Act of Will

Act of Will

3.7 4
by Barbara Taylor Bradford, Barbara Taylor Bradford

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From beloved bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford comes the enthralling saga of three generations of extraordinary women—of the fate that befalls them, and the choices that define their lives…

Orphaned after the death of her mother, well-bred Audra Kenton rose from selfless nurse to servant of an affluent

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From beloved bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford comes the enthralling saga of three generations of extraordinary women—of the fate that befalls them, and the choices that define their lives…

Orphaned after the death of her mother, well-bred Audra Kenton rose from selfless nurse to servant of an affluent suffragette, to a fiercely independent bride whose passionate marriage was overtaken by an unforeseeable tragedy. Now Audra has but one dream—to bestow upon her brilliantly artistic daughter, every opportunity that she was denied…

Given the world, the stubborn Christina has forsaken the wishes of her noble mother to forge the career of her choice—that of a glittering Manhattan fashion empire she hopes to bequeath to her own daughter. But in young and beautiful Kyle stirs a spirit that is inherently headstrong, equally independent, and just as ironically resistant to the sacrifices made in the name of love.

From the picturesque Yorkshire Dales to the haute couture luxuries of Paris and London to the bittersweet respite of home and family, three women face stunning betrayals and astonishing reversals of fate as each brings her own intimate struggle to their need of personal success and to a triumphant and heartening understanding of devotion, duty, and destiny.

“This novel continues the Bradford tradition of spirited romances peopled with memorable, self made women…fetching.”Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A master storyteller and character builder, Bradford again crafts another reader-holder novel…Act of Will is another winner.” —The Pittsburgh Press

“Pure gold–certain to be a runaway bestseller.” —Cosmopolitan

Andrew Postman
Throughout 'Act of Will', major characters are ignored for chapters at a time and events occur with almost breathtaking predictability. That may be its secret. Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose fans number somewhere in the octillions, manages uncannily to do precisely what good storytelling does not - to make a ''sweeping'' saga parochial and to prevent her characters from achieving lives of their own. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though enjoyable, Bradford's latest novel lacks the sweep and grandeur that characterized her bestsellers, A Woman of Substance and Hold the Dream. Left to the indifferent care of an aunt after the death of her mother, well-bred Audra Kenton is sent to work at Yorkshire's Fever Hospital, where she trains as a nurse before taking a post in the home of an affluent suffragette. Though she captures the heart of a handsome bounder, Audra's independent spirit is not much appreciated by her working-class husband, and the two clash fiercely over her encouragement of their daughter's artistic genius. Audra's ceaseless efforts backfire, though, when Christina tries to repay the debt by choosing a lucrative career in fashion. With its trademark painted silk garments, the House of Christina is an instant success. But handing the flourishing business on to her only daughter proves harder than Christina expected, since Kyle, in her turn, rejects the world her mother has carved out to seek her own path as an artist. While written in a comparatively minor key, this is a light, pleasing tale of three generations, marked by ironic twists of fate and finely etched period detail. (June 20pSLAVES OF NEW YORK Tama Janowitz. Crown, $15.95
Library Journal
In another well-written novel Bradford deals with the often-troubled lives of three generations of strong-willed women. Artistically talented orphan Audra Kenton leaves nursing to serve as nanny to precocious Theo Bell. Soon she meets and weds handsome Vincent Crowther, and they begin a long but unstable life together. Obsessively determined to give her daughter the best art education possible, Audra toils long and hard only to see Christina forsake painting for haute couture as a way to repay her mother's untiring sacrifice. At length Christina must allow her own headstrong daughter, Kyle, to determine the direction her own life will follow. Taylor fans will be well satisfied, though they may wish that young Kyle had been allowed a fuller introduction. Literary Guild dual main selection. Judith A. Gifford, Salve Regina Coll. Lib., Newport, R.I.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
4.04(w) x 6.64(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Today it was her birthday.

It was the third of June in the year 192 6 and she was nineteen years old.

Audra Kenton stood at the window of her room in the Fever Hospital in Ripon, in Yorkshire, where she worked as a nurse, gazing out at the back garden. Absently she watched the play of light and shadow on the lawn, as the sunlight filtered through the leafy domes of the two great oaks that grew near the old stone wall. There was a gentle breeze, and the leaves rustled and trembled under it, and shimmered with green brilliance as they caught the sun. It was radiant and balmy, a day that invited and beckoned.

