A headily scented billet-doux from a Canadian TV writer making her fiction debut: when opened, it tells the provocative story of two look-alike sisters who never met but whose lives describe opposing responses to the same psychological dilemma- -love starvation. Angel Concelli, a kind of Italian Marilyn Monroe, is found naked in bed and dead from an overdose of sleeping pills shortly before Boston-bred Stevie Templeton arrives in Rome to teach school and rebound from the recent loss of her doting, but strangely melancholy, father. Stevie starts a minor riot when she ventures out for a little sightseeing—Roman crowds mistake her for Angel—but she's rescued by an elderly woman named Ellen Brenner, who explodes the first bomb in Stevie's face: She's her grandmother. What's more, Stevie's mother, Claire, didn't die when she was a little girl, as her father claimed, but instead ran away with an Italian, and in Rome bore Angel, who grew up to be so beautiful that Claire couldn't stand the competition and threw her out of the house. While trying to digest all this, Stevie's romanced by two men, one a sexy Roman lawyer named Nick, the other the charismatic Italian politician Gian-Carlo Cassieri, who, Stevie learns, had a dangerously obsessive relationship with Angel. Gradually, the sexually pent-up and insecure Stevie discovers her attractiveness, leaning toward Gian-Carlo, until one night he forces her to dress up like Angel and then reveals the awful truth about the way the sex-kitten died. A few psychological implausibilities aside, this is a well- made little thriller that probes the emotionally empty center of celebrity and is to sexy pop fiction what Frederick's of Hollywood is to lingerie.
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