(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer OCT 21, 2003)
Paris Gibson had a very different life before she moved to Austin, one that has changed her irreparably. Now she wears sunglasses all the time, and hosts a late night radio show where she plays classic love songs and acts as a friend to the people who call in. Sometimes she just listens, congratulating them, sympathizing with them, and sometimes she gives advice. Valentino, a man who calls in occasionally and is instantly recognizable with his husky voice, is one of those she gives advice to. Shes told him...as shes told everyone...that respect is important. One night she tells a young woman, who is in a restrictive, possessive relationship to, basically, dump the man shes with...this girl turns out to be Valentinos girlfriend. Hes kidnapped her, and now hes calling Paris to tell her something else...that in three days hell kill his girlfriend. After that, hes going to kill her. The search for the young woman before time is up brings Paris face to face with one of the men of her past, crime psychologist Dean Malloy.
The way this story is told is cool. Right away you meet Paris, which sets up the premise. Then you meet Dean...a father of a 16-year-old kid named Gavin, a man who is in a sad relationship of his own. Liz holds on tenaciously, while Dean feels guilty and smothered. Then you go on to the kidnapped girls parents, who have no idea that shes gone, and then you visit a wife who is angered and depressed by her husbands ways. Then we meet Janey...alone in the hotel room where shed been meeting with Valentino to have sex, wondering why he hasnt freed her from the ropes that tie her to the bed. We figure out that Janey is a lot harder and less innocent than we expect a seventeen-year-old to be, experienced in things she shouldnt be. All these perspectives work well together, telling us not only the tension-filled story of the hunt for Janey, but doing a great deal to characterize each person, grounding them in reality. In some ways, the terrible thing that made Paris flee her life and come to Austin is as interesting as the main story...as she slowly reveals the answers, it makes her relationship with Dean seem more tragic.
Brown also throws in a ton of red herrings...from Deans own son Gavin to the creepy co-worker who makes working late seem just a little more dangerous, we have plenty of suspects to choose from. The woman whose husband may be cheating on her (she speaks of how good he is with smokescreens and lies) leads us to wonder if her husband is the kidnapper...after all, the more we find out about him, the viler he seems. Is Brown leading us along a chain of evidence, or just giving us the largest red herring of all? This is part of the charm of the book... we're definitely kept guessing.
Paris is very well done...shes so knowledgeable about her job that we have a real feel for the world of late night radio; and the things she has gone through, her struggle to do right, makes her easy to feel for. The romance between her and Dean works well, slightly bittersweet, growing as it does out of their past. The fact that they might work things out and be together by the end of the book, after all, is another small triumph in the story.
Well crafted and suspenseful and a even a little edgier than usual for Brown, this many layered story will definitely make you think twice before going out in the dark.
- Amazon readers rating: from 73 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Hello, Darkness at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer OCT 21, 2002)
"The hand with which she had established a reputation as an exceptionally talented surgeon trembled slightly as she brought the card closer. On it was a single type written line; I've got a crush on you."
If the police think you've hired a killer to take out your competition, and that same killer suddenly develops a crush on you, what do you do?
Wick Threadgill has never forgiven himself for the one mistake he made in his investigation of Ricky Lozada, which gave the hit man's lawyer a valuable loophole to keep his client out of jail. When Oren Wesley, his ex-partner comes to visit him with the news that Lozada has struck again, he is eager to make up for his past by trying to capture Lozada once more. His investigations introduce him to one Rennie Newton, a doctor whose time in the jury box was instrumental in setting Lozada free on a separate case. Immediately attracted to her, Wick doesn't want to believe that this woman would hire a hit man to kill the man who got promoted ahead of her. There is evidence against her, though; she used to argue with the doctor, and when she was passed over for a much desired promotion, he was the one to get it. Rennie's very character is suspect, for though she is beautiful and intelligent, she holds herself close, refusing to form relations with men. The only place she shows any emotion is when she's with patients, and there she proves to be compassionate.
