How the Italian Claimed Her by Jennifer Hayward <— THE BILLIONAIRE & THE SUPER MODEL!! IT’S LIVE & the author is today’s newsletter sponsor.
And what I find extra fun is what she told me about the inspiration for this one:
“…It’s called How the Italian Claimed Her and is set in the fashion world with a billionaire Italian CEO and the world’s top supermodel. Think the Kardashians meets Harlequin Presents…”
And I have just, over the last few weeks (couple of months?), played every season of the Kardashians from the very start (I had never seen either show) for the fun of it, while I worked on my blog posts. So this book falls perfectly within my current mood!!! I’m obviously seeing “Kendall” as the heroine. 😉
The author says:
Jensen is the most famous face in America, from her days on her family’s reality show, The Davis Divas, and the world’s top supermodel. Cristiano is the CEO of Italian fashion conglomerate, Francesco Vitale, Jensen the out-of-control face of his fashion brand, who is the key to his future. They might be my favourite couple ever but I have a few favourites.
About the Book (in the author’s own words):
Enter the world of the glamorous Davis sisters. The offspring of Hollywood royalty, Ava, Jensen and Scarlett have grown up in front of America, the reality show that chronicled the drama of their famous family as the girls transformed from fashion-obsessed California teenagers to grown women with ultra-successful careers, a smash hit, watched by millions each week. The sisters’ exploits, high jinks and supreme fashion sense have made them style icons young women aspire to be. But beneath the glitz and the glamour of their privileged, celebrity-filled world lies a far different picture.
Growing up in front of America isn’t a normal life for Ava, Jensen and Scarlett, whose lives revolve around the show’s scripted plotlines and their mother’s insatiable thirst for drama. Other girls might want to be just like them, but the sisters are also castigated in the media for their superficial lives and the roles they play on the show.
After a decade of living their lives in the public spotlight, the sisters have had enough. In their mid-twenties now, they move to Manhattan to forge lives of their own. Ava and Scarlett, with their design school backgrounds, are designers with their own Davis brand, and stylists for the New York elite with a chic Manhattan boutique to their name. Jensen has transformed herself into the world’s highest paid supermodel—a new breed of pop culture model who is half celebrity influencer, half model.
But the past always seems to haunt them. Ava is the damaged oldest sister, who had the most expensive reality show wedding in history, only to have that betrayal ruin her life. Jensen can’t seem to escape her wild-child reputation and Scarlett is so tired of being the ‘least compelling Davis’, a wound which plagues her.
The first book of the series, How the Italian Claimed Her, is Jensen’s story. I love the back cover blurb, so I’m including it here:
The Italian wants her…between his billion-dollar sheets in this passionate opposites-attract romance from Jennifer Hayward.
He always puts business first…
then it’s mixed with pleasure!
After taking the reins of his family’s legendary but failing fashion house, CEO Cristiano Vitale vows to restore its legacy. To do that he needs the face of the brand, supermodel Jensen Davis, to do her job. Only she’s committed to living up to her headline-hitting reputation.
Jensen doesn’t want to jeopardize Cristiano’s company, but courting scandal distracts from her mother’s self-destructive spiral. So, lying low at his Lake Como estate, she’s caught between her familial duty…and how much she wants the dangerously sexy Italian to claim her!
Five Fun Facts About the Book:
- It’s set in glorious Lake Como, near where George Clooney lives. What a gorgeous place!
- I love the hero babysitting the heroine trope, and I wanted to make it as deliciously sexy as possible. My Italian fashion house CEO is babysitting my supermodel heroine at his gorgeous estate, where he installs her in his pool house to keep an eye on her scandalous behaviour…and you can imagine what happens to his iron control. J
- The house of Gucci was my inspiration for Francesco Vitale, Cristiano’s Italian fashion brand. House of Gucci, the movie, is super fun, if you haven’t seen it!
- I write glamorous, sexy stories, always with a touch of humor. This one dives deeply into the fashion world, is full of scandal and secrets, has fun secondary characters and a really arrogant, piece of work ex-girlfriend for Cristiano to spice things up.
