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The Ugly Duckling

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  11,160 Ratings  ·  334 Reviews
If fate suddenly made you more beautiful than you ever dreamed possible, would it be the beginning of a fairy tale, or your worst nightmare?

The brutal attack should have killed anybody, but Nell Calder did more than survive. She emerged a woman transformed, with an exquisite beauty found only in fairy tales. Nell Calder deserved a happy ending. Instead, her descent into te
Mass Market Paperback, 408 pages
Published December 1996 by Bantam Books (first published 1994)
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PSUDST Around 1994. If you select the option to view a book's details, it'll give you the publication date.

Community Reviews

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Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
First Johansen novel I ever read, and I was hooked. I think this was the first time I'd read a novel solely about a woman making it on her own, and I found I liked it.

Nell suffered a great deal before her transformation, but I loved her determination to exact revenge on those who started the suffering. She wasn't about to be bullied, and she was going to use her new face and figure to her advantage, come Hell or high water.

That she didn't need to put herself in mortal danger was never a consider
Carolyn Bunkley
May 03, 2011 added it
Recommends it for: nobody
This is one of the worst books I ever read. I stuck with it to the end, though, because it was a best-seller and reviewed well, so I had to try to find out why. I then passed it to a friend without telling her my opinion of it, telling her we'd discuss it after she finished; she then tortured her sister the same way.

We were never able to figure out if Johanssen was writing tongue-in-cheek, or if she were trying to write seriously. She stumbled back and forth across the line so may times it was i
First off the book did fall short of my expectation though it was an interesting read. I still don't get the need to turn the character beautiful. So you have a plain jane, plus sized heroine who is a doormat. Trampled by her husband, parents and pretty much every one she meets and she takes it in good stride because.....she is not attractive..believable. Then she is targeted by some mysterious gang which ends up killing her husband and daughter whom she really adores and damages her face beyond ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anita
This was much better than I thought it would be. I didn't figure out the mystery til it was solved!
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a really strange book that reminds me of some of Linda Howard's books. Iris Johansen, on the other hand, also sometimes has tendencies towards similar novels.

The main characters, Nell and Tanek are all right. I like him a little more than her. But neither of them is a hero that I will remember for years. Tanek is probably created a little in the likeness of Roarke from the Nora Roberts series, but he lacks a bit. In general, Tanek seems to be unrealistic. Nell is an interesting character
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
The book held my interest throughout, I think partly I thought the writing style flowed well and partly because I wanted to find out why Nell was a target. I found some parts annoying and unnecessary, for instance, the training camp. I thought the way these multiple men wanted to rape her was treated kind of lightly. She actually went hiking in a swamp with them the day after the attempted rape incident, like it was no big deal. Also I didn't really understand the point of Peter being in the sto ...more
I found the book somewhat slow as well as unrealistic. Characters were not relatable. Writing style was good though. Not my favorite book by the author. 3 stars
May 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
joyce lynn
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not one of the best of her's that i've read so far, but certainly WELL worth reading! very gripping "tale"!!

i must admit, tho, i'm beginning to wonder if the woman (Iris Johansen) has had some unpleasant dealings w/ the CIA or something in her life?! except for 2 of the books of her's i've read, she's involved some governmentally abc'd agency, if not more, in her plots, and they've not all been "clean" characters that are SUPPOSED to be protecting us and are SUPPOSEDLY setting good examples for
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Iris Johansen has created and romance, mystery,and thriller all combind into one work of art. The story plot is amazing the why she plans out everything to be reveald just at the right moment.
Nell Calder tricked herself into believing she loved Richard. So she settled as being a trophey wife. She thought she could not get better. She loved being home with her daughter Jill. Jill was and will always be Nell's life. After Jill and Richard had died, she had no reason to live. Tanek didn't agree.
When Nell Calder witnesses the death of her daughter, she wishes only to die with her, but Nicholas Tanek who was there to protect her won't let it happen. Nell has spent her whole life as a plain jane living behind a frumpy facade. Nell gets a new lease on life getting a complete transformation along the way, the only goal in her sights is revenge on the man who destroyed her family.

One of my favorite books. Nell is determined to not let anything stand in her way. A roller coaster ride of a sto
Lynda Kelly
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is very suspense-filled and fast-paced and certainly held my attention throughout. I really liked it. The cover is a lovely one and when I bought it it was only 49p so I'm dead chuffed !! I had heard of this author but I've not read anything by her before. I looked her up and it seems she was more of a romance-only writer in the past or fantasy stuff. However, the Eve Duncan series sounds just my type of story so I've marked those to try out as well.
I love a story where someone's out for re
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
....typical....unoriginal. ....sounded good but too predictable.....I like her writing style though and will read others.
Alex is The Romance Fox

The Ugly Duckling is a story of how a woman survives after being betrayed and then goes on a road to revenge the killing of her little daughter.

