Second Act

A Novel

Look inside
Best Seller
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this gripping novel from Danielle Steel, a top Hollywood executive seeks a new beginning when his career takes an unplanned turn.

As the head of a prestigious movie studio for nearly two decades, Andy Westfield has had every conceivable professional luxury: a stunning office on the forty-fourth floor, a loyal assistant who can all but read his mind, access to a private jet and company cars. The son of Hollywood royalty, Andy always put his career before his marriage, and now, besides his daughter and young grandchildren, it’s the only thing he truly loves.

But then Andy’s world is upended. The studio is sold, and the buyer’s son demands the top seat. Out of a job and humiliated, Andy spirals. When his head clears, he decides to get as far away from Los Angeles as possible until the dust settles and he can find a new way forward.

Andy signs a six-month rental agreement for a luxurious home in a tiny, forgotten coastal town two hours from London. When he arrives, he hires a local woman to help get his affairs in order. A former journalist, Violet Smith is at a crossroads as well, and this temporary job is exactly what she needs to tide her over. But when Violet leaves the manuscript of her unfinished novel behind after work one day, Andy lets his curiosity get the best of him and is captivated by a story that begs to be adapted for the big screen. Could this be the miracle they’ve both been looking for? 

In Second Act, Danielle Steel presents a heartening tale of how challenging times give way to opportunities and an original outline does not always contain the perfect ending.
Chapter 1

The building that housed Global Studios in Century City was impressive, but going in through the private entrance to the office of the head of the studio, the CEO of Global, was like entering another universe. Or boarding a rocket ship to the moon. A security guard stood at the discreetly set-­apart elevator to escort VIPs and use his badge on the inside security panel to give them access to Andy Westfield’s office on the forty-­fourth floor. No one could reach the CEO’s private quarters on the top floor without an invitation. Visitors were checked carefully at the main desk, their IDs examined, their fingerprints and photographs taken, their names verified with the reception desk upstairs. By the time they reached the elevator, they had been thoroughly vetted. No attack had ever been attempted on the CEO at Global, but it had happened to other heads of studios, and security measures were particularly acute and high-­tech surrounding Andy.

The private elevator shot up at high speed without a stop. Visitors then found themselves at another reception desk, where they were expected and warmly greeted. The reception area was beautifully decorated with leather couches and priceless contemporary art, and visitors rarely had long to wait. The doors opened automatically into a small anteroom with paintings from Andy’s personal collection, and fourteen-­foot red lacquered doors led into the inner sanctum where Andy sat in peaceful splendor at an enormous mahogany and steel desk with a view of all of Los Angeles. A long wall to his right spoke of his own history. There was a row of posters of his parents’ famous movies. He was the only son of two of Hollywood’s beloved legends. His father, the most famous cowboy who had ever lived in films, John Westfield, originally from Montana, had come to Hollywood at eighteen to be an actor, and was a cowboy to his very core. After thirty years as an actor, he fell in love with directing and became one of the great directors of iconic Westerns. He had won four Oscars as an actor and collected three more as a director. He was a man of strong principles and values, which came across to the audience on film. He had set a powerful example for Andy, and been an admirable husband and father. Tall, rugged, and handsome, he was the hero men respected, little boys wanted to be when they grew up, and women dreamed about. His wife, Andy’s mother, Eva Lundquist, originally from Sweden, was one of the most glamorous stars in Hollywood in her day. She and John were an unlikely, spectacular, and successful pair. She had two Oscars to her credit as well, and retired young to marry John and have Andy. They had been the most loved couple in Hollywood history, and were a strong role model to their son.

Andy had his father’s height and good looks, with blond hair and a chiseled face, which had weathered and aged well in his father’s case, and a notable cleft chin. John was an enormous man with a cowboy’s frame. His hair was darker than Andy’s, who had his Swedish mother’s fair Nordic coloring and bright blue eyes. Andy was blessed with his heredity. He was almost as tall as his father, and just as handsome. He had never longed to be an actor. He knew the toll it had taken on his parents, although they did their best to shield their family life from the paparazzi. But they were always there, lingering in the background.

Andy’s talent as a screenwriter had become apparent early. He had gone to USC and studied film. He had an undeniable gift. He spent the summers in college working on the sets of his father’s movies, and after he graduated from USC he had written two scripts for his father. He’d had a sixteen-­year career behind the scenes as a screenwriter, when he got sidetracked into the Hollywood power game. Because of his parents, doors opened to him that wouldn’t have otherwise, and the opportunities rapidly became too tempting to turn down. His father had warned him to be careful but seize the opportunities he was given as they came and choose those that would best serve him. Andy had chosen wisely, often with his father’s advice.

