It's 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from scandal and disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the loss of her beloved father, her sister's resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she's now penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, offers assistance to the traumatized young woman, who can joke about her inadequacies. As terrified as she is about paying for her sister's costly treatment and her own daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she must learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul's much needed ego-bolstering, she pursues a career that makes practical use of her lanky 5' 11" frame. Despite roadblocks and emotional upheavals, she embarks on an ocean-spanning journey that leads to a family she doesn't know, distressing truths about her father, crimes great and small, a diabolical villain and a fireworks of surprise...
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FIND AN EXCERPT OF CHAPTER ONE ON THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE HERE:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Past work experience includes designing software and managing projects for IBM, selling plumbing and heating and antiques, teaching ballroom dancing and modeling. Lately, in addition to writing page-turners, this author enjoys corresponding with fans, spending time with her family, encouraging her fiercely independent orchids and rearranging antiques. (Having run out of space, Ms. Smith no longer permits herself to add to her collection.)
A BOOKISH LIBRARIA HAPPILY BRINGS YOU THIS INTERVIEW OF MS SMITH TODAY!!
So, Lisa, it's so good to have you back with us this summer for an interview about your fantastic "Exceeding Expectations" series. I need to mention the second book of that series, "Paradise Misplaced," which just topped the whole mystery off. I loved the story and wish you would keep it going!! But, I know you're moving on to other exciting things. Let's talk about you and your plans...
1. Tell us something about yourself, please. How do most people describe you?
Lisa: Depending on how well they know me and in what context, they would describe me as a diligent (compulsive), disciplined (obsessive), eager to learn (academic geek), motivated (impatient), ordinary woman who adores her family (and can’t stop bragging about them).
2. Briefly, where did the idea for your novel germinate?
Lisa: My first three books began with fascinating characters I’ve read about in newspapers. I didn’t use their childhoods, physical appearances or personalities. I’ve never met any of them. There’s was just something about their stories that sent my imagination into overdrive. I wasn’t going to do something that I’ve seen before. No naïve/good-hearted hookers, like the protagonists in Pretty Woman or Sweet Charity.
Take Exceeding Expectations as an example. Back a few years,
television and newspapers were reporting a story of a local Florida socialite (Stephen Fagan) arrested
for kidnapping his daughters eighteen years earlier, when they were 2 and 5
years old. The primary reason that it had taken eighteen years to find Fagan
was that he had successfully reinvented himself. As William S. Martin, a
handsome widower with two young daughters and no apparent means of support,
Fagan had met and married a wealthy Palm Beach widow. After their divorce, another affluent
woman agreed to wed and maintain his family’s plush lifestyle. Palm
Neighbors, friends and the teachers at the girls’ tony private school all described him as “likeable,” “charming” and “devoted father.” Throughout his arrest and subsequent proceedings, his loyal third wife steadfastly stood by him, as did both daughters. Perhaps what most surprised people who followed the case was that the girls’ mother, a research scientist teaching at the
, through the media and her
attorney, repeatedly begged her daughters to meet with her and they refused. To
my knowledge, that continues to this day. University of Virginia
As I was following the case I found myself thinking that there was an even juicier story using a few core facts. A man with an invented name and history, twice married to wealthy widows, living in
playground of the mega-rich and famous, and involved in a crime. Two adoring daughters
unaware of their true identities. Over time my imagination happily supplied the
rest. A townhouse off Palm Beach Fifth Avenue.
A sprawling estate in .
Romantic Paris in the years prior to WWII. A riveting past for Jack Morgan: skilled
lover, lack-luster artist and irresistible rascal. A full-blown range of
challenges and hard-wrought triumphs for his traumatized daughter Charlotte
Who first told you that you could write well, and how did it affect you?
Lisa: One of my elementary school teachers. Probably in 5th or 6th grade. I showed her a play I had written and she insisted on my class performing it for the entire school. (A very small school.) How did that affect me? I don’t know. I think I already knew that I wrote well for a kid and not nearly as well as authors of the books I loved. I was more concerned that I was dreadful in geography. Other kids knew that
was in Italy Europe and that Europe
wasn’t a country. I had no clue.
Which contemporary authors do you most admire?
Lisa: Khaled Hosseini: favorite book, The Kite Runner
Edward Rutherford: favorite book, Russka
Sara Gruen: favorite book, Water for Elephants (I adore anything to do with the circus, side-shows and carnivals, but NOT
Disneyland is too antiseptic to me).
Which are your favorite classical authors?
Lisa: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Marcel Proust, Guy de Maupassant – if you like pithy wry, read his short stories, and Louisa May Alcott. When I was kid I read and loved everything she wrote. I absolutely saw myself in Jo March. I was the independent tomboy who enjoyed staging plays and “scribbling.”
