The heiress to Emma Harte’s international retail empire, Paula McGill O’Neill has grown to fill her legendary grandmother’s shoes and become the woman she has always wanted to be. Coming into her own, she now keeps her grandmother’s vision alive with firm, confident control.
But unbeknownst to her, Paula faces threats from every side. Two families watch her carefully, each hoping for their own chance at the reins of power, and an old enemy lurks in the shadows, alert to any sign of weakness. When Paula’s unscrupulous cousin Jonathan returns, even more determined than ever to wrest away everything Paula has fought for, she must marshal all her strength and fortitude to defend her fortune and her family.
“A compulsive read.” —Daily Mail
“Will keep you up till all hours reading just one more chapter before you can bear to turn out the bedside light.” —Prima
“A host of dramatic subplots continues the amorous, sorrowful and shady doings of the O’Neills and the Kallinskis, two families whose fortunes are entwined with the Hartes.” —Publishers Weekly
“Readers will happily re-acquaint themselves with the sprawling Harte clan . . . A more than satisfactory sequel to the previous segments of this generational tale, with an ending that promises still more to come.” —Library Journal
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About the Author
Barbara Taylor Bradford is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Born in Britain, she began her career as a typist at the Yorkshire Evening Post at the age of sixteen, later serving as the fashion editor of Woman's Own Magazine and a feature writer at the London Evening News. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and became one of the top ten bestselling novels ever written.
Bradford has written 28 subsequent books that have sold over 89 million copies in more than 90 countries around the world. Several of her novels have been made into television miniseries and movies. In 1999, she became the first living female author to be featured on a postage stamp; in 2003, she was awarded a place in the Writers' Hall of Fame of America, and in 2007, she was inducted into the Order of the British Empire.
Barbara Taylor Bradford is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Born in Britain, she began her career as a typist at the Yorkshire Evening Post at the age of sixteen, later serving as the fashion editor of Woman’s Own Magazine and a feature writer at the London Evening News. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and became one of the top ten bestselling novels ever written.
Bradford has written 28 subsequent books that have sold over 89 million copies in more than 90 countries around the world. Ten of her novels have been made into television miniseries and movies. In 1999, she became the first living female author to be featured on a postage stamp; in 2003, she was inducted into the Writers’ Hall of Fame of America, and in 2007, she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to literature.
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
Paula walked into her private office at the London store with her usual briskness and, after removing several folders from her briefcase, sat down at the antique partners' desk in the corner. It was precisely at this moment that she noticed the buff-coloured envelope propped against the antique porcelain lamp.
Marked PERSONAL, it had apparently been hand-delivered, and she recognized the writing at once. She felt a small shiver of pleasure. Eagerly, she reached for the envelope, slit it open with the gold-and-jade paper knife, and took out the folded piece of paper.
The note was boldly penned.
Meet me in Paris. Tonight, it said. You're booked on Flight 902. British Airways. 6 P.M. I'll be waiting impatiently. Usual place. Don't disappoint me.
Paula frowned. The tone was peremptory, commanding, and implicit in his words was the assumption that she would go. Mild irritation at his high-handedness flared and diluted the flush of pleasure she had experienced a second before. Of course she wouldn't go. She couldn't. She must spend the weekend with her children as planned, wanted to spend it with them, in fact.
Still clutching the note, she leaned back in the chair and gazed into space, thinking about him. Bossy ... conceited ... those were the adjectives which sprang into her head. They were certainly appropriate. A trace of a smile surfaced, flickered on her mouth. She was suddenly amused by the invitation and sorely tempted to accept. Admit it, you'd love to spend the weekend in Paris with him. But then you'd love to do a lot of things you constantly pass up, a small voice at the back of her head reminded her. And she smiled again, though this time with wryness, a hint of regret even, knowing that she could never be indulgent with herself. Perish the thought! Duty had to come first. That little rule of Emma Harte's had been inculcated in her since childhood, although sometimes she wished her grandmother had not been so thorough. But Grandy had schooled her well, had taught her that wealth and privilege also meant responsibilities, and that they had to be shouldered without flinching, no matter what the cost to oneself. And since she was now thirty-six, almost thirty-seven, her character was hardly likely to change at this stage in her life.
