Barbara Taylor Bradford’s The Emma Harte Saga begins with this record-shattering New York Times bestseller that traces Emma Harte’s legacy through multiple generations of indomitable women.
From the servants’ quarters of a manor house on the brooding Yorkshire moors to the helm of a profitable international business, Emma Harte’s life is a sweeping saga of unbreakable spirit and resolve. Rising from abject poverty to glittering wealth at the upper echelons of society, there is only one man the indomitable Emma cannot have—and only one she yearns for. The novel was also the subject of a popular 1984 miniseries starring Jenny Seagrove and Deborah Kerr.
“A long, satisfying novel of money, power, passion and revenge set against the sweep of 20th century history.” —Los Angeles Times
“A wonderfully entertaining novel.” —The Denver Post
“A mighty saga. Little has been so riveting since Gone with the Wind.” —Manchester Evening News
“Tailor-made for fans of McCullough’s Thornbirds.” —Publishers Weekly
“The storyteller of substance.” —The Times (London)
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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
Emma Harte leaned forward and looked out of the window. The private Lear jet, property of the Sitex Oil Corporation of America, had been climbing steadily up through a vaporous haze of cumulus clouds and was now streaking through a sky so penetratingly blue its shimmering clarity hurt the eyes. Momentarily dazzled by this early-morning brightness, Emma turned away from the window, rested her head against the seat, and closed her eyes. For a brief instant the vivid blueness was trapped beneath her lids and, in that instant, such a strong and unexpected feeling of nostalgia was evoked within her that she caught her breath in surprise. It's the sky from the Turner painting above the upstairs parlour fireplace at Pennistone Royal, she thought, a Yorkshire sky on a spring day when the wind has driven the fog from the moors.
A faint smile played around her mouth, curving the line of the lips with unfamiliar softness, as she thought with some pleasure of Pennistone Royal. That great house that grew up out of the stark and harsh landscape of the moors and which always appeared to her to be a force of nature engineered by some Almighty architect rather than a mere edifice erected by mortal man. The one place on this violent planet where she had found peace, limitless peace that soothed and refreshed her. Her home. She had been away far too long this time, almost six weeks, which was a prolonged absence indeed for her. But within the coming week she would be returning to London, and by the end of the month she would travel north to Pennistone. To peace, tranquillity, her gardens, and her grand-children.
This thought cheered her immeasurably and she relaxed in her seat, the tension that had built up over the last few days diminishing until it had evaporated. She was bone tired from the raging battles that had punctuated these last few days of board meetings at the Sitex corporate headquarters in Odessa; she was supremely relieved to be leaving Texas and returning to the relative calmness of her own corporate offices in New York. It was not that she did not like Texas; in point of fact, she had always had a penchant for that great state, seeing in its rough sprawling power something akin to her native Yorkshire. But this last trip had exhausted her. I'm getting too old for gallivanting around on planes, she thought ruefully, and then dismissed that thought as unworthy. It was dishonest and she was never dishonest with herself. It saved so much time in the long run. And, in all truthfulness, she did not feel old. Only a trifle tired on occasion and especially when she became exasperated with fools; and Harry Marriott, president of Sitex, was a fool and inherently dangerous, like all fools.
Emma opened her eyes and sat up impatiently, her mind turning again to business, for she was tireless, sleepless, obsessive when it came to her vast business enterprises, which rarely left her thoughts. She straightened her back and crossed her legs, adopting her usual posture, a posture that was contained and regal. There was an imperiousness in the way she held her head and in her general demeanour, and her green eyes were full of enormous power. She lifted one of her small, strong hands and automatically smoothed her silver hair, which did not need it, since it was as impeccable as always. As indeed she was herself, in her simple yet elegant dark grey worsted dress, its severeness softened by the milky whiteness of the matchless pearls around her neck and the fine emerald pin on her shoulder.
She glanced at her granddaughter sitting opposite, diligently making notes for the coming week's business in New York. She looks drawn this morning, Emma thought, I push her too hard. She felt an unaccustomed twinge of guilt but impatiently shrugged it off. She's young, she can take it, and it's the best training she could ever have, Emma reassured herself and said, 'Would you ask that nice young steward — John, isn't it? — to make some coffee please, Paula. I'm badly in need of it this morning.'
The girl looked up. Although she was not beautiful in the accepted sense of that word, she was so vital she gave the impression of beauty. Her vividness of colouring contributed to this effect. Her glossy hair was an ink-black coif around her head, coming to a striking widow's peak above a face so clear and luminous it might have been carved from pale polished marble. The rather elongated face, with its prominent cheekbones and wide brow, was alert and expressive and there was a hint of Emma's resoluteness in her chin, but her eyes were her most spectacular feature, large and intelligent and of a cornflower blue so deep they were almost violet.
She smiled at her grandmother and said, 'Of course, Grandy. I'd like some myself.' She left her seat, her tall slender body moving with grace. She's so thin, Emma commented to herself, too thin for my liking. But she always has been. I suppose it's the way she's made. A leggy colt as a child, a racehorse now. A mixture of love and pride illuminated Emma's stern face and her eyes were full of sudden warmth as she gazed after the girl, who was her favourite, the daughter of Emma's favourite daughter, Daisy.
