BEST ENEMIES

Jane Heller, Author, Rachael F. Heller, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-28849-5

Amy Sherman is pretty; Tara Messer is a beauty. Amy has a nice Manhattan apartment; Tara's suburban Tudor castle boasts an actual turret. Amy was engaged to Stuart Lasher, who took maid of honor Tara to bed and then to the altar. Now Tara has chronicled her perfect lifestyle in a book called Simply Beautiful , about to be published by Lowry and Trammell—where her editor plans to make her "the next Martha Stewart, without the baggage" and where Amy is publicity director. Can you spell delicious conflict? Heller (Lucky Stars ) goes for the laughs and gets them, but there's more here than meets the funny bone. Just when the reader is ready to kill the perfidious Tara (perhaps by beating her to death with accessories and garnishes), Heller switches out of Amy's point of view and into Tara's. It turns out Tara's a real person, too. And she's in trouble. It seems she did Amy a favor by stealing Stuart, who grabs every passing ass and may bring down the family business with a fake caviar scheme. And it isn't Tara who's pregnant with Stuart's baby. Meanwhile, in another switcheroo, Amy's got a great romance budding with Tony Stiles, the gorgeous mystery author. Of course, they're only pretending to pretend to be in love—Amy to save face (she told Tara she was engaged) and Tony to research relationships—and things are going swimmingly. Though the happy ending is a sure thing, getting there is fabulous fun. Heller makes a familiar story read as brand new, thanks to a rich humanity abetted by smart dialogue, zippy pacing and all-around craft. Agent, Ellen Levine. (Apr.)

Forecast: With three movie deals last year alone (for Name Dropping, The Secret Ingredient and Lucky Stars), bestseller Heller is big and looks only to get bigger .

Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 04/01/2004
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