Paula sat up, slipped the note back into its envelope, sighing under her breath as she did. A romantic interlude in her favourite city with that very special and exceptional man was infinitely appealing but decidedly not possible. No, she would not go to Paris for a weekend of love and intimacy and pleasure. Instead, she would go to her children and be a good mother. Her children needed her. After all, she had not seen them for two weeks. On the other hand, she had not seen him either ...
'Damn and blast,' she muttered out loud, wishing he had not sent the note. It had thrown her off balance, made her feel unexpectedly restless, and at a moment when she could not afford to have distractions of any kind. The months ahead were going to be extremely complicated, and they would be crucial months.
And so she would phone him later, tell him she was not coming; she must also cancel the airline reservation he had made for her. On second thoughts, perhaps she ought to call British Airways immediately.
As she reached for the telephone it began to ring.
She picked it up swiftly, said, 'Hello?' and glanced at the door as her assistant, Jill, hurried in with a cup of coffee.
'Hello, Paula, it's me,' her cousin Alexander was saying at the other end of the phone. 'I came into the Leeds store looking for you, only to find that on the one day I'm up here, you're in London.'
'Oh Sandy darling, I am sorry to have missed you,' she exclaimed, then covered the mouthpiece, murmured her thanks to Jill, who placed the coffee in front of her, smiled, and disappeared.
Paula went on, 'Were you in Yorkshire last night?'
'Yes. I got in around six-thirty.'
'I was still at the store, Sandy. You should've called me. We could've had dinner.'
'No, we couldn't. You see, I had to get out to Nutton Priory as early as possible. My estate manager's going off on holiday today and we had a lot to go over.' Alexander paused, cleared his throat. 'You were at Grandy's grave this morning ... those are your flowers, aren't they, Paula?'
'Yes,' she said, her voice growing softer. 'I went there very early, before driving to London.'
'I was close on your heels.' He laughed faintly. 'I suppose we just weren't meant to meet up today. Well ... my loss.'
Paula loved her cousin dearly and thus was sensitive to his moods. She had caught something odd in his voice, a nuance that disturbed her. 'Sandy, do you have some sort of problem?' she asked quickly. 'Do you want to talk to me about anything?'
There was only the slightest hesitation before he exclaimed with a certain firmness, 'No, no, not at all! I merely thought it would be nice for us to lunch together, I haven't seen you for weeks. I realize you've been busy ... however, I do miss our tête-à-têtes, old thing.'
Paula had been listening attentively, straining to catch that peculiar inflection she had noticed a moment ago, but now it was absent. His voice sounded perfectly normal — as controlled as it always was.
She said, 'Yes, I miss them too, Sandy, and it has been a bit hectic for me this summer, what with all the flying to the south of France and back, and staying ahead of the game with the business. And look here, whilst I have you on the phone there's something I've been meaning to say to you for ages.' She took a quick breath, and her voice was a trifle sterner when she continued, 'I'm terribly cross with you, Alexander. You've hardly spent any time with us at Cap Martin this year, and it is your house for God's sake. Besides, I do think you —'
'You're not the only person who works for a living!' he shot back tersely, then added, in a rush of words, 'I've had a lot on my plate, too, you know, so please, Paula darling, don't nag. Emily's become quite the expert at that technique. She's beginning to get on my nerves.'
'Your sister thinks you don't get enough relaxation. She wants you to take it easy, enjoy life a bit more. And I happen to agree with Emily. Wholeheartedly, I might add.'
Ignoring these comments and her reproachful tone, Alexander said, 'I expect you're going down to the villa this weekend, aren't you?'
'Yes. I'm catching the nine o'clock plane to Nice tomorrow morning, returning early on Monday. Sandy! I've just had a wonderful idea! Why don't you come with me? You'll enjoy it, you know you will, and the children will be so thrilled to see you. So will Emily.'
'I really do have to be at Nutton Priory for the next few days. Honestly I do, Paula. I'd love to join you, but there's far too much that needs my attention on the estate. Look, let's have lunch on Tuesday.' His voice was suddenly eager.