Her black and white view of the law is what set Lozada free, and Lozada, staring at her during the trial, becomes attached to her, deciding that she is the woman for him. After he is freed, he breaks into her house and places a full bouquet of roses in her living room. The note doesn't identify him, only says that he has a crush on her. Rennie decides to forget about it, convinced that since she has no proof that the police won't believe her anyway. Soon she and Wick begin a cat and mouse game with the killer, whose jealousy knows no bounds, and is determined to make Rennie his, no matter what -- or who -- he has to do to reach his goal.
The idea that this man, this person that everyone knows is a horrible killer, has fixated on Rennie is really frightening. The fact he was able to creep into her house without leaving so much as a smudge to prove that he was there really takes away the sense of security that a person has, and creates an aura of danger that follows Rennie, and the reader, throughout the book. Lozada is relentless; his easy anger and point blank obsession adds to the tension, for although we know just how much trouble she is in, Rennie doesn't. It gave me what I like to call the shout reflex...where you desperately want to give the protagonist some much needed advice.
Fortunately for Rennie, Lozada isn't the only man obsessed. Wick was crushed by his failure to revenge his older brother's murder when he had the chance. His desire for revenge and willingness to believe that Rennie is a victim of circumstance may well be the only thing that can truly save her. That is not to say that Rennie is a helpless maiden. Her past, when we discover it, proves more than anything else she has the courage to take care of herself. In the present, she uses her strength and wit to go on her own manhunt.
Although you know immediately who the antagonist is, it in no means takes away from the tensions of this book. In today's society, where stalkers are an ever-increasing phenomena, a book such as this delivers more than its share of chills.
- Amazon readers rating: from 69 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Crush at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
(Reviewed by Judi Clark AUG 23, 2001)
Hatch Walker is enjoying his favorite meal - saltines with anchovies, a slice of pickle, a slice of cheese, all smothered in Tabasco sauce - while he waits for his last charter to come in. He's rented his largest boat to three local twenty-somethings, two men and a woman, which is in his opinion "a volatile combination under any circumstances." Hatch was hesitant to rent since they were already fairly intoxicated, but his till was light for the day. So he settled on advising them not to drink and drive as he watched them carry a couple of very heavy coolers aboard.
Eating his snack and watching the Key West evening sky, he glances toward the entrance of the harbor and notices a boat coming in at full throttle in obvious violation of the "no wake" rule. Then he notices that it is his boat.
After missing a 42-foot sailboat and slamming a dingy into the side of multimillion dollar yacht, the boat heads straight for the pier with the driver cutting the engine and turning the boat to port, just in time to avoid hitting the dock. Hatch is ready to gut the guy for treating his boat so carelessly when he notices that the boy's face is bloody, his left eye swollen, his T-shirt is in shreds and he's sobbing uncontrollably. And he's alone on the boat, his friends lost over board in the dark. When questioned by the police what happened out there, what would cause two best friends to fight, his only answer, "Envy."
Interested so far? Well, so is book editor Maris Matherly-Reed who is going through her neglected slush pile giving a quick look to each of these unsolicited works before sending off the usual rejection letter. But when she comes across this prologue, her curiosity is piqued. Strangely the manuscript was submitted without a return address. The only identification is a note at the end: "P.M.E. St. Anne Island, Georgia." Maris is excited about the potential for finding a new writer and potential bestseller. Concerned that the writer might have submitted to other publishing houses, she decides to do a little detective work to find the manuscript's owner. It's been too long since she's had a chance to coax a novel out of a new writer and she's looking forward to the project.
Maris lives somewhat of a fairy tale life. She's the beloved daughter of wealthy New York City publisher Daniel Matherly, raised by him since grade school after the death of her mother. As such they share much, especially their love of reading. Each is confident that the other can distinguish good writing from bad, even if they disagree on a book.
Three years earlier, her father brought in Noah Reed to share the helm at Matherly Press. Reed, the author of one extremely successful best selling novel, The Vanquished, discovered that he enjoyed getting the book published more than writing and ended up a star in the business. Because of The Vanquished, Maris was already in love with Reed, when he asked Daniel for her hand. But their marriage is more like a business relationship with the Reed's spending much of their newlywed life attending publishing events in order to keep Matherly Press current with industry insiders. Maris, a hopeless romantic, would rather she and her husband spend a quiet evening at home with cheap wine, pizza and the Jacuzzi.
