About Runway: #3 in the Love California Series | Author Jan Moran
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.

About Runway: #3 in the Love California Series

Runway-by-Jan-Moran-640x1024RUNWAY is the third in the Love California series, my contemporary women's fiction/romance series. RUNWAY is the story of Fianna Fitzgerald, a fashion designer whose debut runway season is sabotaged — and did I mention the Irish rock star, Niall Finley? This fun, heartfelt story takes place in Malibu, Dublin, and Beverly Hills. The first in the series is  FLAWLESS, followed by BEAUTY MARK.

Read on for a review, plus a peek at the first chapter from RUNWAY.

RUNWAY Book Review from Blogging Under the Shade Tree by Karen Laird

I first had the privilege of meeting Jan Moran when I read and reviewed her first book in the Love California series, Flawless.  She swept me away with the high society, fast action, and ruthlessness that lies beneath the glossy veneer of the beauty industry.  Each of her subsequent installments has seemed to up the ante and have continued to peel back the layers of the industry as Jan shares the stories of each of a group of friends that are deeply involved in the beauty market in Beverly Hills, California, as well as other markets across the globe.

Runway, Jan Moran’s current offering, did not disappoint this reader.  Fianna was already a well-favored character in the first two books, so when Jan devoted this third book to Fianna and her love of fashion, I squealed in delight.  The very vision of a tall Irish beauty with coppery locks and a striking brown/green eye combination that would knock the socks off most any guy who watched her walk the catwalk, or down Beverly Hills Blvd in one of her creations turned my five foot three, grey-haired eyes green with envy.  Long legs are one thing this girl never owned.

Jan has a knack for bringing her characters back to earth.  She reaches behind all the trappings of the glitz, lights, and glimmer of the Runway world and allows her characters to be human.  They have real family issues that the reader can identify with.  Even with a fast-paced mystery and the impossible Love we would die for walking through the door, she continues to keep her characters grounded in day-to-day issues of living.

In Fianna, she bestows upon her an extra share of caring and a large heart that sees others first, even in the midst of her own crisis.  She also provided the readers with some wonderful eye candy on the hero side of the aisle with a retiring Irish rock star who is a widower.  Just based on the book’s description, all I could hear, every time it talked about him singing was one of those gorgeous Irish Tenors just crooning away in those hypnotizing Irish brogues.  My heart was sunk.

Jan Moran’s heroines are strong, dominant women who have made their way into the beauty world, have battled against the odds, and have the mental acuity to go head-to-head against the obstacles that fall in their path.  They care deeply for their families and for their friends.  Their loyalty is without question.  They love deeply and with great sensuality.  Not only are the storylines fast-paced and well written, but there are also scenes that leave you in a sweat.  Jan is quickly becoming a major contender in the Women’s Fiction market for just cause.

Runway, receives a strong FIVE STAR rating from this reader, with a strong recommendation to read the first two books in the Hostile Beauty Series: FLAWLESS, and BEAUTY MARK.

Get RUNWAY now.

RUNWAY Chapter 1 Excerpt:

Malibu, California

Camera flashes exploded on the red carpet just ten feet from Fianna. She blinked against brilliant blue-white auras blurring her vision, straining to see the media’s reaction. Amid the lights and the flicking whir of digital cameras, a slender young actress swirled and posed in Fianna’s platinum evening dress, the silk rippling around her legs. Snap, snap, snap. Spearheaded by a top entertainment attorney and his wife, an A-list talent agent who probably out-earned him, The Pink Ball to benefit The Women in Pink cancer foundation was one of the most well-attended charity functions in Beverly Hills. Snap, snap.

Fianna breathed a sigh of relief. Her evening design shone to perfection now, but an hour ago, she’d been taking in the side seams for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee, who was so nervous she hadn’t eaten much in days, and had lost weight. “I’ll never know how Giselle keeps her composure through such intense media scrutiny. But she seems to come alive under pressure.” Fianna hoped she could do the same tonight.

