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Passing Through Paradise    by Susan Wiggs order for
Passing Through Paradise
by Susan Wiggs
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The death of popular politician, Victor Winslow, may have been ruled an accident, but the media and the citizens of Paradise (Victor's home town) don't accept that surprising verdict. Many are convinced that Sandra Winslow, the women they've dubbed 'The Black Widow', has gotten away with the murder of Paradise's golden boy. In hopes of escaping the unrelenting attention, Sandra retreats to her family's Victorian summer house, which has always been a refuge for her. Once settled in, Sandra is forced into a difficult decision - to hire someone to renovate the place and then sell it. With the proceeds she plans to make a new life for herself, far away from Paradise, from the community's continuing suspicions, and from the secrets she has buried with Victor. Perhaps then she will finally be free to get back to writing her popular children's books.

Mike Malloy has lost just about everything in a bitter divorce; his wife, his thriving restoration business, and most of all his two adored children. He's moved back to Paradise and is currently running his business out of his small, cramped boat. The last thing he needs is to get involved with his former childhood friend's widow, Sandra Winslow. But as soon as Mike sees her house, he's unable to walk away. He's always had a special gift for bringing homes back to their former glory and he wants to do just that with Sandra's old beach house. But what should remain only a business relationship quickly blossoms into something much more personal, something that Mike quickly realises he can't ignore. He finds himself not only wanting to fix Sandra's house; he wants to fix her broken spirit as well. But in trying to win Sandra's trust, and her heart, Mike unwittingly begins stirring up dark secrets about Victor and his beautiful widow. They could hurt too many people, most of all, Sandra, the woman Mike knows he'll never be able to walk away from.

Seasoned author, Susan Wiggs, has created a masterful narrative and a masterpiece of characterization. Nothing about her plot is new: politics, scandal, suspicions, the repercussions and the pain of divorce, the courage to start over and get on with life, however good or bad that new life might be. But the characters she's created to play out the major and minor dramas, live and breathe and touch the heart as if they were truly flesh and blood. Even Wiggs minor characters shine. Most poignant is Mike's teenage daughter, Mary Margaret. Through her eyes we not only see, but feel how divorce affects one child.

Contemporary romance readers won't find Passing Through Paradise easy to put down, and will likely file this novel in a prominent spot on their shelf of keepers. They'll also read it again and again.

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