When AMCO, a major industrial corporation, bought Global Studios to glamorize their image, they sought out Andy and he became the youngest studio head in the business at thirty-­eight. It was a heady experience and he handled it well. He put screenwriting behind him and dedicated himself to the business. At fifty-­seven, Andy had been head of Global Studios for nineteen years now, and had outlasted all the other heads at rival studios. He was admired and respected and did his job well.

By the time Andy was in his early forties, he was as powerful as any studio head in the business, and little by little he had outstripped them. The qualities he had inherited from his father set him apart from everyone else. Honest, straightforward, hardworking, he was considered a man of integrity and honor. Not only did he have a brilliant mind for the business, he backed it with unfailing honesty. He was a man to be trusted. He had watched others fall in the last nineteen years, but his position only became more solid. The business didn’t corrupt him, nor did the vast amounts of money he dealt with, but eventually the volume of his work devoured him. He had grown up with strong family values, which never left him, but the life of a studio head left little or no time for a family or ordinary pursuits. He was always somewhere, checking a film on location, calming a major star who wanted to quit, or making a deal for a new movie. He was the ultimate peacemaker as well as dealmaker, and he had learned from his parents how to coexist with stars and their demands. He had grown up among the biggest stars in the business. Nothing daunted him or frightened him or stopped him.

At forty-­five, he had been married for twenty-­one years when his wife, Jean, told him she was divorcing him. There was no scandal involved. She told him simply that she had hardly seen him for the past seven years, since he had become a studio head, and it was only going to get worse. He knew she was right. Andy was too good at what he did and loved it too much. Global had tripled its profits in the seven years he’d been the CEO. Andy and Jean’s daughter, Wendy, was in college, and he knew he had been an absentee husband and father for some very important years. He had missed every birthday and school event. Jean had had to be both mother and father to their daughter for all the times Andy hadn’t been there. Jean went to most social events alone. He didn’t have the time. He loved his wife and daughter, but he loved his job at least as much. He didn’t fight the divorce and was extremely generous with Jean, and always spoke highly of her.

In the twelve years since their divorce, Jean had remarried a cardiac surgeon, lived a suburban life in Cleveland, and was extremely happy. Wendy had married in the meantime too. She had always stayed as far as she could get from the Hollywood world. She had seen it devour her father’s personal life and destroy her parents’ marriage. She was happily married at thirty-­two with a son and a daughter, Jamie and Lizzie, and lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was married to a book publisher and was an editor herself. Andy had dinner with them when he had business in New York, but readily admitted he saw too little of them. Wendy didn’t hold it against him. She understood who he was. He had sacrificed his personal life for his success. She had never asked him if he thought it was worth it. She assumed he thought it was. It was the life he had chosen, and he seemed to have no regrets.

Andy had never remarried after the divorce. He had had a series of relatively long-­term girlfriends, in Hollywood terms. His relationships lasted for two or three years, often with a major star. He always had a famous actress on his arm, reminiscent of his own mother. Both of his parents had died by then, and his daughter and grandchildren were his only living relatives. Wendy meant the world to him, no matter how little he saw her, and so did her children. He called her frequently and kept current with her life, but he had little time to see her. He knew she understood the demands of his job, and what it meant to him. He was the job by now. It was part of him, like a vital organ.

His current girlfriend was Alana Beal, a truly talented actress who had done several movies with his studio since she had come from En­gland to LA. She was a tall, cool beauty in her forties with stunningly glamorous looks, and she was an intelligent woman. He enjoyed talking to her. He had never abused the perks of his job or his position by seducing young actresses. He was an intelligent man of substance and all the women who had dated him spoke well of him. The relationships always ended because, as generous and kind as he was, he had no intention of marrying again and said so right from the beginning. Sooner or later the women he went out with realized that he meant it, and if they had marriage in mind, they moved on, usually at about the right time. Eventually another woman well-­known in some field, usually movies, would take her place. The system worked well for him, and the relationships had usually reached their expiration dates by the time they ended.
© Brigitte Lacombe
Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s bestselling authors, with a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Happiness, Palazzo, The Wedding Planner, Worthy Opponents, Without a Trace, The Whittiers, The High Notes, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Expect a Miracle, a book of her favorite quotations for inspiration and comfort; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children’s books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. View titles by Danielle Steel

About

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this gripping novel from Danielle Steel, a top Hollywood executive seeks a new beginning when his career takes an unplanned turn.

