BEAUTY

``Beauty and the Beast'' in a modern setting, courtesy of first-novelist Wilson. Alexander Miller comes from a long line of modestly talented artists, all of whom have painted portraits of the aristocratic Cromptons. Alexander takes a commission from the current Crompton, Leland, but because he is ailing, and because his daughter, Alix, is a better artist, he sends her instead. Naturally, Lee lives in a mansion on inherited money, while it's not quite clear what Alix lives on, unless the reader is to believe it's her art. Anyhow, Alix falls in love with Lee, though not because of his money, and not at first glance, certainly, since Lee is afflicted with acromegaly—also known as ``giantism''—and is really a bit of a freak. (He's gentle, though.) There are several obstacles: Lee's protective housekeeper Mrs. Greaves, who's suspicious of Alix's motives; Alix's boyfriend Mark, who seems to value Alix only for quick sex; and her father Alexander, who has been diagnosed with cancer and is dying a slow death in a hospice. Actually, her father's death works neatly to demonstrate what a nice person Alix is, because of how tenderly she cares for him in his final days. And Lee's a nice person, too, it turns out, because he sits and talks with the dying man for hours. Surprise: Mark, with no more feelings than a beast, doesn't want to see Alexander at all! Once Mark is out of the way and her father dies, Alix and Lee marry— but, taking several pages from Erich Segal, Wilson kills off Alix and leaves the Beast to raise his beautiful daughter alone. It's really sad, but kind of redemptive, too. None of the men here manage to seem real, and Alix herself is a bit of a scold, giving the love scenes a decaffeinated feel. A tale not so much sweet as Nutra-Sweet. (First serial to Good Housekeeping)

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-517-70152-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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SANCTUARY

Roberts is the perfect perpetual-romance machine. She churns out an almost inhuman number each year; she meets an annual March deadline for her hardcovers (this one even has the same number of pages as last year's bestselling Montana Sky). And each is lively, sexy, and well researched. Her latest concerns three siblings (the Hathaways) who find lovers and strained relationships while a homicidal madman is threatening their safety. The three live in a beautiful white gothic on the Georgia Sea Island of Lost Desire, which they've turned into an inn. Brian, the eldest—tall, cute, and morose—runs the establishment and is chef of its five-star kitchen. (His father Sam can't understand how a man can enjoy creating a perfect meringue and still prefer women for sex.) Brian fights halfheartedly against the amorous advances of Kirby, the pretty Yankee doctor who runs the island's clinic; the two eventually end up locked in an embrace against her refrigerator door. Meanwhile, the youngest sib, Alexa Hathaway—sexy Lexy, the island princess with the gypsy hair—has failed at acting in New York and come home to waitress and throw a few tantrums. She fights halfheartedly against the honorable intentions of childhood buddy Gift Verdon, who's good with his hands and doesn't let her get away with much. Finally, there is Jo Ellen, a world-famous photographer who's returned to Desire after a nervous breakdown and is fighting a losing battle against empathic architect Nathan Delaney. Twenty years earlier, the Hathaways' mother, Annabelle, had disappeared, abandoning her family—or so it seemed. Now someone is stalking the family, having even sent Jo Ellen a picture of her mother, dead and naked. As usual, the romance is better than the weird violence. There's not much suspense here, but it's good to see that heroines are becoming gutsier and heroes better in the kitchen.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-399-14240-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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A smooth blend of suspense and romance. As ever, the author's trademark effortless style keeps a complex plot moving without...

THE VILLA

Megaselling Roberts (River's End, 1999, etc.) goes to Napa Valley for the tale of an Italian-American family wine producers rocked by scandal and a series of murders.

Dynasty head Tereza Giambelli knows that her granddaughter Sophia is the only family member capable of running a multimillion-dollar wine business—and no one contradicts La Signora. It's just as well the lovely young woman is still single: Tereza has plans for her. The matriarch has recently married Eli MacMillan, the American founder of another famous wine company. Eli's grandson Tyler knows everything there is to know about producing wine, from the vineyard to the vat. Ruggedly handsome, intelligent and earthy, he's a perfect match for public-relations whiz Sophia—or so thinks Tereza. The two young people begin to work together; Tyler teaches Sophia the fine art of making wine and making love. But other family members hope to claim their share of the Giambelli fortune, and people start dying mysteriously, including Sophia's good-for-nothing father, Tony Avano. Long divorced from long-suffering Pilar Giambelli, Tony led an opulent, self-indulgent life that provides plenty of murder suspects. He might have been killed by the mob, or a jealous mistress, or his spoiled brother-in-law, Tereza's lazy son, who's produced a passel of brats with his foolish Italian wife in the hopes of making Tereza happy. Everyone has a motive, and nothing is what it seems, Sophia discovers, but Tyler stands by her. Then a bottle of tainted merlot kills a company exec. A tragic mishap caused by poisonous plants growing near the vines? Or deliberate product tampering intended to destroy the company? Sophia and Tyler will need to delve even deeper into the convoluted and sometimes unsavory history of the family and its three-generation business.

A smooth blend of suspense and romance. As ever, the author's trademark effortless style keeps a complex plot moving without a hitch.

Pub Date: March 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14712-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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