NEW YORK – It was billed by its publisher as the "must-read" book for the fall — "a shattering, provocative and mesmerizing true story" so momentous that booksellers were urged to order copies without knowing what they would receive.
Now, the secret is out: Publisher William Morrow confirmed Tuesday to The Associated Press that the mystery work is Paul Burrell's "The Way We Were," the latest tell-all about Princess Diana by her former butler, who also wrote the 2003 best seller, "A Royal Duty."
Was it worth the suspense?
"I feel hoodwinked," says Mark LaFramboise, a buyer for Politics & Prose, an independent store based in Washington, D.C. LaFramboise said he ordered 10-12 copies. "This is Washington and we thought it might have been a relevant political book. But this is nothing but publicity gimmickry. They should be ashamed of themselves."
"I think it's going to be a big book, although 'shattering,' I don't know about that," says Edward Ash-Milby, biography buyer for Barnes & Noble Inc. "I think there's interest in anyone close to the inner circle, and he was as close to her as anyone."
Lisa Gallagher, Morrow's senior vice president, was not immediately available for comment.
According to a statement issued Tuesday by Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, "The Way We Were" takes "the reader into the lively day-to-day life at Kensington Palace and includes, for the first time ever, a uniquely personal record of that time."
"With previously unseen photographs of the interiors, Burrell takes the reader from room to room, and from memory to memory, in a remarkably candid narrative that only he could tell," the statement said.
Burrell's book, a "follow-up" to "A Royal Duty," goes on sale Sept. 12 with an announced first printing of 300,000.
The biggest news so far came out in an excerpt published last weekend in London's Daily Mail. Burrell writes that Princess Diana had no plans to marry her companion, Dodi Fayed, who also died in the 1997 Paris car crash along with their driver, Henri Paul. Just days before the fatal accident, Dodi had reportedly given Diana a gold Bulgari ring.
"She made it clear this was not an engagement ring. It was nothing more than an addition to her collection of costume jewelry," he writes. "She said how romantic he had been and giggled with relief that the ring had not been more significant. 'Pheeeew!' She gave an exaggerated sigh, suggesting she was happy and that engagement was the furthest thing from her mind."
Burrell also wrote in "A Royal Duty" that Diana was not serious about Dodi, observing that "All the princess' closest friends know the identity of the only man with whom she had enjoyed a happy, long-term relationship since her divorce. And it was not Dodi al Fayed." The man's name was not revealed.
Hoping to build interest in a book, publishers occasionally ask sellers to "order blind," although usually at least some information is given. Stores, for instance, will be told that a new Oprah Winfrey pick is upcoming without knowing the actual selection.
"But Oprah is a known commodity," LaFramboise of Politics & Prose said. "You know you're going to sell a certain number of books."
Ed Conklin, a manager for Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore in Beverly Hills, Calif., said he had only ordered a few copies of the Burrell book and called the Morrow campaign "a ploy on the publisher's part to generate a buzz and artificially create a demand."
"You hope that if it does take off, you can get more books quickly enough to cover yourself," Conklin says. "But in this case, I don't think we're going to need to bother."