Synopsis: If fate suddenly made you more beautiful that you ever dreamed possible, would it be the beginning of a fairy tale, or your worst nightmare?
The brutal attack should have killed anybody, but Nell Calder did more than survive. She emerged a woman transformed, with an exquisite beauty found only in fairy tales. Nell Calder deserved a happy ending.
Jun 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Linda by: Bookaholics Anonymous
Shelves: iris-johansen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
This book marks a turning point in Iris Johansen's writing. She doesn't write romance anymore, publishing suspense/mystery books now. Another good romance author bites the dust. I enjoyed this book, but it focused on the suspense a little more than I liked. It was still very good. I liked the heroine's transition from passive to empowered. I especially appreciated the scenes where Nell trains to become a badass so she can get her revenge. I enjoyed the interactions between Nell and Nicholas and ...more
Pat Cromwell
Feb 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Iris Johansen is another of my favorites. The only problem I've ever had with anything she writes -- this book in particular -- is I don't get the chemistry between the hero and heroine. But that's just me. The romance aside, this is an excellent book with an excellent and surprising reveal. The surprise ending's makes Romantic Suspense good or bad IMO, and this one is really good. Didn't see it comming.
Aug 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

Dumb. And poorly written. No character development, description, imagery. Also medically ridiculous in every way imaginable.

I was so angry I was stuck with only this book. And that I chose to read it instead of just throwing it away and staring at the wall.
Jul 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I've read this book so many was one of my first revenge books...and this time around, it just wasn't what I wanted it to be. Nell really wasn't the strong, vengeful woman that I remembered her being...despite all of her words to the contrary, she relied completely on Tanek for her revenge. So disappointed!
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was a fun read. The story was interesting and the main characters were extremely likable. Iris Johansen did a great job telling the story without bogging me down with useless details and unnecessary information. I really like her writing style. Will definitely read more of her books.
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I usually don't like Iris Johanson, but this one got me from the beginning and took me till the end! I read it fairly quickly and enjoyed every minute. I liked the development of the characters. Yay for female heroines!
Whitney Oaks
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Whitney by: Larry Williamson
I was reading another book while at work one day at a gas station. An officer that frequented the store saw me reading and brought to me this book that he had just finished. It was my first Iris Johansen and definitely not the last! I love her! This book was amazing! I read it in one day!
Feb 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read this book while I was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy. I've never had any interest in reading anything else by Iris Johansen so I don't know if I can attribute my enjoyment of this novel to the author or to my morphine pump.

It was probably the morphine.
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago and I could not put it down. Suspense was on almost every page. The only thing I didn't like was the detailed love scene. I skipped that.
Jan 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Terrible book! The heroin is an idiot. She's all into vengeance. This book is more made for movie but a terrible one.
Sybille Sanford
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that got me hooked on Iris Johansen. Smart, detail oriented and suspenseful. Johansen is a master for making you feel the heroine's plight.
Diane Briones™
Beauty Plus Revenge Equals a Heck of a Read

I was rather skeptical when I was recommended this book by my friend because I'm not a die-hard fan of mysteries. After reading 'The Ugly Duckling', I vowed to get my hands on as many Iris Johansen's books as I can! It's definitely a page-turner.

Nell Calder is plain and plump with a pretty daughter and a handsome financier husband. For some unknown reason she's the target of a drug cartel and during the attempt on her life at a party on a Greek island s
Lisa Dunckley
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Iris Johansen is a romance author who actually puts a plot and developed characters into her stories. This book is about Nell, a mousy, plain, timid woman who marries a sophisticated and wealthy man. A hit man kills her husband and their daughter, and Nell is severely battered and almost killed trying to defend her daughter. The facial injuries are so severe that plastic surgeons have to piece her together, and she recovers, now with the face of an angel. And she gradually finds out that the kil ...more
Kelly Winters
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book used to be one of my favorites back in high school and college and I probably read it at least 5 times back then. I decided to pick it up recently to see if I would still enjoy it. Obviously, my tastes in books have changed drastically because I did not enjoy this one now that I'm older.

This is mostly just a basic romance novel with a little suspense thrown in. It has a very cookie cutter plot with the helpless woman who is rescued by a mercenary type man. She wants him to teach her ho
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very inspirational story! One that makes every woman who reads it feel a sense of joy and pride in the will and perseverance women can own and demonstrate, and in what they can achieve.
Nell's character, the main protagonist in the story, undergoes a great progress and transformation from a voiceless, submissive wife and woman to a survivor and fighter for revenge and even justice.
İ think that this story is very therapeutic and that the book should be added in the list of 'books to read' that
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Iris Johansen is a New York Times bestselling author. She began her writing after her children left home for college. She first achieved success in the early 1980s writing category romances. In 1991, Johansen began writing suspense historical romance novels, starting with the publication of The Wind Dancer. In 1996 Johansen switched genres, turning to crime fiction, with which she has had great su ...more
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“I'm only Superman, I'm not God.” 11 likes
“We all die. I can't promise to live forever." His arms
tightened around her. "But I can promise to love you as long as I
More quotes…