PERSONAL: Married to an architectural photographer. Education: University of Rochester, NY, B.A. (summa cum laude); University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School of Communications, master's studies.
CAREER: Writer. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York, NY, publicity assistant; New American Library, New York, NY, publicity director; Dell/Delacorte, New York, NY, publicity director; Jove, New York, NY, vice president of advertising, promotion, and publicity.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa.
Cha Cha Cha, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Club, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Infernal Affairs, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Princess Charming, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Crystal Clear, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Sis Boom Bah, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.
Name Dropping, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2000.
Female Intelligence, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.
The Secret Ingredient, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002.
Lucky Stars, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2003.
Best Enemies, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
An Ex to Grind, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2005.
Some Nerve, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2006.
ADAPTATIONS: Heller's first ten novels were optioned for feature films or television movies.
SIDELIGHTS: Jane Heller left a successful career in book marketing to start writing books of her own, penning stories that bridge the gap between mystery and romance with a light touch and a strong element of humor. Between 1994 and 2006, she released one new book a year, many of which were featured as a selection for the Doubleday Book Club or People magazine's "Beach Book of the Week," a reflection of her popularity and her accessible style.
Heller's writing career began with Cha Cha Cha, the story of a wealthy Jewish homemaker, Alison Koff, who eventually loses her husband and her money and is compelled to take a job cleaning houses. One of her clients is a muckraking author whose investigations into a U.S. senator get her killed, and Koff is among the suspects. Koff becomes an amateur detective, solving the crime and finding a new but poor lover. Mary Ellen Quinn, writing in Booklist, saw the book as a "bright, lively comedy that zips right along."
Her second novel, The Club, finds pampered Judy Mills suddenly out of work, struggling with a ho-hum marriage, and plunged into the country club murder of a prominent feminist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Heller's work "perfect reading for the beach." A Kirkus Reviews critic described The Club as "a good-natured murder story with the appealing camp of a TV movie-of-the-week."
Other works by Heller met with similar success. The author's next book, Infernal Affairs, features a wealthy suburban wife, Barbra Chessner, whose husband leaves her for the local TV weather girl, prompting her to make a supernatural deal that makes her beautiful, successful, and desirable. Barbara thinks she's prayed to God, but later discovers that she's been duped by the Devil. Reviewers noted the book's humor. A critic in Kirkus Reviews said Infernal Affairs was "campy, over the top, down-and-dirty, and a whole lot of fun."
Princess Charming tells the story of another wealthy middle-aged frump, Elaine Zimmerman, who becomes embroiled in a mystery caper on board a luxury cruise ship. Elaine and her divorcée friends also find romance but come to suspect that one of their suitors may be the killer. Reviewing Princess Charming, Booklist critic Melanie Duncan stated, "Heller keeps getting better!"
The forty-something Manhattanite heroine of Crystal Clear also finds herself in the midst of a mystery while traveling to forget her problems with a philandering boyfriend. The book's "frivolous, flaky fun" moved a Kirkus Reviews critic to call Heller "the master of the slick urban modern woman's getaway romance."
While Heller mixes genres in her next books, Sis Boom Bah and Name Dropping, with Female Intelligence, the author moved away from the mystery genre. The novel tells the story of a linguist who works with men to improve their communication skills. She is hired by an arrogant CEO whose female executives refuse to work with him, and a love-hate relationship quickly develops. Reviewers suggested that the book had a "feminist plot," but, according to a Kirkus Reviews reader, was nonetheless "entertaining, lightweight satire."
Heller continued her winning formula with The Secret Ingredient and Lucky Stars. The first novel features a wife who attempts to add new spice to her marriage with a magic love potion, only to discover one should beware of easy cures. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt The Secret Ingredient "zips along like the latest issue of People and packs the punch of a big bite of pink cotton candy." In Lucky Stars, Heller presents a heroine who is attempting to break into films and break away from her domineering mother. However, when the mother follows her daughter to Los Angeles, she accidentally finds more success in Hollywood than does her struggling-actress daughter. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Heller "delivers her story in fresh language, with singular energy." The same contributor went on to call Lucky Stars "spirited, effortless entertainment." For Kathleen Hughes, writing in Booklist, the same novel was "light reading at its finest."
