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Emma's Secret [Hardcover]

Barbara Taylor Bradford
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 6 2004 Harte Family Saga (Book 4)
The legendary Emma Harte, heroine of A Woman of Substance, returns in Emma's Secret, a novel that showcases the storytelling power of Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Paula O'Neill, beloved granddaughter of Emma Harte and the guardian of her vast business empire, believes that everything Emma left to the family is secure. However, beneath the surface, sibling rivalry and discontent flare. Linnet and Tessa, her daughters, are as different as two women can be. One of them wants desperately for the empire to be hers but has a devastating secret that may put her very life in danger.

Into this volatile mix walks Evan Hughes, a young American fashion designer who is looking for Emma Harte. But Emma has been dead for thirty years. And Evan bears an uncanny resemblance to Paula O'Neill. Troubled by Evan's presence, Paula turns to her grandmother's recently discovered wartime diaries to find the truth, and Emma comes vividly back to life¿.

The decades fall away. It is London in 1940: the Blitz. Emma, working hard under war-time conditions, is also holding her family together as bombs drop, sirens wail, and her sons go off to war. While she struggles with grief, her indomitability, willpower, and strength come to the fore. As the pages unfurl, Paula discovers the secret Emma took to the grave to protect others, a secret whose repercussions inevitably change lives and may shake a dynasty to its very foundations.

Emma's Secret is vintage Barbara Taylor Bradford. Emotion, drama, suspense, intrigue, and passion fill the pages in a spellbinding novel that only she could write.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

