You can take the girl out of Ireland...
Izzie Silver -- a warmhearted Irishwoman with a mane of chestnut hair and a zest for life -- is a New York success story, a highly successful booking agent at a top-notch modeling agency. But while she dreams of starting an agency for plus-sized models, at heart she's still the convent schoolgirl from the exquisite Irish coastal town of Tamarin. Which is why falling in love with a married man is something Izzie couldn't possibly imagine herself doing -- until it happens. And it's something she feels she could never tell her beloved family.
...but you 'll never take Ireland out of the girl.
Meanwhile, back in Tamarin, there's heartache, too. Izzie's aunt Anneliese is trying to hide her pain at her husband's betrayal of their marriage. And Lily -- family matriarch and still feisty despite being nearly ninety -- is taken ill. In her hospital bed, she reveals a tantalizing hint of a secret she has kept for decades, from her time as a 1930s servant girl at the local big house, before she ran off to London during World War Two to train as a nurse. Will the family be torn apart by the secrets they can't reveal...or will they have the courage to share their heartbreak and their joy?
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Cathy Kelly is the Irish bestselling author of twelve other novels, many of which have been number one bestsellers in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. She lives in Ireland with her husband and twin sons. In 2005 she was appointed an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland. Contact her on Twitter at @cathykellybooks or follow her on Facebook or at CathyKelly.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The New Mexico sun was riding high in the sky when the Zest catalog shoot finally broke up for lunch. Izzie Silver stood up and stretched to her full five feet nine inches, glorying in the drowsy heat that had already burnished the freckles on her arms despite her careful application of SPF 50 sunscreen.
Truly Celtic people -- with milk-bottle skin, dots of caramel freckles and bluish veins on their wrists -- only ever went one color in the sun: lobster red. And lobster red was never going to be a fashionable color, except for early stage melanomas.
It was her second day on the shoot and Izzie could feel her New Yorker-by-adoption blood slowing down to match the sinuous pace of desert life. Manhattan and Perfect-NY Model Agency, who'd sent her here to make sure nothing went wrong on a million-dollar catalog shoot involving three of their models, seemed a long way away.
If she had been in New York, she would have been sitting at her desk with the rest of the bookers: phone headset on, skinny latte untouched on her desk and a stack of messages piled up waiting for her. The office was in a sleek block off Houston, heavy on glass bricks and Perspex chandeliers and light on privacy.
At lunch, she'd be rushing down to the little beauty salon on Seventh where she got her eyebrows waxed or taking a quick detour uptown into Anthropologie on West Broadway to see if they had any more of those adorable little soap dishes shaped like seashells. Not that she needed more junk in her bathroom, mind you; it was like a beauty spa in there as it was.
In between scheduling other people's lives, she'd be mentally scrolling through her own, thinking of her Pilates class that night and whether she had the energy for it. And thinking of him. Joe.
Weird, wasn't it, how a person could be a stranger to you and then, in an instant, become your whole life? How did that happen, anyway?
And why him? When he was the most inconvenient, wrong person for her to love. Just when she thought she'd cracked this whole life thing, along came Joe to show her that nothing ever worked out the way you wanted it to. You have no control -- random rules.
Izzie hated random, loathed it, despised it. She liked being in charge.
At least being here gave her the space to think, even if she was missing her eyebrow appointment, her Pilates and -- most important -- dinner with Joe. Because Joe took up so much space in her head and in her heart that she couldn't think clearly when he was around.
Here at Chaco Ranch, with the vast hazy spread of dusty land around her and the big sky that seemed to fill more than the horizon, clear thinking felt almost mandatory.
Izzie felt as much at home as if she was sitting on the back porch of her grandmother's house in Tamarin, where sea orchids dotted the grass and the scent of the ocean filled the air.
Chaco Ranch, just thirty minutes away from the buzz of Santa Fe, was a sprawling, white-painted ranch house, sitting like an exquisite piece of turquoise in the middle of sweeping red ochre.
And though it was geographically a long way from Tamarin, the small Irish coastal town where Izzie had grown up, the two places shared that same rare quality that mañana was far too urgent a word and that perhaps the day after tomorrow was time enough for what had to be done.
While the ranch was landlocked with huge cacti and mesquite trees guarding the house and mountains rising up behind them, Tamarin sat perilously on rocks, the houses clinging to steep hills as if the roar of the Atlantic would send them tumbling down.
In both places, Izzie decided, the landscape made people aware of just how puny they were in the grand scheme of things.
The consequent tranquillity of the ranch had calmed everyone down at least as much as two hours of Bikram yoga would.
Bookers rarely went on shoots: their work was confined to the office, living on the phone, relying on email as they juggled their models' lives effortlessly. But Zest was an important client and Izzie's bosses had decided it was worth flying her in, just in case anything went wrong on this first shoot for a whole new Zest line.
