For the first time Judith Krantz has chosen to tell a story rooted in the shattering emotions of a mother-daughter relationship gone desperately wrong. The story unfolds on a classic Krantz background, a magic carpet of gorgeous entertainment and sumptuous events. Yet, at its core, The Jewels of Tessa Kent is an engrossing, deeply moving, and ultimately inspiring tale of two women bound by blood yet torn apart by their deepest emotions.
Tessa Kent, an exquisite and precocious fourteen, gives birth to an illegitimate daughter. Her parents, devout Catholics, raise the infant, Maggie, as their own child. At sixteen Tessa is discovered by Hollywood; by nineteen she's an international movie star. Maggie lives for her glorious "sister's" infrequent whirlwind visits. Maggie is a captivating, independent eighteen when she accidentally learns the truth. Mortally wounded, she breaks all ties with Tessa and starts to work at the famed Manhattan auction house of Scott & Scott.
Five years later, a life-altering crisis makes Tessa passionately determined to end this estrangement. An auction is the only way she can find to reach her daughter, an auction of the immensely valuable collection of famed jewels that represent all the love lavished on her by her late husband. Tessa promises Scott & Scott the auction on the condition that Maggie and she work closely together on the sale. For Tessa, her entire future now hangs on the hope of an almost impossible reconciliation.
The Jewels of Tessa Kent deals with the fascinating workings of an auction house; it's a revealing look at the inside of Hollywood stardom; but more than anything else, it's a story of feelings and family, of loss, mistakes, joy and redemption.
From the Hardcover edition.
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From the Hardcover edition.
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Agnes Patricia Riley Horvath, whose daughter, Teresa, would become Tessa Kent, lay in bed at three in the morning. She had been awakened, as usual, by obsessive, angry thoughts about her husband, Sandor, and the way in which he dominated the upbringing of their only child, who now, in August 1967, had reached the age of twelve.
Her parents had opposed her marriage to Sandor Horvath in 1954 and they had been right, Agnes told herself. She was humiliated to the marrow of her bones as she relived her folly, lying next to Sandor in those private hours during which she was unable to keep her mind under control.
If it weren't for Sandor's stern prohibitions, Agnes reflected furiously, Teresa would be well launched on her career, a career about which there wasn't the smallest question-- destiny Agnes knew to be as fixed as the rotation of the earth.
Her daughter had been born a star--yes a star!--by virtue of her extraordinary beauty and the unmistakable dramatic talent she'd exhibited even as a small child. That wasn't a mere mother's pride talking, that was the opinion of everyone who'd ever seen her, Agnes told herself, trembling with frustration. Teresa should be making movies, or at the very least commercials--there was no limit to her future. But no, her husband, unable to move away from his rigid, old-fashioned, European ideas of what was correct and proper for a young girl, had steadily refused to let her take the girl to New York, where she could meet the influential people who would recognize how exceptional her daughter was.
Night after night, Agnes Horvath asked herself what had possessed her, when she was a mere eighteen and far too stupid to make choices, to insist on marrying a man who was essentially foreign to the tight-knit, devout, Irish Catholic world in which she had her enviable place as the youngest of the five sparkling, black-haired, blue-eyed Riley daughters. Why had she set her heart on a refugee from Communist Hungary, a music professor of thirty-five?
Each time Agnes asked herself this question, she couldn't stop herself from treating it as if it were a newly discovered problem that might contain some newly meaningful answer. She'd recapitulate the past as seriously as if she might still uncover some forgotten fact that would suddenly change the present.
Sandor had been an amazingly handsome man, a charming and romantic stranger, who had swept the provincial fool she had been off her feet and out of what small, unsophisticated wits she had possessed. The distinguished man who spoke English with more elegance and precision than any American boy had been irresistible to her barely formed mind and impressionable heart. Savagely Agnes reminded herself that she'd also been suffering from a bad case of seeing Gone with the Wind too many times. Then, and still today, at forty-eight, Sandor strongly resembled Leslie Howard, but she'd been too immature to realize how quickly his fine-boned, intellectual, sensitive beauty would become infuriating when she weighed them against the rules and regulations he imposed on her.
