THE UGLY DUCKLING by Iris Johansen


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 In a successful hardcover debut, megaseller Johansen abandons the lush historical romances that have made her reputation and stakes out the proven market of Nora Roberts and Sidney Sheldon. Nell Calder is the Ugly Duckling--plump and plain, with mousy brown hair and a ``predilection for chocolate cake.'' Her world revolves around her four-year-old daughter, Jill, and not around her arriviste banker-husband Richard. Why then would a ruthless French drug lord target such a mouse for assassination at a glamorous party on a private Greek island? And why--as a bejeweled crowd cavorts below--would a psycho killer throw Nell off her balcony, shoot her husband, and knife her young daughter to death? That's what dark and sexy Nicholas Tanek wants to know. Nicholas- -gentle with women, deadly with enemies--is pursuing the drug lord, who murdered his mentor/surrogate father by infecting him with an unspeakably awful South American virus that slowly devours the organs of its victims. Interestingly enough, meantime, the fall has completely destroyed Nell's face. And so, in order that she doesn't ``live the rest of her life looking like a gargoyle,'' Nicholas takes her back to the States to plastic surgeon Joel Lieber, a genius who transforms her into Helen of Troy. Newly gorgeous and bent on vengeance, Nell persuades Nicholas to take her to his well-protected sheep ranch in Idaho (three electric fences) to teach her martial arts. Formerly a great flower arranger, the once ``ugly little mouse'' now turns into Bruce Lee. As Johansen quick-cuts back and forth between the good guys and the bad, in tried-and-true Sheldonesque style, the plot eventually delivers just deserts to all--thanks to inventive surprises and a large broad sword. Slick, knowing stuff. The myth of the ugly duckling is a seminal women's fantasy, exploited here in streamlined and product-tested style. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-553-09714-8
Page count: 323pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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