He needed me.
For nearly twenty years, those three words dictated the life of Lillian Manville. Quiet, unassuming, and overweight, Lillian did anything and everything to please her husband, the illustrious self-made billionaire James Manville. Since the tender age of seventeen, she had obeyed this powerful older man's every command and in return she received a life beyond her wildest dreams. Elaborate mansions. Trips around the world. The finest jewels and the most luxurious fashions.
Whatever I wanted,
he gave me long before I knew I wanted it.
But when Jimmie dies suddenly in a plane crash, Lillian's pampered life comes to an abrupt halt. She learns that Jimmie has bequeathed all of his riches to his devious siblings, Atlanta and Ray. All, that is, except an old farmhouse in small-town Calburn, Virginia. Although Lillian is devastated by Jimmie's death and apparent betrayal, she soon discovers a well of secrets connected to Jimmie's past that originate in Calburn and to a long-ago tragedy concerning a group of boys hailed as the "Golden Six." Uncovering those secrets, Lillian thinks, will help her to better understand the man she loved and mysteriously lost.
What Lillian doesn't foresee is how her unexpected circumstances quickly transform her. She loses weight, changes her name to avoid further harassment from the press, and, with the help of Matthew Longacre, a kind, handsome local man, begins to renovate the farmhouse and establish friendships with Calburn's quirky townspeople. In time she develops her own thriving business and an inner strength she never knew existed. But, though Lillian's new life seems as strong as the mulberry tree firmly planted outside her farmhouse, there remain secrets and lies that threaten to uproot the past she cherished and the future she will fight to protect.
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. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Mulberry Tree by Jude Deveraux
He needed me.
Whenever anyone -- usually a reporter -- asked me how I coped with a man like Jimmie, I smiled and said nothing. I'd learned that whatever I said would be misquoted, so I simply kept quiet. Once, I made the mistake of telling the truth to a female reporter. She'd looked so young and so in need herself that for a moment I let my guard down. I said, "He needs me." That's all. Just those three words.
Who would have thought that a second of unguarded honesty could cause so much turmoil? The girl -- she had certainly not attained the maturity of womanhood -- parlayed my small sentence into international turmoil.
I was right in thinking she herself was needy. Oh, yes, very needy. She needed a story, so she fabricated one. Never mind that she had nothing on which to base her fable.
I must say that she was good at research. She couldn't have slept during the two weeks between my remark and the publication of her story. She consulted psychiatrists, self-help gurus, and clergy. She interviewed hordes of rampant feminists. Every famous woman who had ever hinted that she hated men was interviewed and quoted.
In the end Jimmie and I were portrayed as one sick couple. He was the domineering tyrant in public, but a whimpering child at home. And I was shown to be a cross between steel and an ever-flowing breast.
When the article came out and caused a sensation, I wanted to hide from the world. I wanted to retreat to the most remote of Jimmie's twelve houses and never leave. But Jimmie was afraid of nothing -- which was the true secret of his success -- and he met the questions, the derisive laughter, and worse, the pseudo-therapists who felt it was our "duty" to expose every private thought and feeling to the world, head-on.