A vintage necklace. A long-hidden secret. A second chance for love
– Hepburn’s Necklace
Hepburn’s Necklace by Jan Moran, a USA Today bestselling author of romantic women’s fiction, was published with Sunny Palms Press Jan 12th. Hepburn’s Necklace is a dual-timeline family saga that begins on the film set on Roman Holiday in the 1950s and continues to gorgeous Lake Como decades later. When legendary Hollywood star Ruby Raines reveals long-hidden family secrets, her decision affects the lives of her nieces. Yet, fresh choices await them in Italy—if they are bold enough to seize them.
Jan Moran has published 15+ books with St. Martin’s Press and other European publishers, in addition to her own company, Sunny Palms Press. She writes upmarket women’s fiction, including 20th-century historicals and the contemporary Summer Beach series, Seabreeze Inn and Coral Cottage.
I am delighted to bring you all an excerpt from Hepburn’s Necklace today so I really do hope you enjoy.
[ About Hepburn’s Necklace ]
When costume designer Ariana Ricci leaves her groom at the altar, she seeks solace with her great-aunt, a Texas-born Hollywood legend who worked on the film Roman Holiday as an extra. There, Ariana discovers Audrey Hepburn gave Ruby Raines an intriguing necklace during filming, and a cache of 1950s letters, postmarked Italy, raises more questions about Ruby’s hidden past. Aching for a fresh start and the chance to resolve an unfinished story, the two embark on a journey to the sun-dappled shores of Lake Como, Italy that will illuminate secrets of a bygone era and offer second chances to each of them—if they are bold enough to seize them.
[ Excerpt from Hepburn’s Necklace ]
Lago di Como, March 2010
Ruby stepped as close to the rocky point as she dared, taking quiet joy in overlooking the shimmering, deep blue water that filled the verdant fjord stretching before her. To the north soared snow-capped Italian and Swiss peaks. On either side of the lake, palms, firs, and mulberry trees clustered in villages tucked at the base of steeply sloping hillsides, where yellow daffodils and violet crocuses bloomed in abundance.
Ruby lifted her chin to the breeze the locals called Breva, Lake Como’s afternoon winds from the south. She ran a hand over her dark red, shoulder-length coiffure. Though she had a top stylist who faithfully matched her trademark color, her hair was hardly the luxuriant, glossy mane that had earned her childhood nickname.
As a girl, her hair was so dark and shiny her mother called it ruby. The name stuck because Lucille Eunice was too long to call out. For her stage name, Ruby adopted her mother’s maiden name of Raines. She’d thought it sounded so fancy and elegant—and her talent agent had thought her surname of Smith was too ordinary for an actress.
While the small, private tour group of retired film actors chattered on behind her, she folded an arm across her torso, recalling the feeling of Niccolò’s arms twined around her as they’d stood on this very spot in Bellagio. His strong hands had spanned her narrow waist. At the memory, a fine, exquisite feeling filled her chest. Her love for him had never wavered, never dimmed.
This type of love was all that Ruby wished for her niece Ariana. Yet, Ruby feared Ariana might not have the chance.
My dearest, my Niccolò. They had met in the summer of 1952 on the set of Roman Holiday, which remained her favorite film. The story of an independent-thinking, runaway princess who scorns her duties for a magical escape in Rome and a taste of true love never grew old. That film had made Audrey Hepburn a star and, in a roundabout way, launched Ruby’s career in film as well.
Placing her hand over the hollow of her neck, she caressed the worn silver pendant that Audrey had given her. Ruby had been moved by her generosity, though that wasn’t the primary reason she’d cherished it.
That summer was imprinted on a movie reel in her brain—quite apart from the film shown in theaters.
It was June of 1952…
Wearing a full, sky-blue skirt with a crisp white shirt and a jaunty scarf at her neck—compliments of the wardrobe supervisor—Ruby stretched out her legs on the Spanish Steps in Rome. The Hassler, a grand hotel where Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Eddie Albert were staying, loomed above the steep stone steps.
In the summer heat, Ruby rolled her sleeves high on her arms as the wardrobe assistant had instructed and tried to focus on the script in her lap. She had to memorize the lines for her short scene.
Ruby rubbed her stomach, which was tied up in knots as tight as the bowlines her father had taught her to tie on the ranch back in Texas. Here she was, living the dream she’d imagined. A real speaking part in a film in Italy! She couldn’t believe her good fortune. Ruby had her mother to thank for this adventure.
Just below her in the piazza, Mr. Wyler and his assistant director conferred. Miss Hepburn and Mr. Peck were relaxing between takes while their hair and makeup were being refreshed. Grips and gaffers adjusted equipment and lighting. Above them, people watched from railings, and smoke from their cigarettes curled into the warm air. Their chatter would be silenced when filming began again.
A shadow crossed her script.
Ruby shielded her eyes and looked up into a pair of incredible blue eyes rimmed with thick, dark lashes and a slash of eyebrows. With sculpted cheekbones and shiny dark hair that framed a strong face, he was the most breathtakingly beautiful man she’d ever seen.
“Hi,” she managed to say as her throat constricted.
“I’m a Texan. The state used to be a republic. For ten years.” Silently, she chastised herself. Why did I say that? She’d been as nervous as a cottontail rabbit ever since she’d arrived in Rome.
