Going from old money to no money, the three Maxwell sisters’ lives are about to change drastically. Now, one by one, each must blaze her own trail to happily-ever-after . . .
Manderley Maxwell has always been the dependable, hard-working one while her younger sisters live
A-list lives, courtesy of their family fortune . . . until it’s suddenly lost, leaving behind a truckload of debt! Now Mandy is faced with two choices: play perpetual caretaker to her spoiled siblings, or finally break out of her predictable routine—by way of France . . .
When Mandy’s boss relocates for the summer, Mandy is really just trading in coffee runs for running errands through the streets of Cannes—until handsome, debonair Girard Fortune Xavier de Maloret sweeps her off her feet—by saving her from falling off a cliff. Mandy’s walking on air—except that she’s living in the chic shadow of the first Madame de Maloret, complete with whispers about the suddenly secretive Xavier’s part in her disappearance. Again, Mandy has two choices: be the unfortunate, duped American—or the gutsy, fierce woman who’ll track down the truth in the name of true love . . .
“Humor, heat, and a sexy Frenchman . . . Brown’s nod to Daphne du Maurier’s classic is a winner!”
#1 New York Times bestseller Helen Hardt
About the Author
Leah Marie Brown has worked as a journalist and photographer. An avid traveler, she has had adventures and mishaps from Paris to Tokyo. She lives a bike ride away from the white sand beaches of Florida’s Emerald Coast with her husband, children, and pampered poodles. She is hard at work on her next novel, but loves to hear from readers. Please visit her website at www.leahmariebrown.com. You can also visit her blogs: leahmariebrownhistoricals.blogspot.com and leahmariebrown.blogspot.com, and follow her on Twitter @18thCFrance and @leahmariebrown.
Read an Excerpt
Text from Emma Lee Maxwell:
Have you gone to any glam parties yet? Have you seen Zac Efron or Liam Hemsworth? Please tell me you are not holed up in your room, reading some dreary old Brontë novel in that sad flannel nightgown? I would die if I had the chance to live in Cannes. Yes, I know that would defeat the purpose. You know what I mean.
Text from Tara Maxwell:
It's tax time and Daddy always filled out my forms. Would you please go on the IRS website, download a 1040EZ form, and fill it out for me? You're so good at all of that stuff.
I am not happy. It is a sparkling sunny day. A soft, sea-scented breeze is blowing on my face and ruffling my long bangs. I am standing on the edge of a cliff in the Côte d'Azur, watching turquoise waves crash on the rocks far below, and all I want to do is let out a high-pitched, mournful cry, like the seagulls circling over my head.
I am not a drama queen. I promise. There are legitimate reasons for my seemingly theatrical ennui. More reasons than nuts in a fruitcake.
Forgive my atrocious manners. I should introduce myself. My name is Manderley Maxwell. Mandy, to my friends. Plain, dirty-dishwater blond, gray-eyed, hard-working, dependable Mandy.
I move in a world filled with pouty-lipped Angelina Jolies, ample-bosomed Scarlett Johanssons, and fashion-forward Blake Livelys, but I am not a bombshell. Not even close.
I will never score a Jake Gyllenhaal, Henry Cavill, or Ryan Gosling. The most I can hope for is a Jonah Hill, an equally reliable guy who tickles my funny bone, even if he doesn't make my pulse race.
Keep the cork on the champagne and the Kleenex in the box because this is not a pity party. It's a reality rave. I know I am strictly B-List, and unless something radical happens in my life, I will remain the hardest working player on the B-list.
Even my job is B-list. I am an assistant to Olivia Tate, big-time Hollywood screenwriter, and, awkwardly, my best friend. It doesn't matter that we both graduated from Columbia University, or that I was editor of Quarto, the university's prestigious literary magazine (the same magazine J. D. Salinger once wrote for), I am too busy fetching coffee and proofreading screenplays for my BFF to even think about developing my own writing career.
Then there's my family. After my mother died, my father relied on me to be a maternal figure to my younger sisters, Tara and Emma Lee. My younger, needier, spoiled, more glam sisters. At the age of seven, I was cast as the family spinster. I even wear the requisite tortoiseshell glasses and flannel nightgown. I am one fringed shawl short of spending my days in a rocker, going deaf from the incessant click-click-click of my knitting needles.
Two months ago, my daddy and Aunt Patricia died in a freak boating accident one hundred miles off the coast of Sullivan's Island, leaving behind a mountain of debt and years of unpaid taxes we knew nothing about. If it weren't for the trust fund my momma left me, and my job, I would be as aimless and lost as my sisters.
Through the haze of my tears, I watch a black-winged cormorant dive through the air and plunge into the churning sea, disappearing below the surface. I envy the creature. I wonder what it would be like if I copied the cormorant? If I spread my arms wide and dove off this cliff, would the sea wash away my cares?