“It’s the adrenaline rush. She’s doing great.” Penelope touched Fianna’s arm in support. “And so are you. Glad you could fill in at the last minute.”

“Thanks again for pitching me.” Fianna watched as Giselle swirled and posed once more, dazzling the media that lined the entrance to the grand tented affair on the grounds of a private estate in Malibu, where the ocean lapped just outside the power couple’s home. They’d bought the house next door for double-digit millions and demolished it, just so they’d have privacy and room to entertain.

“We have about two hours…cocktails, introductions, dinner, closing speech, and then we’re on.” Penelope raised a dark, high arched brow, a striking contrast to her spiky pink cut, dyed especially for the event. With her high cheekbones and expressive eyes, she carried it off with aplomb, lending elegance to the avant-garde color. “Nervous?”

Fianna realized she was chewing on a freshly manicured nail. “You know I am.” She shoved her hands into the sleek black knit jumpsuit she’d chosen to wear backstage.

Penelope was an internationally known Danish model who walked the runways of the world’s top fashion designers from New York to Paris, London to Milan. When the fashion designer who had been scheduled for the runway show had been found dead in a hotel room in Las Vegas, his family had canceled their involvement. Penelope was one of the models cast to walk, so she’d immediately pitched Fianna as a replacement. No other designers could act as quickly as Fianna could, so she’d won the opportunity.

“I still have a lot of staging to do,” Fianna said. Giselle moved on to give an interview to a television reporter, and Fianna could hear her talk about her dress, which the reporter gushed over. So far, so good. Connected to the elaborate main tent was another tented dressing area that had been erected for the models. The whole gilded affair had cost a fortune and looked like something from The Arabian Nights. But it was worth it; millions would be raised tonight for a good cause.

Penelope nodded toward a photographer. “I’ll come with you. I have to get in makeup.”

Mounting a runway show was a costly endeavor, and the fashion media was ruthless. As a relative newcomer to the fashion scene, Fianna hadn’t yet planned a Fashion Week show of her collection. However, several months ago her aunt Davina had asked her to give a show in Dublin, the timing of which coincided with her cousin's wedding, so Fianna already had a small collection prepared. Her friends had urged her on, calling it kismet. So she’d swung into action at her tiny Robertson Boulevard shop, which she’d opened with a loan from her aunt.

When they reached the backstage area, Fianna stepped inside. To the outsider, it looked like chaos, but Fianna was in her element. The colorful, gauzy, romantic clothes she’d designed were arranged like a rainbow on racks, shoes and accessories were neatly organized to accompany each outfit, and notes and sketches detailed each look. At a bank of mirrors, makeup artists and hairstylists were working on models, highlighting and contouring, spiking, and fluffing. Lanky young women waited their turn, chatting, flipping through Vogue, or swaying to music piped through headphones.

Penelope pulled her shirt off over her head and then slipped into a thin wrap. She eased her slender, well-toned frame into a director’s chair.

Laughter bubbled from one corner, and Fianna frowned at a man wearing dark smoky sunglasses and high-tech earbuds seated next to a model. His long, dark blond hair was brushed from his forehead, grazing his white linen shirt in the back. He stretched out his long legs and laced his fingers behind his neck. “Who’s that?”

“Must be her boyfriend.”

The backstage area was crowded as it was, and she didn’t need some creepy guy ogling the models as they raced to change. She made her way to them. “Hi, Kaitlin. Sorry, but I have to ask your guest to leave. No backstage passes tonight, this is business.” She pressed her lips together. This young model was a last-minute addition after others had dropped out. Fianna had chosen her based on her model card. She made a note to be more careful in the future.

“Oh, sure,” Kaitlin replied. “Niall was just leaving.”

The man removed an earbud from his ear. “Your music is all wrong.”

Fianna glared at him. “What?”

He waved a hand toward the rack of clothing. “It doesn’t fit with your clothes.”

