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Paula O'Neill, originally a Harte before she married her husband Shane O'Neill, is the granddaughter of the legendary Emma Harte. She is the guardian of the famous Harte empire with her children and her close friends from the Kallinski and the O'Neill families, all helping her to run things as smoothly as possible. All but a few of the family are very proud of their roots and of their legendary mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Emma Harte. But while they are all carrying on as normal, running the business and speaking highly of Emma to anyone who will listen, there is a secret of Emma's that is slowly revealing itself. Will it Destroy the Harte empire or will they be able to overcome it?
*** About the Book ***
'Emma's Secret' is the fourth in the series which started with 'A woman of Substance' written by Barbara Taylor Bradford. It focuses again on the strongly loved character 'Emma Harte'.
Reprinted in 2003 this Hard backed book is split into three parts, all of which are captivating and unputdownable.
*** My opinion of the Book ***
Barbara Taylor Bradford is an author I hadn't read anything by until I read this book. When I thought of her I imagined boring, over the top, making love by the fire and overly descriptive erotica novels. I definitely wasn't interested in reading anything from her and with so many other books out there she was always bottom on my list. In fact getting 'Emma's Secret' was a complete misunderstanding between me and the book club BCA which at the time I was a member of. But seem as though I had to pay for it and it had been sitting getting dusty on my bookshelf for a little over a year, I decided it was time to give it a chance and through fear of sounding corny, I'm very glad I did!
I wouldn't say the book was exciting right from the very first page, but it did manage to hold my interest enough for me to keep on reading. It only took around half of the first chapter before I was hooked and I found myself not being able to put the book down for hours.
The thing I found the most surprising is how much I could relate to the characters in the book. They were from a high class family with lots of money, their own cook, butler and cleaner, and their own business, whereas I hardly have any money, I live in a small flat in between two main 'rough' areas and I don't even have a job. But I could relate through their personalities. They talk proper but yet it doesn't come across as snobby or too much 'upper class'. I fell in love with almost all the characters and they were fascinating to follow and all had a strong presence in the book whenever they were mentioned.
Although the book is 504 pages long (506 with the acknowledgements), and 47 chapters long, I didn't feel that it was long winded at all. After I'd gotten through the first half of the first chapter, I was drawn into it and thoroughly enjoyed reading it all the way until the end. I liked the fact it was split into three different sections. It starts off in the present year which is supposed to be 2001 and then in the second part it goes back to 1940's during the second world war years and finally back to 2001 in the third part to conclude the story. I found the war years particularly interesting to read as I learnt new things about what happened back then and what it was like for the families of the men who were sent out to war. So although the book is based entirely on fictional characters etc, Barbara still researched deeply into the war years in order for them to be as realistic as possible. I am shamed to say I didn't know who Winston Churchill was. I'd heard of him but wasn't sure who he actually was. So as well as the book being enjoyable, to me it was also educational.
The actual story plot was extremely good with little faults. I did feel at times though that Barbara mentioned things that didn't really need to be mentioned such as telephone conversations that basically just said 'hello' and 'good bye'. I got really bored at those parts and wish she'd have left them out. Other than that it was great. I feet she described things really well. There is one chapter in particular that really made me feel happy and soppy and it was a typical romance part of the novel. I mentioned at the beginning I thought Barbara wrote over the top making love by the fire novels, and funnily enough in this book there is a scene where two of the characters make love in front of the fire. However I didn't feel it was in any way over the top, it was extremely romantic, nothing seedy about it, although it did go into a little detail, and it just filled me with happiness and made me all soppy. As well as that she describes the settings really well and it's almost like you are there with them. The flowers, the little details in the house that they live at, the things people are wearing, I really was transported there. I got a very homely feel because of this and feel it's a nice warm, friendly book to read on a cold winters day.
Another thing about the story line I will mention is you don't actually find out the secret until near the end. Things happen in the book where you can almost guess what the secret is but it's not until near the end you actually find out properly. There's nothing worse than knowing what's going to happen long before it actually does. Thankfully 'Emma's Secret' knows this and reveals everything at a steady pace.
The families in the book can be quite hard to follow at times but to make things easier Barbara has included a little section at the front about the characters and their relevance to other characters in the story. I looked at this once but have to say I wasn't really that confused because throughout the novel characters talk about other characters and give us a quick overview of who everybody is, but they do this in a sneaky way so that we don't get bored with pointless descriptions.
Although this is the fourth in the series I haven't read any of her previous books and I feel I didn't need to. It didn't seem to have any reference whatsoever to previous books and it definitely holds it's own. It has been recommended though that you do read earlier novels in the series but that is entirely optional.
I'd definitely recommend this book and I've already got another book by Barbara which I'm really looking forward to reading. I'm 20 years old and although the novel is very sophisticated and is based on a 'proper, high in society' family, it doesn't really have a specific target audience I feel. The modern day setting is particularly good for younger readers and the language I feel will be appealing to older readers. I wouldn't recommend this book to anybody under the age of 16 though because of the sexual content in some chapters. It isn't seedy but obviously people under the age of 16 shouldn't be having sex so it would only promote it and regardless of what age children actually do have sex these days, it's still illegal.
This novel is definitely a romance one but it does focus on other story lines too. I really don't think this will appeal to the guys or even to girls who aren't into mushy love. But for all you people who can't resist a good old fashioned love story, this is definitely one to read :)
*** Price and Availability ***
You can buy this from quite a few places including book clubs, book shops such as 'Borders', some supermarkets might stock it too. As I said I bought mine (accidentally) from BCA but you could also try online if you aren't part of a book group. I know Amazon sell it and Ebay might have it too. I bought mine for six pounds ninety-nine (sorry it's in words instead of numbers,my pound sign on the keyboard isn't working at the moment because of the settings which refuse to change), but you can get it for less now because it's been out a year.
i've only read one of hers not heard of this one, yet another to add top my list. Di
Barbydoll 18.03.2005 00:32
Have always enjoyed BTB's books and Woman of Substance has to be her best. I bought Emma's Secret a couple of months ago but haven't got round to reading it yet, but after having read this review it's time I did! Thanks