I am not saying I am the suicidal sort. Not at all.
Though, there are days, like today, when I feel caught in the suffocating cocoon of my life, desperate to wiggle free from the strands and emerge more beautiful, more carefree.
The cormorant surfaces, a fish trapped in its long yellow bill, and floats effortlessly on the crest of a wave, its black, beady eyes seemingly focused on me. He's taunting me, silently challenging me to show a modicum of the daring he showed.
I shift my gaze from the unnerving bird to a clump of grass at my feet, nudging it with the toe of my espadrilles. Nudging. Nudging. Nudging, until the roots break free and the clump tumbles down, down into the swirling surf.
"Mais qu'est-ce que vous faites? Venez loin de là!"
My breath catches in my throat at the unexpected intrusion. I spin around too fast, lose my balance, and nearly tumble backwards off the cliff, when the intruder clasps his hands around my waist and roughly pulls me to him. My cheek is pressed against his bronzed, muscular chest. I feel the delicious heat of his body, smell the coconut scent of suntan lotion and the tang of sea salt, hear the steady, soothing thud of his heartbeat, and wonder if I plunged to my death and am now in heaven. Maybe this man is a bare-chested angel.
"Putain!" he swears, his breath ruffling my bangs. "Tu dois être fou."
So not in heaven. Angels don't drop the F-bomb.
I pull out of his grasp and crane my neck to look up at him. Sweet Lawd, but he is tall.
"I said you are crazy."
"I am not crazy!"
"You are American." His upper lip curls slightly.
I snort because I can't think of a response. I am, frankly, too offended by his arrogant manner and too awestruck by his strong, whiskered jaw, chiseled cheekbones, piercing blue gaze, and thick crop of wavy dark hair. He's a walking Dolce & Gabbana advert, all cool sophistication and cultivated European good looks.
And it hits me.
He must be an actor. It would explain the movie-star good looks and the cosmically huge arrogance. He is probably some French actor, in Cannes because his film was nominated for the Palme d'Or.
He crosses his muscular arms over his chest and regards me beneath raised brow. "Were you trying to kill yourself? Is that it then?"
"What?" My cheeks flush with guilty heat. "No! Don't be ridiculous."
His blue eyes narrow.
I shift my gaze to my dust-covered espadrilles and wait for my heated cheeks to cool. I want to tell him yelling at a potentially suicidal woman standing on the edge of a cliff is extrêmement stupide and there isn't a suicide prevention handbook in print that recommends calling a distraught person a fool. But I don't. If only I had Tara's confidence or Emma Lee's charm; then I would know precisely what to say to this handsome, arrogant Frenchman.
Instead, I start to cry. Tears slide down my cheeks and plop onto the toes of my espadrilles. I am sniffling like some sad, overwrought starlet who has been told her nose is too big/breasts are too small/hair is too frizzy/eyes are too crossed.
"Come" — he fastens his hand around my forearm — "you need to get out of the sun."
"It's not the sun." I sniffle.
"Don't be silly. Of course it is the sun. The heat can be particularly draining in this part of France, especially this time of day."
I don't argue, nor do I fight him as he leads me down the hill. I am too tired, too emotionally spent to muster enough feeling to argue. I follow him to a narrow scenic pull-off and a sleek convertible Jaguar parked close to the guard rail.
"What is your name?"
"Manderley," I mumble. "Manderley Maxwell. My friends call me Mandy, though."
"I will drive you back to your hotel, Manderley."
He pronounces my name with a heavy French accent so that it sounds like Mon-de-lee instead of Manderley.
"I am fine," I say, taking a step away. "Really."
"Are you always this contrary?" He opens the passenger door. "Get in."
"Honestly, I took a bus to get here; I can take the bus back to the hotel."
He scowls. "Why would you ever do that?"
He gestures for me to get in and I obey. Because that is what I do. And because it feels good to have someone take care of me for once.
He walks around the front of the car, moving with the grace of a predatory beast, all sinewy muscles and barely controlled power, and my breath catches in my throat. Am I being reckless? Cannes might be the pleasure ground of Saudi princes, European heiresses, and film stars, but it also attracts the finest criminals in the world. Pickpockets, jewel thieves, human traffickers, prostitutes. I read in a reputable travel magazine that gypsy bosses and gangsters moor their yachts in the bay. What if this man runs an organized crime ring? What if he kidnaps me and sells me to an Eastern European human trafficker?
He jumps in the car. "Excusez-moi."
He reaches over me to open the glove compartment, his chiseled forearm brushing against my bare knees. My heart skips a beat and I silently pray he isn't going to pull out a Taser or gun. He removes a T-shirt from the compartment and pulls it over his head. I catch a whiff of expensive- smelling, citrusy cologne.