She immediately recognized his trace Irish accent. It smacked of the city. Dublin, she’d bet. “Look Niall, I’m not changing it now. And how do you know about the music I chose?”

“I talked to the sound engineer.”

Growing even more irritated, Fianna folded her arms. “Why would you do that? This is my show.” Finding the right music had taken a long time, and it was far too late to start over.

“Sure, and I figured you’ve worked hard. So your show should be the best it can be.” He held the earbuds to her. “I gave your engineer this music. If you like it, use it.”

The nerve of this guy. “I don’t have time for this. I don’t know who you think you are, but I don’t appreciate you going behind my back.” She shot a look at Kaitlin, who was suppressing a smile.

She wouldn’t hire her again.

His lips curved into a grin, further infuriating her. And he still hadn’t removed his sunglasses. Why did people wear sunglasses at night? It was so pretentious. Who did he think he was, Brad Pitt? Or some wanna-be rocker? LA was full of those types, and she steered clear of them. All they wanted were groupies and invitations to the Playboy mansion. And what was with the ridiculous full-sleeved poet’s shirt he wore?

“Come on, just listen.”

“Get out now.” She pointed toward the exit, her finger wavering with anger.

He shook his head, sliding a lock of hair behind an ear. “You can’t tell me you’re happy with that music. Not until you hear this, anyway.” He unplugged a cord from his phone and tapped the screen.

“That’s it. I’m calling security.” She turned to leave, but a haunting, lilting melody filled the air, and she hesitated, her feet inextricably rooted to the ground.

She lowered her eyelids. At once the music transported her to Ireland; in her mind’s eye, she saw rolling emerald hills, smelled the sweet scent of peat logs spiraling from country cottage chimneys. She shuddered as the mesmerizing melody increased in intensity, serenading her Celtic soul. Artistic passion awakened and bloomed within her, and she felt herself sway in rhythm to the melody.

Niall’s deep voice rumbled behind her. “It’s perfect, isn’t it?”

Her eyes flew open. How arrogant of him. She whirled around, ready to kick him out. But the room had fallen quiet, and others were also transfixed by the magical score. A flash of inspiration soared through her, and she glanced at the designs she’d created. She pressed a hand to her chest as if to stem the tide of anger washing from her. She had every right to be furious, but she’d never heard anything like this before.

“The engineer has this music?”

Niall nodded.

She lifted her chin and flipped her fiery red mane over her shoulder. “Then I’ll have him use it.”

“That’s a grand decision.” Another grin spread across his face. “If you don’t mind, I’ll see to it for you.”

Fianna shrugged her acceptance, though she was inwardly thrilled. The music set the mood she’d envisioned. “Whose work is it?”

“Just some lad’s.” He rose and sauntered toward the exit. With his broad shoulders, lean waist, and shoulder-length hair, he could’ve been a male model or a nineteenth-century artist. The sleeves of his shirt were turned back, and dark trousers skimmed his hips.

Fianna stared after him. There was something familiar in the way he moved, though if she’d ever met him before she would have remembered. She dragged her attention away from him and twisted her thick hair into a messy bun to cool her neck against the sudden heat that surged through her. And she’d taken such pains to have her curls blown into a sleek style for the show. She clapped her hands. “Come on, everyone, back to work.”

A makeup artist called out. “Who’s next?”

Penelope caught Fianna’s gaze. “What about your makeup, Fianna? You’ll have to take a bow, too.” A team of makeup artists from High Gloss, the cosmetics company for which Penelope served as a spokesperson, was cycling the models though. “You’d look great in these new colors.” Penelope had helped the company create a new line that carried her name.

“Five minutes, that’s all I can spare.” Fianna sat next to Penelope, watching her friend’s transformation in the mirror as the makeup artist went to work. Her artist touched Fianna’s chin to scrutinize her face, and the woman’s mouth formed an “O” with surprise. Fianna blinked and quirked a corner of her mouth. “It’s a condition called heterochromia iridium.” She had one slate blue eye, and the other was hazelnut brown. It was always a challenge at the makeup counter.

