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The Charm School (Calhoun Chronicles #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,270 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
An awkward misfit in an accomplished, Boston family, Isadora Peabody yearns to escape her social isolation and sneaks aboard the Silver Swan, bound for Rio, leaving it all behind.

Ryan Calhoun, too, had a good family name. But he'd purposely walked away from everything it afforded him. Driven by his quest to right an old wrong, the fiery, temperamental sea captain barely re
Mass Market Paperback, 408 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Mira Books (first published April 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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The Charm School was a good book about an ugly duckling heroine who finds new life when she travels aboard a ship to Rio. The hero is a bit of a rakish daredevil who slowly falls for the heroine over the long ship journey. The story had a lot of great detail about life on a ship and really brought the setting and characters to life. The heroine's transformation from a plain, plump spinster who was too smart and horrible at social situations to a confident woman who believed in herself was the ma ...more
Jul 15, 2008 ChloeLeeNH rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American 1850's fans
I adored this book. I liked the whole Ugly Duckling premise. He wasn't too much of a rogue and the scenes that put him in that light were bearable. If anyone has any other Ugly Duckling suggestions please let me know!!

I got this one from the library but I think I will make it a keeper soon!
Julie (jjmachshev)
This is a reissue of a 1999 release.

What a wonderful story about love and transformation Susan Wiggs has penned in “The Charm School”. It combines the lure of “Pygmalion” with the fairy tale of “The Ugly Duckling” and even throws in a dash of anti-slavery activism. And it all comes together beautifully in a story that validates hopes and dreams of love and freedom.

Isadora is the ugly duckling. In her family of slim, pale blondes, she’s a full-figured, tall brunette; and in 1850s Boston high-so
During the early 1850's, a motley crew of men managed a ship captained by Virginian Ryan Calhoun. They have returned to Boston in record time for their employer, Able Easterbrook, to earn a sizable amount of money. Before heading to Brazil on another mission, Ryan met the withdrawn and frumpy Isadora Dudley Peabody. Aware of her prestigious family, he sensed there was more to Miss Peabody than meets the eye. He was kind to her.

Preparing for the voyage, he found out that Isadora had been hired on
Jun 10, 2011 Audrey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I'm this book 2.5-3 stars, which is really bifurcated between 3.5-4 for the writing, atmosphere, setting, and plot and 2 for the romance.

3.5-4 = The author does a nice job of weaving magical descriptions of exotic Rio and earthy shipboard life. I learned a lot of nautical terminology after searching Google while reading. The characters were pretty well drawn, even though I didn't necessarily like them (if that makes sense?). Isadora's life in Boston was miserable
Miranda Davis
Jul 10, 2013 Miranda Davis rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of historical romance w/exotic ports of call
What a corker of a tale! Set in Boston 1850's, the open sea and Brazil.
Isadora Peabody, an intelligent, uptight, recessive spinster ugly duckling in a gilded Beacon Hill Boston family escapes the constraints of her life and blossoms at sea on a voyage she finagles with the shipper, another eminent Bostonian.

The ship's captain is a southerner with secret plans involving his childhood companion and freed slave, Journey. He's talked his way into captaining a ship to Brazil with a cargo of ice and a
Susan (susayq ~)
This was a a great book. What I liked most about it was that we got to see Ryan fall in love with Isadora. Usually in romance books, we get more of the female perspective and get to see her fall in love. Don't get me wrong, we saw Isadora go from an ugly duckling who didn't quite fit in anywhere to a confident woman who learned to not be scared of being noticed and who could speak her mind (and all it took was six months at sea with a ship full of misfit sailors to help her do it ;0) ) as she fe ...more
I love this era in history. It's hard to find stories that specialize in American life (considering there is an excess of westerns from this time period). Considering that most of the book too place on a ship, there was ample interaction between the H/h and allowed the heroine to grow. Isadora has a cool name, but she was a pretty pitiable creature during the beginning of this story. Smart, but socially awkward and a bit of a coward. Ryan (also love this name) is really a great guy, despite the ...more
Sep 07, 2012 VaultOfBooks rated it it was ok
By Susan Wiggs. Grade: B
I read the back blurb and was immediately excited because it showed a lot of promise. Historicals almost always have the same recurring theme – you guessed it, reformed rakes – and I thought this change was refreshing.
Isadora Peabody is an awkward misfit in her beautiful and accomplished family. Shunned by those she yearns to befriend, she gives her heart to a man who doesn’t even know she exists. With nothing to lose, she seizes the chance to journey to a wondrous new wo
Suzanne (Under the Covers Book blog)
Isadora Peabody is a complete misfit in her rich Boston family, tall and curvy where they are willowy, unruly brown hair where they have sleek blonde locks, intelligent and clever when they are all social butterflies. Bound into a life she hates and doesn't fit in to she grabs the chance to get away on a ship to Rio when it presents it self, despite the insufferable arrogant and rakeish Captain Ryan Calhoun.