It has been nearly 25 years since Bradford made her name with the female rags-to-riches saga A Woman of Substance, the first in a trilogy of novels that concluded with 1988's To Be the Best. Gambling that there is still life to be squeezed out of the story of indomitable super-survivor Emma Harte and her descendants, Bradford returns to the chase with this present-day sequel. The novel opens in 2001 at Pennistone Royal, Emma's magnificent country estate in Yorkshire, now occupied by her granddaughter Paula's family. Paula heads the Knightsbridge store, flagship of the nationwide Harte chain, and her grown daughters, Linnet and Tessa, work there. A young American, Evan Hughes, with an uncanny Harte family resemblance, appears one day seeking a job. She's hired at once, since Linnet needs help with an upcoming fashion spectacular, a retrospective featuring Emma's couture wardrobe. Linnet's cousin Gideon, who works for the Harte newspapers, is smitten with Evan, and soon the mystery of her background is of concern, especially when it's discovered that Evan's grandmother had a close relationship with Emma. The overwhelming amount of descriptive detail clothing, interior decor, food and drink slows down the narrative, but such Victorian props as a decorative locked box, a key taped behind a photograph and long-lost diaries provide mild suspense. The saga was already losing steam with To Be the Best, and this fourth installment is further diluted. Lacking the dynamic impact of the original, it will be best appreciated by those with an irresistible desire to follow the further adventures of the Harte clan.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Emma Harte, the heroine of Bradford's novel A Woman of Substance (1979), has been dead for more than 30 years when Emma's Secret opens, but her past factors heavily into the events of the novel. At the bequest of her dying grandmother, young American Evan Hughes arrives at Emma's magnificent English clothing store, Hartes, only to find out that Emma has long since died. She is soon hired as a store assistant to Linnet O'Neill, Emma's great-granddaughter, who can't help but notice the American's resemblance to her own mother, Paula. Evan and Gideon Harte, Paula's cousin, fall in love amid whispers that Evan might be the descendant of one of Emma's husbands. The truth lies in Emma's diary, but Paula is reluctant to read it. Curiosity finally gets the better of her, and the journal takes Paula to Emma's life during World War II, and at least partially answers the family's questions about Evan's heritage. It is up to Paula to figure out the rest. Readers new to the series might have a hard time getting a handle on the large cast of characters and their relationships to each other, but those familiar with Emma Harte and her large family will feel right at home. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By Sophia
With "Emma's Secret," Barbara Taylor Bradford returns yet again to the world of the Hartes. This story centers around the mystery of Evan Hughes, a young American woman who is somehow connected with the Hartes. Interspersed with this story is a look at how Emma, Blackie and the other original characters got through World War II. Compared to the other section of the book, this one just shines, making me wonder if perhaps this was cut from the original manuscript of "A Woman of Substance."
The rest of the story, I'm sorry to say, was just tame. The characters are a bit flat. and a lot of the original conflict and spark is leached out of the story. The ending also appears rushed. We get cameo appearances by Jonathan Ainsley, who is still sociopathic and evil, but never actually DOES anything, except lurk and make menacing speeches. Sarah Lowther also reappears, but it seems that she is now a sympathetic character, without a hint of rancor about how Paula summarily tossed her out of the family several years earlier. I found that incomprehensible. I also found the conflict between Tessa and Linnet somewhat unrealistic. The mystery never really held my interest and the open ending seemed rushed (or an invitation to buy the sequel?).
I'm giving this two stars for the great Emma Harte excerpts.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Woman of Substance this is not May 13 2004
By A Customer
I read Woman of Substance for the first time MANY years ago. I enjoyed it so much that I've read it several times since then... The sequels (i.e., Hold the Dream and To Be the Best) weren't as captivating as the original but they were 'good reads' nonetheless...
Emma's Secret is not of the calibre of those books. There isn't much of a story ... Emma's "secret "isn't really anything big or shocking... I think the only thing that I did enjoy was knowing more about Emma's family
The things that really bugged me about this book:
- It ends abruptly. When it ended, I actually flipped through it to make sure that I didn't miss any pages.
- For a sequel, it has SO MANY inconsistencies with the other books that you have to wonder if B.T.Bradford ever read her own books.
For example... they mention that Paula's father fired Jonathan and Sarah (they say it more than once) ... but we know that it was really Alexander ... someone finds a picture of 'Big Jack' and Winstor Sr.... and winston was wearing his 'navy uniform' .. but Jack and Winston never met after winston ran off to join the navy...
anyhow, there are numerous such inconsistences that really make it difficult for a 'fan' of the original books to take this book seriously
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1.0 out of 5 stars Did we read the same book? March 8 2004
By A Customer
First of all, Did we all read the same book? It seems most of the reviewers either loved this book or hated it! I for one was truly disappointed. I was so thrilled to see there was a follow up to the story of Emma Harte. Substance of the Woman was one of my all time favorite books. I also enjoyed Hold the Dream, though it did not have the same magic as the first book. But what was Barbara Taylor Bradford and her editors thinking besides "lets make some money"?
This book rambles on about too many characters! Are we supposed to care about these characters just because they look and sound like the characters from the earlier books? We are dragged through eleborate details about events that in the end are inconsequential or don't even happen? Why did we have to keep reading about the birthday party plans - the party never happens? Why did we have to read about evil cousin Jonathon when nothing even happens? Are we supposed to care about the snotty sister who's being abused by her husband?
By the end of the book you've forgotten all about the main characters from the beginning of the book. You're waiting for events to take place that just don't happen. I felt as if the author got a call that her manuscript was due right now, so she quickly finished the page she was on, hit print, and sent it off to the publisher as it was - unfinished! I suppose, in reality, that the ending was meant to be a cliff hanger - but I for one I'm not going to fork out more money to find out what happens next!
You'd be better to re-read Substance on a Woman and let Emma take her secrets to her grave!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Emma lives, but... Jan. 31 2004
By A Customer
I have read and reread all of Barbar Taylor Bradford's fiction books and have all of them in hardcover. I especially enjoyed A Woman of Substance and the rest of the trilogy. I bought this book as soon as I learned about it and read it in just over a day. Initially I was ecstatic to be able to revisit Emma, her family and the clans, however, I was disappointed that there were glaring errors that do not coincide with facts and events from the original trilogy. I loved the trilogy, but I can't say the same about this book because some discrepancies between events in the trilogy and this book were very noticeable even with a fast read. For example, Paula's cordial relationship, if not friendship, with Robin Ainsley, is VERY surprising and the change in this relationship is not explained. In To be the Best, Kit Lowther and Robin Ainsley and their wives are persona non grata in the Harte family. If such a giant leap was taken in their relationship, it needs to be explained. Unfortunately, BTB doesn't offer any explanation at all for the improvement in the relationship between Paula and Robin. Also, when Sarah Lowther mentions the episode when she was thrown out of the family, she says that Paula's father fired her, when in Hold the Dream, Sarah and Jonathan are actually fired by their cousin, Alexander Barkstone. For those familiar with the trilogy, these differences will matter. It also seems like BTB lifted large chunks from the trilogy and transferred them to this book. BTB is a great writer, and could have done much better. Although the errors make revisiting Emma and her extended family less than satisfying, it was still interesting to see how the families of Paula and Emily have grown, and nice to see another slice of Emma's life. I am hoping to see more of Emma Harte, a truly amazing character, but only if the facts from the previous books are not distorted. If this book was written at the request of her readers, BTB should have been faithful to them.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma Harte Series
I loved the first three books and didn't realize the saga continued. Was looking for a woman of substance to reread and happened upon the continuation of the story. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Judith C. Cotton
1.0 out of 5 stars not even worth a one star but could not rate at zero
I read A Woman of Substance and the next two books which had strong female characters, and was very happy with them. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2009 by Frances
4.0 out of 5 stars memories of a woman of substance
I read a woman of substance many years ago and again in 1999 and loved it all over again. As a business woman and one that loves to see other women succeed I passed it on and on. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible
This book was very disappointing. So many things could have been developed to make it exciting but none of them ever were.
The book doesnt seem to really have any ending. Read more
Published on June 14 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars End of an Era
I enjoyed Emma Harte so much that I have been compelled to follow the stories of her offspring. I was incredibly disappointed to read Bradford's description of Evan's mother who... Read more
Published on June 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm reading the books out of order..
I read this one first! I loved it, and how tight the families were was a great story line. In this book Bradford puts a family tree of the Harte Clan which comes in very handy no... Read more
Published on April 21 2004 by Meg
5.0 out of 5 stars Great follow-up to A Woman of Substance
This was a very good book where we can read about the incomparable Emma again. I literally couldn't put it down. Everyone who's read the first one should read it. Read more
Published on April 19 2004 by Chelsea Becker
1.0 out of 5 stars what happened?????????
I've read all her books and loved them. Now I've struggled and struggled to read this one. I give up. I'm about in the middle and I can't take anymore! Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by Karen Elliott
1.0 out of 5 stars Really bad
This was the worst book Barbara Taylor Bradford has ever written. Woman of Substance was so outstanding that I thought that surely this might come close to it. WRONG!!! Read more
Published on March 28 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars The secret is there is no story
Any book that cannot stand on it's own should not be written. I found the characters totally confusing. Read more
Published on March 16 2004
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