From blockbuster bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford comes a stunning saga of love and loyalty set in early twentieth-century England. Cavendon Hall is home to the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. But after the Great War, the fate of these two families will never be the same...
It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926 when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns' loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade-and a new way of life.
"Sweeping, fascinating, and dramatic...The Cavendon Women's power and emotion comes through on every page." -Romantic Times(Top Pick, 4 ½ stars)
"Every novel from this acclaimed and beloved author is avidly read, and its engrossing historical dimensions, family traumas, romance, and vivid settings will prove irresistible." -Booklist
About the Author
BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD was born and brought up in England, where she started her writing career as a journalist. She has written twenty-nine international bestsellers. The Cavendon Women is her thirtieth novel. In 2007 Queen Elizabeth awarded her the OBE for her literary achievements. She lives in New York with her husband, television, and film producer Robert Bradford.
Hometown:New York, New York
Place of Birth:Yorkshire, England
Education:Christ Church Elementary School and Northcote Private School for Girls in Yorkshire, England
Read an Excerpt
The Cavendon Women
By Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Beaji Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Cecily Swann knew it well, this path. She had walked it all of her life, and it was an old familiar. Lifting her head, she looked up at the grand house towering above her on top of the hill. Cavendon Hall. One of the great stately homes of England, it was the finest of all in Yorkshire.
The house was her destination this morning, as it had been so often when she was growing up. Her parents and her brother, Harry, lived in Little Skell village, at the edge of Cavendon Park, just as their ancestors had done for more than one hundred seventy years.
It was a lovely Friday morning in the middle of July, and there was no hint of rain today. The sunshine streamed down, bathing the house in that crystalline northern light which gave the exterior its soft, peculiar sheen at different times of day.
Cecily glanced about as she walked on. She had half expected to see Genevra loitering here. But there was no sign of the gypsy girl. The Romany wagons were visible on the hill at the far end of the fields; Genevra's family still lived on the sixth earl's land, that was a given. He had always permitted it; she supposed they would stay there forever.
But so much else had changed. Cavendon Hall looked the same, but it wasn't what it used to be. It was a different place; in fact, many things were different now. The Great War had changed everything. And everyone. As her father, Walter, was forever saying, the good old days were over, and nothing would ever be the same again. And his words were only too true.
Thankfully, her father and her brother had come back safely from the Great War, but Guy Ingham, the heir to the Mowbray earldom, had not. He had died for his country fighting in France, and was buried there alongside his comrades-in-arms.
They had all mourned him ... every person in the three villages, as well as his family. Not because he was the heir, but because he had been one of the nicest of young men. Now it was Miles who would one day inherit the earldom and everything that this entailed.
Her heart tightened at the thought of him. He had been her constant companion throughout her childhood, her best friend and later her sweetheart. She had loved him with all of her being; she still did. And he had told her many times that he felt the same, and that one day they would be married. But that had not happened.
Miles had been forced to marry another girl. A suitable girl. Clarissa Meldrew, the daughter of Lord Meldrew. The right kind of girl, who would give Miles an aristocratic heir. That was the way it was with the gentry ... future heirs dominated their lives and their destinies.
Cecily came to a stop as a sudden thought struck her. After a moment, she veered to her left and headed in the direction of the rose garden. She needed a few moments to think, and anyway, she was too early for her meeting.
A few seconds later, she was pulling open the heavy oak door and going down the steps. It was a fragrant spot, this old walled garden filled with the scent of late-blooming roses. She breathed in the heady smell as she sat down on a wrought-iron garden seat. This spot had always been a haven of peace and beauty.
Holding herself completely still, she closed her eyes, wondering why she had agreed to do this ... to help Miles manage the events planned by the earl for the family reunion. It was probably the most stupid thing she had ever done in her life.
Only if you are stupid, she told herself. Obviously Aunt Charlotte thinks you are capable of handling a difficult situation or she wouldn't have asked you to help out.
Her aunt's voice echoed as she went back in her mind to the discussion they'd had a week ago. She remembered her aunt's words very well. "Lady Daphne is the only one capable of managing the weekend with Miles, but she has so much on her hands, what with running Cavendon and five children underfoot. I personally would appreciate it if you would help him, Ceci."
She thought now of the way she had tried to wriggle out of it, not liking the idea at all. She had muttered something about one of his other sisters being better at that job. But her aunt had fluffed them off with a dismissive wave of her hand. "There might be difficulties, Ceci, and we need someone strong like you. Someone who can be tough, if needs be."
Well, she could be tough, she knew that. But mostly she would have to be tough with herself. And with Miles Ingham.
She had not had a conversation with him for the last six years. They'd spoken, the odd times they had run into each other here at Cavendon, or waved, but that was all. Six years ago she had vowed never to let him near her again, and her aunt had nodded her approval when she had confided in Charlotte.
"I'll walk alone and devote myself to my career as a fashion designer," Cecily had said, and Charlotte had looked pleased, and relieved. Unexpectedly, Charlotte had asked her to help Miles out now, and it puzzled Cecily. Actually she had no choice.