- My first book, The Divorce Party, won Harlequin’s global writing contest, So You Think You Can Write, in 2012. My books are sold in over 30 countries and published in 25 languages.
Jensen swallowed hard, attempting to absorb the energy that had passed between her and Cristiano, that had literally frozen her to the spot where she’d been standing, but the constriction in her throat was so seemingly immovable, she took a sip of her drink instead, the sparkling soda water infused with a splash of lime moistening her parched throat, so that she could actually swallow.
She was exhausted from a sixteen-hour day on her feet. Back to back days of the same. It had taken them three hours to nail that final shot on the terrace, working against the clock as the light had faded, everything that could go wrong having going wrong, blowing the schedule completely. Her feet were hurting in the five-inch killer high heels and all she wanted to do was get out of the close-fitting dress, and into her bikini, then head straight for the pool for a refreshing swim, which would make everything feel better.
Despite her mythical reputation, she was not in the business of stealing anyone’s future husband, of breaking up Italian dynasties or challenging Cristiano’s honour, not when the world already believed the worst of her. That she had been the catalyst behind Alexandre and Juliana’s royal break up and the resulting calamity which had ensued. Destroying one national fantasy was enough for the calendar year. This one she would leave alone.
Making the requisite rounds of the party, thanking everyone who’d done their part to make the commercial a success, she slipped quietly out of the crowd as the party was beginning to break up and down to the pool house, where she changed into an orchid-pink bikini. Securing her hair in a high ponytail, she scoured her face clean of her camera make-up, before padding outside to the spot lit pool, glittering a deep cerulean blue on a perfect Italian night, the only sound on the still evening air, the peaceful trickle of the waterfall at the far end of the butterfly-shaped pool.
Dipping a toe into the cool, refreshing water, she tested the temperature before wading in, allowing the water to carry away the grime and hard work of the day and ease her sore muscles. Floating silently on her back, soaking up the paradise she was in, the scent of jasmine and peony filled her head, the sky a blanket of sparkling gold stars overhead. She was in a dreamlike, half-awake, half-asleep state when the sound of clinking crystal broke the silence.
Flipping over, she tread water, her gaze widening at the figure standing on the pool deck. Cristiano, clad in navy-blue and green-striped swim trunks, set a bottle of champagne and two glasses he was carrying down on the tiled surface of the pool deck. Her throat, already dry from the blazing heat, went to desert dust.
She’d worked all day with a famous male model who’d been sashaying around half-naked during the out-of-control house party they’d thrown, and not once had she looked twice at his lean, well-built body. Cristiano, however, was a whole different story. All hard-packed muscle, underscored by the perfectly cut walls of his abs, a delicious vee forged a descent to his lean, powerful hips. Which were accented by muscular, trim legs that had clearly logged a great deal of miles on the cross-estate run he did every morning. The ideal combination of brawn and stealth, innate grace, which allowed him to wear his beautifully cut clothes so perfectly.
Except he didn’t have many clothes on right now, she registered, her throat going even drier as she took in the low-slung, dark swim trunks, which rode his lean, graceful hips. He was insane. Spectacular. Millie would be having a coronary right about now.
“You don’t usually swim at this time of night,” she managed, the words coming out as half sentence, half croak.
“You are supposed to alert someone when you are using the pool,” he stated in that low, husky, accent-affecting tone that sent goosebumps to every inch of her skin.
“Yes, well,” she prevaricated, “everyone was busy cleaning up from the party. I was just taking a quick dip.”
“It doesn’t change the rules.” She could see from the stern look on his face that he wasn’t kidding. And, given the rumours she’d heard about his parents’ untimely death on the famous lake a few hundred feet below them, she could understand the reasoning behind the autocratic set of rules he’d thrown at her upon their arrival.
Which left only his supreme arrogance as her source of antagonism between them, and that wasn’t holding up very well as the days had passed and she’d watched how hard he’d been working to make his dream for FV a reality. To systematically bring the vision he’d promised the world to life, all of the responsibility he bore to his family sitting squarely on his broad shoulders.
“Your parents died in a boating accident,” she observed quietly, as he uncorked the champagne and poured it into two glasses, the froth reaching up to the rims.
