BOSTON -- Within a year of graduating from high school in Boston, Nerine Kidd packed her bags for New York City, hoping her beauty and moxie would win her a glamorous career in modeling and acting.

In New York, and later Los Angeles, the tall, slender blonde found what she had been seeking. She won modeling contracts and TV jobs, including a stint in a national commercial for Brut cologne.Two years ago, she married William Shatner, a Hollywood star known worldwide as the dashing Captain James T. Kirk from the "Star Trek" TV series.

For the bride, the marriage had fairy-tale elements: fame, wealth, a mansion and a handsome leading man for a husband who, before their wedding guests, pledged his life to "Nerine, my queen."

But there was a dark side, too: tabloid reports that she drank too much, made repeat visits to substance-abuse treatment programs and was recently threatened with divorce by her husband.

Nerine Kidd Shatner's life ended abruptly Aug. 10 when she was found dead in the swimming pool of her mansion in Studio City, Calif.

Police said a preliminary investigation indicates that Kidd Shatner, 40, drowned, apparently by accident. Toxicology reports and a full autopsy may not be released for weeks.

But her relatives and friends in Boston are puzzled by the circumstances of her death.

They said the vivacious woman they knew was an experienced, lifelong swimmer, someone too well-adjusted to lose control despite her fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle.

"It just seems kind of odd," said one relative, who asked not to be named. "I mean, Nerine grew up in a lake. She water-skied, and she was an excellent swimmer. It's just odd that she would die in a pool."

Though she blazed a path from Boston to Los Angeles, the details of Kidd Shatner's life in Los Angeles are not clear.

Last year, her marriage hit a rough patch, and Shatner filed for divorce last October, but friends said the couple reconciled. Indeed, Shatner, apparently shattered by her death, gave a tearful statement before reporters and TV cameras after the body was discovered.

"Everybody has their ups and downs," said the relative. "I thought she was happy, but I don't know about her Hollywood life."

The second oldest of five children, Nerine Kidd grew up in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood. Each summer, from the time she began to walk until she graduated from high school, she and her siblings would climb into the family's Chevy Impala and head to their vacation cottage near a lake in Sandown, N.H.

Kidd spent her summers in and around the water, boating, water-skiing and taking long lakeside walks. Her brother Warren, two years younger, said he often tried to tag along with his sister, who "always had pretty girlfriends."

"Family was her source," he said, fighting back emotion during an interview last week. "Nerine always took care of us. She was the one who held us together. That was Nerine's way. She made all of us feel special."

She had gifts of character in addition to the gift of good looks. From an early age, she displayed a bold, almost fearless personality. When she was still in high school, she saw a Filene's television commercial but was not impressed.

"She called them up and said, 'I've seen the girls you use as models. I think I'm better, if you want to give me a try,' " said her father, also named Warren Kidd, a retired lumber worker. "Apparently, they liked her."

Janet Chute, a Boston modeling agent, was also impressed when the slender teenager with "this cute little nose" walked into her office with a handful of snapshots.

She was unusual looking, raw, and unrefined, Chute said. In a Boston accent as thick as chowder, Kidd asked if Chute would look at her "pitchers."

With a laugh, Chute said, she gently corrected the girl: Models call them "photographs."

Kidd quickly learned the ropes, mastering the terminology and losing her Boston accent. Soon, she was doing photo shoots and walking the runways in fashion shows. She based her career in New York but traveled to Europe, also.

Kidd had an attractive personality, Chute said, adding that she was a wisecracker who made people laugh and could laugh about herself. She was a respected model, too, and scored at least one commercial that caught people's attention: the Brut cologne ad known as "Scent of a Man."

Her modeling success brought financial rewards, and Kidd was generous toward her family, her brother said.

She "was full of energy," the younger Warren Kidd recalled with a laugh. "She was like a windup doll that never wound down."

It may have been that energy that attracted Shatner when they met in Los Angeles at a party in 1995.

Kidd's brother said the courtship grew gradually after his sister returned to New York. Long-distance phone calls led to dates, and Kidd eventually moved to Los Angeles.

In contrast to the modest recognition Kidd had achieved, Shatner -- twice divorced and 28 years her senior -- has legions of fans.

And Shatner's romantic life has long been tabloid fodder.

The stories did not seem to bother Kidd, who shuttled between New York and Los Angeles, both for work and to visit her beau, her brother said.

Kidd once asked her father what he thought about her marrying the famous, wealthy man her family had come to know as Bill.

"I said, 'Jeez, I don't know. It's your life,' " the elder Warren Kidd recalled. " 'If you love him, then go ahead. Do you love him?' "

Yes, she said.

They were wed in November '97 in Pasadena, a black-tie ceremony attended by some of Nerine's relatives. The best man was Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock in the "Star Trek" series.

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The Shatners traveled the world, both for business and pleasure. Though she kept her career and dabbled in acting, the younger Warren Kidd said, his sister kept Shatner as her first priority.

Nerine Kidd Shatner seemed comfortable bridging her low-key Boston upbringing with her flashy Los Angeles life, as effortlessly as she consumed both organic food and junk food, her brother said. And she always seemed excited to see her family.

The news of her death was reported this week with a cinematic flourish. Her husband, surrounded by reporters, stood outside their majestic home and choked out an emotional eulogy.

"My beautiful wife is dead," Shatner said, tears welling in his eyes. "She meant everything to me. Her laughter, her tears, her joy will remain with me for the rest of my life."