'Oh God, I can't,' she groaned. 'I'm taking the Concorde to New York first thing on Tuesday morning, and at the end of the week I'm flying from New York to Sydney. I'll be gone for the whole of September.'
'Oh. I see.'
His disappointment communicated itself to her so acutely, she exclaimed, 'Why don't we make a date now? For October.' As she spoke she opened her engagement book, flipped the pages. 'How about the first Wednesday in the month?'
'I'm sure it's fine, but let me look at my pocket diary. Hold on, Paula.'
There was a clatter as he put down the phone.
Paula lifted her cup, took a sip of the hot coffee.
A moment later, Sandy was back on the line, his voice bright and chipper. 'All free and clear, darling. I'll see you in October then. And I'll be looking forward to it.'
'Oh so will I! And Sandy ...'
'Take care of yourself.'
'I will, and you do the same, Paula. My love to everyone at the villa.'
* * *
After they had hung up, Paula sat drinking her coffee, frowning, and staring at the telephone, her mind on her cousin.
She felt a pang of genuine regret for having let the summer slide by without putting more pressure on him to come to the Riviera with them. On the other hand, would her insistence have done any real good? Most likely not. After all, Emily had been relentless with him since Easter, using all of her not inconsiderable wiles and doing everything in her power to persuade him to join them at the Villa Faviola. He had flown down twice, but only for brief stays and then only to please his sister. This had been quite evident to both her and Emily.
Still, she could not help feeling guilty now, recognizing that she had neglected Alexander of late. There had been so much to cope with this past year; so many things had encroached on her free time, interfered with her various friendships. Sandy had been a casualty of the merciless work ethic she had adopted for herself. Poor Sandy, she hadn't had time for him, that was the sad truth.
Perhaps that was why he had sounded strange. No, that was not the reason at all. The peculiar inflection in his voice, which she knew she had not imagined, had been tension pure and simple. No, it had been strain. Or anxiety? Yes, that was it. Anxiety. And it had alerted her to something ... to trouble.
As she came to this realization, Paula thought, with a sinking feeling: Everything's not right with Sandy. I just know it in my bones.
A curious unease took hold of her. Frowning, she ran things through her mind at the speed of light. There could be nothing amiss at Harte Enterprises. Emily would have known and would have told her. His health was good. He certainly had no financial problems. And even though he was not wooing anyone special — according to Emily, who knew everything about everyone in the family — he did not appear to lack for female companionship whenever he felt the need of it. His social life was not spectacular. But then again, this seemed to be his preference, the manner in which he chose to live his life these days.
He must often be lonely though, she mused, wishing for the hundredth-or-so time that Sandy had remarried.
After Maggie's tragic death in the avalanche at Chamonix he had been grief-stricken and inconsolable for so long. Then slowly he had pulled out of it, had regained his self-possession, and, painstakingly, he had put himself back together. But it was as if he had assembled all of the pieces of himself in a new and wholly different pattern. He had not seemed quite the same ever again.
The avalanche affected us all, Paula reminded herself, thinking in particular of her brother, Philip. He had also been skiing on the mountain that day. But he had been the one family member who had lived ... the sole survivor. And then there was her mother, who had lost a husband. And I lost a father; and my children lost a father. Yes, the avalanche wreaked havoc on the entire family. It damaged us, changed us, irrevocably. Each one of us has been decidedly odd ever since ...
She began to laugh under her breath. And me most of all, she thought, as she endeavoured to shake off that sense of unease she had felt about her cousin a moment ago. Wasn't she being overly imaginative, perhaps? After all, she and Sandy had been close as children, had remained close over the years. If there truly was something troubling him, he would have confided it to her on the telephone. I'm being irrational about this, she decided, and made a resolute effort to dismiss her worries about Alexander.
Her gaze came back to the papers on her desk.
The quickest of glances told her there was nothing particularly urgent to be dealt with, and she was relieved. Problems that arose on Fridays usually had a way of impinging on her weekends — and ruining them. This did not matter so much in the winter, but in the summer, when the children were home from their respective schools for a long period, it was distressing for them. They treasured their weekends with her, guarded them jealously, and resented any intrusions on their time, just as she did.
