Spanning 60 years and jet-setting between New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and Greece, actress and author Joan Collins' third novel is a multigenerational saga featuring the wealthy Stephanopolis family. This irresistible and sexually charged novel draws on Joan’s own knowledge and experience to create a world of decadent luxury. As the two daughters vie to break free from the shadow of their parents, this juicy page-turner chronicles their struggles with fame, ambition, and betrayal. Collins was invited on the “Today” show to talk about her book, “Misfortune's Daughters.” Here's an excerpt:
Nicholas Stephanopolis had always made his own rules. When his schoolmates were only fantasizing about girls, he was out to deflower them, and more often than not he succeeded. By the time he was fifteen, he towered above his contemporaries not only physically, but in style and confidence.
Fear seemed to have no place in his vocabulary. When he was only fifteen, he went down the deadly Cresta sled run in St. Moritz with awe-inspiring boldness. Lying flat on his stomach, he negotiated the deadly twists and turns of that treacherous track of black ice as skillfully as experienced skiers twice his age. But Nicholas was at his happiest when riding one of his Arabian steeds on his father’s private island, or when making love to one of his many conquests.
High spirited and volatile, Nicholas’s moody personality was seasoned with an outrageous wit. He could reduce a roomful of sophisticates to helpless laughter, and was utterly irresistible to women of all ages. His combination of looks and charm was deadly.
Nicholas was the sole heir to the Stephanopolis shipping empire. His mother, Lady Anne, from an aristocratic English family, was imposingly authoritative, with the erect carriage that came from her class. His father, Constantine, was so busy with his complicated business affairs that he had left the rearing of his only child to his wife. His empire had grown enormously since the Second World War, and in addition to his fleets of tankers, he had holdings in major companies everywhere. When Constantine died in 1957, he was mourned by his many employees on both Stephanopolis Island and in the business capitals of the world.
Stephanopolis Island would be hard to find on any map of the world. It was just a tiny dot, separated by a few miles of sea from the southern coast of Greece and from which, on a clear day, the rocky mountains of the Peloponnese were visible in the distant west.
The island was completely closed to all outsiders and heavily guarded by patrols of uniformed security men, and landing was by invitation from the Stephanopolis family only.
Although it was only seventeen miles by ten, the island was full of lush vegetation and a haven for birds, butterflies and exotic insects of all kinds. In the center was a small forest, where the scent of the pine trees and wild thyme filled the air. Wild boar, peacocks, foxes and deer roamed free and teams of gamekeepers saw that they flourished.
On the southern coast of the island stood the magnificent mansion that was the Stephanopolis residence. Surrounded by olive trees, umbrella pines and oleander bushes, the emerald lawn edged with rolling sweeps of lavender led to a golden beach.
With over a hundred rooms and an indoor staff of fifty, the property, which had been part of the family dynasty for over one hundred years, was an amalgam of styles: some ancient, some modern.
The enormous marble-floored entrance hall and the lavishly decorated formal reception rooms were of massive proportions with vaulted and frescoed ceilings in shades of pink and gold, which created an ambiance of power. Much of the exquisitely carved furniture was eighteenth century and priceless.
By contrast, the first floor, comprising the family’s living quarters, was furnished in contemporary style. Huge terraces from every bedroom let in the blazing sun, but cool, white curtains and modern air conditioners guaranteed that their inhabitants would always remain comfortable.
Nicholas had started learning about the family empire as soon as he left Cambridge, so by the time his father died he was ready to take over. With his vast fortune, expanding business empire and personal charm, Nicholas soon became one of the most eligible bachelors in Europe.
He was eclectic in his choice of women. Princesses and shop girls, actresses and chambermaids, mature married women and nymphlike virgins were all to his taste, but not one of them ever managed to fully capture his heart.
With Constantine gone and no one to hold him back, Nicholas gave new meaning to the word reckless. No stunt was too dangerous for him, no sport too risky. He drove any one of his fleet of sports cars so perilously fast on the twisting mountain roads of Greece that the locals eventually complained to the police.
He built a show-jumping arena in a paddock on the island, where he put his purebred horses through such alarmingly unsafe hurdles that the trainers threatened to quit.
With only enough air for an hour he would explore the unknown depths under water, delighting in confrontations with particularly fierce denizens of the ocean bed. It had been rumored that he had fought and won a battle with a shark, although he himself modestly never mentioned it.
Nicholas was a prime target for matchmakers, and ambitious hostesses would go to tremendous lengths to wrangle an invitation to any event to which he had been invited, then bombard him with requests to attend dinners, parties and balls all over the world.
His mother despaired of his hedonistic lifestyle, but Nicholas was damned if he was going to marry some silly princess or heiress just to please her. He was content with his life. He had women for all occasions. Sexy women with whom he made love, passionately and often cruelly; athletic women with whom he rode or scuba dived; intelligent women with whom he could share the philosophical and political conversations he relished; and then of course his socialite women — glittering glamorous creatures who dressed in the height of fashion, danced, drank and gossiped until dawn.
But the only kind of woman Nicholas didn’t have in his life was one with whom he spent the night. In his bedroom, dark as a cave, the only arms he slept in were those of Morpheus. No one ever shared his bed, and he fully expected it to remain that way, for in his heart he believed that he could never really fall in love.
Excerpted from “Misfortune's Daughters” by Joan Collins. Copyright © 2005 by Joan Collins. Published by Hyperion Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.