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Best Kept Secret (Clifton Chronicles Series #3)
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Best Kept Secret (Clifton Chronicles Series #3)

4.1 155
by Jeffrey Archer

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International bestselling author Jeffrey Archer's mesmerizing saga of the Clifton and Barrington families continues.

London, 1945. Who shall inherit the Barrington family fortune? The vote in the House of Lords has ended in a tie. The Lord Chancellor's deciding vote will cast a long shadow on the lives of Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington. Harry returns


International bestselling author Jeffrey Archer's mesmerizing saga of the Clifton and Barrington families continues.

London, 1945. Who shall inherit the Barrington family fortune? The vote in the House of Lords has ended in a tie. The Lord Chancellor's deciding vote will cast a long shadow on the lives of Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington. Harry returns to America to promote his latest novel while Emma goes in search of the little girl who was found abandoned in her father's office on the night he was killed. When the general election is called, Giles Barrington has to defend his seat in the House of Commons and is horrified to discover who the Conservatives select to stand against him. But it is Sebastian Clifton, Harry and Emma's son, who ultimately influences his uncle's fate.

"One of the top ten storytellers in the world."Los Angeles Times

In 1957, Sebastian wins a scholarship to Cambridge, and a new generation of the Clifton family marches onto the page. But after Sebastian is expelled from school, he unwittingly becomes caught up in an international art fraud involving a Rodin statue that is worth far more than the sum it raises at auction. Does he become a millionaire? Does he go to Cambridge? Is his life in danger? Best Kept Secret, the third volume in Archer's bestselling series, will answer all these questions but, once again, pose so many more…

—Publishers Weekly on Sins of the Father

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An artful blend of colorful characters, seething resentment, calculated revenge, and a shocking, tragic cliffhanger distinguishes Archer's third volume of The Clifton Chronicles. Picking up where The Sins of the Father left off, readers discover whether Giles Barrington or Harry Clifton will inherit the late Hugo Barrington's fortune. Harry becomes a successful novelist and marries his true love Emma Barrington; they adopt a daughter with a secret past to join their son Sebastian. Poor smitten, likeable Giles, fighting for his political life as a member of Parliament, is lovesick for the scheming, vindictive Lady Virginia, whom he marries. Sensing disaster, on her death bed Lady Elizabeth Barrington writes Lady Virginia out of the will, prompting the unpopular Lady Virginia to enlist Giles' nemesis, Major Alex Fisher, as she plots her way to the Barrington fortune. Sebastian becomes a young man, sowing his wild oats and naively getting mixed up with a school chum's nefarious father and his sketchy business. Business-savvy Emma earns a college degree, intending to join the family shipping empire. Archer provides a pitch-perfect continuation of the Clifton family saga; his shrewd twists and turns are addictive from the get-go, and he stuns with his signature series sign-off, a cliffhanger leaving readers longing for its resolution. (May)
From the Publisher

“One of the top ten storytellers in the world.” —Los Angeles Times on JEFFREY ARCHER

“There isn't a better storyteller alive.” —Larry King on JEFFREY ARCHER

“Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.” —The Boston Globe on JEFFREY ARCHER

“Cunning plots, silken style…. Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.” —The New York Times on JEFFREY ARCHER

“Archer is a master entertainer.” —Time on JEFFREY ARCHER

“A storyteller in the class of Alexandre Dumas…unsurpassed skill.” —Washington Post on JEFFREY ARCHER

“Archer delivers another page-turning, heart-stopping saga, with delightful twists, and a surprise ending… readers will surely wait for the next with bated breath.” —Publishers Weekly on Sins of the Father

“You'll risk back injury just from being kept on the edge of your seat…. I guarantee that anyone who takes this book from the shelves will not be able to put it down.” —The Spectator on Sins of the Father

“A master of fiction…[Jeffrey Archer] can tell a story, and he does so with such conviction, such appealing naïveté, that you suspend disbelief, and read happily on.” —The Scotsman on Sins of the Father

“General readers as well as Archer fans will enjoy this unforgettable tale, which abounds with cliff-hangers that propel its intriguing and intricate plot.” —Library Journal (starred review) on Only Time Will Tell

“The drama of Harry Clifton's young life takes the reader to the edge of the cliff, where they must hang until the next Clifton Chronicle...” —Sunday Telegraph on the Clifton Chronicle series

“What appears at the outset to be a straightforward coming-of-age tale becomes, by the end, a saga of power, betrayal, and bitter hatred. The novel ends on a deliberately dark note, setting the stage for the sequel…An outstanding effort from a reliable veteran.” —Booklist (starred review) on Only Time Will Tell