"My name is Xavier," he says, slanting a look at me.
I swallow hard. "Nice to meet you, Xavier."
"Tell me something, Manderley. What are you doing out here? This park is off the beaten tourist track."
"That was rather the point."
"I see." He frowns. "So you wanted to be alone?"
"Because you wanted to ..." He clears his throat.
"Kill myself?" I laugh, but in the quiet of the car it sounds false, maybe even a little manic. "I wasn't going to kill myself. I wanted to escape the crowds, and the concierge said this was a nice place to come to be alone in nature. There aren't many places like this where I am staying."
He fastens his seat belt and pushes a shiny red start button. The engine roars to life and we are off. Xavier maneuvers the powerful sports car around each serpentine curve, manipulating the stick shift with the skill of a race-car driver.
"Where are you staying?"
"Hôtel Le Majestic."
He looks at me, one eyebrow raised in that distinctive Gallic expression of astonishment and haughty disdain. I once read that eighteenth-century French believed France to be the center of the universe; the farther one traveled from France, the farther one was removed from culture and reason. In my experience, the French still believe they are culturally superior. It doesn't matter if they work as a valet, taxi driver, or waiter. The woman who turns down my sheets at the hotel gives me serious Gallic face every time she fluffs my pillows.
"Are you visiting Cannes with your ... husband?"
I brush the hair from my eyes and stare at him to see if he is mocking me in my spinsterhood, but his handsome, inscrutable profile gives nothing away.
"I am not married."
"I thought perhaps you were on your honeymoon and a lover's spat drove you to ..."
"To contemplate throwing myself off a cliff?"
He pulls to a stop at a flashing yellow light and looks at me.
I attempt, in my best college French, to recite a line from one of my favorite novels, Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan.
"You speak French?"
" Un peu," I say, holding up my fingers to indicate a little.
"Un peu," he says, shifting into first and taking off. "And yet you are familiar with Françoise Sagan?"
"I read Bonjour Tristesse in college and wished I could be Cécile, living in a villa on the French Riviera and having a summer love affair with a boy named Cyril."
"If I am remembering it correctly, Cyril broke her heart and the story ended with Cécile returning to her sad life." He looks over at me, his blue eyes piercing my soul. "Isn't there a famous line ... about loving someone to the point of madness?"
"Loved to the point of madness?"
I laugh sadly because I haven't ever loved, not deeply, madly, truly loved. Not as Cécile loved Cyril. Pangs of longing echo in my heart. I am almost certain Xavier can hear them.
"No," I finally say, my voice wavering.
The bold question knocks me off balance.
"I don't have time for romance," I say, honestly. "I am too busy helping everyone else achieve their hearts' desires."
My words come out in a nervous rush, a powerful stream of consciousness and raw emotions I usually keep contained behind a shy smile and nondescript attire. Not that there have been that many people lining up to hear my most inner emotions. People in Hollywood don't do deep. They do air kisses and narcissism-fueled cocktail parties at the Viceroy on Friday nights.
"I work for Olivia Tate," I say, as if that explains everything. "I am her assistant, editor, brainstorm partner."
"Who is Olivia Tate?"
He takes a sharp turn and I have to hold on to the door handle so I don't slide sideways into him.
"Olivia Tate. Love's Requiem.Postmodern."
"A Quaint Milieu?"
I wonder if he is feigning obtuseness or if films made beyond the borders of the center of the universe aren't worthy of note for a French film actor.
"Olivia Tate is a screenwriter. Her screenplay, A Quaint Milieu, was nominated for the Palme d'Or."
"I am sorry, but I don't make it to the theater that often."
"Then, you're not an actor?"
"Non." He chuckles, a deep, rich laugh that rumbles in his broad, muscular chest. "What made you think I was an actor?"
Your impossibly large ego. Your breathtaking, leading-man good looks. Your luxury sports car that costs three times the average American's annual income.
"So, you are an assistant to a Palme d'Or–nominated screenwriter. What made you choose that career?" He glances over his shoulder at me, his gaze moving from my high ponytail to my shabby espadrilles. "You don't appear to be the sort of woman attracted to that lifestyle. Do you have dreams of making it big in Hollywood?"
He clenches his jaw and grips the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turn as white as the eyelet lace on the hem of my sundress.
"Olivia Tate is my best friend."
"Yes, really. It surprises you that a famous screenwriter would be friends with someone like me?" Someone plain. Someone shy. Someone in dirty espadrilles.
"I am surprised you would mix business and pleasure. I would never employ a friend. Ever."
