Reviews of Ugly Duckling, the (1996)
Review by michael a draper (2010-11-02)
This story shows the transformation of a woman from an unattractive, submissive wife into an assertive and lovely woman who knows what she wants and how to achieve it.
Nell Calder wasn't born beautiful, a fact that her unfeeling mother informed her about. How she was able to grow normally in a home with an unloving mother was a tribute to an inner strength she didn't know she had.
She married while in college and at a party on an island in the Aegean Sea, her husband, Richard, a banker, and her precious four-year-old daughter, Jill, are murdered. Nell fell from a balcony during her struggle with the killer and was so badly injured that she needed plastic surgery.
After the surgery, her appearance changed to that of a lovely woman, but inside she was still a shell. When she learned that her family had been murdered, she went into a depressed state.
Nicholas Tanek was at the party and felt somewhat responsible for the killings. He tells Nell that the man responsible is Phillipe Gardeaux, and that the killings were carried out by Gardeaux's man, Paul Maritz. Gardeaux is a criminal attempting to gain prestige and position with the Columbian drug lords.
After learning of the man who ordered her family killed, Nell has a new reason to live, revenge.
The author does a nice job of describing Nell's progress into a woman possessed with the need to seek revenge. We also see Nicholas bring out a soft side of her, as an artest. However, she keeps this in the background as she undergoes physical strengthing and learning offensive skills to use against the killer.
Nicholas is a criminal of sorts and a rival of Gardeaux. He brings Nell to his ranch to train and admits he is an adversary of Gardeaux's and will continue to pursue him but Nell insists that she wants to be part of the revenge, with his help.
This is a fast moving novel with a number of interesting characters. At one point, Nell meets a young man named Peter Drake. They had been together at a para-military training facility. Drake's father sent him there to toughen him up. Drake is a childlike person with a simple mind. Nell becomes his friend in a big-sisterly fashion.
I enjoyed the story and the plot development. The author provided a surprise toward the end that was well done and perfectly logical.
(This review refers to the 1996 version titled “Ugly Duckling, the”)