Now she was thirty-one, her marriage was thirteen years old, and Agnes Horvath had known for at least half of it that she'd made the biggest mistake a deeply religious Catholic woman could make. No matter how great her rage against her husband, there could be no thought of divorce. But even if the mere idea of divorce had not been a sin, what training did she have to make a living for herself and Teresa if they were to find themselves on their own? Agnes Riley had been brought up to be a protected wife and a devoted mother, nothing more, and certainly nothing less, like every other woman of her generation.
Sandor earned a good salary as the head of the music department at an exclusive girls school in Stamford, Connecticut, not far from their home on the modest edge of the rich community of Greenwich, where they lived in order to be near their daughter's school. Teresa was a day student at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, an aristocratic institution which they were both intent on her attending.
In all fairness, Agnes reminded herself, turning over in bed, she had to admit that Sandor worked hard to make his way in his new country. Her sisters had married local boys in nearby Bridgeport, where she'd grown up, mates whose status never came close to that of a professor. Some of these good Irish-American boys made considerably more money than Sandor in their blue-collar jobs, but the whole family respected her elegant, learned husband.
Each of Agnes's sisters had produced a sprawling brood of kids, ordinary, unremarkable, almost indistinguishable kids. When she took Teresa to their frequent family gatherings there was no doubt about whose child, among the dozens of cousins, was the center of attention. Teresa's singularity was a subject of family pride rather than any sniping or competition. From the time she was a tiny baby she had so fine and rare a quality that a party would have been incomplete without Teresa to marvel at. Her own sisters, Agnes knew, were in awe of the child she'd brought into their limited world. Her cousins vied for her attention, the older ones whisking her away so they could play with her as if she were some very precious kind of doll.
Teresa was the only one of the cousins who didn't attend a local parochial school. At the Convent, one of the many Sacred Heart schools in the world, she was a "Day Hop," not a boarding student. Many daughters of millionaires were her classmates, a distinction that only added to Teresa's exhalted position in the Riley family.
"Your family will ruin her utterly with all that attention," Sandor had grumbled angrily after the last Riley get-together. "Teresa's becoming spoiled. She used to be such a satisfactory child, docile and obedient, but lately, I warn you, Agnes, I sense that there's something going on inside her that I worry about...some sort of rebellion under the surface, something I can't put my finger on. And I most definitely don't approve of that 'best friend' of hers, that Mimi Peterson. She's not a child I want Teresa associating with, she's not even a Catholic, heaven knows what ideas she's putting--"
"You're imagining things," Agnes had snapped. "Every little girl has a best friend, and the Petersons are lovely, suitable people. They may be Protestants but they have the good sense to realize that the quality of education at Sacred Heart is better than that at an ordinary school. And they truly appreciate Teresa, which is more than her own father seems to do."
"How can you say something so unfair?" he demanded, stung. "I love her too much for my own good, but, Agnes, the world's a difficult place and Teresa's not a princess, whatever you may think. She doesn't need any more fuss made about her than she already gets from you. The way you dote on her is shameless...it comes close to the sin of pride, if you ask me."
"Pride, Agnes, is too high an opinion of oneself."
"Do you imagine I don't know that?" she asked, outraged. She loathed his tone when he started to talk church doctrine, as sanctimonious, stuffy and hair splitting as if he'd lived hundreds of years ago.
"Too high an opinion of one's offspring, can, like pride, lead to the sin of presumption."
"When I need a priest's interpretation of sin, Sandor, I know where to go for it. How dare you preach to me?"
"Agnes, but you realize that in less than a year Teresa will be a teenager? I've seen your sisters go through enough trouble with their own teenaged children, why should we be different? If only..."
"If only we'd had more children? Don't you dare, Sandor! I wanted them as much as you did. Are you saying it was my fault that I had those miscarriages...?"
"Agnes, you can't possibly be starting this nonsense again, please, I beg you. I was going to say that if only it were ten years ago life would be simpler, if only there were standards...if only people stayed the same! In my country teenagers behaved like the school children they are. Please stop talking about fault. The Blessed Virgin didn't mean it to be, and we must accept that."
But he did blame her, Agnes Horvath brooded angrily, he blamed her in his heart of hearts, but never as much as she blamed herself, no matter how ridiculous and futile and morally wrong she knew it was to use the word "blame" about a situation that was in the hands of God alone.
But at least she had Teresa, and wasn't one Teresa worth a houseful of ordinary children?