A smile played on his full lips. “I’m Niccolò. Do you mind if I sit with you? We can rehearse together,” he added, opening a copy of the script.
“Ruby. Pleased to meet you.” His melodic voice made her toes curl with pleasure. “Where did you learn English so well?” she asked.
“I learned a little from my parents, but mostly at the cinema, American films, English films. I love the magical way they make you feel. I’ve wanted to act—and maybe write—for as long as I can remember. Maybe we’re alike that way.” He touched her shoulder as he spoke. “And now, here we are, part of that magic, too.”
She nodded, barely able to speak. What Niccolò said was exactly what she felt in the depths of her soul, too. “So much alike.”
Seated on the wide Spanish Steps near pots of purple bougainvillea, Ruby and Niccolò took turns practicing lines in their small scenes. Ruby was intrigued by how many different ways Niccolò could deliver his lines. He used voice inflections, facial expressions, and gestures to alter the tenor of his scene, often making her laugh.
After trying a few different approaches for her part, Ruby stopped and fanned herself with her script. She rolled up the sleeves of her white shirt another notch and loosened the scarf knotted at her neck.
“Hotter today than usual,” Niccolò said. “How about we get some gelato?”
“Sounds perfect.” Ruby pushed off the stone steps. Other people on set were taking a break, too.
Taking her hand, Niccolò led her along a busy cobblestone sidewalk. His grip was sure and confident. Holding hands seemed like the most natural thing to do, and his touch sent thrills through her.
As they passed small restaurants, a flurry of aromas jostled in the air—the scent of fresh bread, Italian herbs, and baked cheese. Ruby inhaled, savoring the intensity.
“How were you hired for Roman Holiday?” Ruby asked while they walked. She’d discovered that many cast members had worked together on other films.
“I answered a casting call,” Niccolò replied. “I acted in school, and my old teacher encouraged me to try out. She told me this was a big opportunity. How about you?”
“It was kind of a lark,” Ruby said. “My aunt lives in Los Angeles, and she knows a talent agent. On a whim, my mother sent some of my photographs. The agent liked them, so I took a train from Texas to meet him. Do you know, he sent me out for an audition the very next day?”
She shook her head, still surprised at her luck. “I don’t think I was any better than others, but the casting director told me I had the right look. My agent arranged a few acting classes for me, and the next thing I knew, I was boarding a ship for Italy. It’s all been so exciting.”
Ruby had been thrilled and amazed—especially that her father let her go to Italy. Her mother had begged him to let Ruby have a little adventure before she married and settled down. If only her mother could have come, but the fare to Italy was too costly. Her mother emptied her secret pin money earned from selling eggs that she kept in a boot in the back of the closet. Mercy Smith bought her daughter a camera and film to capture what she would never experience. Ruby promised to return with pictures.
Niccolò stopped at a narrow shop open to the street with a sign that proclaimed, Gelato fatto in casa.
“It’s as good as homemade,” Niccolò said as they ducked under an awning.“Salve, come va?” Niccolò said to the gelato vendor, an older teenager.
“Bene,” the boy replied.
While the two spoke in rapid Italian that Ruby couldn’t follow, she gazed over bins of the most luscious swirls of a frozen treat she’d ever seen.
Niccolò turned to her. “What would you like? Limone, fragola, cioccolato, pistacchio?”
“What’s fragola?” she asked.
Niccolò grinned and pointed to a rosy pink bin. “Strawberry. And that’s pistachio.”
“I can’t decide,” she said. “I like them all, but I definitely want to try pistachio.”
Niccolò said something to the other boy, who began to scoop out several flavors onto wafer cones. “You can try several,” he said. “We can share if you don’t mind.”
Balancing cones, they strolled along the strada until they reached a fountain, where they stopped to sit. The water cooled the air.
After Ruby had tried every flavor on their cones, Niccolò asked, “Which one is your favorite?”
She wanted to say, you, but instead, she said, “Pistachio. I love it.”
“Better than American ice cream?”
“Different,” she said. “But absolutely delicious.” Her cone began dripping in the heat, and she quickly licked every delectable drip.
Niccolò laughed. “Come here.”
Ruby felt a cold spot on the tip of her nose.
“Mi permetta,” he said, kissing the tip of her nose. “Like a puppy, no?”
Ruby dissolved into gales of laughter, and then, taking her finger, she swiped strawberry gelato across his nose. Making funny faces and crossing his eyes, he tried to reach it with his tongue. Finally, she swiped the gelato off with a napkin, giggling as she did.
With a heavy heart, Ruby faced the lake. If only they had known the price that life would extract from them for pursuing such pleasures.
Hepburn’s Necklace – Trailer
Purchase Link – Hepburn’s Necklace
[ Bio ]
Jan Moran is a USA Today bestselling author and Amazon All-Star Author. She has published 15+ books with St. Martin’s Press, Goldmann/Random House, and other European publishers, in addition to her own company, Sunny Palms Press.
She writes upmarket women’s fiction, including 20th-century historicals such as The Chocolatier and Hepburn’s Necklace, and the contemporary Summer Beach series, Seabreeze Inn and Coral Cottage –each contains light, tasteful romantic elements and little to no profanity. Jan is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the University of Texas at Austin and lives in Southern California near the beach with her family.
Twitter ~ @janmoran
Website ~ Author Jan Moran | Women’s Fiction, Beach Reads & Romance