Although, Noah doesn't seem much interested in her slush pile find, her father shares her high opinion of Envy. Maris finds that as publisher and senior vice president that she's missing her old job as editor. She's encouraged that the author "doth protests too much" when he calls her at home to complain about her having caused a Sheriff to go out to his house. With her father's blessing and her husband's astonishment, she decides to go to Georgia to meet the mystery writer.
P.M.E. turns out to be Parker Evans, a man bound by a wheel chair, living on an abandoned cotton plantation with an elderly man to assist him. Even face to face, Parker is rude and recalcitrant. Despite his manners, the first chapters of Envy really draw Maris in and she's committed to see this book to print.
Parker Evans, however, is not what he seems. He has apparently used this manuscript to lure Maris Matherly-Reed to his home, something he has patiently waited six months to happen, actually, make that fourteen years. And his servant, Mike, seems to be in on the plan as well. Why is it that Parker is so intent on Maris reading this manuscript?
If you get the sense that this book is a page turner, you are absolutely right. Brown pulls off the "novel within a novel" superbly using the fictional Envy to give background to the events in the actual novel, and to simultaneously drive the plot. It's actually a rather clever technique, and brave, since she chooses to share with us the art of a writer writing. To pull this off takes a really capable writer, and there is no doubt that Brown succeeds. The reason that Brown is a best-selling novelist is probably due to her prolific start writing Romance novels. The ingredients that make up the lucrative Romance market include creating characters that represent good versus evil, interesting settings with strong details of the location, the ability to play up the tensions of romance, and a smattering of tantalizing sensual scenes. Brown knows these techniques well, and it is probably the secret to her easy success when she switched to writing mainstream fiction. Naturally, she uses these techniques in Envy, but extends the novel by complicating the plot with depth and surprises.
Basically, Envy mesmerizes from start to finish. Naturally, her long standing fans are going to love this one and from what I hear, they'll consider it her best yet. Although I've had a couple Sandra Brown novels in my "to be read" pile, this is my first opportunity (or so I believe, she's written so much how do I know for sure?) to read one of her books. Envy has wide audience appeal and I'd recommend it to all new comers to Sandra Brown.
- Amazon readers rating: from 189 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Slow Heat in Heaven (1988)
- Best Kept Secrets (1990)
- Mirror Image (1991)
- Breath of Scandal (1991)
- French Silk (1992)
- Where There's Smoke (1993)
- Charade (1994)
- The Witness (1995)
- Exclusive (1996)
- Fat Tuesday (1997)
- Unspeakable (1998)
- The Alibi (1999)
- Standoff (2000)
- The Switch (2000)
- Envy (August 2001)
- The Crush (October 2002)
- Hello, Darkness (September 2003)
- White Hot (August 2004)
- Chill Factor (August 2005)
- Outcry (August 2006)
- Play Dirty (August 2007)
- Smoke Screen (August 2008)
- Rainwater (November 2009)
Tyler Family series
- Heaven's Price (1983)
- Breakfast in Bed (1983)
- Send No Flowers (1984)
- In a Class by Itself (1984)
- Thursday's Child (1985)
- Riley in the Morning (1985)
- The Rana Look (1986)
- 22 Indigo Place (1986)
- Sunny Chandler's Return (1987)
- Demon Rumm (1987)
- Tidings of Great Joy (1998)
- Hawk O'Toole's Hostage (1988)
- Long Time Coming (1989)
- Temperature's Rising (1989)
- A Whole New Light (1989)
Mason Sisters series (Loveswept Series)
Harlequin American Romance
- Tomorrow's Promise (1983)
Second Chance at Love series
- Relentless Desire (1983) (reprinted as Shadows of Yesterday in 1992)
- Tempatation's Kiss (1983)
- Tempest in Eden (1983)
Coleman series (Historical)
Silhouette Desire Series originally written as Erin St. Claire
- Not Even for Love (1982)
- Seduction by Design (1982)
- A Kiss Remembered (1983)
- Words of Silk (1984)
- The Thrill of Victory (1989)
Silhouette Intimate Moments novels originally written as Erin St. Claire
- A Secret Splendor (1983)
- Bittersweet Rain (1984)
- Tiger Prince (1984)
- Sweet Anger (1985)
