Picks and Pans Review: Venus Envy

updated 05/10/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/10/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Rita Mae Brown

Mary Frazier Armstrong is young, rich and beautiful, a successful art dealer and a player in genteel Virginia society. She's also terminally ill and secretly gay. Her decision to reveal herself in eight soul-baring letters sent from her deathbed to family and friends hits her full in the face when it turns out that she has been misinformed and is not at death's door.

Twenty years and 10 books after Brown's first novel, the gay coming-of-age classic Ruby fruit Jungle, Venus Envy is a disappointing attempt to chastise society in the guise of fiction. The characters are cardboard cutouts who spew platitudes, while the plot limps forward, bogged down with pets and golf and flowers. Will everything work out in the end? Sadly, few readers are likely to care. (Bantam, $21.95)

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