I pretty much devoured this book, I devoured it in one sitting, I love a plain Jane stori
Feb 03, 2012 Santana rated it it was amazing
0_0 this book was brilliantly written...ok it's not what i would typically read because i don't really like that time era but oh gosh i thoroughly enjoyed it!!!!! The characters were amazing and it was just...believable! i love how Ryan and Isadora are so honest hehehehe and they both grow together in the book...All the characters i loved and i was actually dreading when i knew this book would finish...But such a beautiful story that i really really loved...i have read a lot of plain jane books ...more
Feb 01, 2010 TJ rated it it was ok
After reading, and loving Ms. Wiggs Tudor Rose Trilogy, this was a disappointment. I guess the biggest reason was the ending. I hate it when I've invested the time and emotion in a storyline only to have it suddenly wrapped up, tied up and finished in the last few paragraphs. Forgive me but after 408 pages, it could have spared a few to help me understand what happened. Instead it was "I'm back...Great, because I love you..... The end".
apesar de já nao ser a minha primeira leitura da autora, a historia é muito simples e ao mesmo tempo intensa.
aborda o tema de escravatura e todos os dramas inerentes a essa condição... se bem que tratado de uma forma bem ligeira e sem grande apelo.

o romance propriamente dito, foi "simpatico", sem arroubos ou impetos de paixao.

uma historia no fundo agradável e da fácil leitura sem grandes pretensões.
Dec 26, 2014 Katie rated it it was ok
The classic ugly duckling story - of course she has to lose weight to be beautiful! Of course she has to lose her glasses to be beautiful! Of course she has to smoke weed by a waterfall to be ... wait. What?
Dec 13, 2015 puppitypup rated it it was ok
Historic Romance Nope

Sad to say, but this one has not held up to the test of time, I found very little to like. The hero and heroine are at odds with each other the entire book, up until the last chapter or so.

The heroine is unlikable, another of those who has never had a friend. That would make her unfriendly, and, side note to all authors, prickly, unfriendly people are not appealing!

The hero doesn't fare much better, the intimate scene made me cringe. And that, on a whole, is the best way to
Sara Horney
Jul 04, 2011 Sara Horney rated it it was amazing
Taking a break from my usual PNR and UF reads I picked up Charm School by Susan Wiggs on the reccomendation of several book blogs.
I was interested in the idea of an awkward, none to pretty heroine and how the romance between her and the hero would progress.
Charm School is a wonderful read. If you like history, you'll enjoy a look into the shipping industry, abolitionist movement and politics of the American South in the 1860's (approx.), if you like romance you'll enjoy the dynamic between our h
Marion Marchetto
Aug 19, 2011 Marion Marchetto rated it liked it
An engaging tale of a proper Boston young miss who becomes transformed while on a sea journey to find herself. I found this approach to the historical romance genre refreshing. However, I would caution against letting impressionable young ladies reading this.

While the sensuality falls short of page after page of explicit details, there is enough to give one pause. First is the fact that our heroine becomes 'one of the guys' aboard ship after she is hired as translator. One would need to be pret
I picked this up at the library. I have seen it listed as a favorite several times so I thought I'd give it a try. My first to read by this author. An interesting take on the Ugly Duckling fairy tale. Isadora Peabody was the ugly duckling, living with a family of beautiful ducks. Ryan Calhoun is the captain of a ship called The Sliver Swan and they are heading for Rio. Isadora manages to get on board as a translator, despite the objections of the captain. I found the story to be rather delightfu ...more
Wicked Incognito Now
I love Susan Wiggs, although I've not read many of her books (yet).

I am most impressed with her ability to handle heavy issues without a heavy hand. I usually can't stand to read about heavy issues. I'm not looking for a lot of depressing melodrama in a book. Wiggs is never melodramatic, but she doesn't flinch from real life.

I think this book (and series) is an earlier effort, and I didn't feel her light-touch and uncanny sense of humanity and character here.