“When I was fourteen, si.” He carried the glasses to the edge of the pool, set them on the edge, then stepped down into the water, rivulets of moisture rolling off his hard-packed abs. What might have been a humiliating form of drool moistened her mouth. Good God. She swallowed it back. Lifted her gaze to his sapphire-blue one as he lounged back against the side of the pool opposite her. Which didn’t necessarily help, as she read the banked heat gleaming there, mirroring what was bubbling up inside of her at an alarming rate.
“That must have been very traumatic,” she murmured, determined to ignore it. Desperate to ignore it. To focus on more sobering things, such as the loss of his parents at such a young age, which must have had such an impact on him.
“It was…difficult.” A dark light flickered in his blue gaze. “But you weather it and move on. My grandparents needed me. My sister needed me. You do what you need to do.”
Which had been to protect his vulnerable, young sister and eventually, to save the company his grandfather had founded. His legacy. Which once more underscored the impenetrable stuff this man was made of. Explained the rigid control with which he exerted that authority. The loyalty and duty that drove him.
She’d never met a man like him before. Her own father was so far from that type of man it was laughable, the way he’d abandoned their family without a backward glance, leaving her mother devastated and in tatters. It made her wonder, just for a second, what it would be like to be wanted by someone like him—someone so strong and honorable. Not just physically, because she knew they shared that devastating chemistry. But emotionally. Unconditionally.
How safe you would feel. How buffeted against the world. She imagined it would feel…life changing.
But he wasn’t hers to have. He would eventually be someone else’s. And that she had to keep reminding herself of.
He picked up the two glasses, filled with the frothy liquid, and handed her one.
She wrapped her fingers around the glass. Cocked a brow. “Champagne?”
“I thought we could celebrate wrapping the campaign. You did a spectacular job on it. Grazie mille, Jensen.”
His rich, deep voice, laced with that undeniably sexy, husky accent warmed something deep inside of her. And it wasn’t all professional pride, because she was sure he didn’t celebrate like this with all his employees. This was something else entirely.
She shrugged a shoulder, attempting a nonchalance she didn’t remotely feel. “I was just doing my job. Working with Pascal and Claudio was a dream. I’m the lucky one.”
“Well, you were brilliant,” he murmured. “The marketing team is over the moon. Not to mention the assistance you’ve been with Federico. We pulled the Kyra campaign and showed it to him. He was very impressed. So much so that he is warming to the idea of allowing Nicolas some creative control. Which is a much more flexible stance than he’s had thus far.”
“That’s great.” She was happy her advice had helped. “I knew he would like that campaign.”
“He did. Ilaria,” he added, “is also ecstatic with your buzz campaign for the anniversary party. Saluti,” he murmured, lifting his glass. “To all of your hard work.”
She raised her glass, attempting to control the wild butterflies beating circular tracks through her stomach. “Aren’t you afraid I might get wild?” she quipped, in an attempt to break the intensity between them. “Out of control?”
His sapphire gaze darkened with amusement. “I’m not so sure about that depiction of you anymore. You were drinking soda water at the party. Nor have you drunk much of anything on any social occasion we’ve attended since you’ve been here. Which leads me to believe that partying might not be your natural state of existence.”
Her lashes drifted down, shielding her from his inscrutable assessment. “And what do you think is?”
“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “I think it’s buried somewhere beneath those numerous impenetrable layers of yours. Those pieces of you you refuse to show the world. You are so much more than that, Jensen.”
“Perhaps,” she agreed, with a self-conscious shrug. “And, perhaps, there isn’t that much more to tell.”
“I think there is.” He levered himself away from the wall with the push of a powerful bicep, propelling himself to within an inch or two of her. She felt a rush of blood in her ears as the force of the attraction between them roared to life, the heat of his muscular body so close she could feel it emanating from him.
“You are a brilliant marketer,” he observed, his eyes on hers. “You have an innate talent that can’t be taught. Incredible instincts. You could run my marketing department with the tip of your baby finger. And yet, to my knowledge, you have no formal education in business.”