The makeup artist twisted her mouth to one side in thought. “For your eyes, I’ll try purple, no, maybe green. Or cognac brown…”

Penelope winked at her in the mirror.

Fianna closed her eyes as the High Gloss artist selected her brushed and colors and went to work. A five minutes respite, that’s what she needed.

Fianna stood by the entrance to the runway with her list, checking each model before she strutted onto the runway. The gorgeous young women were lined up like gazelles, some fussing with their outfits, others jiggling a leg or clicking fingernails in anticipation. Even though they were professionals, they were still young and excited.

A stylist twisted hair and sprayed tendrils, while another wielded a lipstick brush, touching up glossy lips. The magical melody flooded the night and spotlights blinked on. The time had come.

“Are you ready?” Fianna asked Penelope, her voice wavering with nerves.

“Relax, I’ve got this.” Penelope winked, then her expression changed as she got ready to lead off the show. “And your designs are fabulous.”

Would the critics think so, too?

Looking slightly haughty with a sensual pout, Penelope took to the runway with an experienced step, prancing in rhythm with the soulful music that filled the night. The layered silk skirt she wore flowed behind her. After an expert swish and turn, applause thundered through the room.

Fianna smiled with relief. Penelope could make a Hefty bag look like a million dollars. The next model stepped up. Fianna adjusted a sleeve and sent her out.

“You’re an absolute goddess, Penelope.” Fianna blew a kiss to her friend as Penelope glided off the stage and hurried to change. Kaitlin was next in line.

“Dip your chin a little, Kaitlin. There, that’s it.” Fianna whispered, fluffing the romantic lace ruffles that flowed around a deep neckline, framing the young model’s face and shoulders. She was lovely; no wonder Niall couldn’t keep away from her. Fianna waited for a beat in the music. “Now go.”

Glancing out, Fianna watched Kaitlin strut down the runway and pause. She had to admit, she was good.

Fianna glanced out and was pleased to see her friends at a nearby table. Verena Valent, who ran a skincare company, Scarlett Sandoval, an intellectual property attorney who specialized in fashion and beauty, and Dahlia Dubois, whose family ran one of the oldest perfume companies in the U.S. She had dressed them all, too, eager to showcase as many of her designs tonight as she could.

Kaitlin turned and applause rippled across the room again.

“Let’s keep it going, ladies.” Fianna snapped her fingers above her head and turned her attention to the next model. This was all she’d ever dreamed of—a runway show of her own to introduce her designs.

One after another, Fianna sent the models out in rapid succession. And each one met with applause and approval, and until finally, she sent her evening gown selections out, with Penelope leading the way once again.

Fianna looked out. Not even her closest friends had seen these. Judging from their expressions, as well as those on the faces of fashion buyers, members of the press, and high profile charity donors, everyone loved them.

“Hurry, hurry,” she said to the models. “Now, everyone out again, all together.” All the girls returned to the runway for a final walk and a storm of applause.

“Bravo, bravo,” she heard from the audience. Fianna drew a hand through her bright auburn mane. It was over, and she’d survived.

“Come out and take your bow,” Penelope said, taking her hand and pulling her onto the runway.

Fianna paused for a moment, drinking in the sight to remember. My first show. A smile spread across her face as she raised her hands in acknowledgment of the audience and then applauded her models. She bowed, blew kisses, and bowed again.

Penelope took Fianna’s hand again and led her offstage. “Everyone loved it,” she said and hugged Fianna as soon as they were backstage. “You did it, Fianna! How does it feel?”

“Honestly, my head is still spinning. It moved so fast.”

“It sure does,” Penelope said, laughing with her. “But you did a great job. You’re a real pro. You were the calmest new designer I think I’ve ever seen. Most of them are half crazed or half blitzed.”