From the Paperback edition.
On November 4, 1998, barnesandnoble.com was pleased to welcome Judith Krantz to our Authors@aol series. Among Judith Krantz's ten bestselling romance novels are SCRUPLES, PRINCESS DAISY, TILL WE MEET AGAIN, and LOVERS. Her latest novel is THE JEWELS OF TESSA KENT. Ms. Krantz was interviewed by PaviaNYC of AOL's Entertainment Channel.
JainBN: Welcome, Ms. Krantz!
PaviaNYC: Judith Krantz has written ten bestsellers; 75 million copies of them are in print. Most have been made into miniseries. Not bad for someone who first started writing fiction as a second career. You could be a character in one of your own novels.
Judith Krantz: Well, thank you! It was indeed a second career. I started out writing articles for women's magazines for 24 years before I wrote SCRUPLES.
PaviaNYC: What made you start writing fiction?
Judith Krantz: My husband nagged me for 15 years before I wrote fiction because he was convinced that I was a naturally born storyteller. And I finally decided to make him stop nagging me by showing him that I couldn't write fiction. So in good faith, I tried to write a novel. I used my best abilities; I didn't hold back. In the middle of the first chapter, I realized I was writing SCRUPLES, and I realized that I loved it.
PaviaNYC: THE JEWELS OF TESSA KENT is more emotionally dramatic than your other novels.
Judith Krantz: Absolutely. THE JEWELS OF TESSA KENT is my most mature and most interesting plot because I was ready to handle very important human emotions -- in this case the relationship between mother and daughter. It's one of the most primary emotions, and I wanted to focus on that. At the same time, I continue to set the story in the world of glamour that I specialize in.
PaviaNYC: So we have to know: Is Tessa based on a real woman?
Judith Krantz: On no.... Tessa is totally imaginary. She is an extraordinarily precocious 14-year-old that gets pregnant.
PaviaNYC: Are your characters ever based on real women?
Judith Krantz: Never, unless they're based in some degree on me. The ones that are based on me are always best friends, not the heroine.
PaviaNYC: Which characters, then, are most based on you?
Judith Krantz: Well, in THE JEWELS OF TESSA KENT, there is an adorable character named Polly. Tessa has a best friend named Mimi. She's a very bad influence on Tessa. And Tessa's daughter, Maggie, has a best friend that is older than she is who is named Polly. So I'm both the bad Mimi and the good Polly.
PaviaNYC: What have you learned from your characters over the years?
Judith Krantz: I think the question really is what they have learned from me. They have to learn from me because I create them. I think they make the same mistakes over and over again, just like real people.
PaviaNYC: My best friend sent me email when she heard I'd be talking to you. Here's what she said about you: You inspired her to move to New York, crave expensive sheets, and be totally glamorous.
Judith Krantz: It never occurred to me that I was influencing people to actually move to New York.
PaviaNYC: You inspire women to want to be glamorous. How do you deal with that?
Judith Krantz: Well, I think that people can create a more glamorous atmosphere for themselves if they really want to. And on the other hand, they can just enjoy reading about it, which is what I intend for them to do. I don't intend for them to change, just to have fun. I think I should add that my books are meant for escape, not for inspiration.
PaviaNYC: Since you are one of the world's authorities on the subject, let's talk about glamour. Who's glamorous?
Judith Krantz: Well, glamour is not a real thing, it's a manufactured thing. If you look in the dictionary, you'll find it defined as a spell, as a form of witchcraft. What glamour really is is an illusion. And certain people are able to create that illusion.
PaviaNYC: Can you name some glamorous women?
Judith Krantz: I would start with Paloma Picasso. She's a very luscious, dark-haired daughter of the world's most famous artist.
PaviaNYC: Yes or no: Madonna?
Judith Krantz: To me, absolutely not, because she tries so hard. With Madonna, you see the wheels working.
PaviaNYC: Supermodels like Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford?
Judith Krantz: No, because they are manufactured by the fashion magazines. I think we're smart enough to know that they don't wake up in the morning looking like that. I think that you'd have to have a glamorous personality to match the glamorous looks.
JainBN: And now for some audience questions....
Question: Hi, Judith. I really love all of your books, and as an aspiring writer, I'm interested in how you work. Do you develop characters first and create a story around them, or does the plot come first? Can you share with us how you typically work?