"Olivia sold her first screenplay to a major studio the week after we graduated from college. Her career took off after that first sale. She needed someone she could rely on, a life preserver in the shark-infested waters of Hollywood."
"And that is what you are ... a life preserver?"
I think of all of the people who rely upon me and sigh. "Yes, I suppose I am."
"What happens when too many people cling to a life preserver?"
"Disaster," I say, rubbing my hands over my bare arms.
"Exactement." He flicks the turn indicator and steers the Jaguar off the busy Boulevard de la Croisette into the driveway of the Hôtel Le Majestic. "Wouldn't you rather be a shark?"
"Me?" I laugh. "Sadly, I don't have the teeth."
He pulls to a stop and looks at me. "That is not sad."
A valet hurries to open Xavier's door. "Bienvenue,monsieur," the valet says.
Xavier hands over his keys and walks around the car, opening my door and holding out his hand. I step out of the car and am blinded by flashes of light. The paparazzi have been camped outside the hotel since the beginning of the Festival. When they realize I am not an A-lister, they focus their attention on the next car pulling up to the valet stand.
Xavier places his broad hand on the small of my back and leads me through the revolving door and into the opulent lobby. Even though the Festival officially ended last night, the lobby is buzzing with activity. We move through golden halos of light created by the crystal chandeliers hanging overhead, past plush velvet sofas and marble replicas of classical Greek statues, until we arrive at the elevators.
He jabs the up button.
"Thank you for the ride and for seeing me into the hotel, but I will be fine from here."
A wry smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. "I am sure you will be fine, but this is where I am staying."
The elevator doors slide open and we step inside.
"Floor?" he asks.
He jabs the round number three button and then the number six. Lawd! The sixth floor is where the hotel's most exclusive suites are located. The Christian Dior suite includes a butler, swimming pool, and furniture designed by Nathalie Ryan, interior decorator at House of Dior.
The elevator dings, announcing our arrival on the third floor, and the doors slide open.
I don't want Xavier to remember me as a hopeless case, even if we never meet again. It's not because he drives a Jaguar F-Type convertible and stays in the Christian Dior suite at Le Majestic. I can't explain why, but I have an inexplicable need to leave him with something more than the memory of me weeping and sniveling about my problems.
"Thank you for driving me back to the hotel and for listening to my problems," I say, turning around, my back to the hall. "It was very kind of you."
"It was nothing."
I look up into his eyes and forget what I had been about to say. The doors start to close and he sticks his hand between them to keep me from being crushed. I catch another whiff of his citrusy cologne as his arm brushes my shoulder and my breath catches in my throat.
"Au revoir, Life Preserver, don't let the sharks drag you down."
"I'll try," I murmur.
I turn and step out of the elevator. Xavier pulls his hand back and the doors slide shut.
Excerpted from "Dreaming of Manderley"
Copyright © 2018 Leah Marie Brown.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
January, 2018 Dreaming of Manderley arrives on my doorstep. Leah Marie Brown's rendition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca drew me in immediately. A fresh restyling bringing the characters into this century. Brown IS funny and engaging. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in her A Riches to Romance series, You'll Always Have Tara, about her matchmaking sister, Tara's claim to her inheritance, Castle Tásúildun. Manderley Maxwell has her hands full being the responsible older sister while her two younger, very spoiled sisters, Emma and Tara,lean on her for nearly everything. After Manderley's father and aunt perish prematurely leaving little behind but sweet memories and piling debt Manderley needs an escape. A trip to Cannes and a chance meeting with debonair, sexy Xavier captures the romantic, colorful essence of beautiful France as Manderley takes a leap of faith and trusts this sometimes overly machismo stranger with her heart. Will he be a dream maker or dream killer with his paternalistic tendencies and broody shifts in his mood? I read the book in one afternoon and must say I liked the story more and more after each page turned to the satisfying, left s smile on my face, ending. Brown is a talented writer who pens some fearful, life is uncertain characters, that get caught up in the twists and turns of life and how to be growing, learning human beings, sometimes bursting with wit and joie-de-vivre but always willing to test the waters and be a bit adventurous. From Brown's bio I surmise she is well acquainted with travel in France and from her blog it's plain to see this is one stylish lady that lives life to the fullest, so I would guess each of her well-defined characters (even if a wee bit too label dropping, self-absorbed, appearing directionless at times to some readers that can't get caught up in the heat of hormones and romance) come from the heart of this author. Brown's writing is a voice to be heard and encouraged. I'm excited to watch as this writer blossoms and grows even more characters to love-hate, love-love, hate-hate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9omj4VAnTd4
I truly enjoyed this book.
I enjoyed this story so much, sad when i finished. I actually felt as if i were in France when reading. Cant wait for the next 2. This author is one of my faves!!