She shook her head. “I am self-taught. Marketing always fascinated me, right from the beginning. I would study how girls reacted to the things I would post. Pinpoint the best ones, study the messaging, and learn how to replicate that success.” She hiked a shoulder. “It came from a genuine place within me, I think that was the key. I loved fashion. I loved helping other people find their own. People picked up on that and followed me.”
He cocked a dark brow at her. “And yet you persist in allowing the world to believe that you are a glamorous party girl and nothing more.”
“That’s my brand,” she corrected. “It sells your clothes, Cristiano. Young girls want to be that glamorous icon.”
“Yet we have no idea what’s underneath,” he said softly. “Who the real Jensen is. I wonder what the truth is?”
“A mixture of both,” she answered honestly. “I’m not so difficult to figure out. I wouldn’t overthink it.”
His mouth curved. “There you go again, avoiding the subject.” He pointed his glass at her. “Perhaps we can try another.”
“I would like to discuss what happened in the kitchen.”
Oh no. No. They did not need to do that. “I think we should ignore it,” she proposed firmly. “It’s been working great so far.”
“No it hasn’t,” he murmured. “I think we both know that. I think we need to address it, Jensen.”
Her throat seized. “A—address it?” she stammered, when she’d finally yanked in some air. “What do you mean?”
“Confront it,” he said softly. “Face it. Deal with it. This thing between us isn’t going away. It’s only getting worse. And I, for one, am done fighting it.”
She swallowed hard, past the flock of butterflies in her throat. He was close, too close, and her heart was beating so hard in her chest, it was difficult to function. So, she grappled for the most pressing piece of information she could find to avoid what seemed like the inevitable. “Alessandra,” she breathed, her eyes on his. “I am not stepping into the middle of a relationship between you two, Cristiano. It isn’t my style, as much as the media likes to paint me as Mata Hari incarnate.”
He frowned, a furrow burrowing his handsome brow. “Alessandra? We are not together.”
“But you will be,” she countered, far more out of breath than she would have liked. “Everyone knows it.”
“Except me,” he responded silkily. “Perhaps you will provide me with the benefit of the doubt on this, bellissima, because I am sure I am correct. Alessandra and I broke up months ago.”
She caught her lip between her teeth. “I saw you together at the party. When you went to get the car. It looked intimate, Cristiano.”
The furrow in his brow deepened. “So you thought there is still something between us? That’s why you walked away from me in the kitchen?”
“No.” She shook her head vehemently. “I walked away from you because it was a bad idea. Which it is,” she added quickly at the dark glitter that entered his sapphire eyes. “Alessandra is only a secondary reason.”
He raked a hand through his rumpled hair. “Alessandra,” he said, after a moment, “was…emotional the night of the party. We have tried to make things work multiple times, and yet, they are not working. She seems determined to make it happen. I have my doubts it ever will.”
So, what was he doing with her? Entertaining himself in the meantime? Blowing off some steam? Because surely, he would never be serious about her. She wasn’t about to do that with Cristiano. Not with the depth of the feelings she already had for him, feelings that seemed to be growing exponentially stronger by the moment.
“I’m not interested in being your plaything,” she murmured. “Someone you blow off some steam with when you feel like it, Cristiano.”
An offended look moved across his aristocratic face. “Is that what you think I’m doing? Blowing off some steam?”
“Yes,” she said staunchly, “I do. We are attracted to each other. That’s clear. Both of us are having a difficult time controlling it. Also true. But, I won’t put my career in jeopardy so I can have a dalliance with you, Cristiano. It’s not happening.”
His brow hiked higher, the offended look on his face deepening. Setting his glass down on the side of the pool, he moved, until he was so close the heat emanating from him seared her skin. “Although I am a fan of blowing off some steam at this very moment,” he murmured darkly, “because I think we both need it, my interest in you is more than surface deep, Jensen. I like you. I desire you. I would like to get to know you on a deeper level, if you will let me in.”
an Amazon $25 gift card
How to enter for a chance to win it?
Just leave a comment below, and by 10pm EST, Sunday October 1st, 2023, I will randomly select one lucky commenter as the winner.
The winner will be contacted and will have 48hrs to respond confirming their mailing address, so if you are picked, do not delay or you will lose your chance. The signed book & gift card will be sent to the winner by the author.
Open to international!!! 😀