Many of Emma's dreams and hopes were centred in Paula. Even when she had been only a little girl she had gravitated to her grandmother and had also been curiously attracted to the family business. Her biggest thrill had been to go with Emma to the office and sit with her as she worked. While she was still in her teens she had shown such an uncanny understanding of complex machinations that Emma had been truly amazed, for none of her own children had ever displayed quite the same aptitude for her business affairs. Emma had secretly been delighted, but she had watched and waited with a degree of trepidation, fearful that the youthful enthusiasm would be dissipated. But it had not waned, rather it had grown. At sixteen Paula scorned the suggestion of a finishing school in Switzerland and had gone immediately to work for her grandmother. Over the years Emma drove Paula relentlessly, more harsh and exacting with her than with any of her other employees, as she assiduously educated her in all aspects of Harte Enterprises. Paula was now twenty-three years old and she was so clever, so capable, and so much more mature than most girls of her age that Emma had recently moved her into a position of significance in the Harte organization. She had made Paula her personal assistant, much to the stupefaction and irritation of Emma's oldest son, Kit, who worked for the Harte organization. As Emma's right hand, Paula was privy to most of her corporate and private business and, when Emma deemed fit, she was her confidante in matters pertaining to the family, a situation Kit found intolerable.
The girl returned from the galley kitchen laughing. As she slid into her seat she said, 'He was already making tea for you, Grandy. I suppose, like everyone else, he thinks that's all the English drink. But I said we preferred coffee. You do, don't you?'
Emma nodded absently, preoccupied with her affairs. 'I certainly do, darling.' She turned to her briefcase on the seat next to her and took out her glasses and a sheaf of folders. She handed one to Paula and said, 'Please look at these figures for the New York store. I would be interested in what you think. I believe we are about to take a major step forward. Into the black.'
Paula looked at her alertly. 'That's sooner than you thought, isn't it? But then your reorganization has been very drastic. It should be paying off by now.' Paula opened the folder with interest, her concentration focused on the figures. She had Emma's talent for reading a balance sheet with rapidity and detecting, almost at a glance, its strengths and its weaknesses and, like her grandmother's, her business acumen was formidable.
Emma slipped on her horn-rimmed glasses and took up the large blue folder that pertained to Sitex Oil. As she quickly ran through the papers there was a gleam of satisfaction in her eyes. She had won. At last, after three years of the most despicable and manipulative fighting she had ever witnessed, Harry Marriott had been removed as president of Sitex and kicked upstairs to become chairman of the board.
Emma had recognized Marriott's shortcomings years ago. She knew that if he was not entirely venal he was undoubtedly exigent and specious, and dissimulation had become second nature to him. Over the years, success and the accumulation of great wealth had only served to reinforce these traits, so that now it was impossible to deal with him on any level of reason. As far as Emma was concerned, his judgement was crippled, he had lost the little foresight he had once had, and he certainly had no comprehension of the rapidly shifting inner worlds of international business.
As she made notations on the documents for future reference, she hoped there would be no more vicious confrontations at Sitex. Yesterday she had been mesmerized by the foolhardiness of Harry's actions, had watched in horrified fascination as he had so skilfully manoeuvred himself into a corner from which Emma knew there was no conceivable retreat. He had appealed to her friendship of some forty-odd years only once, floundering, helpless, lost; a babbling idiot in the face of his adversaries, of whom she was the most formidable. Emma had answered his pleas with total silence, an inexorable look in her pitiless eyes. And she had won. With the full support of the board. Harry was out. The new man, her man, was in and Sitex Oil was safe. But there was no joy in her victory, for to Emma there was nothing joyful in a man's downfall.
Satisfied that the papers were in order, Emma put the folder and her glasses in her briefcase, settled back in her seat, and sipped the cup of coffee. After a few seconds she addressed Paula. 'Now that you have been to several Sitex meetings, do you think you can cope alone soon?'
Paula glanced up from the balance sheets, a look of astonishment crossing her face. 'You wouldn't send me in there alone!' she exclaimed. 'It would be like sending a lamb to the slaughter. You wouldn't do that to me yet.' As she regarded her grandmother she recognized that familiar inscrutable expression for what it truly was, a mask to hide Emma's ruthless determination. My God, she does mean it, Paula thought with a sinking feeling. 'You're not really serious, are you, Grandmother?'
'Of course I'm serious!' A flicker of annoyance crossed Emma's face. She was surprised at the girl's unexpected but unequivocal nervousness, for Paula was accustomed to high-powered negotiations and had always displayed nerve and shrewdness. 'Do I ever say anything I don't mean? You know better than that, Paula,' she said sternly.