“I was more like scared stiff,” Fianna added, grinning.

“That’s because you’re a sane one. Genius doesn’t always reside with sanity. When it does, the stage for greatness is set.”

All the models hugged her or kissed her cheek as they filed back, and crystal champagne flutes were quickly passed around. “Here’s to an incredible show, thank you all for a fantastic job out there. You made my designs look amazing.”

“That was easy enough because they are,” Kaitlin said, raising her glass. “And here’s to you, Fianna.”

Fianna smiled. Kaitlin’s expression was genuine, and she seemed like a sweet young woman. She was probably the youngest of the group. Niall and Kaitlin were certainly an attractive couple.

Niall. Why was she still thinking of him? But she had to find him and thank him for the music. With its evocative melody, it had really helped make the show. Everything had synergy—from the models to her clothes, from the music and to the lighting. If anything was out of sync, the show would suffer. Tonight, as if by magic, all the elements had coalesced, and all the stars had lined up in the celestial heavens for her.

Tonight was her night.

All Fianna needed was someone to celebrate with. She sipped her champagne, crinkling her nose at the bubbles. She loved her friends, but she wished she had someone special in her life.

Her mother often told her she had made a huge mistake leaving behind the man who loved her in Ireland. Was that true? A demanding man might get in the way of her aspirations, of the passion for her craft that many could not understand. Especially her mother. And yet, as much as she loved what she did, she missed having someone with whom she could confide her deepest thoughts and desires. She often stole glances at Verena and Lance, or Scarlett and Johnny. They seemed so happy together.

“Kaitlin, do you know where I can find Niall?” Fianna asked. “I’d like to thank him again for the music.”

“He said he was joining some of his friends.” Kaitlin giggled. “Look for a group of handsome guys, and you’ll find him.” She lowered her voice. “But I think they’re all taken.”

“Well, Niall is certainly taken with you.” Before Kaitlin could say anything else, Fianna excused herself. She gave instructions to her assistant and the interns who were helping her organize clothes and accessories, and then decided to look for Niall.

As she pushed the door to the event space open, she wished Davina were here. Only her aunt understood how much tonight meant to her. The youngest of her mother’s sisters, Davina had been like an older sister to her at first, and later, more like a surrogate mother. Davina had been one of the most popular runway models of her day before she retired.

Watching her aunt on the runway had sparked Fianna’s passion for fashion design. Davina had helped her with her application to FIDM, the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Her mother had refused to condone such “nonsense,” as she called her daughter’s creative ambitions, saying it was much more sensible to find a man, marry, and begin a family, since that’s what she would do anyway. Why run away to America to study when one had no intention of ever using that knowledge?

And then Fianna had opened her boutique on Robertson Boulevard, and her mother had stopped talking to her. So much for being proud of her daughter.

At least her sister Lizzie was getting married soon. That would alleviate some of the pressure.

Fianna paused and looked around. The crowd showed no signs of thinning out, and a singer was setting up on another stage. No doubt the party would last long into the night.

“Fianna, come join us.” Verena was waving to her from the table where her friends were seated. “You should have seen it from out here. It was the best runway show I’ve ever seen. And the crowd loved it. Imagine, even Greta Hicks had a smile on her face.”

“That’s a good sign.” The Fashion News Daily reporter was not one to conceal what she thought.

“I bet you’ll have great coverage in the media. And I heard this event raised the most money ever for the Women in Pink Foundation, even topping last year.” Verena had been honored the prior year at the foundation’s fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

A well-built athletic man in a tuxedo seated next to Verena leaned toward them, draping his arm around Verena. With a tender movement, he straightened the thin strap of the romantic, flowing dress in rosy pink Fianna had picked out for Verena to wear, which was perfect with her alabaster skin and fair blond hair. “Nothing could top that night,” Lance said. “That’s the night Verena and I met. This is our one year anniversary.”

