A magical transformation takes place in Danielle Steel’s luminous new novel: strangers become roommates, roommates become friends, and friends become a family in a turn-of-the-century house in Manhattan’s West Village.
The plumbing was prone to leaks, the furniture rescued from garage sales. And every square inch was being devotedly restored to its original splendor—even as a relationship fell to pieces. Now Francesca Thayer, newly separated from her lawyer boyfriend Todd, is desperate. The owner of a struggling art gallery, and suddenly the sole mortgage payer on her Greenwich Village townhouse, Francesca does the math and then the unimaginable. She puts out an advertisement for boarders. Soon her house becomes a whole new world.
First comes Eileen, a fresh, pretty L.A. transplant, now a New York City schoolteacher. Then there’s Chris, a young father struggling with a troubled ex-wife and the challenge of parenting a seven-year-old son who visits every other weekend. The final tenant is Marya, a celebrated cookbook author hoping to start a new chapter in her life after the death of her husband. As Francesca’s art gallery begins to find its footing and Todd moves on to another woman, she discovers that her accidental tenants have become the most important people in her life.
As the roommates bond, and the house fills with the aroma of Marya’s exquisite cuisine, there are shadows as well as light. Naïve Eileen explores the precarious boundaries of online dating with a series of strangers. Chris’s custody fight for his son escalates to devastating levels. Marya faces an unexpected choice that will take her into untested waters. And Francesca herself will contemplate what had seemed impossible: opening her heart once more.
Over the course of one amazing, unforgettable, ultimately life-changing year, the house at 44 Charles Street fills with laughter, heartbreak, and, always, hope. In the hands of master storyteller Danielle Steel, it’s a place those who visit will never want to leave.
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Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors, with over 590 million copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Happy Birthday, 44 Charles Street, Legacy, Family Ties, Big Girl, Southern Lights, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Francesca Thayer sat at her desk until the figures started to blur
before her eyes. She had been over them a thousand times in
the past two months—and had just spent the entire weekend trying
to crunch numbers. They always came out the same. It was three
o’clock in the morning and her long wavy blond hair was a tangled
mess as she unconsciously ran her hands through it again. She was
trying to save her business and her house, and so far she hadn’t
been able to come up with a solution. Her stomach turned over as
she thought of losing both.
She and Todd had started the business together four years ago.
They’d opened an art gallery in New York’s West Village where they
specialized in showing the work of emerging artists at extremely
reasonable prices. She had a deep commitment to the artists she
represented. Her experience in the art world had been extensive,
although Todd had none at all. Before that, she had run two other
galleries, one uptown after she graduated, and the other in Tribeca.
But this gallery that they had started together was her dream. She
had a degree in fine arts, her father was a well- known artist who
had become very successful in recent years, and the gallery she
shared with Todd had gotten excellent reviews. Todd was an avid
collector of contemporary work, and he thought that helping her
start the gallery would be fun. At the time, Todd was tired of his
own career on Wall Street as an attorney. He had a considerable
amount of money saved and figured he could coast for a few years.
The business plan he had developed for them showed them making
money within three years. He hadn’t counted on Francesca’s passion
for less expensive work by entirely unknown artists, helping
them whenever possible, nor had he realized that her main goal
was showcasing the work, but not necessarily making a lot of
money at it. Her hunger for financial success was far more limited
than his. She was as much a patron of the arts as a gallerist. Todd
was in it to make money. He thought it would be exciting and a
welcome change of career for him after years of doing tax and estate
work for an important law firm. But now he said he was tired
of listening to their bleeding- heart artists, watching his nest egg
dwindle to next to nothing, and being poor. As far as Todd was concerned,
this was no longer fun. He was forty years old, and wanted
to make real money again. When he talked to her about it he had
already lined up a job at a Wall Street firm. They were promising
him a partnership within a year. As far as selling art was concerned,
he was done.
Francesca wanted to stick with it and make the gallery a success,
whatever it took. And unlike Todd, she didn’t mind being broke.
But in the past year, their relationship had begun to unravel, which
made their business even less appealing to him. They argued about
everything, what they did, who they saw, what to do about the
gallery. She found the artists, worked with them, and curated the
shows. Todd handled the money end of things and paid the bills.
The worst of it was that their relationship was over now too.
They had been together for five years. Francesca had just turned
thirty when she met him, and Todd was thirty- five.