- Led Astray (1985)
- Above and Beyond (1986)
- Honor Bound (1986)
- The Devil's Own (1987)
- Two Alone (1987)
Candlelight Ecstasy novels written as Rachel Ryan
- Love's Encore (1981)
- Love Beyond Reason (1981)
- Eloquent Silence (1982)
- A Treasure Worth Seeking (1982)
- Prime Time (1983)
Originally written as Laura Jordan
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- Official Website of Sandra Brown
- Writer Review interview with Sandra Brown (2000)
- BookReporter.com review of Envy
- RebeccaReads.com review of Envy
- The Mystery Reader review of Envy
- TheBookHaven.net review of Envy
- BookReporter.com review of The Crush
- TheBookHaven.net review of The Crush
- BookReporter.com review of Hello, Darkness
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About the Author:
Sandra Brown was born in Waco, Texas. When she was five, her family relocated to Ft. Worth, where she spent her childhood. Reading was a hobby encouraged by her parents, so at an early age, she developed a love of books and storytelling. English was an easy choice for a major when she entered Texas Christian University. She attended there two years before marrying husband, Michael Brown, in 1968. She continued her education at Oklahoma State University and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Early careers included performing in live theatre, managing a cosmetics store, and modeling at the Dallas Apparel Mart. Appearing in television commercials led to other jobs in television -- weather casting and feature reporting on the nationally syndicated "PM Magazine." Being dismissed from that part-time job was a blessing in disguise because it prompted her to do what she'd always said she would like to do -- full time fiction writing. Taking the advice of a published writer who had appeared on Michael Brown's morning TV talk show, Sandra attended a writers' conference at the University of Houston where she met authors, literary agents, and publishers. She was exposed to a whole new world. Inspired by the ideas exchanged at the conference, she tried her hand at writing for the lucrative romance market. Brown sold her first two books within thirteen days of each other. "Love's Encore" and "Love Beyond Reason" were published in 1981.
Soon other publishers were soliciting manuscripts. Brown was prolific, writing up to six books a year under several names. "It was as though all the lights came on, and I realized what I was supposed to do with my life. I was writing like a fiend." She worked during the day while her children Rachel and Ryan (from whom she borrowed her first pen name) were in school. "At three-thirty every afternoon, I switched from professional writer to Mom, driving someone to ballet, someone else to soccer, taking one to the orthodontist and the other to church choir." She claims to have edited many a chapter in the front seat of her car, and once plotted a book during a school field trip -- to the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
In 1987 Brown decided to move away from bonafide romances into the mainstream fiction market. The gamble paid off in 1990 when MIRROR IMAGE made "The New York Times" bestseller list. Since then, all her novels have been "Times" bestsellers, including reprints of the early romances. In 1992 FRENCH SILK was made into an ABC-TV movie. Presently Brown limits herself to one novel a year, but "...it's no picnic." Her books now require much more character/plot development and research, which consume a great number of those 365 days. The rest are taken up with publicity tours and public speaking.
For five consecutive years she received awards from Waldenbooks for having the best-selling contemporary series romance. She was given two similar awards from B. Dalton. In 1992 the American Business Women's Association honored her with a Distinguished Circle of Success. She served as keynote speaker at Romance Writers of America's annual convention in 1985, and in 1998 that organization recognized her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Other organizations of which she is a member include Mystery Writers of America, Novelists, Inc., and Author's Guild.
There are fifty million of Sandra Brown's books in print, and her work has been translated into twenty-nine languages. Sandra Brown and her husband Michael divide their time between homes in Texas and South Carolina.