THE MAN WHO MADE HUSBANDS JEALOUS By Jilly Cooper (Bantam, $255) SCENES FROM THE SEX WAR By Maeve Haran (Michael Joseph, $255) EACH of these books has the prerequisites for potboiler success: glossy characters undergoing teenage, mid-life or pre-orgasmic crises in the glamorous world of the rich and famous. The women heroines are stunners of the first degree, in possession of lethal bodies, as Ms Collins puts it, with eyes the size of your average mooncake and souls that when bared would inspire poets to get cracking on a new work. Their male counterparts are on heat 24 hours a day and have come by their fortunes because they are compensating for a horrible childhood, a deep, dark secret, a lost love, or all of the above. But, but, but. . . and this is a cautious writer here, talking about authors with blockbuster form. Doesn't anybody else out there wish for some originality? That maybe the goodies don't always win, as in life, and that the baddies do not conveniently bump themselves off in car, plane or airport explosions, so that everyone can live happily ever after? Looking at the bestseller lists, apparently not. Ms Collins has written 13 books before American Star and sold 170 million copies of them to date. Ms Cooper has not yet reached the same level of brand-name recognition as Ms Collins, sister of actress Joan. But it is not for want of trying. Horse and dog besotted Jilly, the London newspaper columnist-turned-author, has a pile of credits to her name: 32 books of various kinds in all. Her characters riot across the world, drop down to wreak temporary destruction in all the best restaurants, mansions or cities, and then retreat to glorious rural England, where the comforts of home - a chintz sofa (worn), a cottage garden (just slightlywild), a pathetically grateful dog and lusty male/female, depending on the gender of the protagonist -are waiting. Ms Haran is a little different. She created a storm with her first book Having It All and now has penned a second, Scenes From the Sex War. Alas, she may have to write a third to prove she is not a one-hit wonder. Scenes tells the tale of Allegra, a woman who is thirtysomething, and married to the biggest talk-show star in Britain. They met when they were both struggling young television journalists on regional television and came to London when Matt, the charmingand clever husband, was offered a bite at the big-time cherry. Allegra became Ally, had two lovely daughters and settled into a luxurious life as a supportive Surrey wife until she made an impression on the wife of Matt's boss over dinner. You know the story. She turned into a ratings success as Matt faltered in his long-established career. Enter the lust-crazed producer, 15 years Ally's junior and the predictable occurs. At page 404, they all get together again, sorry about the things they did to each other and ready for more fame and fortune, supposedly older and wiser. This is the sex war. Ms Collins is an improvement, although American Star does give the impression of being churned out. Nick, the hero, is mercurial, dark and misunderstood until he becomes a pop star. After that he becomes mercurial, dark, misunderstood and miserable. He can't forget Lauren, you see, and she disappeared from his life after one lovely night years ago in aMidwest motel room. Lauren, too, is in pain. Blonde, spunky and with tortoise-shell eyes, she was a nice middle-class girl who had her life collapse around her when she discovered she was pregnant to Nick, she found her father in delicto flagrante with his secretary and Nick's father became keen on raping her. Fortunately, a tornado arrived just in time, and her parents were killed, Nick's father died because of the tornado and not from Lauren's idea to stab him to death, and she left town for a new life and eventually Nick. The journey is hard. But I don't need to tell you what happens. You can guess. Ms Cooper's latest effort, a big, fat, glossy book is much like her other works but better. The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous is a beatific, horny English blond called Lysander who beds women, especially when they cry or have been abandoned by caddish rich husbands. He is lost, and a great polo player, and thus also attracts various men, whom being a tad bisexual, feel an overwhelming to rescue Lysander whenever he gets into awful scrapes that he just can't help. Deep down, he is just as mixed up as the ladies he services, all because of his mother. She was his emotional rock and she died too soon. Now all he has are his frightfully successful brothers and a headmaster father, who is slowly being worn down by hissecretary - a woman with marriage on her mind. Ms Cooper has a fine turn of phrase when it comes to noting the habits of her preferred class for writing - the nether world of the moneyed fortysomething Englishman, his wives and mistresses. And, dare I say it, the ending is not quite as predictable ascould be expected.