The Charm School
: I actually liked this one. A shipboard romance, go figure! It takes place in the early 1850's, partly in Boston, partly in Rio de Janeiro and on the journey there. Ryan Calhoun and Isadora Peabody are a nice lead couple and her transformation from ugly duckling to swan was about as organic as such a story line can get.The Horsemaster's Daughter
: Interesting premise, fairly boring execution. Hunter Calhoun, widowed father of two young children, and Eliza Flyte -- a woman raised on an island by an expert horse master -- are good characters as far as the basic sketch goes, but they have the same arguments over and over and over. They get boring and Hunter's motivations become obnoxious over time. The epilogue is nice, though, and brings some satisfaction.Halfway to Heaven
: Sorry, but I'm outraged by some background story that basically took all enjoyment from the romance. Jamie Calhoun is a man with a past he can't leave behind. Totally believable. And unbelievable
that he actually can -- only about 2 years after it happened. I'm sorry, but it's just a huge, dark smudge on the story and I couldn't stop thinking about it when I was supposed to be focusing on the happy couple. I kept thinking it would be made right, since the opening was there, but it isn't. ETA: I want to clarify that I understand that horrible things happen to good people and it shouldn't be left out of fiction, but if you choose to go that route, then you have to deal with everything that goes with it. So you can be realistic and hit the reader with that horror, but the aftermath has to be realistic as well and it might just screw up your happy little romance. I did not feel it was dealt with in a way that matched the enormity of the impact something like that would have.
Abigail Cabot is perfectly fine as a heroine although she's basically a retread of Isadora Peabody (from The Charm School), but her obsession and totally believable love for another man took far too long to resolve. When it takes that long, we tend to get a few vague paragraphs and the whole thing happens off page. Not satisfying. And with that other huge thing just kind of hanging over the whole story like a smudgy pall, the story is just totally unsatisfying.
The only one I could really recommend is the first. It's all downhill from there, IMO.