As the head of a prestigious movie studio for nearly two decades, Andy Westfield has had every conceivable professional luxury: a stunning office on the forty-fourth floor, a loyal assistant who can all but read his mind, access to a private jet and company cars. The son of Hollywood royalty, Andy always put his career before his marriage, and now, besides his daughter and young grandchildren, it’s the only thing he truly loves.

But then Andy’s world is upended. The studio is sold, and the buyer’s son demands the top seat. Out of a job and humiliated, Andy spirals. When his head clears, he decides to get as far away from Los Angeles as possible until the dust settles and he can find a new way forward.

Andy signs a six-month rental agreement for a luxurious home in a tiny, forgotten coastal town two hours from London. When he arrives, he hires a local woman to help get his affairs in order. A former journalist, Violet Smith is at a crossroads as well, and this temporary job is exactly what she needs to tide her over. But when Violet leaves the manuscript of her unfinished novel behind after work one day, Andy lets his curiosity get the best of him and is captivated by a story that begs to be adapted for the big screen. Could this be the miracle they’ve both been looking for? 

In Second Act, Danielle Steel presents a heartening tale of how challenging times give way to opportunities and an original outline does not always contain the perfect ending.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

The building that housed Global Studios in Century City was impressive, but going in through the private entrance to the office of the head of the studio, the CEO of Global, was like entering another universe. Or boarding a rocket ship to the moon. A security guard stood at the discreetly set-­apart elevator to escort VIPs and use his badge on the inside security panel to give them access to Andy Westfield’s office on the forty-­fourth floor. No one could reach the CEO’s private quarters on the top floor without an invitation. Visitors were checked carefully at the main desk, their IDs examined, their fingerprints and photographs taken, their names verified with the reception desk upstairs. By the time they reached the elevator, they had been thoroughly vetted. No attack had ever been attempted on the CEO at Global, but it had happened to other heads of studios, and security measures were particularly acute and high-­tech surrounding Andy.

The private elevator shot up at high speed without a stop. Visitors then found themselves at another reception desk, where they were expected and warmly greeted. The reception area was beautifully decorated with leather couches and priceless contemporary art, and visitors rarely had long to wait. The doors opened automatically into a small anteroom with paintings from Andy’s personal collection, and fourteen-­foot red lacquered doors led into the inner sanctum where Andy sat in peaceful splendor at an enormous mahogany and steel desk with a view of all of Los Angeles. A long wall to his right spoke of his own history. There was a row of posters of his parents’ famous movies. He was the only son of two of Hollywood’s beloved legends. His father, the most famous cowboy who had ever lived in films, John Westfield, originally from Montana, had come to Hollywood at eighteen to be an actor, and was a cowboy to his very core. After thirty years as an actor, he fell in love with directing and became one of the great directors of iconic Westerns. He had won four Oscars as an actor and collected three more as a director. He was a man of strong principles and values, which came across to the audience on film. He had set a powerful example for Andy, and been an admirable husband and father. Tall, rugged, and handsome, he was the hero men respected, little boys wanted to be when they grew up, and women dreamed about. His wife, Andy’s mother, Eva Lundquist, originally from Sweden, was one of the most glamorous stars in Hollywood in her day. She and John were an unlikely, spectacular, and successful pair. She had two Oscars to her credit as well, and retired young to marry John and have Andy. They had been the most loved couple in Hollywood history, and were a strong role model to their son.

Andy had his father’s height and good looks, with blond hair and a chiseled face, which had weathered and aged well in his father’s case, and a notable cleft chin. John was an enormous man with a cowboy’s frame. His hair was darker than Andy’s, who had his Swedish mother’s fair Nordic coloring and bright blue eyes. Andy was blessed with his heredity. He was almost as tall as his father, and just as handsome. He had never longed to be an actor. He knew the toll it had taken on his parents, although they did their best to shield their family life from the paparazzi. But they were always there, lingering in the background.

Andy’s talent as a screenwriter had become apparent early. He had gone to USC and studied film. He had an undeniable gift. He spent the summers in college working on the sets of his father’s movies, and after he graduated from USC he had written two scripts for his father. He’d had a sixteen-­year career behind the scenes as a screenwriter, when he got sidetracked into the Hollywood power game. Because of his parents, doors opened to him that wouldn’t have otherwise, and the opportunities rapidly became too tempting to turn down. His father had warned him to be careful but seize the opportunities he was given as they came and choose those that would best serve him. Andy had chosen wisely, often with his father’s advice.

