The prologue of a novel arrives in the Manhattan offices of a book editor, who's intrigued enough to chase its mysterious author, identified only by his initials, to his decrepit plantation on an island off the Georgia Coast. That's the first clue that fiction is stranger than fact; few publishers (if any) would go to that sort of trouble for anything less than a new J.D. Salinger novel. But bestselling author Sandra Brown makes the most of her far-fetched premise, setting up a convoluted plot that keeps the reader engrossed despite its flaws and foibles.
Maris Matherly-Reed is more than an editor. She's also the beloved daughter of the publishing house's highly respected and successful leader, and the wife of Matherly Press's second-in-command, the smooth, suave, double-dealing Noah Reed. Reed, it develops, is the real target of the literary scam set up by the reclusive writer of the novel whose opening pages so captivate Reed's spouse. P.M.E., the writer, has a score to settle with Maris's husband, and he doesn't care whom he hurts as long as he brings Noah down. At least, not until he meets Maris, who has an unfortunate habit of falling in love with her authors (see above; that's the second clue). Brown is a master at romantic suspense, and Envy displays the talents that have won her a devoted following: a deft hand at evoking the vulnerability and humanity of her protagonists, a sure command of narrative tension, and a nice sense of place. This is a terrific hammock read, just right for a summer day as sultry and humid as Envy's Low Country setting. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Style and form are usually the least of prolific bestselling romance/thriller writer Brown's concerns, but in her latest effort she takes on an unusual challenge, setting out to craft a novel within a novel within a novel. The onion begins to peel when editor Maris Matherly-Reed plucks a prologue from the slush pile and finds herself hooked by the steamy prose. The author has furthermore titillated her by breaking the rules: no SASE, no cover letter. Maris knows only that his initials are P.M.E. and he lives on St. Anne Island in Georgia. (How does she know P.M.E. is a man? She... knows.) Gutsy, idealistic, deliciously sexy, Maris is married to philandering sociopath Noah Reed, who runs Matherly Press with Maris and her father, Daniel, last of the silver-maned gentleman publishers. As for P(arker) M(ackensie) E(vans), he's a bitter, wheelchair-bound, first-time novelist or is he? Is he using Maris to avenge himself against Noah, or does he love her madly or can the answer be all of the above? Cutting back and forth between the bernovel and Parker's autobiographical novel about a purloined novel, Brown stages one dramatic scene after another. The narrative voices don't change much (although the typefaces do), but Brown's loyal legions frankly won't give a damn. (Aug. 28) Forecast: Brown could probably write a novel in blank verse and still hit the bestseller lists, so her experimentation here (mild, in any case) won't throw readers. The book is a Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection and a BOMC alternate, and major TV, radio and print media ad campaigns (plus New York transit ads) will blanket the country. Expect the expected: a blockbuster.
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