Charm!by Kendall Hart
Harley Wilkins is in her prime: 30-years-old, living in Manhattan, and working tirelessly to make her cosmetics company, Flair, a success. As she works to introduce her first perfume, multitudes of complications begin to infiltrate Harley's life. Trying to get things done at work, she constantly has to play babysitter to her partner Parker, who is little more than a… See more details below
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Harley Wilkins is in her prime: 30-years-old, living in Manhattan, and working tirelessly to make her cosmetics company, Flair, a success. As she works to introduce her first perfume, multitudes of complications begin to infiltrate Harley's life. Trying to get things done at work, she constantly has to play babysitter to her partner Parker, who is little more than a partying socialite who used her nepotism to get undeserved equal-footing with Harley at the top of the company. She relies on the comic relief and smart perspective of her delightfully flamboyant friend, confidante, and co-worker Justin who helps Harley keep her head on straight amidst the drama that is her life. After being informed by a gleeful Parker of her boyfriend Marcus' infidelity, Harley meets the intriguing and successful Brad-but her hope for pleasurable preoccupation is extinguished when she is confronted with a startling truth about the woman she had always believed to be her mother. Torn between reconciling with a cheating boyfriend or taking a chance on new love, trying to make sense of the new developments regarding her family, and all the while toiling endlessly to make her perfume launch a triumph, Harley's open heart and ability to trust is tried and tested as she is incessantly betrayed. A chaotic chain of events ensues-brimming with scandal, back-stabbing, and even a kidnapping-all the scintillating components necessary to make this immensely engaging story the ultimate soap opera tale!
A conniving character given to getting into steamy situations on the daytime soap All My Children, the fictional Kendall Hart is here given a novelist's voice, and the ghostwriter (or writers) who produced this sticky tie-in get it right. The novel's conceit is that the book is Kendall Hart's roman à clef, written to set All My Children's town of Pine Valley on its ear. Kendall Hart's stand-in for this fiction (i.e., the fictional author Kendall's fictional avatar in the novel) is a sweet yet assertive young woman, Avery Wilkins, who runs her own New York-based cosmetics company, Flair, and is launching a new perfume-Charm!-that she hopes will put her on the map. When Avery first founded the company with financial backer Finn Adams, a softhearted smart man she later fell in love with, she never thought that he would die and leave his share of the company to his Paris Hilton-type daughter, Parker. Parker's drug and alcohol binging at late-night glitterati parties endanger the reputation of Flair and its new perfume, and a mysterious phone call to Avery from a manipulative woman claiming to be Avery's mother (a nod to Susan Lucci's character, Erica Kane) throws everything into a heady cloud of smoke. Romance aficionados will find Avery's two love affairs (with a dashing newsmagazine producer and a quick-witted yet sensitive billionaire, natch) intoxicating, but the denouement lacks punch-perhaps because soaps never have to come up with an ending. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Read an Excerpt
By KENDALL HART Hyperion
Copyright © 2008
Hyperion and ABC
All right reserved.
Chapter One It was one of those brutally hot, muggy days in August when anyone with any sense was at the beach or by a mountain lake. But Avery Wilkins had many miles to go before she swam, and so she rode the subway to Finn Adams's office filled with determination.
Finn Adams was legendary-an adventure-loving, self-made businessman with the energy of six mortals, a visionary who had started a dozen companies, and whose door was always open for hungry young entrepreneurs.
Walking from the train to his office, down the stifling streets, Avery caught a glimpse of her reflection in a store window. The humidity had turned her auburn hair into a frizz- fest, and why was she wearing that light jacket over her sundress? She took it off, but felt too exposed. She put it back on. Oh God, could she really pull this off? A girl like her, with just a high school education, no business training, from a crummy little town, from a family like hers? Avery silently repeated the mantra that she turned to when she needed courage: "Be strong, dig deep, don't look back." She felt strength flow through her, infusing her with confidence.
Finn Adams didn't give a damn about the petty perks of power, and he bounded out from his office to greet Avery in the reception area. He was a tall, sinewy man in his late forties with a thick shock of black hair graying at the temples and a handsome weathered face. He wore a frayed denim shirt and scuffed-up khakis.
It was instant-pow!
The animal attraction, yes, but there was something more-they saw it in each other's face, that spark in the corner of their eyes, a recognition that they were kindred spirits, ravenous at the banquet of life.
As Finn led Avery into his office, he very gently touched the small of her back and sparks shot through her. He held out a chair for her, sat behind his desk, and said, "You have fifteen minutes to convince me you have what it takes."
It took Avery ten.
Finn wrote her a check for two million dollars in return for a 51 percent stake in Flair, her company. He also asked her out to dinner.
One dinner led to another and the fifth dinner led to a suite at the W Hotel.
The pent-up erotic energy between them was palpable, but as they rode up in the elevator what Avery felt most was trepidation.
She and Finn sat on the couch, and when he put his arm around her, she flinched.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"That's not true," Finn said, his cut-to-the-bone honesty softened by the kindness in his voice and eyes.
