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The Mulberry Tree
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Perennially bestselling romance writer Deveraux's newest (put out by Atria, S&S's new hardcover imprint) tells the story of a 33-year-old woman's successful remaking of her life and self-image after the sudden death of her beloved husband, Jimmie, who was a combination of business tycoon and Mafia honcho. Pampered Lillian Manville is bustled away in the middle of the night and informed that she was cut almost entirely from Jimmie's will. Rather than a portion of his billions, he bequeathed her an old farmhouse in Virginia and a cryptic note referring to "the truth about what happened." Retreating to lick her wounds, Lillian begins to carve out a new life for herself and investigate the mystery of Jimmy's past. As she uncovers the town's buried secrets, she also discovers that Jimmy deliberately created a role for her as his mousy wife and kept her trapped there. As she breaks out of her shell, she loses weight, restyles herself and starts a cooking business with the townswomen, who grudgingly begin to accept her presence. Bailey (as Lillian renames herself) is infectiously enthusiastic yet just insecure enough to make her pathbreaking corporate organization of her neighbors and her concerns about her involvement with Matt, the inevitable eligible bachelor, ring true. There is nothing particularly surprising in this novel, but Deveraux's touch is gold, and her protagonist combines innocent appeal with wry experience in a way that readers will surely find irresistible. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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