by Sandra Brown
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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Maris Matherly-Reed is on top of the world. She's part of the Matherly Press publishing dynasty founded by her father, Daniel Matherly. She's also the wife of Noah Reed, best-selling author turned Matherly publishing prince. With these two wonderful men in her life and a successful literary career, she is perfectly content.

It's that devotion to books that has her reading manuscripts from the slush pile--a job usually reserved for lower-level employees. On top of the heap is a partial manuscript titled Envy. It's good and Maris wants to know more. However, the author has only signed his work "P.M.E" and provided the name of a small Georgia island as an address. Countless years in the business tell Maris that she has a potential gold mine in her hands. She is compelled to find "P.M.E" and encourage his talent. She heads to St. Anne Island, not sure what is in store.

Maris's sudden infatuation with the anonymous author suits Noah Reed just fine. Her absence gives him a chance to develop his plan to take over Matherly Press. Years of courtship and calculated marriage to Maris and artificial devotion to Daniel Matherly's business and daughter are about to pay off.

St. Anne Island isn't very glamorous and the mysterious "P.M.E." is a bitter wheelchair-bound recluse known as Parker Evans. Maris doesn't realize she is being deceived by her husband at home. She's too distracted to see that Parker is deceiving her as well. The anonymous manuscript was part of his plan to get her down to the island.

It's clear to Maris that Envy isn't 100% fiction. Something terrible happened a long time ago and Parker is writing about it. In time, Maris will learn the truth behind the story. Noah has a plan to deceive her, but Parker has a bigger plan and a victim of his own. It was no coincidence that he sent his manuscript to Maris. She's the unsuspecting link to the person Parker really wants to see.
Deception, greed, lust and jealousy. It's all here in Sandra Brown's Envy.

I really enjoyed this book, and feel comfortable saying this might be Sandra Brown's best work ever. Her perfectly-timed suspense had me hanging on the first word through nearly 500 pages.

Envy begins with a prologue from Parker's Envy. The imaginary book is just as fascinating as Brown's work. Parker uses his manuscript to lure Maris, and readers will be spellbound by his story as well.

The characters in Envy are pretty believable. I've never been too keen on Brown's lead women. They always seem to be really beautiful, really successful, yet ditzy enough to get in a bind, conveniently forming a plot. Maris is no exception. She is a dreamer with her head in the clouds. She falls in love with literary characters. Yet somehow, she manages to stay afloat on the cut-throat publishing world Ms. Brown describes.

Noah Reed is a wonderful villain. Readers will have no problem hating every ounce of his being. Parker Evans is harder to place, though. He repeatedly performs a good guy/bad guy routine that makes it difficult to clearly see him as a victim or hero.

There are several love scenes in this Brown work. That's no surprise considering her past romance novels. However, these episodes are steamier than her usual fare. Very racy and sexual. Brown holds nothing back and it pays off, adding steam to the sizzling plot.

The conclusion somewhat resembles a made-for-TV movie. I wish all my elaborate plans evolved as smoothly as those featured here. Still, the climax is quite exciting and readers won't be disappointed with the pace.

For fans of Sandra Brown, Envy is an absolute must-read novel. Readers who prefer an intelligent balance of romance and suspense will enjoy it as well. Envy may not get the attention of the Pulitzer committee, but it delivers an exciting reading experience as well as a good weekend escape. It shouldn't be missed.

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