I have to start with an important caveat: I haven't seen the kit in its current form. But I can offer some general observations that I hope may help a little.
Model Shipways was founded in the late 1940s. It was a tiny operation, run by two outstanding gentlemen out of a small storefront on a deadend street in Bogota, New Jersey. (Any customer who stopped in for a visit got the red-carpet treatment.) One of its first kits was the Harriet Lane. The kit consisted of a machine-carved pine hull, a handful of cast lead fittings, some pine blocks and birch dowels for deck furniture and spars, and a sheet of plans.
Shortly after the company got started, Pyro (known to the proprietors as "Pirate Plastics") issued plastic copies of several MS kits - including the Harriet Lane. (Pyro did the same thing with a couple of kits from one of MS's competitors, Marine Models.) That's the plastic kit currently being sold by Lindberg under the name "Civil War Blockade Runner."
The old MS wood kit got updated several times before, in the late seventies or early eighties, the original proprietors retired and sold the business to Model Expo. The new owners cut back the line drastically. They converted some of the kits to the "plank-on-bulkhead" system, and dropped others altogether. Eventually the solid hull Model Shipways kits disappeared completely.
Just recently Model Expo decided to bring back some of the old range of MS kits in solid-hull form. (As I understand it, there was some difficulty in finding a firm with a machine that could make the machine-carved hulls, but apparently that's been overcome.) I don't know all the changes that have been made from the originals, but I'm pretty sure there's a new set of plans and quite a few of the fittings have been revised. And the old lead parts have been replaced, generally with castings in britannia metal. (Britannia is a much better - and longer-lasting - material for that purpose.)
I think the Harriet Lane would make a good starter for somebody breaking into wood kits. The deck furniture is pretty straightforward, and the two-masted topsail schooner rig is handsome and challenging without involving a great deal of repetition. (If you've rigged the plastic version, you won't find a great deal of difference.) I'm not sure how Model Shipways has handled the paddlewheels and boxes; that's probably the most difficult part of this particular project.
Elsewhere in this Forum a group of newcomers are doing a "group build" project with the Model Shipways Sultana. That's a really nice starter kit too (with no paddlewheels). I have the impression that the participants are having a great time with the project, and the photos they've posted make it clear that they're turning out some excellent models. But if the Harriet Lane appeals to you more, I say go for it.
Hope that helps a little. Good luck.