Jump into any book which character would you be?
Lisa: While I saw myself as Jo March, Little Women, she didn’t have the adventurous life that I dream about. I hope this doesn’t sound too egotistical, but I would like to be Charlie, at the end of Paradise Misplaced. She’s going to travel the world, hobnob with the rich, famous and infamous, be knee-deep in fabulous art, expose theft and fraud, win respect for her expertise, love passionately, be hurt many times and recover, all the while keeping a self-deprecating view of herself.
If you could have 5 historical people to dinner, who would they be? What would you have to eat?
Lisa: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth I and Woody Allen. I could rely on Woody to ask far better questions than I could. He and Samuel Clemens would bond immediately. As for food, it would have to catered. I wouldn’t want to waste a single minute in the kitchen and I’d serve twenty courses, like a Chinese feast, so that the meal would go on for hours.
Read any good books in the past 6 months?
Lisa: One comes to mind immediately - New York: The Novel, by Edward Rutherford
Favorite two tv shows:
Lisa: How about three favorites? “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Fashion Star” and “
: The Last
Frontier.” How’s that for an eclectic range? Maybe not. The first two showcase
incredibly talented creative people – dancers, choreographers and dress
designers. But “ Alaska :
TLF” is decidedly outside the box. Life in Alaska is a contact sport. The program
appeals to both my love of adventure and my admiration for the resourceful,
determined, kind, intelligent people. Alaska
Favorite movie of all time:
Lisa: I adore good movies. Some plots and characters stay with me forever. I love almost every Woody Allen film that I’ve seen. “Sweet and Low Down” might be my favorite, or “Radio Days” or “Hanahh and Her Sisters.” Regrettably, I’ve missed a few. He’s done 61 to date. And I also have to include “The Man with Two Brains” a wacky hilarious movie. (After rereading this I know I should’ve chosen a serious movie (“To Kill a Mockingbird” “Gone with the Wind”) or a musical, I adore musicals (“Gigi”, “Chicago”) . . . I’d better stop. You did ask for only one.
Are you working on a new book?
Lisa: Positively. Of course, it’s going to be my best to date. It’s an epic novel set in ancient
tentatively titled The Storytellers.
Anything else you would like to add or share with us?
Lisa: Thank you for asking, Deb. I’d like readers to know that Exceeding Expectations has a sequel, Paradise Misplaced, which also received amazing reviews.
Thanks for this witty and thoughtful interview, Lisa. I have to go back and watch some of those old Woody Allen movies. They are classics... I can see that type of quick humor in your books.
THE DAME'S REVIEW OF "EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS" :
Charlie, a girl in her early 20's, is just another over-indulged, wealthy daughter of Palm Beach who's major concerns are horses, parties and gossip. Then, her father commits suicide, her sister has a mental breakdown and her posh step-mother leaves them penniless. The beautiful life comes to a dead halt, and Charlie, who never even learned to wash dishes, has to get a job.
When Charlie sets out to discover why her beloved, pampering father would abandon them, knowingly leaving her sister and her without a means of support, she discovers more than she ever could image about him, herself and her abilities to "exceed expectations." She also discovers that PB society may not always get it right about love and class, when she meets and gets help from the brilliant young lawyer, Andy Garcia clone, Raul. Armed with Raul's encouragement, her own pride and tenacity, Charlie uses her only skill; modelling, to help finance herself and her sister while she travels from Palm Beach to NYC, across the US and to Paris in search of some answers.
I appreciate Lisa Smith as a seasoned author with astute writing skills after having read and reviewed her "Dangerous Lies" last year. She has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail.
In fact, it's the authentic details of the time-periods that make it fun to read Lisa's book as it skips from Charlie's current days of the late 1950's and early '60's to the past Palm Beach and Manhattan, with hints of Sister Parish's posh interior designs, famous museums and artists, the fashions of different eras, vintage cars and high society parties. Her historical and fictitious characters work in sync as they are perfectly set in these time frames, and midst the transitory madness of WWs I and II Paris.
Lisa Smith's writing isn't over-blown with emotion and sappy romance; rather, it is sophisticated and subtle. It's witty, fun and sassy. There's love of family; and, there are affairs of the heart, pain and anxieties that accompany romantic relationships in difficult times, intrigue and madness. I loved this kettle of mystery and suspense that dominates her characters.
I'm a fan of Ms Smith's. I love a good story with interesting characters, a mystery and a romance that's not over-the-top but that rests securely in reality. I like foreign intrigue and the sophistication of art and society. Most of all, I so appreciate an intelligent author of worldly experience! If you do, too, you'll love "Exceeding Expectations." This book has a sequel which I'm dying to read!
5 soaring stars
Please follow this link to find my full review of this book last year on A Bookish Libraria: