The Manolo Matrix (Codebreaker Trilogy Series #2)

( 13 )

Overview

USA Today bestselling author of The Givenchy Code Julie Kenner reloads for her second novel of high-heeled thrills as another woman gets pulled into a mysterious world of extreme gaming where she must play or die.

Aspiring actress Jennifer Crane knows all about games — the games girls play to get a guy; the games actresses play to land a part; and the good old game of credit-card roulette. (How else is a girl supposed to afford her shoes?) But she never expected to be playing a ...

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The Manolo Matrix (Codebreaker Trilogy Series #2)

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Overview

USA Today bestselling author of The Givenchy Code Julie Kenner reloads for her second novel of high-heeled thrills as another woman gets pulled into a mysterious world of extreme gaming where she must play or die.

Aspiring actress Jennifer Crane knows all about games — the games girls play to get a guy; the games actresses play to land a part; and the good old game of credit-card roulette. (How else is a girl supposed to afford her shoes?) But she never expected to be playing a game with life-or-death consequences. Unable to successfully score an acting gig, she has, instead, been cast in the role of reluctant bodyguard to a real-life assassin's target — a dashing FBI agent of all people! — and must embark with him upon a scavenger hunt across Manhattan in search of the ultimate prize: survival. Before this, Jenn's definition of fighting dirty has been elbowing her way to the front of the line at a Manolo sample sale. Now, if she wants to stay alive, she's going to have to learn a few new uses for her stilettos. . . and they ain't pretty.

Fast, flirty, and full of great footwear, The Manolo Matrix is another electrifying adventure in this breakout series for fashionistas who love a perfectly appointed mystery.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743496148
  • Publisher: Downtown Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2006
  • Series: Codebreaker Trilogy Series , #2
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 0.90 (h) x 8.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Kenner's books have hit bestseller lists as varied as USA Today, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and Locus Magazine; have won numerous awards and have been lauded in industry publications such as Publisher's Weekly and Booksense. Julie writes a broad range of fiction, including sexy and quirky romances, young adult novels, chick lit suspense thrillers and paranormal mommy lit. Visit her online at http://www.juliekenner.com

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Jennifer

Jennifer Crane. That's it. That's my name. Ever heard of me?

I'm guessing not, which, frankly, sums up my entire problem with my life as it currently stands: I'm not famous. And, as far as I can tell, the fame fairy isn't going to be anointing me any time soon.

Sucks, doesn't it?

And what really reeks is that I'm good. I've got a voice on me that rivals Julie Andrew's (and that's before she had throat surgery).

Actually, you know what? I take that back. I'm pretty sure it's a grievous sin to compare yourself to Julie Andrews, who is, in my opinion, a goddess of stage and screen. The woman has some serious pipes. But, honestly, I could give Patti LuPone, Joanna Gleason, or Betty Buckley a run for their money any old day.

Which begs the question of why I was currently earning a living (such that it was) as a singing waitress instead of opening on Broadway.

Obviously, the right part hasn't come along. Or agent. Or director. Or producer.

I don't think it's me. Really I don't.

The thing is, I could be wrong. I try not to think about that, though. Someone once said that success is ninety-eight percent attitude, and I'm definitely staying optimistic. (And never mind that the someone who said that was me. It's perfectly sound wisdom and, frankly, I trust myself more than I trust anyone else.)

All of which is little more than a backdrop to the reason why I ended up singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" despite the fact that I am not a gay male and hadn't even rehearsed the thing.

It was all Brian's fault.

He's a self-proclaimed screaming tenor, has slept with more producers than I've auditioned for, and is one of my absolute best friends. We worked together at Ellen's Stardust Diner for almost two years, until last week when he was hired to replace an actor who'd tripped down the subway stairs and busted his femur all to hell. No kidding. It was like something out of All About Eve, except that Brian hadn't even been an understudy. Apparently he'd auditioned for the show early on, did reasonably well, and the producer remembered him. The other actor's broken leg was, literally, Brian's big break. And he landed himself a minor, but important, role, the bastard. Not that I'm bitter or anything, but talk about luck.

At any rate, the show is called Puck's Dream, it's a new musical loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Lots of production numbers, lots of effects. Brian's even featured in two scenes, and in one he actually gets to fly across the stage. From what he tells me, it's pretty cool, and I'm trying very hard, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully, not to be jealous.

