Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin’s, Oct 2007, $25.95
In 1918 England Edward Deravenel successfully runs the family business empire with the help of competent loyal assistants. With the pandemic influenza, however Ned worries about the health of his heir, five years old “Young” Edward, and his spare two years old Richard; but also loves his other offspring including out of wedlock Grace Rose. Although he loves his wife Elizabeth, he has issues with her hurtful speech and feels more comfortable with his mistress Jane Shaw. His youngest brother Richard is very loyal while their odious middle brother George is ambitious and jealous. Ned accepts some of George’s antics because his mother has asked him too.
Ned sends George to negotiate with Ian MacDougall over buying the Scottish distillery at the same time that dedicated assistant Will asks Amos to investigate George as rumors of womanizing, drug abuse and gambling debts abound. Will and manager Alfredo tell Ned what Amos learns. Ned worries about dying so he begins to take care of those he cherishes. George’s behavior with Ian makes it critical he fixes who inherits the business as the Scotsman complained about his wastrel brother. Ned pays off George’s debts and tells him he owes him the money. George is angry and scared.
The above two paragraphs highlights Part One of a four part family saga similar to the author’s Harte tales. Segments two and three take a deep look at what happens to the extended family. The last part leaps to the 1970s with some musing on the in between decades. All four segments are well written with strong characters dealing with family conflict and there is a clever interesting use of names that imply historical persona. Although the last segment feels like padding and wives die off making it easier for the lead protagonists to fix problems while two key mysteries are left unresolved, fans will enjoy Barbara Taylor Bradford’s latest epic.