Library Journal
The third installment (after The Sins of the Father) of Archer's five-volume "Clifton Chronicles" resumes in 1945 with the Lord Chancellor delivering judgment in the case of Barrington vs. Clifton, regarding the rightful inheritor of the Barrington shipping fortune. In typical Archer style, an ongoing mélange of sensational cliffhangers and disputes propels the Barrington's family feud. Giles struggles to retain his seat in the House of Commons, and brother-in-law Harry becomes a popular mystery writer. While raising the hyperactive and gifted Sebastian, Emma and Harry also adopt an artistic daughter, Jessica, who strikingly resembles both Emma and Sebastian. Giles's colorful political and private life disrupts the controlling interests in the Barrington empire, and Alex Fisher, a former detestable acquaintance of both Harry and Giles, returns to disrupt their financial security and professional lives. VERDICT Archer's consistent inclusion of trivial, autobiographical minutiae pertaining to parliamentary procedures and the election process dominates numerous chapters and belabors an already weakening plotline. Unlike the previous title, this chatty and tiresome volume lacks the captivating intrigue that is often a hallmark of Archer's writing. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/12.]—Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews
In this third of this much-like Downton Abbey series, Archer (Sins of the Father, 2012, etc.) takes the Clifton Chronicles into the post–World War II era. Employing a prologue, Archer slaps a final coat of paint on Volume 2, with the Lord Chancellor awarding the Barrington title to Harry's brother-in-arms, Giles, a Labor MP. Harry and Emma, Giles' sister, are finally free to marry. The two already have an out-of-wedlock son, Sebastian. In this installment, Emma and Harry discover Emma's cad of a father sired a young girl now living at a local orphanage. The Cliftons do the paperwork and the interviews and adopt Jessica, a budding artist, without revealing to her or Sebastian that she's blood kin. Meantime, Harry's become an acclaimed author of detective novels, and Emma meets a Pulitzer Prize–winning author who is impressed with her intellect and decides to help her obtain a degree. When family matriarch Lady Elizabeth dies, she disinherits Giles because he intends to marry Lady Virginia, a greedy, rhymes-with-witchy aristocrat. There's a divorce when Giles regains his senses and then a family reconciliation. And much more. Archer spins sufficient narrative threads for six novels, complete with ample money, Old-Boy connections, intrigue and a deus ex machina. What-will-happen-next reading best approached after picking up the series' first two entries.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Clifton Chronicles Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


"THEREFORE IF ANY man can show any just cause why these two people may not lawfully be joined together in holy matrimony, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”

Harry Clifton would never forget the first time he’d heard those words, and how moments later his whole life had been thrown into turmoil. Old Jack, who like George Washington could never tell a lie, had revealed in a hastily called meeting in the vestry that it was possible that Emma Barrington, the woman Harry adored, and who was about to become his wife, might be his half sister.

All hell had broken loose when Harry’s mother admitted that on one occasion, and only one, she had had sexual intercourse with Emma’s father, Hugo Barrington. Therefore, there was a possibility that he and Emma could be the offspring of the same father.

At the time of her dalliance with Hugo Barrington, Harry’s mother had been walking out with Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who worked at Barrington’s Shipyard. Despite the fact that Maisie had married Arthur soon afterward, the priest refused to proceed with Harry and Emma’s wedding while there was a possibility it might contravene the church’s ancient laws on consanguinity.

Moments later, Emma’s father Hugo had slipped out of the back of the church, like a coward leaving the battlefield. Emma and her mother had traveled up to Scotland, while Harry, a desolate soul, remained at his college in Oxford, not knowing what to do next. Adolf Hitler had made that decision for him.
Harry left the university a few days later and exchanged his academic gown for an ordinary seaman’s uniform. But he had been serving on the high seas for less than a fortnight when a German torpedo had scuppered his vessel, and the name of Harry Clifton appeared on the list of those reported lost at sea.

“Wilt thou take this woman to thy wedded wife, wilt thou keep thee only unto her, as long as you both shall live?”

“I will.”

It was not until after the end of hostilities, when Harry had returned from the battlefield scarred in glory, that he discovered Emma had given birth to their son, Sebastian Arthur Clifton. But Harry didn’t find out until he had fully recovered that Hugo Barrington had been killed in the most dreadful circumstances, and bequeathed the Barrington family another problem, every bit as devastating to Harry as not being allowed to marry the woman he loved.

Harry had never considered it at all significant that he was a few weeks older than Giles Barrington, Emma’s brother and his closest friend, until he learned that he could be first in line to inherit the family’s title, its vast estates, numerous possessions and, to quote the will, all that therein is. He quickly made it clear that he had no interest in the Barrington inheritance, and was only too willing to forfeit any birthright that might be considered his, in favor of Giles. The Garter King of Arms seemed willing to go along with this arrangement, and all might have progressed in good faith, had Lord Preston, a Labor backbencher in the Upper House, not taken it upon himself to champion Harry’s claim to the title, without even consulting him.

“It is a matter of principle,” Lord Preston had explained to any lobby correspondents who questioned him.

“Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony?”

“I will.”

Harry and Giles remained inseparable friends throughout the entire episode, despite the fact that they were officially set against each other in the highest court in the land, as well as on the front pages of the national press.