The production was scheduled to premiere at the Belasco Theater in about a week, and Brian's cousin Felix — aka Fifi for reasons I'm not even going to bother going into — had come in from Los Angeles to help Bri celebrate. Naturally, Brian brought Fifi to the diner. And, just as naturally, he was giving me a hard time. (Brian, that is. Not his cousin.)

"Sweetie," Brian said, squeezing in beside the condiments, "you're positively maudlin. You need some serious cheer. After work. Drinks. And I won't take no for an answer."

"Are you concerned about me? Or are you just trying to make sure you're not alone with Fifi?"

"Well, he is a little high maintenance, but you know I love him. And don't change the subject, anyway."

I made a face. "You're not even supposed to be back here anymore."

"I go where I'm needed," he said. "And I'm definitely needed here. Look at you! You're going to bring down the crowd if you go out there like that. What are you planning on singing, anyway? 'Memory'?"

I scowled because he'd totally pegged me. "Maybe," I said. I couldn't help it. I was morose. I'd auditioned that morning for an off-Broadway revival of Carousel, a show I know inside and out, and absolutely love, but I swear I might as well have stood on that stage and farted for all the good my rehearsing did me. I couldn't even see the producer or the director past the stage lights. All I heard was a cough and then a curt, "Thank you. We'll be in touch." And then the stage manager was ushering me off the stage.

Granted, that's often par for the course in the world of open call auditions, but I'd really expected the director to leap to his feet, race to the stage, and sign me on the spot. Or, if not that, then I'd at least expected a good vibe. As it was, I got zilch. No vibe, no job, no nothing.

"Attitude," Brian said, tossing my philosophy back in my face. "Remember?" He pointed toward the main part of the restaurant, where rows of booths were filled with people eating mostly bad-for-you food that really is delicious (I gained ten pounds my first month, then put myself on a strict diet that I've mostly stuck to ever since). Leslie Danziger was strutting her stuff on the railing that ran between two sets of booths. Her microphone was close enough to swallow, her blond wig was slightly askew, and she was belting out "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." She was clearly having a great time. Obviously, she hadn't had a crap audition just a few hours before.

"I'm switching you," Brian said. "Michael's on after Leslie. And you, my dear, are taking his place."

"The hell I am." I turned behind me and found Michael, who I like a lot, but who also happens to be a huge wimp with an equally huge crush on Brian. He just shrugged and blew me a kiss. I knew I was sunk. Done in by two gay men with an agenda.

"Attitude, sweetie. Do you want to be consigned to failure? Do you want to sit and mope? Do you want to let your depression fester inside you and give you ulcers and cold sores? One is not fun and the other is such a bad look for you."

As a matter of fact, I did want to sulk, but I knew better than to argue with Brian. "Fine. Fine. What is Michael — what am I — singing?"

"'I Will Survive.'"

"I don't think so."

"Sweetie, trust me. You need an attitude adjustment."

I did need an attitude adjustment, but I wasn't in the habit of utilizing gay male power anthems to make them. Call me crazy, but my best attitude adjustments come when I'm shopping.

Brian, however, was deaf to my protests. He shoved the microphone into my hand, pressed his palm against my back, signaled to Damien (who runs the sound equipment), and pushed.

Suddenly all eyes in the room were on me, and I could either belt out the tune or stand there looking like an idiot. Since I don't do idiot well, I sang.

And you know what? I did feel better. Not at first, mind you. At first, I just felt pissed off. At Brian.

But then the words infiltrated my brain. Like Gloria Gaynor, I was strong. I could get along. And, dammit, I was a survivor. Maybe Carousel didn't want me, but someone would. I'd find an agent. I'd hit the streets. I'd blow away every producer from 41st to 53rd. And by this time next year, my name would splashed across Playbill, and the crowds would be lining up around the block, just like they did for Spamalot. (Hey, a girl can dream.)

In the end, I nailed that tune. I strutted my stuff, flirted with the men, bonded with the women, and threw a final kiss to Fifi. And when the song was over, I turned on my heel, tossed the microphone to Damien, then launched myself at Brian. He spun me around, my poodle skirt flaring in a way that probably lacked a certain level of modesty.

"Better?"

"Totally," I admitted. I crushed my palms against his cheeks and planted a huge kiss right on his mouth. "You're a better mood enhancer than Xanax."

So what if I'd flubbed an audition? There would be others. It wasn't as if I was dead. The sun would come out tomorrow. I was going to put on a happy face. Nothing was gonna get me down. And a bucket full of other sunshiney clichés.

Bottom line? I was coming out of this a winner.

