cover image The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

Iris Johansen. Bantam, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09714-6

With this spectacular tale of revenge, betrayal and survival, Johansen (Lion's Bride; Forecasts, Dec. 4, 1995) shows why, after 50 paperback originals, she is at last getting hardcover treatment. Nell Carter is plain and plump--and, for some mysterious reason, the target of a drug cartel hit that maims her but wipes out her husband and young daughter. Her world destroyed, Nell wills herself to die, until a stranger gives her a purpose to live: revenge. The mysterious Nicholas Tanek, once master of his own criminal network, will do anything and use anyone to destroy the drug cartel that, he tells Nell, murdered a ""very close"" friend. But recruiting the vengeful woman proves a big mistake for Nicholas, for she awakens in him new and unsettling emotions that threaten his mission. Given a new face and identity, Nell throws herself into guerrilla and martial arts training with Nicholas. The two become lovers, but that won't keep Nell from finding and punishing her daughter's killer--with or without her lover's help. The romance here is suspenseful, and the suspense is romantic; for fans of each, this is a keeper. Author tour. (Apr.)