Once she had read the morning's mail and a memorandum from Jill, which detailed suggested structural changes in the Designer Salon, she checked the pile of purchase orders, then reached for the telexes. All had emanated from the New York store and were signed by her American assistant, Madelana O'Shea. They had come in late last night and only one required an answer.
Pulling a yellow pad towards her, Paula began to draft a reply. When this was done, she opened the thickest of the folders she had brought with her from Yorkshire and took out the top sheet of paper. It was the only thing which interested her at this moment. On it were the salient points of her master plan. A single sheet of paper ... but it was the key to so much ... the key to the future.
Within seconds she was so immersed in her work, so busy making additional notes on the pad, that all thoughts of her cousin Sandy fled. But months later Paula was to recall this day only too well. She would remember her uneasiness about him with great clarity, and she would fervently wish she had paid more attention to her intuition. Most of all, she would bitterly regret that she had not pressed him to confide in her. Knowing about his problems would not have enabled her to change the inevitable outcome, but at least she could have revised her travel plans. In so doing she would have been able to help him, simply by being there for him whenever he needed her.
But on this scorching morning in August of 1981, Paula had no way of knowing any of this, and that sense of impending trouble — a foreboding almost — which she had experienced earlier had already been squashed by the force of her will. Also, like her grandmother before her, she had the enviable knack of pushing everything to one side in order to concentrate on her business priorities, and this she now did. Head bent, eyes riveted on the page, she fell deeper and deeper into her concentration, as always so totally absorbed in her work that she was oblivious to everything else.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Paula finally lifted her head, stapled her notes together, and put them in the folder along with the single sheet of paper; she then locked the folder in the centre drawer of her desk for safekeeping over the weekend. Half smiling to herself, satisfied that she had thought of everything and was prepared for any contingency, she sat holding the key for a split second longer before placing it carefully in her briefcase.
Pushing the chair back, she rose, stretched, walked across the floor, feeling the need to move around. Her body was cramped, her bones stiff from sitting — first in the Aston Martin and then here at her desk. She found herself at the window and parted the curtains, looked down into Knightsbridge below, noticed that the traffic appeared to be more congested than ever this morning, but then Fridays were usually wicked in the summer months.
Turning, Paula stood facing the room, a look of approval washing over her face. From her earliest childhood days she had loved this office, had felt comfortable within its confines. She had seen no reason to change it when she had inherited it from her grandmother, and so she had left everything virtually intact. She had added a few mementoes of her own and photographs of her children, but that was the extent of it.
The office was more like a drawing room in an English country house than a place of business, and this was the real secret of its great charm. The ambiance was intentional. It had been created by Emma Harte some sixty-odd years earlier when she had used valuable Georgian antiques and English oil paintings of great worth instead of more prosaic furnishings. Classic chintz fabrics on the sofas and chairs and at the windows introduced glorious colour against the pine-panelled walls, while antique porcelain lamps and other fine accessories lent their own touches of elegance and distinction. The decorative look aside, the room was spacious and graceful, and it had a beautiful old Adam fireplace which was always in use on cold days. The office never palled on Paula, and she was delighted when people entering it for the first time exclaimed about its beauty.
Like everything else she did, Grandy got this room exactly right, Paula thought, walking across the priceless Savonnerie carpet, drawing to a standstill in front of the carved pine fireplace. She gazed up at the portrait of her grandmother which hung above it, painted when Emma had been a young woman. She still missed her, intensely so at times, but she had long drawn comfort from the feeling that Emma lived on in her ... in her heart and in her memories.
As she continued to stare at that lovely yet determined face in the portrait, she experienced a feeling of immense pride in Emma's extraordinary achievements. Grandy started out with nothing and created one of the greatest business empires in the world ... what incredible courage she must have had at my age. I must have her kind of courage and strength and determination. I must not falter in what I have to do ... my master plan must succeed just as her plan did. Paula's mind raced, leapt forward to the future, and she filled with excitement at the thought of what lay ahead.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "To Be the Best"
Copyright © 2014 Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: Lovers & Strangers,
PART TWO: Saints & Sinners,
PART THREE: Winners & Losers,
An Excerpt from A Woman of Substance,
Other Barbara Taylor Bradford titles from RosettaBooks,