"I love this place," Izzie had said to the blond ranch owner the morning before, when the crew had arrived with enough clothes, makeup, hair spray and photographic equipment to make a small movie, and enough adrenaline to power a large town.
Mexican-inspired arches in the walls, tiled courtyards hung with Moroccan lights, and dreamy wall hangings made locally gave the place depth. Local artists' handiwork hung cheek by jowl with pieces by international artists, and there were two walls dedicated to haunting photographs of the Anasazi ruins.
The ranch owner had waved slender brown arms that rattled with silver and turquoise bangles and explained that Chaco Canyon, where her treasured photos had been taken, was home to a flea that still carried bubonic plague.
"Could we get some?" deadpanned Izzie. "Not for me, you understand, but I've got some people I'd like the flea to bite."
"I thought you fashion people had no sense of humor." The blond woman grinned.
"Only me, sorry," Izzie said. "It's a hindrance in fashion, to be honest. Some of these people cry at night over hemline lengths, and if you are not a True Fashion Believer, then they try to kill you with their Manolo spike heels or else batter you to death with their copy of Vogue's new collections edition. Personally, I think a sense of humor helps."
"And you're not a True Fashion Believer?" asked the woman, staring at the tall redhead curiously.
"Hey, look at me," laughed Izzie, smoothing her palms over her firm, curvy body. "True Fashion Believers think food is for wimps, so I certainly don't qualify. I've never done the South Beach or the Atkins, and I just cannot give up carbohydrates. These are crucial in True Fashion."
In an alternate universe, Izzie Silver could have been a model. Everyone told her so when she was a kid growing up in Tamarin. She had the look -- huge eyes, colored a sort of dusty heliotrope blue with glossy thick lashes like starfishes around them, and a generous mouth that made her cheekbones rise into gleaming apples when she smiled. Her caramel mane of thick hair made her look like a Valkyrie standing on her own longboat, curls flying and fierce majesty in her face. And she was tall, with long, graceful legs perfect for ballet, until she grew so much that she towered over all the other little ballerinas.
There was only one issue: her size. When she was twelve, she stood five feet six in her socks and weighed one hundred and ten pounds.
Now, aged thirty-nine, she wore a U.S. size ten. In an industry where skinniness was a prize beyond rubies, Izzie Silver stood out for many reasons.
With her perfect hourglass figure, like a sized-up Venus, she was proof that big was beautiful. She loved food, turned heads everywhere she went and made the hollow-eyed fashion junkies look like fragile twigs in danger of cracking inside and out.
She liked her size and never dieted.
In fashion, this was the equivalent of saying that polyester was your favorite fabric.
Joe Hansen had been mildly surprised when she told him she worked in the fashion industry the first day they met. They'd been seated across the table from each other at a charity lunch -- an event Izzie had only gone to by the strangest, totally random circumstances, which proved her point that random ruled.
She hadn't thought he'd noticed her, until suddenly, she'd seen that flicker in his eyes: a glint to add to the mirror-mosaic glints already there.
Hello, you, she'd thought wistfully.
It had been so long since she'd found a man attractive that she almost wasn't sure what that strange quiver in her belly was. But if it was attraction, she tried to suppress it. She had no time for men anymore. They messed things up, messed people's heads up and caused nothing but trouble. Work -- nice solid work where you toiled away and achieved something real that nobody could take away from you -- and having good friends, that was what life was about.
But if she'd discounted him, he clearly hadn't discounted her. From her position across the table Izzie could feel Joe taking her in admiringly, astonished to see that she was so earthy and real. She'd eaten her bread roll with relish, even briefly licked a swirl of butter off her finger. Carbs and fats: criminal. The city was full of fashion people, and common wisdom held that they were skinny, high-maintenance beings, always following some complicated diet. Izzie didn't try to be different. She'd just never tried to be the same.
"God made you tall so men could look up to you," Gran used to say. Her grandmother had stepped into her mother's place when Mum died of cancer when Izzie was just thirteen. Izzie wasn't sure how her grandmother had managed to steer her around the tricky path of being a big girl in a world of women who wanted to be thin, but she'd done it.
Izzie liked how she looked. And so, it seemed, did the man across from her.
He was surrounded by skinny charity queens, spindly legs set elegantly on equally spindly-legged gilt chairs, and he was staring at her. No, staring wasn't the right word: gazing at her hungrily, that summed it up.
Lots of men looked at Izzie like that. She was used to it; not in a cavalier, couldn't-care-less way, but certainly she barely glanced at the men who stared at her. She honestly didn't need their stares to make her feel whole. But when Joe Hansen looked at her like that, he flipped her world upside down.
The most shocking thing was that when his eyes were on her, she could feel the old Izzie -- uncompromising, strong, happy in her own skin -- slip away, to be replaced by a woman who wanted this compelling stranger to think her beautiful.
"You know, honey, from what I hear, that whole fashion world sounds kinda like hard work," sighed the ranch owner to Izzie now, hauling her mind awa...
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