And nothing — not bad agents or tasteless producers or even rude customers — was going to change that. Copyright ©2006 by Julie Kenner

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    action-packed yet character driven romantic suspense

    The Internet game 'Play-Survive-Win' involves three participants: Target, Protector, and Assassin. The Protector must prevent the Assassin from killing the Target who seeks to obtain a code that if entered before death, they survive rich but if killed the Assassin earns the award money. Someone has brought PSW to the real world with permanent death as a strong possibility. P Manhattan waitress and wannabe performer Jennifer Martin signed up years ago to play PSW online, but never did. Now she is notified just like her former roommate had been (see THE GIVENCHY CODE) that she is playing the game in the real world as a Protector of suspended FBI Agent Devlin Brady, who was involved in the last game. Jen takes the threat serious, but a guilt laden Devlin feeling remorse over killing his partner, welcomes the Assassin¿s bullet. That is until he realizes Jen could die for him. The Target protects the Protector while they work together to solve PSW before the assassin can kill either of them making matters even more dangerous, the Assassin has a grudge against her Target. P The latest PSW thriller is an action-packed yet character driven romantic suspense tale that never slows down once Jen, who takes the PSW notification email seriously, struggles to get the Target motivated. In fact the only reason Devlin plays is he feels a need to protect his protector. The Assassin is perfect as she sees an opportunity to avenge Devlin for doing his job by locking her away. The MANOLO MATRIX is magnificent. P Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2006

    Great fun!

    Julie Kenner has done it again! If you loved THE GIVENCHY CODE, you¿ll adore THE MANOLO MATRIX, a terrific fast-paced story told with wit and thrills a minute as Jennifer Crane, an aspiring Broadway actress, is sucked into a deadly game with the ultimate stakes¿play or die. And maybe die anyhow. The clock is ticking, and if Jennifer ever wants to win that Tony or buy another pair of Manolos, she has to play the starring role in this suspenseful drama with real bullets whizzing past her head. I loved it! Jennifer is a sassy charmer and FBI agent Devin Brady is her perfect partner in this rollicking adventure that had me playing along, rooting for the good guys and hissing at the villain, as they chased all over Manhattan in a scavenger hunt for survival clues. Don¿t miss this one. And if you haven¿t read its predecessor, THE GIVENCHY CODE, what are you waiting for? They¿re the best of the chick-lit thrillers. I can¿t wait for THE PRADA PARADOX, the next book in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2005

    Highly recommeded!

    Someone has brought the game 'PLAY-SURVIVE-WIN' into the real world. Three people are involved during a game. One is assigned as 'Target', one as 'Protector', and one as 'Assassin'. The Protector's job is to be the bodyguard of the Target. They work together in solving clues that will lead them, ultimately, to a code. During this time, the Assassin is after them. If the Target finds the code and enters it online before he is terminated, he wins a HUGE cash award. But if the Target is killed, the Assassin gets the money. ....................... Jennifer Martin is currently a singing waitress in Manhattan. But her dream is to make it to Broadway. She has no time for PC games these days however, she did make a PSW online account years ago. Jennifer had not given the game another thought until last year, when her roommate became an unwilling Target role player. So imagine Jennifer's surprise to get a PSW email informing her that she has been cast in the role of Protector. Jennifer must now play the game out or die. ...................... Devlin Brady was the FBI agent who assisted Jen's roommate during her PSW nightmare. His badge is suspended until he is cleared of charges against killing his partner last year. He has spent the last year dealing with his guilty conscience. When Devlin receives word that he has been cast as the Target in PSW reality game version, he could care less. He would probably have sat there and waited for the killer to put him out of his misery. But his bodyguard, Jen, would not let him. If he did not play the game, SHE would die the next day. Well dang! His cop instincts just could not let that happen. He is forced to play the game. ..................... Birdie received her email only a few days before she was due to be released from prison. Devlin was the main person in the group that hunted her down five years ago and sent her to jail. She is MORE than thrilled to be cast in the role of Assassin. She gets to kill Devlin and become a multi-millionaire. What could be better? .................... ***** This time the stakes are just as high as they were in the previous book, 'The Givenchy Code', and just as exciting. I found myself hooked immediately and did not stop reading until it was finished. (Okay, I admit it. I took one BRIEF break to hit the restroom and make a sandwich.) Author Julie Kenner's pen must have been smoking as she wrote this suspense filled novel. Fast paced, a bit of romance, and lots of tension! If you enjoyed John Grisham's Pelican Brief, then you are going to drool over this book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! *****

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