Something about that voice, those eyes, made Avery feel safe, protected. This was a man she could trust, who would never hurt her. And so she told him everything. The sad sordid truths that she had never revealed to anyone before. Her father had never hesitated to hit her when he wanted to make a point, and sometimes he did it just for fun, and she still equated a man's touch with emotional and physical pain. Then there was her mother, who had descended into a life of depravity after her father left. The combination of the two traumas had left Avery scarred-she was guarded and awkward in bed; sex had never been satisfying for her. Finn listened as the words poured out and when she was done Avery felt lighter, freer.
He held her, just held her, and slowly she relaxed in his arms. And slowly they made love, with Finn touching her so gently, so tenderly, until she was ready to touch him back ... more than ready ... hungry ...
From that night on, for two blissful months, they couldn't get enough of each other. And it wasn't just the lovemaking. They simply adored being together, and shared a voracious curiosity that took them on long walks to the farthest corners of the city, to lectures on art at the Metropolitan Museum, there was a hop up to Cape Cod on his plane. They would talk endlessly about everything, anything-or not talk at all.
Finn Adams and Avery Wilkins fell madly in love.
But there was a problem: Finn was married.
She was his second wife, a photographer who often traveled for her work. Finn respected and cared for her. The situation was hard, but he made it very clear to Avery that he wanted them to be together for the rest of their lives. They both agreed that their love should remain a secret until Finn had told his wife. He set the date. She was on assignment photographing tropical birds in the Caribbean; he was going to fly his plane down and tell her he wanted a divorce.
The night before he left, Avery and Finn went up to the observation deck at the Empire State Building. It was early November and a low fog hung over the city. They were above the fog, floating, so close to the stars Avery felt like she could reach up and touch them.
They kissed with their arms around each other, holding tight against the low fog below them and the cold, gorgeous ether above. After tomorrow, it would be like this forever. She pulled him closer to her ...
It was the last time they touched.
1 IT WAS MONDAY morning. Avery was in the office, and she had a thousand and one things to do. That was why the sight of Parker-pretty petulant Parker-made her bristle.
"Hi, Avery, how's it going?" Parker said with that blazing bleached smile of hers. Then she sashayed into Avery's office like it was her own, plopped down onto the sofa, and crossed her legs.
"Things are hectic, of course. Aren't they always?"
Avery was the president of Flair, the cosmetics company she had founded four years earlier. She had started out mixing up small batches of mineral-based makeups in her tiny kitchen. Little by little, thanks to her talent, passion, and tenacity-and Finn Adams's money-the company had grown, but it was still miniscule by industry standards. Today, Flair was housed on one floor of a former warehouse building in Manhattan's far West Twenties and had almost fifty employees.
Avery was in the middle of developing her first perfume. She wanted the scent to be her signature product, one that would give Flair a defining image and catapult it into the big leagues where it belonged. It would be the realization of her dreams, and the fulfillment of her promise to Finn.
"What are you working on?" Parker asked. As if she was really interested in the nuts and bolts of the company.
"Setting up consultations with perfumers, meetings with the ad agency, talking to buyers, arranging focus groups," Avery said.
"I want the perfume to have a sexy name and image," Parker said in that entitled private-school voice of hers.
That was so Parker-waltz in and make a sweeping pronouncement. She had no background in the cosmetics business, no idea what it took to run a company, to create a brand, to move a product from concept to reality. And she didn't grasp what Avery wanted to convey with the perfume. She wanted it to be romantic and sensual, not crass and overtly sexy. The marketplace was inundated with perfumes and beauty products that relied on a blatantly sexual image. Avery was determined to stand apart from the pack. And not to let Parker stand in her way.
But dealing with Parker was complicated for Avery; it triggered a swell of conflicting emotions. After all, she was Finn Adams's daughter. And she had inherited 51 percent of Flair two years earlier when her father died. It had taken them four days to find the floating debris of his plane in the Caribbean south of Puerto Rico. Finn's body was never recovered, claimed by the sea and its hungry creatures.
After he was officially declared dead, Parker-his only child, the product of his first marriage-came into the bulk of his fortune, including the controlling interest in Flair. When Parker turned her head a certain way or tapped her fingertips impatiently on the edge of a table, she seemed so much like her father, the first man Avery had ever fallen in love with ... the man she loved still ...
Sometimes Avery just wanted to tell Parker, "Your father and I were in love." But she and Finn had vowed to keep their love a secret until the day they could announce it to the world. The day that now would never come. But Avery felt it was important to stay true to their pact, to their secret. She carried it with her, a talisman, a touchstone that gave her strength and helped to keep Finn alive in her heart.
In so many ways, Parker was the opposite of her father. The pampered product of privilege, she had never worked a day in her life, and she treated Flair like her latest toy. If it failed, she could just shrug it off. For Avery, failure would mean the end of her lifelong dream. She wasn't going to let that happen. No way! She had worked too hard to get this far, to pull herself up from her bitter, twisted childhood in that shabby little house in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She'd been paying her dues in the cosmetics business for over a decade. Unlike Parker, nobody had handed her anything.
