Bradford’s latest (after Playing the Game) is a multigenerational tale set in Connecticut’s exclusive Litchfield Hills, exotic Istanbul, uptown New York, and WWII Germany. Filmmaker Justine Nolan, 32, cuts a sympathetic figure despite being tall, blonde, and successful, because all she’s ever wanted is to enjoy the loving family she was deprived of by the death of her father, her mother’s manipulations, and the disappearance of her beloved grandmother, Gabriele. When Justine opens a letter stating that Gabriele is alive and well in Istanbul, Justine jets off to find her. She reconnects with Gabriele and meets Gabriele’s lifelong friend, Anita, along with Anita’s handsome and savvy grandson, Michael. At this point, Gabriele takes over as heroine, revealing her secret past through diary excerpts. Reading about Gabriele’s trials in Nazi Germany, Justine discovers the extent of her mother’s deceptions, the depth of her grandmother’s suffering, and something about herself as well. In want or in luxury, Bradford characters live in style, from white clapboard houses in Connecticut to Turkish villas overlooking the Bosphorus. Gardens, food, clothing, and accessories—everything in Bradford’s world shows taste. If the plot turns simplistic at times, loyal fans will still tear up at the descriptions of enduring friendship and familial love. Agent: Bradford Enterprises. (Apr.)
An unexpected letter leads a beautiful documentarian to Turkey, where she reunites with her long-lost grandmother. In a departure from her usual serialized family sagas, Bradford attempts a stand-alone examination of one troubled family, with uneven results. Her willowy blonde protagonist, Justine, is at Indian Ridge, her family's Connecticut vacation manse, when she opens an envelope, with no return address, only an Istanbul postmark, addressed to her mother Deborah (who's in China on business). The letter urges Deborah to end her estrangement from her mother, Gabriele, before Gabriele, nearing 80, dies. Justine is shocked! Ten years before, Deborah, whose venal, narcissistic personality traits are exemplified by her non-willowy figure and brunette hair color, had told Justine and her twin brother Richard that Gabriele was killed in a plane crash. Saying nothing to Deborah, Justine and Richard decide to track down Gabriele. In Istanbul, Justine stumbles on Gabriele and her grandmother's childhood friend Anita (the letter-writer), living in side-by-side villas. Both appear to be in the peak of health and are running a thriving interior design business. (As always, Bradford's descriptions of furnishings, fabrics and amenities are far more rigorous than her exploration of characters' psyches and motivations.) Readers are given to understand that Deborah is entirely at fault for the estrangement--until we learn about its provocation. Not only did Gabriele conceal her controlling interest in Deborah's husband's firm, but Gabriele cut off newly widowed Deborah's income, and put Indian Ridge in trust for the grandchildren, disinheriting Deborah. Nevertheless, Gabriele insists she is the innocent victim of a greedy daughter. Halfway through the novel, the emphasis shifts abruptly from the rift to Gabriele's suppressed World War II trauma, which she has nonetheless detailed in a journal that Justine reads. The journal, depicting actual jeopardy, is the novel's most compelling segment, but it, too, fails to justify Gabriele's actions. Bradford's efforts to assign the moral high ground are doomed to fail, since she can't seem to penetrate her characters' hypocrisy.