Judith Krantz: First, I look for my heroine's profession. I always write about working women. Once I know what her job is, I begin to construct her personality around the needs of her job. She starts at the entry level; she doesn't start at the top. Next, I ask myself who she works with. And this gives me the cast of characters who will then interact.
PaviaNYC: Unlike typical romance novels, in your stories, a woman's first passion is her work, not the man she's with. Men, though important, are ultimately just accessories.
Judith Krantz: But they're accessories that they don't want to leave home without.
PaviaNYC: What is your next heroine's career going to be?
Judith Krantz: I think she may just work for barnesandnoble.com, but I'm unclear because I don't have a clue what she'll be doing. I haven't thought about my next book yet; I'm working too hard on this one.
PaviaNYC: So is the Web -- gulp -- glamorous?
Judith Krantz: Actually, I would have to come to your office to find out.
PaviaNYC: But the whole experience is disembodied.
Judith Krantz: You don't rub elbows with anyone in the course of your day?
PaviaNYC: In the office I do, but the online community is virtual.
Judith Krantz: I think I would have to have a heroine who touches people in the world of reality, not in a virtual world.
PaviaNYC: If you could live life again as one of your heroines, which would it be?
Judith Krantz: Almost an impossible question. I can't answer that; I love them all. It's an impossible question.
Question: Do you read the reviews or your books, and how seriously do you take them?
Judith Krantz: I don't read the reviews. My feeling is that if they're good or bad, it doesn't matter because I only know one way to write. I write to entertain myself and to have a good time alone in a room with a computer.
PaviaNYC: Which, actually, is exactly what being virtual is all about...
Judith Krantz: So, I've been virtual all along!
PaviaNYC: Indeed. See, this isn't so new to you!
Judith Krantz: I've always said that novel-writing is an unnatural act, and from now on I'll say it's a virtual act.
Question: What do you think is the difference between mainstream and category romances?
Judith Krantz: I don't understand the meaning of "romances," because my novels aren't really romances at all. Town and Country, this month, says that I invented a type of book they call "Planet Krantz."
Question: If you could spend the holidays with one of your characters, who would it be?
Judith Krantz: Vito Orsini, the husband of Billy, the heroine of SCRUPLES.
PaviaNYC: And where on Planet Krantz would that vacation take place?
Judith Krantz: At the beach in Newport, south of Los Angeles, where my husband and I have a tiny beach house. Always near the ocean. Or on a cruise ship because then we could dance every night.
PaviaNYC: Where was your last vacation?
Judith Krantz: We took a cruise ship from Miami to Rouen, France, by way of Casablanca.
Question: Who are your literary role models?
Judith Krantz: I read enormously 19th-century English fiction, and the writer I like best is Anthony Trollope. He wrote in the mid-1800's. As far as modern writers are concerned, John Irving.
PaviaNYC: We have to wrap up soon. One last question: What are you reading now?
Judith Krantz: Actually, I'm rereading A SON OF THE CIRCUS. Marvelous book!
PaviaNYC: Ms. Krantz, thank you for this interview. We are glad to be able to show you something new.
Judith Krantz: You're very welcome -- it's an absolutely wonderful experience! But I may not recover in time for dinner. [laughs] And I've never missed a dinner in my life...not on purpose!
JainBN: Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Please come again!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book keeps moving along and is enjoyable to read. I think it would make a good movie for TV. It has interesting characters.
Just could NOT get into the story. Seemed WAY too predictable. TOO boring.
The Jewels of Tessa Kent had me caught up in the beginning. I laughed, I got angry, I cried. It was just so wonderful, and right when things were seeming to get better for her, Tessa found out some life-shattering news. I cried like she was my family. I cried in the end, at the injustice of it; because it seemed that when all was said and done, and Tessa had all that she wanted, in the midst of it all, was something that was going to take her from it all before she'd really had time to enjoy it.
I literally could not put this book down! I thought it was incredible! It was one of those books that you wish didn't end. I want more! Like a sequel.
'The Jewels of Tessa Kent' is the first Judith Krantz book I've read, but I loved it! The main reason I liked it so much was because it provided an explanation to why the characters, who seem so real, do what they do, and how they think about their choices afterwards. Very emotional, but very easy to believe, too.