When AMCO, a major industrial corporation, bought Global Studios to glamorize their image, they sought out Andy and he became the youngest studio head in the business at thirty-­eight. It was a heady experience and he handled it well. He put screenwriting behind him and dedicated himself to the business. At fifty-­seven, Andy had been head of Global Studios for nineteen years now, and had outlasted all the other heads at rival studios. He was admired and respected and did his job well.

By the time Andy was in his early forties, he was as powerful as any studio head in the business, and little by little he had outstripped them. The qualities he had inherited from his father set him apart from everyone else. Honest, straightforward, hardworking, he was considered a man of integrity and honor. Not only did he have a brilliant mind for the business, he backed it with unfailing honesty. He was a man to be trusted. He had watched others fall in the last nineteen years, but his position only became more solid. The business didn’t corrupt him, nor did the vast amounts of money he dealt with, but eventually the volume of his work devoured him. He had grown up with strong family values, which never left him, but the life of a studio head left little or no time for a family or ordinary pursuits. He was always somewhere, checking a film on location, calming a major star who wanted to quit, or making a deal for a new movie. He was the ultimate peacemaker as well as dealmaker, and he had learned from his parents how to coexist with stars and their demands. He had grown up among the biggest stars in the business. Nothing daunted him or frightened him or stopped him.

At forty-­five, he had been married for twenty-­one years when his wife, Jean, told him she was divorcing him. There was no scandal involved. She told him simply that she had hardly seen him for the past seven years, since he had become a studio head, and it was only going to get worse. He knew she was right. Andy was too good at what he did and loved it too much. Global had tripled its profits in the seven years he’d been the CEO. Andy and Jean’s daughter, Wendy, was in college, and he knew he had been an absentee husband and father for some very important years. He had missed every birthday and school event. Jean had had to be both mother and father to their daughter for all the times Andy hadn’t been there. Jean went to most social events alone. He didn’t have the time. He loved his wife and daughter, but he loved his job at least as much. He didn’t fight the divorce and was extremely generous with Jean, and always spoke highly of her.

In the twelve years since their divorce, Jean had remarried a cardiac surgeon, lived a suburban life in Cleveland, and was extremely happy. Wendy had married in the meantime too. She had always stayed as far as she could get from the Hollywood world. She had seen it devour her father’s personal life and destroy her parents’ marriage. She was happily married at thirty-­two with a son and a daughter, Jamie and Lizzie, and lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was married to a book publisher and was an editor herself. Andy had dinner with them when he had business in New York, but readily admitted he saw too little of them. Wendy didn’t hold it against him. She understood who he was. He had sacrificed his personal life for his success. She had never asked him if he thought it was worth it. She assumed he thought it was. It was the life he had chosen, and he seemed to have no regrets.

Andy had never remarried after the divorce. He had had a series of relatively long-­term girlfriends, in Hollywood terms. His relationships lasted for two or three years, often with a major star. He always had a famous actress on his arm, reminiscent of his own mother. Both of his parents had died by then, and his daughter and grandchildren were his only living relatives. Wendy meant the world to him, no matter how little he saw her, and so did her children. He called her frequently and kept current with her life, but he had little time to see her. He knew she understood the demands of his job, and what it meant to him. He was the job by now. It was part of him, like a vital organ.

His current girlfriend was Alana Beal, a truly talented actress who had done several movies with his studio since she had come from En­gland to LA. She was a tall, cool beauty in her forties with stunningly glamorous looks, and she was an intelligent woman. He enjoyed talking to her. He had never abused the perks of his job or his position by seducing young actresses. He was an intelligent man of substance and all the women who had dated him spoke well of him. The relationships always ended because, as generous and kind as he was, he had no intention of marrying again and said so right from the beginning. Sooner or later the women he went out with realized that he meant it, and if they had marriage in mind, they moved on, usually at about the right time. Eventually another woman well-­known in some field, usually movies, would take her place. The system worked well for him, and the relationships had usually reached their expiration dates by the time they ended.

Author

© Brigitte Lacombe
Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s bestselling authors, with a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Happiness, Palazzo, The Wedding Planner, Worthy Opponents, Without a Trace, The Whittiers, The High Notes, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Expect a Miracle, a book of her favorite quotations for inspiration and comfort; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children’s books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood. View titles by Danielle Steel