The story and emotional impact was j
Jun 20, 2015 Teresa rated it it was ok
Ye Powers!
I wasn't sure what to give this book as a rating. There were parts I found interesting and parts that bored me. I appreciated the sense of adventure in Isadora, but sometimes found her a little grating. And, to be honest, I wasn't completely sure that her relationship with Ryan was all that believable. It just seemed to be sewn up at the end to complete the story. I did however, find it funny when they got high. Good times. I will probably read the next book which is about Ryan's brot
Aug 05, 2014 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
Isadora Peabody was a miserable wallflower. Her high society family was beautiful as well as out-going, able to entertain and hold their own in any discussion. Izzy was very intelligent having lived with an eccentric aunt for many of her growing up years, but pretty and joyful she was not! When Aunt Button passed away and Isadora had to return home, she turned in on herself, became a clumsy misfit, and barely endured the miserable harassment's sent in a 'kind' tone her way .
When she finds hers
Jan 29, 2016 Elaine rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
This was an easy, quick read. Not bad but not amazing either. I liked the concept of transformation from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

I was expecting to enjoy this more than I did. It was still very enjoyable just didn't live up to my expectations. I loved some parts and was bored during others. Also the ending was very abrupt and left a lot of unanswered questions and I was disappointed in it. It ballanced out in an ok read.
Aug 23, 2012 Mydearloverboy rated it it was amazing
OMG!!WOW!! great novel!!;)
I cried like crazy...but ending seemed a bit rushed...However, I could clearly see why they both fell in love with each other...excellent character development...but there could have been more time spent on after the "separation" in the book...this part seems to take too late in the plotline near the end of the book...

overall, 5 stars for the light humour and excellent character development;)
This book isn't quite what I'd expected. Isadora is the daughter of a prominent Boston family, and she just doesn't fit in. She's too smart, too shy, not pretty enough, and can't figure out how to make herself over into what everyone wants her to be. Then she has the opportunity to travel to Rio, and everything begins to change. The description makes it sound like she stows away and the crew works to change her into someone else, but that's not what happens.

Instead, she actively seeks out the c
*3 1/2 Stars*

Nice story, likable characters, but very slow to grab me and too easy to put down. It wasn't until well over halfway that I felt invested in the characters and their lives. That said, it was a sweet 'ugly duckling' story and I enjoyed seeing Isadora spread her wings. I liked Ryan too, as well as all the characters on the ship.
Maria Ines Alvarez
Mar 17, 2013 Maria Ines Alvarez rated it it was ok
this book is getting 2 stars only because of the whole ugly duckling thing, i am a sucker for transformations. i didnt really made a connection with hero therefore i didnt put myself in the heroine shoes. the whole red hair and then the colorful clothes just didnt do it for me. even thou the heroine thought he looked great.
Jun 27, 2008 Jenni rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the story line of this book. Ryan the hero helps Isadora discover just how beautiful she is (if you know what I mean). It was a different story line then most romance novels which was a relief although the romance scenes were not very steamy, I am glad I read this book
Jul 21, 2008 Lesley rated it it was amazing
This is a book about a women whom is an ugly duckling who turns into a swan in the end. After findling herself through some life adventure and some soul searching she learns life doesn't have to be all prim and proper. Very good romance read!!!
Oct 24, 2011 Mariana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was amazing!I loved the writing, the story, how the characters got involved through the story. It kept me on the edge and I could not put it down. I loved how it was related to the Ugly Duckling story!
Aug 12, 2008 Heloise rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for the heroine transformation books, this is an oldy but goody. Want to know more about my opinion?
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Mar 03, 2015 11:32AM  
  • Courting Miss Hattie
  • The Promise of Jenny Jones
  • The Windflower
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  • Sleepless at Midnight (Mayhem in Mayfair, #1)
  • Texas Blue (Whispering Mountain, #5)
  • Fallen Angel
  • Guilty Pleasures (Guilty, #1)
  • The Gamble
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  • Tallie's Knight
  • Lady Gallant (European Renaissance Duo, #1; Ladies, #1)
  • A Perfect Scoundrel
  • Bound by Your Touch
  • The Lord Next Door (Willow Pond, #1)
  • The Abduction of Julia (Rogues, #1)
  • To Seduce a Sinner (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #2)
  • Texas Splendor (Leigh Brothers Texas Trilogy, #3)
Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She serves as author liaison for Field's End, a literary community on Bainbridge Island, Washington, bringing inspiration and instruction from the world's top authors to her seaside community. (See ...more
More about Susan Wiggs...

Other Books in the Series

Calhoun Chronicles (5 books)
  • The Horsemaster's Daughter (Calhoun Chronicles #2)
  • Halfway to Heaven (Calhoun Chronicles #3)
  • Enchanted Afternoon (Calhoun Chronicles #4)
  • A Summer Affair (Calhoun Chronicles #5)

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“She watched the gap between ship and shore grow to a huge gulf. Perhaps this was a little like dying, the departed no longer visible to the others, yet both still existed, only in different worlds.” 41 likes
“She had always been good at dreaming, but what she had never done before was believe a dream could actually come true. She believed now. The wonder of setting sail created possibilities she had never considered before.” 6 likes
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