Heller employs her book-publishing experience in the 2004 title Best Enemies, in which two eternal rivals are thrust together over a memoir. Amy is the publicity director at the publishing house which buys her onetime best friend's book, and the stage is set for fireworks, though the results are rather unexpected. Heller "goes for the laughs and gets them, but there's more here than meets the funny bone," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the novel offers a "funny, cleareyed look at female friendship."
In An Ex to Grind, a successful Manhattanite tries to set up her ex-husband with a lover to get out of her alimony payments to him. As in previous Heller novels, the results are not exactly as planned. A critic for Publishers Weekly dubbed the book Heller's "latest breezy, easy read," and one that "rollicks toward a reassuringly happy ending."
In her 2006 novel, Some Nerve, Heller relates the adventures and misadventures of a young woman, Ann Roth, whose career as a Los Angeles gossip journalist goes south when she fails to get an interview with a reticent actor. Fired from her job and living again in her Missouri hometown, she has a chance to make up for this failure when the same actor turns up unexpectedly at her local hospital. A critic for Publishers Weekly praised Heller's "quirky, hooks-in-you prose," while Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann felt Heller delivered "a gem of a summer read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, March-April, 2003, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of Lucky Stars, p. 82.
Booklist, June, 1994, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Cha Cha Cha, p. 1770; April, 1996, Melanie Duncan, review of Infernal Affairs, p. 1422; March, 1997, Melanie Duncan, review of Princess Charming, p. 1110; May, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of Sis Boom Bah, p. 1577; April, 2000, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of Name Dropping, p. 1434; February, 2001, Deborah Rysso, review of Female Intelligence, p. 1039; January 1, 2002, Danise Hoover, review of The Secret Ingredient, p. 810; March 15, 2003, Kathleen Hughes, review of Lucky Stars, p. 1274; June 1, 2006, Patty Engelmann, review of Some Nerve, p. 47.
Entertainment Weekly, April, 1997, Vanessa V. Friedman, review of Princess Charming, p. 63.
Kirkus Reviews, May, 1995, review of The Club, p. 576; January, 1996, review of Infernal Affairs, p. 13; February, 1997, review of Princess Charming, pp. 160-161; December, 1997, review of Crystal Clear, pp. 1792-1793; April, 2000, review of Name Dropping, p. 497; February, 2001, review of Female Intelligence, p. 129; December 1, 2001, review of The Secret Ingredient, p. 1362; February 1, 2003, review of Lucky Stars, p. 163; January 15, 2004, review of Best Enemies, p. 54; April 15, 2005, review of An Ex to Grind, p. 439; June 15, 2006, review of Some Nerve, p. 593.
Library Journal, June, 1994, Nancy Pearl, review of Cha Cha Cha, pp. 158-159; April, 1999, Elizabeth Mary Mellett, review of Sis Boom Bah, p. 129; April, 2000, Elizabeth Mary Mellett, review of Name Dropping, p. 130; January, 2001, Joyce Smothers, review of Female Intelligence, p. 154; January, 2004, Karen Core, review of Best Enemies, p. 156; April 1, 2005, Elizabeth M. Mellett, review of An Ex to Grind, p. 86.
People Weekly, April, 1996, Pam Lambert, review of Infernal Affairs, p. 35; June, 1997, Cynthia Sanz, review of Princess Charming, p. 37; June, 1999, Amy Waldman, review of Sis Boom Bah, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, June, 1994, review of Cha Cha Cha, p. 57; May, 1995, review of The Club, p. 51; January, 1996, review of Infernal Affairs, pp. 57-58; November, 1997, review of Crystal Clear, p. 51; March, 1999, review of Sis Boom Bah, p. 45; April, 2000, review of Name Dropping, p. 59; February, 2001, review of Female Intelligence, p. 55; December 10, 2001, review of The Secret Ingredient, p. 49; March 3, 2003, review of Lucky Stars, p. 52; December 1, 2003, review of Best Enemies, p. 38; May 9, 2005, review of An Ex to Grind, p. 37; May 15, 2006, review of Some Nerve, p. 44.
Jane Heller Home Page, http://www.janeheller.com (September 22, 2006).
Romance Reader, http://www.theromancereader.com/ (September 22, 2006), Susan Scribner, review of Princess Charming; review of Sis Boom Bah; review of Name Dropping.