Matron had given Audra the afternoon off for her birthday. The problem was that she had nowhere to go and no one to spend it with. She was entirely alone in this world.

Audra only had one friend, Gwen Thornton, another nurse at the hospital, but Gwen had been summoned home to Horsforth yesterday. Her mother had been taken ill and she was needed. Weeks ago, Gwen had arranged to exchange her day off with one of the other nurses, so that she could be with Audra, celebrate this important occasion with her, and the two of them had planned a very special day. Now their elaborate plans were laid to waste.

Leaning her head against the window frame, Audra sighed, thinking of the empty hours looming ahead. Unexpectedly her throat tightened and she felt the tears gathering behind her eyes as sadness mingled with bitter disappointment trickled through her. But after only a few seconds she blinked and cleared her throat, managed to take holdof herself. Resolutely she pushed aside the negative emotions momentarily invading her, refusing to feel sorry for herself. Audra despised self-pity in others, considered it to be a sign of weakness. She was strong. Her mother had always told her that she was, and her mother had rarely been wrong about anything.

Turning away from the window, she walked over to the chair and sat down heavily, wondering what to do with herself.

She could read, of course, or do a little embroidery, or even finish the sketch of the blouse she was designing, and which she intended to make — when she could afford to buy the fabric. On the other hand, none of these occupations had any real appeal for her. Not today. Not on her birthday.

She had been so looking forward to the outing with her friend, to enjoying a few carefree hours of pleasure for once in her life. Audra had little to celebrate these days, and festive occasions were a thing of the past, a rarity indeed. In fact, her life had changed so radically, so harshly, in the last few years, she hardly recognized it as her own.

It suddenly struck her that resorting to one of those mundane hobbies, normally used to pass the time when she was off duty, would be infinitely worse than just sitting in this chair, doing nothing. They're poor substitutes, all of them, for the plans Gwen and I made.

Audra had long since trained herself not to notice the room where she lived in the hospital. But now, seeing it so clearly illuminated in the bright sunshine, she became painfully aware of its ugliness and lack of comfort. Having been born into gentility, albeit somewhat impoverished, Audra was a young woman of breeding and refinement. She possessed taste in abundance, had strong artistic leanings, and the austerity of the Spartan furnishings and institutional color scheme suddenly stabbed at her discerning eyes. They offended her sensibilities.

Confronting her were walls painted a dismal porridge-beige which ran down to a floor covered with dreary gray linoleum. The iron bedstead, rickety night stand and chest of drawers were notable only for their shabbiness and utilitarian design. The room was chillingly bleak, intolerable at any time, but especially on this sunny afternoon. She knew she had to escape its oppressive boundaries for a short while, no matter where she went.

Her gaze fell on the dress lying on the bed, where she had placed it a short time before. It was new. She had saved up for a whole year, putting away a shilling every week, in order to buy herself a present for her birthday.

She and Gwen had gone to Harrogate two Saturdays ago with this in mind. They had wandered around for several hours, mostly window-shoppingand admiring the beautiful things they saw and which they knew they would never be able to afford. Audra filled with warm and affectionate feelings for Gwen as she thought of that day now.

Gwen was especially attracted to jeweler's shops, and Audra had found herself constantly cupping her hands and dutifully peering through glass at some bauble that had caught Gwen's attention. "Oh Audra! Just look at that!" Gwen kept crying, pointing to a brooch or a ring or a pendant. At one moment she had clutched Audra's arm fiercely and whispered in awed tones, "Have you ever seen anything like that gorgeous bangle, Audra! Why the stones could be real the way they sparkle like diamonds. It would suit you, Audra. Let's go in ... it doesn't cost anything just to look."

Audra had half smiled and shaken her head, not saying a word, and she had thought of her mother's jewelry, which had been much more beautiful than any of these tawdry imitations of the real thing.

Gwen's excited exclamations and urgent proddings; continued a bit too long for Audra that afternoon, and she had eventually grown exasperated, had silenced her friend with a stern look and a sharp admonition to be quiet. Immediately regretting her shortness, she had quickly apologized to Gwen.

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