Urban Renewal Master Data sheet
Title: Urban Renewal
Author: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Publisher: Champagne Books
Release date: March 4, 2013
Genre: Romance/contemporary romance/second chance at love romance
Length: 203 pages
Movie star Mercedes Montague has it all – the fame, the fortune, and the glittering celebrity lifestyle. But she lost herself somewhere along the way. On a publicity tour for her next movie she realizes she’s just fifty miles from her hometown. Mercedes – real name Marie Dillard – decides to bolt and go home to see if she can find what’s left of herself. Hiding away in her grandparents’ old home in a working class neighborhood she’s haunted by memories and reminders of her first and only love, Joe Shelby.
Marie’s stunned when Joe shows up at her door. Passion kindles between them from the first moment their eyes meet but she won’t let it consume her unless it’s going to include a lasting love. As they renew their relationship, Marie and Joe face many struggles.
Can a movie star return to reality or is love just a distant dream?
Excerpt from Chapter One:
Her Manolo Blahnik white satin pumps rested where they landed after Mercedes Montague kicked them from her aching feet. One shoe landed upright on the four and half inch heel, the other lay on its side, the crystal beaded appliqué face down against the thick toasted almond carpeting. Beside it, her crimson Atelier Versace dress pooled like blood at a murder scene. The silk scraps she’d worn as underwear lay discarded beside it. Her bare feet whispered across the carpet as she walked to the window of the suite at the top of the hotel.
Lightning stitched the night sky with crackling fire and overhead thunder boomed bass. Heavy clouds rolled into the city with speed, as the amber glow from thousands of streetlights lit them. Mercedes wondered where in the hell she and her entourage had fetched up for the night. After four long, grueling days on the road on the multi-city promo tour for Tempest, the new movie based on Shakespeare’s play, she’d lost track. Two major cities a day blurred into one stock urban image and one fan appearance merged into another. Each featured screaming fans kept behind barricades, hand-lettered signs, security guards who looked alike. The same questions were asked at every stop. Mercedes quit paying attention to their location two days earlier and when they flew into this town, she’d been asleep on the chartered jet.
Her head ached as if demons pounded on it with red hot hammers straight from the pits of hell so she didn’t look through the windows of the limo from the airport or glance around as the handlers whisked them through a parking garage, then up into the hotel. Her luxurious suite offered everything her contract required, right down to the vase of Blushing Beauty roses, white tipped with pink, on the dining room table and the mixed bouquet of roses and Asian lilies at her bedside. The bottle of Dom Perignon on ice on the dining room sideboard waited with a frosted flute.
Under normal circumstances, her personal assistant, Mara, would sleep in the second bedroom of the suite but tonight Mercedes demanded her solitude and because she was the main star of this movie, this tour, Max conceded. Max Feist, her manager, agent, and sometimes lover, had stood inside the doorway of the suite and shaken his head. “So get some sleep, get your game face back on, Mercedes, because we’re doing two mall appearances here tomorrow and then it’s on to the next. Pull yourself, together, baby.”
He kissed her, not the warm lip lock of passion they once shared but a social kiss, light as a butterfly’s flutter, and left. Mercedes fumed and shed everything she wore, tossing it all onto the floor with a casual hand. She took a long, steaming shower which reduced the headache to a tolerable level and then, with her long hair wrapped in a hotel towel, she padded nude through the suite, still angry and out of sorts. Right now she resented Max, loathed Mara, disliked her adoring fans, and hated herself most of all.
I don’t even know who in the hell I am anymore, she thought as she stared out of the window at the city’s skyline. But I know I’m not Mercedes, whoever she’s become. Her persona as Mercedes Montague was as faux as cubic zirconias. She’d worn the pretty face, highlighted with expensive cosmetics, put forward the personality the public seemed to want, and acted as she thought a movie star should for so long, she couldn’t always remember where the farce ended and the truth began. Naked as a newborn, she stared out the window of the hotel and wondered whatever happened to Marie Dillard. Somewhere along the way, Mercedes lost Marie and she realized she missed her.
A wicked flash of lightning illuminated the sky and revealed her location beyond any doubt. Below her she saw the old Union Station, now a shopping and entertainment mecca for the masses instead of a railroad station and on the horizon, a skyline she would know anywhere as Kansas City. She realized she must be staying at the Westin Crown Center. “Holy shit,” she said aloud. “I’m fifty miles from home.”
Fifty miles lay between her and her past, between Mercedes Montague and Marie Dillard. Born in the rough old river town of St. Joseph, a city lying along the banks of the Missouri River, she knew Kansas City like a dear neighbor. She grew up coming down to KC to watch concerts at Kemper Arena and plays at Starlight, dreaming of the day she might move with a celebrity crowd. She still owned the house where she grew up, an old frame house in a blue-collar neighborhood, and maintained it as a rat hole, a place to go if she ever needed a hiding place. The grandparents--Ma and Pop--who raised her after her parents died in a fiery car crash were long gone but she could go home. Staring out at the storm raging in the skies over Kansas City, Mercedes thought maybe she just would leave, take a respite.
The idea of running away, bolting into the night appealed to Mercedes but she would sleep on it--if she could sleep at all. Most of the time she couldn’t, without a pill or plenty of booze so she walked into the dining room, filled the flute with the best Dom Perignon and drank it in one long swallow. Mercedes repeated it twice and the bubbly wine impacted her stomach before sending warmth out over her body with slow relaxation. She towel-dried her hair, combed it smooth and pulled a satin negligee over her flesh. Still wired, she thought about taking a Xanax but resisted. Instead she lit a rare cigarette, something Max forbade long ago because he swore smoking would etch lines in her face, aging her too early. She stared out the window into the night as if she could see fifty miles northward.
Mercedes reflected on how much she hated the person she had become, the selfish, ego-tripping movie star, the kind of celebrity people loved to hate. Her excesses with alcohol and prescription drugs were legendary and too often made the pages of the gossip rags, the ones sold on supermarket checkout stands. Being a bitch somehow became a way of life, she thought now, and wondered how, why. Max sculpted Mercedes into her persona and as he did, he did his best to remove every bit of Marie, but the stubborn inner self refused to die. Mercedes buried Marie under the layers of artifice, the glamorous façade and almost lost her but Marie, tough little chick from a blue-collar world, refused to go away.