From master storyteller Barbara Taylor Bradford comes a magnificent new novel, a powerful, moving story of two women, two families, and an extraordinary friendship challenged by tragedy and a devastating secret from the past....
Some secrets are too terrible to share--even with your best friend....
Nothing hurts like the truth. A truth that has haunted Claire Benson all her life. A truth that Claire has revealed to no one, not even to her best friend, International art dealer Laura Valiant. But the friendship that has sheltered both women throughout childhood, marriage and divorce is about to meet its greatest test. Suddenly old nightmares surface as Claire turns to her dearest friend for help. And as Laura's career leads her into the past, in an investigation of artwork stolen by the Nazis, she uncovers disturbing links to the present, to Claire, and a profoundly personal reason to follow a twisted trail to its surprising end....
Another version of the indefatigable, headstrong heroine that's been Bradford's trademark since she first published A Woman of Substance 20 years ago appears here in a watered-down version as Laura Valiant, a New York art dealer who specializes in impressionist and post-impressionist works. Laura has what she thinks is a storybook marriage, and her closest childhood friend, Claire Benson, now publisher and editor-in-chief of a French interior design and art magazine, offers contrast as a bitter, divorced woman who dotes on her teenage daughter. Bradford's exploration of the relationship between the two women depicts a series of heartbreaks and scandals, most with more surface than substance. Claire's hidden past of childhood abuse, foreshadowed early in the book, makes the other characters appear obtuse for missing obvious clues. Meanwhile, Laura's "perfect" husband turns out to be bisexual, Claire's difficult ex-husband reappears in her daughter's life and Claire ends up confronting advanced breast cancer and battling for her life with Laura's loving support. The book tackles these all-too-familiar issues with a kind of stilted preachiness, and with often repetitive dialogue and a formulaic romance involving Laura and Claire's ex-husband. Contemporary headlines about Holocaust survivors demanding the return of Nazi-looted, privately owned works of art that surfaced in museums and private collections forms an important part of the plot, but Bradford's material on this controversial subject reads more like a newspaper article than an integrated theme. The saving grace in this, her 15th novel, is an echo of the memorable Emma Harte from Bradford's debut publication in Laura's grandmother, Megan Valiant, a strong-willed, charismatic woman who, with her colorful past and candid wisdom, will strike most readers as the real heroine of the saga.
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November 29, 1999
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Excerpt from A Sudden Change of Heart by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Prologue Summer 1972 The girl was tall for seven, dark-haired, with vividly blue eyes in an alert, intelligent face. Thin, almost wiry, there was a tomboy look about her, perhaps because of her slimness, short hair, restless energy, and the clothes she wore. They were her favorite pieces of clothing; her uniform, her grandmother said, but she loved her blue jeans, white T-shirt, and white sneakers. The sneakers and T-shirt were her two vanities. They must always be pristine, whiter than white, and so they were constantly in the washing machine or being replaced. The seven-year-old's name was Laura Valiant, and she was dressed thus this morning as she slipped out of the white clapboard colonial house on the hill and raced across the lawns and down to the river flowing through her grandparents' property. This was a long, wide green valley surrounded by soaring hills near Kent, a small rural town in the northwestern corner of Connecticut. Her grandparents had come to America from Wales many years before, in the 1920s, and after they had bought this wonderful verdant valley they had given it the Welsh name of Rhondda Fach . . . the little Rhondda, it meant. Once she reached the river, Laura made for the drystone wall and the copse where giant oaks and maples grew in great abundance. Years before, whenhewas a boy, her father and his siblings had built a tree house in one of the giant oaks. It had remained intact, and it was Laura's favorite spot, just as it had been for other young Valiants before her. Laura was a strong girl for her age, athletic, agile, and full of boundless energy. Within seconds she had scrambled up the rope ladder that dropped down from the fork in the branches where the tree house was built. She crawled inside the little house, making herself comfortable in her leafy lair as she sat cross-legged, gazing out at the early morning sky. It was six o'clock on this bright and shining July day and no one else was up, at least not in the house, not her grandparents, nor her best friend, Claire, who often accompanied her on her visits to her grandparents' farm. She lovedeverythingabout Rhondda Fach, much preferred it to New York, where she lived with her parents and her brother, Dylan. Imperceptibly, Laura's young face changed as she thought of her parents. Richard, her father, was a well-known composer and conductor; he was usually traveling somewhere to conduct a symphony orchestra, and her mother invariably went along with him. "Those two are inseparable," her grandmother would say, but she said it with a sniff and in such a way, it sounded like a criticism; Laura understood that it was. And it was also true that they were hardly ever around. When her mother, Maggie, wasn't traveling, she was painting her famous flower pictures in her studio on the West Side. "She gets good money for them," Grandfather Owen kept saying, making excuses for her mother because he was always kind to everyone. And so it was that Laura and her brother, Dylan, three years younger than she, were frequently left in the care of their grandparents. She loved being with them, they were her favorites, really; she loved her parents, and she was quite close to her father when he was there to be close to, but most of the time her mother was distant, remote. Laura thought of the rope ladder that dangled down to the ground, and she moved toward it, intending to pull it up the way her father had shown her, then changed her mind. Nobody was going to invade her private lair. Dylan was too young at four to get much farther than the first few rope rungs, and Claire was afraid to climb up in case she fell. It was true that the rope ladder was a bit precarious, Laura knew that. Claire was scared of other things even though she was twelve and much more grown-up than Laura. She was small, dainty, fragile, and very pretty, with deep green eyes and red ha