Verena laughed. “And what a year it’s been.” She clasped Fianna’s hand. “For all of us. This is your dream, Fianna. I’m so happy we’re all here tonight.”

“Who’s at the restaurant?” Lance and his partner, Johnny, had opened a restaurant called Bow-Tie a few months ago.

“We have an assistant manager now,” Lance said. “Since it’s a weeknight, it’s not too crowded.”

Fianna winked at him. “You mean, only a dozen or two people waiting to get in, as opposed to the line down the block on the weekends? I’m awfully glad I know you guys or I’d never set foot inside.”

A dark-haired man with a red bow-tie leaned over and pecked her on the check. “That’s what friends are for, mi amiga.”

“Johnny, it’s so good to see you. Where’s Scarlett?”

A smile lit his face as looked past her. “My lovely lady is coming this way. She stopped to talk to Greta.” He held a hand out to a coppery blonde woman wearing one of Fianna’s designs, a ruby red gown. She moved through the crowd with calm assurance.

“Scarlett, what did you think?”

“I think I’ve got a licensing deal in the works for you. That was a magnificent show.” Scarlett Sandoval was an intellectual property attorney, and since she’d opened her own practice she’d promised to help Fianna secure licensing agreements for accessories such as purses and sunglasses.

“This is certainly your night, Fianna,” Verena said. “The Saks west coast divisional manager for fashion just left, but she told me she’s going to contact you about your line.”

Fianna let out a little squeal. “And where’s Dahlia? I can smell her fabulous perfume lingering here at the table.”

Scarlett laughed. “I think we’re all wearing one of her perfumes tonight. And Verena’s skincare. Last I saw, Dahlia was going to the dance floor.”

Fianna turned in her chair. The music had started again, and the dance floor was filling fast. She saw a petite, dark-haired woman wearing the black evening gown she designed with her in mind. It was reminiscent of the classic dress in artist John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Madame X. Fianna tilted her head, appraising the look. The sweetheart neckline and nipped waist were perfect on Dahlia.

Scarlett shot a look at Verena. “What do you think of her date?”

“We don’t really know him,” Verena said, seeming to choose her words with care.

Fianna was intrigued. “What’s he like?”

Scarlett twisted her mouth to one side, and Verena threw her a “be nice” glance. “What I meant was that it’s probably a little daunting meeting your date’s friends all at once,” Scarlett said.

“How diplomatic.” Fianna grinned. “But Scarlett, that’s what I love about you. You always tell it like it is.”

“That’s the attorney in her.” Verena sighed. “Scarlett, the poor guy’s not on trial tonight. You’ve been going after him like you’re interrogating him.”

“So? I look after my friends.” Scarlett winked. “But I got some good information, didn’t I?”

Fianna shook her head, amused. She was sure she’d hear the whole story later. “I’d love to stay with you, but I’m looking for someone, and I want to catch him before he leaves.”

Johnny waggled his eyebrows. “And who’s the lucky guy?”

“Just one of the model’s dates. He gave me the music to use. His name is Niall.”

“Niall’s here?” Johnny shot a look at Lance. “I thought I recognized that music.”

“Oh, you know who he is?” Fianna rose from the table, craning her neck. She thought she caught a glimpse of him striding toward an exit.

Johnny raised his brow. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I nearly threw him out for hanging around backstage. But he turned out to be really helpful. Excuse me, I think I see him.” Fianna darted through the crowd after him. She felt curiously drawn to him. He was Kaitlin’s boyfriend, but she had to speak to him.

She reached the exit and stepped from the red carpet onto the soft sand. She reached down and slipped off her black heels. Shoes dangling in her hand, she started for the shoreline.

At once she saw him, and her heart quickened. The moonlight illuminated his broad silhouette. He jerked his arm and threw something into the water.

Fianna was suddenly incensed. Having grown up on the island of Ireland, she was protective of the ocean. She marched toward him. What was he throwing into the sea?

Continue reading RUNWAY now…

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