"Avery, you seem tired today, are you all right?" Parker asked with insincere concern. She seemed very keyed up, and kept running her fingers through her long frosted hair and checking out her perfect nails. Parker had the best body money could buy-polished skin, toned limbs, gravity-defying breasts-and she clothed it in small clingy dresses twelve months a year.
"I'm fine, thanks," Avery answered, "just swamped."
"That's the problem with having big pretty eyes like you do-the circles really show," Parker said.
"Can we discuss the perfume another time?"
"No," Parker said. "I want the perfume to have a sexy image."
Avery stood up and walked around her desk. "Parker, I know sexy sells, but I also know that romance sells. Believe it or not, there are a lot of young women out there who long to love and be loved more than they yearn to be tacky sex goddesses. They're my market for the perfume."
Parker took all this in-and then tossed it out. "Well, I like sexy," she said with a determined pout.
"Guess what, Parker? I founded this company and it's my baby. You may own a big chunk of it, but you don't own me."
"Touchy-touchy. Oh, by the way, how's Marcus?"
"Marcus is fine, not that it's any of your business," Avery answered.
How dare Parker ask about Marcus Roland, the man she had been seeing for the past year? The man who had helped her finally accept that Finn was never coming back, the man she was getting serious about. The reason she was prying was obvious, of course. Parker wanted Marcus for herself. In fact, Avery had met Marcus at a party at Parker's downtown loft. Parker had been making a play for him, with no success. She was just jealous. After all, there are some things that even a bottomless bank account can't buy you.
"You certainly keep him on a tight leash. I haven't seen him at any of the clubs for ages," Parker said.
"If Marcus is on any length leash, he's there of his own free will. We're both adults. So keep your nose out of our relationship." Avery took a deep breath. She crossed to the display of Flair's products that she kept in her office. She looked down at the array of foundations, lipsticks, mascaras, powders. She picked up a powder compact. "Have you tried this new powder? It's been selling like crazy. It has a dusting of ground gold in it, for just a touch of sparkle. I think it would be fabulous on you."
Parker took the compact, opened it, and rubbed a little powder on the back of her hand. "Nice," she said. She snapped the compact shut and handed it back. "Too bad it's not my style."
"No, nice isn't your style, is it?" Avery said. "Listen, I have a conference call with a group of buyers out in Chicago. I need some time to prepare."
Parker shrugged. "Oh, that reminds me, I have an appointment with my personal buyer at Barneys." She crossed to the door and turned. "Ciao, darling, work hard." Then she was gone.
Avery closed her office door. She went over to the couch where Parker had been sitting, picked up the loose pillows, shook them out. Waltzing in and issuing edicts about the perfume was bad enough, but Parker's probing insinuations about Marcus were completely over the line. Avery was going to put a stop to them once and for all.
There was a knock on her door.
"Who is it?"
Justin Fowler walked in. Justin was Avery's right-hand everything. He pretty much ran Flair, leaving Avery free to concentrate on the products themselves and on shaping the company's image. Justin was pulling fifty, a battle-savvy veteran of the beauty biz. He was gay, a bit rotund, and wore round glasses that gave him an owlish appearance. Although he cultivated a jovial, charming persona, under it lay a tough, cunning customer who knew how to work every angle. Avery had seen him in action when she was working in the PR department at Clinique, and when she got her backing from Finn, he was the first person she called. He loved a challenge, but it was Avery's promise of 20 percent of profits that sealed the deal. Avery's instincts had been right-they hit it off immediately; he helped her navigate the intricacies of a cutthroat business, while she invigorated him with her passion and drive.
"You look all in, kiddo. Is everything all right?" Justin asked.
"Parker was just in here, making trouble as usual."
"Did she seem wired?"
"She was pretty keyed up," Avery said.
"My spies tell me she's been out at the clubs every night, partying hard."
"At least she's good at something."
"As you know, Parker has a history of serious drug binges that have led to some very bad behavior." Justin crossed to Avery's desk and said, "We have to treat her very gingerly, no matter how insufferable she gets."
"It's not easy."
"Remember, Avery, if Parker goes down, she can take the whole company with her." "Over my dead body," Avery said.
Excerpted from CHARM! by KENDALL HART Copyright © 2008 by Hyperion and ABC. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Kendall Hart is a popular All My Children character who founded and owns Fusion Cosmetics. Scarred by her conception through rape and raised by a family where she felt like a stranger, Kendall's constantly attempting to overcome her demons and often gets into trouble doing it. Kendall is played by actor Alicia Minshew, who joined the cast of All My Children in January 2002. Sebastian Stuart is an accomplised writer, having authored two successful novels: the psychological thriller THE MENTOR and the hilariously entertaining 24-KARAT KIDS, which was a bestseller. His expertise in both dramatic and fun and breezy literature is the perfect combination to bring to life this soap opera-influenced story.
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