From the Publisher
“Her most exciting series yet...It's filled with romance, suspense and intrigue, and the richly detailed characters come vibrantly alive as expert pacing captures your attention from the very first page.” RomanticTimes BOOKreviews, Top Pick, on the Ravenscar series
“Rife with dastardly internecine struggles, smoldering illicit passion, and cowardly insidious betrayals…[the Deravenels] pack as much intrigue as any Shakespearean royal drama.” Booklist on Being Elizabeth
“The queen of the bestseller list still rules with The Heir.” Miami Herald
“Bestseller Bradford's dynastic epic spanning the 20th century should tide over her fans...” Publishers Weekly on the Ravenscar series
“Bradford's characters are so real, readers clamor to know them better.” USA Today on the Ravenscar series
“This expertly crafted epic novel further explores the triumphs and tragedies of the Deravenel family. It will enthrall readers with its vivid characters and fast-paced, larger-than-life plot.” Romantic Times BOOKreviews (4 ½ stars) on The Heir
“The Ravenscar Dynasty has it all--power, betrayal, mystery...The characters are all complex, dynamic, and powerful, leading us through Edward Deravenel's struggles one exciting step at a time.” Romance Reviews Today
“Bradford's fiction has long focused on strong heroines who succeed against great odds. Her latest novel, The Ravenscar Dynasty...is the first of a planned trilogy of novels, all destined for best-sellerdom.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“The Harte saga is as much a force of nature as a work of fiction…the issues at stake still compel readers after 25 years. Bradford understood early on readers' hunger for depictions of women who are strong and powerful and whose values embrace family. A quarter-century ago, Emma Harte crossed the no-woman's-land that once divided family and business, and now generations of readers consider her a role model in their own lives.” The Washington Post
“A truly remarkable conclusion to her beloved Harte family saga…riveting and intense. Not many novels have the ability to completely immerse the reader, but this one draws you into the story from the very first page.” Romantic Times BOOKreviews on Just Rewards
“Bradford gives her readers more of what she does best--strong, savvy female protagonists who relentlessly pursue great destinies, characters much like the author herself…well-written and full of emotion…completely riveting…the plot, while always complex, has suspenseful moments to keep the pace sharp…good reading…Unexpected Blessings clearly shows why Bradford is still the premier writer of family sagas.” Miami New Times
Read an Excerpt
The letter, contemplated and worried about for such a long time, was finally written. But it was not mailed. Instead it was put in a drawer of the desk so that it could be thought about, the words carefully reconsidered before that last irretrievable step was taken.
The following morning the letter was read once more, corrected and locked away for the second time. On the third day it was perused again and the words deftly edited. Satisfied that everything had been said clearly and concisely, the writer copied the final draft on a fresh piece of writing paper. This was folded, sealed in an envelope, addressed, and affixed with the correct stamps. The words air mail were written in the top left-hand corner of the envelope, which was then propped against the antique French clock on the desk.
A short while later, the young son of the cook was summoned to the upstairs sitting room. The envelope was handed to him, instructions given, and he was told to take it to the post office at once.
The boy left the villa immediately, waving to the gardener as he trotted through the iron gates of the old-style Turkish yali. This was situated on the Asiatic side of Istanbul, on the shores of the Bosphorus, in Üsküdar, the largest and most historical district of the city.
As he walked in the direction of the post office, the boy held the letter tightly in his hand, proud that he had been given such an important task by his father’s employer. He was only ten, but everyone said he was capable, and this pleased him.
A light, balmy breeze wafted inland from the sea, carry ing with it the hint of salt and the sounds of continuous hooting from one of the big cruise ships now plowing its way down the Bosphorus, heading toward the Black Sea and new ports of call.
The boy hurried on, intent in his purpose, remembering his instructions. . . . The letter must be put in the box marked international. It was going to America. He must not make the mistake of using the one which was for domestic mail. He was soon leaving the shoreline behind, walking up the long road called Halk Caddesi. The post office was at the top, and within minutes he found the letter box marked international and dropped the letter in the slot. He then retraced his steps.
When the Bosphorus was in his line of vision once more, the boy began to run; he was soon pushing open the gates of the yali, heading for the kitchens. He found his father preparing lunch, and dutifully reported that he had posted the letter. His father picked up the phone, spoke to his employer, then ruffled his son’s hair, smiling down at him. He rewarded him with pieces of Turkish delight on a saucer.
The boy went outside, sat on the step in the sunshine, munching the delicious sweetmeat. He sat there daydreaming, had no way of knowing that the letter he had just mailed would change many lives forever. And so drastically they would never be the same again.
The writer of the letter knew this. But the consequences were of no consideration. Long ago, a terrible wrong had been done. The truth was long overdue. Finally it had been revealed, and if there was retribution then so be it. What mattered most was that a wrong could be righted.
From Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Copyright © 2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.