It was hard for her to believe that a relationship that had seemed
so solid could fall apart so totally in a year. They had never wanted
to get married and now they disagreed about that too. When Todd
hit forty, he suddenly decided he wanted a conventional life. Marriage
was sounding good to him and he didn’t want to wait much
longer to have kids. At thirty- five, she still wanted what she had
when they met five years before. They had talked about maybe
having kids one day, but she wanted to turn their gallery into a success
first. Francesca had been very honest with him about marriage
when they met, that she had an aversion to it. She had had a frontrow
seat all her life to her mother’s obsession with getting married—
and she watched her screw it up five times. Francesca had spent her
entire life trying not to make the same mistakes. Her mother had
always been an embarrassment to her. And she had no desire whatsoever
to start emulating her now.
Francesca’s parents had gotten divorced when she was six. She
had also watched her extremely handsome, charming, irresponsible
father drift in and out of relationships, usually with very young
girls who never lasted in his life for more than six months. That,
combined with her mother’s fetish for marriage, had made
Francesca commitment- phobic until she met Todd. His parents’
own bitter divorce when he was fourteen had made him skittish
about marriage too. They had had that in common, but now he had
begun to think that marriage made sense. He told her he was tired
of their bohemian lifestyle where people lived together and thought
it was fine to have kids without getting married. As soon as Todd
blew out the candles on his fortieth birthday cake, it was as if a
switch were turned on, and without any warning, he turned traditional
on her. Francesca preferred things exactly as they were and
had always been.
Now suddenly, in recent months, all of Todd’s friends seemed to
live uptown. He complained about the West Village where they
lived, and which she loved. He thought the neighborhood and people
in it looked scuzzy. To complicate matters further, not long after
they opened the gallery, they had fallen in love with a house that
was in serious disrepair. They had discovered it on a snowy December
afternoon and were instantly excited, and had gotten it at
a great price because of the condition it was in. They restored it together,
doing most of the work themselves. If they weren’t working
in the gallery, they were busy with the house, and within a year
everything in it gleamed. They bought furniture at garage sales,
and little by little they had turned it into a home they loved. Now
Todd claimed that he had spent all of the last four years lying under
a leaky sink, or making repairs. He wanted an easy modern condominium
where someone else did all the work. Francesca was desperately
fighting for the life of their business and the house. Despite
the failure of the relationship, she wanted to keep both, and didn’t
see how she could. It was bad enough losing Todd without losing
the gallery and her home too.
They had both tried everything they could to save the relationship,
to no avail. They had gone to couples counseling and individual
therapy. They had taken a two- month break. They had talked
and communicated until they were blue in the face. They had compromised
on everything they could. But he wanted to close or sell
the gallery, which would have broken her heart. And he wanted to
get married and have kids and she didn’t, or at least not yet—and
maybe never. The idea of marriage still made her cringe, even to a
man she loved. She thought his new friends were dreary beyond
belief. He thought their old ones were limited and trite. He said he
was tired of vegans, starving artists, and what he considered leftwing
ideals. She had no idea how they had grown so far apart in a
few short years, but they had.
They had spent last summer apart, doing different things. Instead
of sailing in Maine as they usually did, she spent three weeks
in an artists’ colony, while he went to Europe and traveled with
friends and went to the Hamptons on weekends. By September, a
year after the fighting had begun, they both knew it was hopeless
and agreed to give up. What they couldn’t agree on was what to do
about the gallery and the house. She had put everything she had
and could scrape up into her half of the house, and now if she
wanted to keep it, he expected her to buy him out, or agree to sell
it. They had less invested in the business, and what he wanted from
her was fair. The problem was that she just didn’t have it. He was
giving her time to figure it out. Now it was November, and she was
no closer to a solution than she had been two months before. He
was waiting for her to get sensible and finally give up.
Todd wanted to sell the house by the end of the year, or recoup
his share. And he wanted to be out of the business by then too. He
was still helping her on weekends when he had time, but his heart
was no longer in it, and it was becoming increasingly stressful for
both of them to live under one roof in a relationship that was dead.
They hadn’t slept with each other in months, and whenever possible
he spent the weekend with friends. It was sad for both of them.
Francesca was upset about ending the relationship, but she was
equally stressed about the gallery and the house. She had the bitter
taste of defeat in her mouth, and she hated everything about it. It
was bad enough that their relationship had failed—five years
seemed like a long time to wind up at ground zero in her life again.
Closing the gallery, or selling it, and losing the house was just more
than she could bear. But as she sat staring at the numbers, in an old
sweatshirt and jeans, she could find no magic there. No matter how
she added, subtracted, or multiplied, she just didn’t have the
money to buy him out. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked
at the amounts again.
She knew exactly what her mother was going to say. She had
been vehemently opposed to Francesca going into business and
buying a house with a man she loved but didn’t intend to marry.
She thought it was the worst possible combination of investment
and romance. “And what happens when you break up?” her mother
had asked, assuming it was inevitable, since all of her own rel...
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