Judging a Book by Its Cover
Brooklyn-born artist Elaine Duillo, who, in her long and storied career, earned the well-deserved moniker of “The Queen of Romance Cover Art,” did it to me again! How many books have I purchased simply because I was dazzled by the hypnotic painted covers, only to find disappointment within the pages of those supposedly lurid novels?
The best thing about Emily Bradshaw’s Halfway to Paradise is its stunning jacket, which is an excellent representation of Duillo’s flair for making even the most mundane tale seem enticing. This one is done primarily in purple hues, with the heroine’s long blonde locks that flow down to her knees providing a bright complement to the hero’s dark-violet doublet.
Back in the day, an Elaine Duillo cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. That was not the case with this book.
Why have I spent so much time in this review discussing Duillo’s talent rather than the content of this Halfway to Paradise? Because, lamentably, the book put me halfway to sleep.
It took me six weeks to finish this dull story about a widowed Puritan lady who adopts an imprisoned Cavalier’s son. The English Civil War and Restoration eras generally hold great appeal for me, but this lifeless romance just didn’t cut it.
The Earl of Chester, Matthew Hawkins, as an enemy of Cromwell, has had everything taken from him, including his liberty. He escapes prison to become an underworld criminal called, predictably, the Hawk. Determined to find his son, Hawk plots vengeance upon the woman who stole him. Instead of revenge, he finds love with Mrs. Jane Alexander, who, like many widowed heroines in Romancelandia, was unhappy in her first marriage.
Eventually, Jane, Matthew, and their son leave England for the safety of Holland, where they do nothing but pine for home and write letters, and then it’s back to England for a happy ending. This was a lackluster read with minimal conflict in the plot and little chemistry between protagonists.
Final Analysis of Halfway to Paradise
I read this one back when I was determined to complete every book I started. It was like water torture, every page a painful drip, drip, drip. According to my stats, I began this book in early November 2010 and finished it on New Year’s Eve, just in time to add it to my annual tally of read-books.
Ten years later, I’m much wiser when it comes to reading habits. If I get into a slump, I know it’s time to reread old favorites or turn to different genres to get my mojo back. And most importantly, I understand that it’s okay to categorize a book as “did-not-finish.” I used to feel that DNFing a book was a wasteful extravagance, like not finishing a meal that I’d paid for (I got that attitude from growing up poor. If we spent money on anything, the item had to be put to use, no excuses.) What’s truly wasteful is spending time on a book that brings no pleasure, no matter how many pages you’ve read so far, or how costly the book was, or how great everyone else thinks it is.
For me, Halfway to Paradise isn’t the worst book ever, so it’s worth more than a 1-star rating. As I said, that cover is a thing of beauty, so I’ll give this 2 stars for that superficial reason alone.