora struggles with her growing attraction to the reckless sea captain. But before they can resolve their feelings, prior commitments surface and endanger their chance of finding a happy future together.
Using blunt scissors, pages from a Big Chief tablet, a borrowed stapler and a Number Two pencil, Susan Wiggs self-published her first novel at the age of eight. A Book About Some Bad Kids was based on the true-life adventures of Susan and her siblings, and the first printing of one copy was a complete sell-out.
Due to her brother's extreme reaction to that first prodigious effort, Susan went underground with her craft, entertaining her friends and offending her siblings with anonymously-written stories of virtuous sisters and the brothers who torment them. The first romance she ever read was Shanna by the incomparable Kathleen Woodiwiss, which she devoured while slumped behind a college vector analysis textbook. Armed with degrees from SFA and Harvard, and toting a crate of "keeper" books by Woodiwiss, Roberta Gellis, Laurie McBain, Rosemary Rodgers, Jennifer Blake, Bertrice Small and anything with the words "flaming" and "ecstasy" in the title, she became a math teacher, just to prove to the world that she did have a left brain.
Late one night, she finished the book she was reading and was confronted with a reader's worst nightmare--She was wide awake, and there wasn''t a thing in the house she wanted to read. Figuring this was the universe''s way of taking away her excuses, she picked up a Big Chief tablet and a Number Two pencil, and began writing her novel with the working title, A Book About Some Bad Adults. Actually, that was a bad book about some adults, but Susan persevered, learning her craft the way skydiving is learned--by taking a blind leap and hoping the chute will open.
Her first book was published (without the use of blunt scissors and a stapler) by Zebra in 1987, and since then she has been published by Avon, Tor, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Mira and Warner Books. Unable to completely abandon her beloved teaching profession, Susan is a frequent workshop leader and speaker at writers' conferences, including the Romance Writers of America conference, the PNWA and Maui Writers Conference. She won a RITA award in 1994, and her recent novel The Charm School was voted one of RWA's Favorite Books of the Year. She is the proud recipient of several RT awards, the Peninsula RWA's Blue Boa, the Holt Medallion and the Colorado Award of Excellence.
Susan enjoys many hobbies, including sitting in the hot tub while talking to her mother on the phone, kickboxing, cleaning the can opener, sculpting with butter and growing her hair. She lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jay, her daughter, Elizabeth, and an Airedale that hasn't been groomed since 1994.