Paula was silent and, in that split second of silence, Emma became conscious of her tenseness, the startled expression that lingered on her face. Is she afraid? Emma wondered. Surely not. She had never displayed fear before. She was not going to turn out like the others, was she? This chilling possibility penetrated Emma's brilliant mind like a blade and was so unacceptable she refused to contemplate it. She decided then that Paula had simply been disturbed by the meeting, perhaps more so than she had shown. It had not disturbed Emma; rather it had irritated her, since she had found the bloodletting unnecessary and a waste of precious time, and therefore all the more reprehensible. But she had seen it all before, had witnessed the rapacious pursuit of power all of her life, and she could take it in her stride. With her strength she was equipped to deal with it dispassionately. As Paula will have to learn to do, she told herself.
The severity of her expression did not change, but her voice softened as she said, 'However, I won't send you alone to Sitex until you know, as I already know, that you can handle it successfully.'
Paula was still holding the folder in her hands, delicate hands with tapering fingers. She put the folder down and sat back in her seat. She was regaining her composure and, gazing steadily at her grandmother, she said quietly, 'What makes you think they would listen to me the way they listen to you? I know what the board think of me. They regard me as the spoiled, pampered granddaughter of a rich and powerful woman. They dismiss me as empty-headed and silly, a brainless pretty face. They wouldn't treat me with the same deference they treat you, and why should they? I'm not you.'
Emma pursed her lips to hide a small amused smile, sensing injured pride rather than fear. 'Yes, I know what they think of you,' she said in a much milder tone, 'and we both know how wrong they are. And I do realize their attitude riles you, darling. I also know how easy it would be for you to disabuse them of their opinions of you. But I wonder, Paula, would you want to do that?'
She looked at her granddaughter quizzically, a shrewd glint in her eyes, and when the girl did not answer, she continued: 'Being underestimated by men is one of the biggest crosses I've had to bear all of my life, and it was particularly irritating to me when I was your age. However, it was also an advantage and one I learned to make great use of, I can assure you of that. You know, Paula, when men believe they are dealing with a foolish or stupid woman they lower their guard, become negligent and sometimes even downright reckless. Unwittingly they often hand you the advantage on a plate.'
'Yes, but ...'
'No buts, Paula, please. And don't you underestimate me. Do you honestly think I would expose you to a dangerous situation?' She shook her head and smiled. 'I know what your capabilities are, my dear. I have always been sure of you. More sure of you than any of my own children, apart from your mother, of course, and you've never let me down.'
'I appreciate your confidence, Grandmother,' Paula replied steadily, 'but I do find it hard to deal effectively with people who don't take me seriously and the Sitex board do not.' A stubborn look dulled the light in her eyes and her mouth became a thin tight line, an unconscious replica of her grandmother's.
'You know, you really surprise me. You have enormous self-assurance and have dealt with all manner of people, on all levels, since you were quite a young girl. It has never seemed to disturb you before.' Emma sighed heavily. 'And haven't I told you countless times that what people think about you in business is unimportant. The important thing is for you to know who you are and what you are. And frankly I always thought you did.'
'I do!' Paula cried, 'but I am not sure that I have your capacity for hard work, or your experience.'
Emma's face darkened. 'Yes, you do. Furthermore, you have all the advantages of education I never had, so don't let me hear you speak so negatively of yourself again! I'll concede experience to you, but only to a degree. And you are gaining more of that every day. I'll tell you in all honesty, Paula, I would have no compunction in sending you back to Sitex tomorrow — and without me. Because I know you would handle yourself brilliantly. After all, I raised you, I trained you. Don't you think I know what I created?'
A carbon copy of yourself and a copy is never quite as good as the original, Paula thought dryly, but said, 'Please don't be angry, Grandmother.' Her voice was gentle. 'You did a wonderful job. But I am not you. And the board are very aware of that. It's bound to affect their attitude!'
'Now listen to me!' Emma leaned forward and her narrowed eyes were like green glass slits underneath the old wrinkled lids. She spoke more slowly than was her custom, to give weight to her words.
'You seem to have forgotten one thing! When you walk into Sitex in my place, you walk in there with something they have to take seriously. Power! Whatever they think of your ability, that power is the one thing they cannot ignore. The day you take over from me, after my death, you will be representing your mother, who will have become the single largest stockholder of Sitex. With her power of attorney you will be controlling twenty-five per cent of the preferred stock and fifteen per cent of the common stock of a multi-million-dollar corporation.' She paused and stared intently at Paula, and then continued: 'That's not ordinary power, Paula. That's immense power, and especially so in one person's hands. And don't you ever forget that. Believe me, they won't when it comes to the crunch. They didn't yesterday. But in spite of their unparalleled behaviour — and I am beginning to realize just how much it did upset you — they were unable to ignore me and what I represent!' Emma sat back in her seat, but she kept her eyes focused on Paula, and her face was implacable.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Woman of Substance"
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.
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Table of Contents
PART ONE: THE VALLEY 1968,
PART TWO: THE ABYSS 1904–5,
PART THREE: THE SLOPE 1905–10,
PART FOUR: THE PLATEAU 1914–17,
PART FIVE: THE PINNACLE 1918–50,
PART SIX: THE VALLEY 1968,
Other Barbara Taylor Bradford titles from RosettaBooks,