Harry and Giles would both have rejoiced at the Lord Chancellor’s decision had Emma and Giles’s grandfather, Lord Harvey, been in his seat on the front bench to hear his ruling, but he never learned of his triumph. The nation remained divided by the outcome, while the two families were left to pick up the pieces.

The other consequence of the Lord Chancellor’s ruling was, as the press were quick to point out to their rapacious readers, that the highest court in the land had ordained that Harry and Emma were not of the same bloodline, and therefore he was free to invite her to be his lawfully wedded wife.

“With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”

However, Harry and Emma both knew that a decision made by man did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Hugo Barrington was not Harry’s father, and as practicing Christians, it worried them that they might be breaking God’s law.

Their love for each other had not diminished in the face of all they had been through. If anything, it had grown stronger, and with the encouragement of her mother, Elizabeth, and the blessing of Harry’s mother Maisie, Emma accepted Harry’s proposal of marriage. It only saddened her that neither of her grandmothers had lived to attend the ceremony.

The nuptials did not take place in Oxford, as originally planned, with all the pomp and circumstance of a university wedding, and the inevitable glare of publicity that would accompany it, but at a simple register office ceremony in Bristol, with only the family and a few close friends in attendance.

Perhaps the saddest decision that Harry and Emma reluctantly agreed on was that Sebastian Arthur Clifton would be their only child.

Copyright © 2013 by Jeffrey Archer

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain's House of Commons and nineteen years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections—including Sins of the Father, Only Time Will Tell, Kane and Abel, and False Impression—have been international bestselling books. Archer is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.

Brief Biography

London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Date of Birth:
April 15, 1940
Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute

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Best Kept Secret 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 155 reviews.
veelow1125 More than 1 year ago
I love all of Jeffrey Archer books. I started my love affair with Kane & Abel, moved on to Sons of Fortune and have read everything else. He's such a great writer, makes you feel like you are a part of his character's lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jeffrey Archer is one of the better plotters, if not THE best, in the business. I read his books to the exclusion of all else; eating (including feeding my family), sleeping and the occasional shower. Just be prepared; you won't be able to put it down once you start it. And that only makes the wait until the next in the Clifton Chronicles even longer. I think Best Kept Secret is the best of the series, so far. My only negative is that I didn't write it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
left you hanging his plot twists a little too much to keep you hanging in te end
usmc_brat More than 1 year ago
This was a good trilogy, and very enjoyable. Mr. Archer left it open to continue the saga of the Cliftons &amp; Barringtons. I would love to read more of their story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really!..... how could you not even offer the hint of a follow up book when you have that kind of ending!.... i think i am done with this author......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was enjoying the continuation of the Clifton saga, it got exciting towards the end, and then... Really, Jeffrey Archer, ANOTHER cliffhanger! It's obvious and overdone. Why not just put a sentence at the end, saying "Buy my next book". At this point, who cares?
lunchread More than 1 year ago
Best Kept Secret is the third book in a series. Unfortunately you have to read the first two books in the series to fully enjoy this story. It would be best if Archer gave a little synopsis to remind readers of the characters and plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
as with the others in the series i am left with a longing for the next book Can't wait
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A disappointment...... The first two books were excellent - I don't know what happened here. I can only hope that there is another book to follow. This was a terrible ending to a pretty good trilogy. Please don't disappoint us again Mr. Archer.
book_lover5454 More than 1 year ago
I like Jeffrey Archer's writing, and this series is very, very good. Can't wait to start on #4.
Punishment More than 1 year ago
Awaiting next book and I understand it will not be published until 2015. The writer is fabulous and defines each character in much detail. I would gladly pre-order the next book whenever it is supposed to be published.' I enjoyed his books so much I am looking at other books by him.
KennyRayFL More than 1 year ago
If you are not yet a fan of Jeffrey Archer (and I can't imagine anyone not being a fan) I highly recommend you read the Clifton Chronicles. This is the absolute BEST series I have ever read. Each installment ends with a cliff hanger. I read all three books in order (recommend you do this) and cannot wait for #4. Jeffrey Archer is a true master of suspense and his eye for detail and intrigue is amazing. Get your hands on every Jeffrey Archer book and you will never be disappointed.
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Best in the series so far.
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this is a fast and good read. Jeffrey Archer is a good writer.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series has proven that Archer is right up there in historical fiction, as the first generation: Harry and Sir Giles, start to move over as their children begin to come forward in the saga. After the vote opening the way for Giles' future comes down, he settles in as the MC and Harry's books become bestsellers. Emma begins college via corresponence, and Sebastian matures as he heads towards college. Jessica begins to bloom as an artist, Grace, now a professor, tries to remove herself from the family "dramas" except to threaten to crash Giles and Harry's heads together if they don't reconcile. And then Sebastian gets involved in a art heist that could threaten his life. How will that resolve? What will change? Let's face it, you know nothing stays the same in The Clifton Chronicles!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be sure and start with book 1 and progress from there.. You will not be able to put them down and fee sad when it is finished.
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She cat