Cecily sighed, and sat up straighter. She owed Charlotte Swann everything. It was her aunt who had backed her fashion business, presented her with her first shop in the Burlington Arcade, made her career possible. And it was Charlotte's money which had originally funded the venture. They became business partners, and they still were, and worked extremely well together.
She trusts me to handle myself correctly, Cecily decided. She knows I won't succumb to his charms, become involved with him on a personal level. She understands that the pain he caused me runs far too deep. Besides, she's fully aware I'm devoted to my business, that it's my life.
Standing up, Cecily walked out of the rose garden, and went on up the hill toward the house. She felt better. She could handle Miles Ingham. She wasn't afraid of him. She wasn't afraid of anyone, for that matter.
In the past six years she had learned to be truly independent, to stand on her own two feet, and to make her own decisions. Furthermore, she was a big success. Women loved her clothes, bought them by the cartload. And not only in London, but in America as well. Already, she had made two trips to New York, and her name was well known on both sides of the Atlantic.
Miles had his problems. And so did Cavendon.
Her future was full of brightness and challenge, and even more success, with a little luck. Miles Ingham was part of the past. Her eyes were focused on the future.
She would help him out this weekend, and then she would go back to London and get on with her work, and leave Miles to his own devices. There was no place in her life for him ... she would never forget that day, six years ago, when he had told her he was getting married to another woman. He had broken her heart, and she would never forgive him.CHAPTER 2
Miles Ingham bent down, picked up the small pieces of cork, and placed them on the mantelshelf, next to the carriage clock. Only Miss Charlotte knew how to properly wedge them behind the two horse paintings by George Stubbs, so that they would not slip. She had been doing it for years, and no one else had managed to master the technique.
Turning, he walked over to his father's desk and sat down, staring at the list he had made earlier. All were points he wanted to take up with Cecily, regarding the next few days.
He longed to see her, to talk to her, to just be near her. And yet, at the same time, he dreaded it. For years she had been merely civil to him whenever they ran into each other here at Cavendon.
Her demeanor had been so remote, so cold, he had been unable to breach those icy walls she had erected around herself. She had frozen him out, and he fully understood why. He had hurt her immeasurably, and the hurt had never healed. It was an open wound.
This now presented a problem, since they did have to be cordial with each other for several days in order to carry off this somewhat unique family reunion. He had realized, the other day, that he must come up with a modus operandi, and it had to be one she found acceptable.
Sighing to himself, he jumped up, suddenly overcome by nerves. He paced up and down the library, endeavoring to get hold of his flaring emotions. She would be arriving at any moment, and he had no words on the ready, nothing formulated in his mind, no set greeting for her. In a certain sense, he was also at a loss about the days ahead, and how they would manage them.
There had been a moment last week when he had wished his father hadn't decided to invite the family to come home for a weekend visit.
On the other hand, there hadn't been any parties or get-togethers at Cavendon for the longest time. Nothing to celebrate, what with the family's money problems, the loss of their men who worked the land in the Great War, the scandal surrounding his mother, which they all endeavored to ignore. And then there was DeLacy's worrying depression about her divorce, not to mention Hugo's huge financial losses on the New York Stock Exchange.
And what a mess his own life was. Miles was acutely aware that he had no life, actually. He had grown to detest Clarissa, who, he had swiftly understood, was dense beyond words, a spendthrift whose only conversation was about clothes, cosmetics, and jewels. All of which bored him. And she was a gossip. She loved to talk about her friends, and she wasn't always nice about them. He despised her for her mean comments about other women.
He had also come to dislike her father, Lord Meldrew. He overindulged his only child, and gave Clarissa anything her heart desired. That in itself had created a rift between them; Miles loathed spoiled women, and she was particularly greedy.
Miles had long accepted that he was saddled with a dud of a wife, and worst of all, one who had been unable to conceive.
He was still without that much-longed-for heir. Not only had she proven to be barren, but, much to his dismay, she had soon developed an aversion to Cavendon Hall, and would not come to Yorkshire.
"Not a country girl at heart," she had informed him, fairly early on in their marriage. What marriage? he now wondered, and strode over to the window, gazing out across the terrace, looking toward the park.
A moment later he stiffened. Cecily was coming up the terrace steps and every thought in his head fled. He felt as if he had a tight band around his chest, and for a moment he could hardly breathe. Then he swallowed, took firm hold of himself, and went to open the terrace doors.
He was stunned by her loveliness as she came toward him ... the richness of her luxuriant hair with its russet lights, her ivory skin, her smoky gray-lavender eyes, which told the world she was a Swann, born and bred. They all had those unique eyes.
Cecily was wearing a white dress, trimmed and belted in navy blue, and yet it was loose, casual, the silk skirt floating around her long legs.
Finding his voice, he said, "Hello, Cecily." His heart was pounding in his chest and he was genuinely surprised that his voice wasn't shaking. To his relief, he sounded quite normal.
"Thank you for coming."
She simply nodded, and took hold of his outstretched hand. Shaking it, she dropped it instantly, and stepped back. Giving him a cool glance, she murmured, "I hope this weather lasts for the next few days." Her voice was soft, calm, and she was relieved she was in control of herself.
