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by India Ink
Berkley, May 2006
288 pages
ISBN: 0425209660

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Persia Vanderbilt's life is very nice -- a thriving business (Venus Envy, a graffiti artist's dream), a pleasant and attentive boyfriend, and an adoring aunt with whom she lives on a vast estate with gardens where they raise the flowers used in their beauty fragrances.

However, the idyll is imperiled when Bebe's Boutique opens its doors on the same street as Venus Envy. While Venus uses all natural elements in their fragrances, Bebe's uses cheap synthetics, even while starting the rumor that Venus' products do not meet health standards.

Then the chief gardener at Florence's estate comes with the terrible news that all the rose bushes have been covered with a harmful pesticide, which burns the skin and could be toxic if ingested, as it would have been had it gone unnoticed -- though it's a bit hard to believe that pesticide on some 15,000 rose bushes would be overlooked. We never find out who (though, of course we suspect Bebe) or how the pesticide was delivered.

The operative word for this book is stupid. Without the stupidity of the main characters, there would be no book.

Aunt Florence has a vast estate with thousands of roses, not to mention other valuable botanicals -- but no security. Stupid.

Aunt Florence and Persia present themselves as computer illiterate, but all their records are on a computer -- but not backed up. Stupid.

Persia has a journal with all the formulas for her fragrances -- the lifeblood of her livelihood -- but she has no copy, so she is literally destroyed when the journal disappears. Stupid.

Aunt Florence has signed up Persia for a convention of beauty consultants. Outside the convention hotel, Sharon Wellstone, the woman who tried to persuade Persia to leave Venus Envy and become a consultant for Bebe's, is shot.

Persia is desperate when items clearly derived from her formulas start appearing at Bebe's. In her fury, she fakes a fight with Aunt Florence and infiltrates Bebe's for a bit of industrial espionage.

Despite her flaws, Aunt Florence is one of the two sanest characters in the story, the other being Persia's best friend, Barbara. Persia is rather neurotic, confessing that she's been stupid, as though that were an excuse for being stupid. When she goes undercover, one might think that she would keep quiet about it, but she tells half the people she knows.

A plus is what I assume is the very accurate depiction of the cut-throat world of beauty consultants.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, July 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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