cover image Charade


Sandra Brown. Warner Books Inc, $21.95 (405pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51656-3

Soap opera star Cat Delaney gets a new heart--literally and figuratively speaking--in bestseller Brown's ( French Silk ; Where There's Smoke ) latest contemporary romance. The heart transplant that beautiful, arrogant Cat endures in the first chapter transforms her soul along with her cardiovascular system. If Brown had first established Cat's personality with some depth and credibility, that might have been the basis of an emotionally involving story. But since Cat is little more than a vessel for the concept, before we can blink, she is a good-hearted citizen who abandons stardom and Hollywood for San Antonio, Tex., where she hosts a local TV program featuring children up for adoption. Cat hardly has a chance to enjoy her change of heart and her new heartthrob, bad-boy crime novelist Alex Pierce, because a stalker is after her. Whatever suspense might have been activated by this scenario is immediately stymied as Brown rushes through events whereby three potential heart donors are knocked down like dominoes: obviously the stalker is a bereaved nut determined to kill all the transplant recipients who might have received his lover's heart. But Brown fails to develop even a modicum of tension, since the rushed pacing then slows to a crawl where nothing much happens except Cat's cliche-ridden romance with Alex. Too late in the novel, we finally get a more full and sympathetic characterization of Cat. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; major ad/promo; author tour. (May)