"Yes, so do I," he agreed, and was then unexpectedly tongue-tied. Putting one hand under her elbow, he ushered her across the terrace, into the library, and closed the door behind them.
Cecily immediately gravitated to the fireplace, as almost everyone usually did. This room was always cold, even in the summer months.
"I want to apologize," Miles announced, as he quickly followed her across the room.
"What for?" she asked a little sharply, wondering what he was referring to, and swung around, staring at him with some intensity. He had a lot to apologize for, in her opinion.
"Being remiss ... never congratulating you over the last six years. For your fantastic success as a fashion designer, I mean. You've done so well, wonderfully well, and I want you to know how thrilled I am about that. And I'm very proud of you." Miles cleared his throat, adding, "I did attempt to write to you, but every time I started a letter, I threw it away. I couldn't quite get the words right. And anyway, I thought a letter from me might annoy you."
"Yes, it might have, under the circumstances."
Cecily sat down in a chair near the fire. As she settled herself, straightened the skirt of her dress, she couldn't help thinking that Miles didn't look well. He had lost weight, and there was a curious gauntness about him, as well as an aura of sadness. This was particularly apparent in his blue eyes, and she felt for him, knew he'd had a hard time.
Following her lead, he went over to the sofa, and seated himself opposite her. In a low voice, he said, "I have a list of things I'd like to go over with you, about Saturday and Sunday, but first I need to discuss something else."
Cecily's eyes were focused on him, and she nodded. "Please, tell me what's on your mind."
"It's about our attitude toward one another. We've been civil when we've run into each other over the years. But that's all. And I do understand why. However, it's going to be a bit awkward for the next few days, if we're unfriendly, especially in front of the family. Don't you agree?"
"Yes. It's occurred to me that my antagonism toward you could present a problem, and I suppose I must mend my ways."
"And so must I, Cecily." A faint smile flickered on his mouth, and he added, "It struck me yesterday that we might be able to slip back into the past, to when you were sixteen and I was eighteen ... maybe we could behave like we did then. We had fun, we were happy."
When she remained silent, he said, "Well, we did have fun, and we were happy."
"That's true, but I hope you don't think that I'm going to go up to the attics with you, and revisit our 'love nest,' as you used to call it."
She had said this so solemnly, and her face was so serious, Miles burst out laughing, surprising himself; it was the first time he had laughed in months. "Of course not," he spluttered. After a moment, he contained his hilarity. "I'm speaking about our demeanor," he explained.
Cecily had managed to remain poker-faced, although there had been a moment when she had almost laughed with him. But she wasn't going to give him an inch. Not ever.
Eventually, she answered, "I think if we try to erase the last few years, and remember our youthful friendship, it will work. I will try hard, because we must make this a perfect celebration for Lord Mowbray."
"Thank you, Ceci, I knew you'd see the sense of striking a bargain."
"More like a compromise, I think, Miles," she answered stiffly.
Ignoring her iciness, he shifted slightly on the sofa, and went on, "There is just one thing I want to explain, something you should know."
His voice had changed, was now extremely serious, and she glanced at him swiftly.
Knowing him as intimately as she did, she was positive he was about to say something of genuine importance.
"Tell me, then." Her gaze was level, steady, as she looked across at him.
"I'm going to London next week. I haven't been for ages, and I shall ask Clarissa for a divorce."
Cecily had not anticipated anything like this, and she was shocked. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out, "But what will the earl say?"
"Papa knows the marriage hasn't worked. We are not compatible in any way. Clarissa hates the country; furthermore, she has never conceived. She hasn't given me an heir, and this troubles my father as much as it has upset me. And it won't happen now, because we have been separated for some time."
When she made no response, he said, "But then you know that. Because you're a Swann, and the Swanns know everything about the Inghams."
"Not always," she remarked. "But yes, it's true, I did know that your marriage was not happy, Miles. Great-Aunt Charlotte told me. I'm sorry it didn't work out."
"So am I," he mumbled. "In view of the sacrifices I made."
"I know" was all she said, thinking about the sacrifices she had been forced to make as well. But this was best left unsaid.
Miles continued, "I shall make Clarissa a generous offer ... alimony, the house in Kensington my father gave us for a wedding present. But I'm not at all sure she'll agree to a divorce."
A frown brought Cecily's brows together, and she asked in a puzzled voice, "But why not? She's young enough and pretty; she could get married again. And consider what she would bring to a new marriage. Alimony, and a lovely house."
"The alimony would cease if she remarried, but she would keep the house. However, there's a problem, you see."
"What is it?"
"She wants to have a title, to be a countess, and so she'll try to cling on. When Papa had his heart attack last year there were moments when I thought she was positively gleeful, anxiously waiting for him to pop off and clear the way for me. And for her, of course."
"But how awful that is, Miles! Horrid." Cecily sounded aghast.
Excerpted from The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Copyright © 2015 Beaji Enterprises, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
PART ONE A Family Reunion: July 1926,
PART TWO Deceptions Revealed: September 1926,
PART THREE Women Warriors: January–June 1927,
PART FOUR Angels in Disguise: December 1928–September 1929,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,
BOOKS BY BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD,