Katharine Tempest and Francesca Cunningham couldn’t be more different, one a stormy brunette and the other a cool blonde. Yet their friendship is a constant as their lives take shape, Katharine sweeping into Hollywood as one of the era’s most sought-after actresses, and Francesca penning bestselling historical novels. But Katharine’s relentless drive to succeed will inevitably change the lives of the people who love her, and she must learn to live with regrets even as she longs for redemption.
This “rare treat” from Barbara Taylor Bradford offers another powerful story of indomitable women and the choices they make—“you will laugh and cry with the characters and . . . you won’t be able to put it down” (Literary Guild Magazine).
“A rich tapestry of love and romance. The surprise ending is both poignant and fitting.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“A captivating work filled with glamour, intrigue and ironic reversal.” —Booklist
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About the Author
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
I came back because I wanted to, of my own free will. No one forced me to return. But now that I am here I want to take flight, to hide again in obscurity, to put this vast ocean between myself and this place. It bodes me no good.
As these thoughts finally took shape, assumed troubling proportions and jostled for prominence in her mind, the woman's fine hands, lying inertly in her lap, came together in a clench so forceful that the knuckles protruded sharply through the transparent skin. But there was no other outward display of emotion. She sat as rigid as stone on the seat. Her face, pale and somewhat drawn in the murky morning light, was impassive as a mask and her gaze was fixed with unwavering intensity on the Pacific.
The sea was implacable and the colour of chalcedony on this bleak and sunless day, one that was unnaturally chilly for Southern California, even though it was December when the weather was so often inclement. The woman shivered. The dampness was beginning to seep through her trench-coat into her bones. She felt icy, and yet there was a light film of moisture on her forehead and neck and between her breasts. On an impulse she rose from the seat, her movements abrupt, and with her head bent against the wind and her hands pushed deep into her pockets she walked the length of the Santa Monica pier, which was now so entirely deserted it looked desolate, even forbidding, in its emptiness.
When she arrived at the farthermost tip where the turbulent waves lashed at the exposed underpinnings, she paused and leaned against the railing. Once again her eyes were riveted on the ocean curling out towards the dim horizon. There, on that far indistinct rim, where sea and sky merged in a smudge of limitless grey, a great liner bobbed along like a child's toy, had been turned into an object of insignificance by the vastness of nature.
We are all like that ship, the woman said inwardly, so fragile, so inconsequential in the overall scheme of things. Although do any of us truly believe that, blinded as we are by our self-importance? In our arrogance we all think we are unique, invincible, immune to mortality and above the law of nature. But we are not, and that is the only law, inexorable and unchanging.
She blinked, as if to rid herself of these thoughts. The winter sky, curdled and ominous, was uttered with ragged ashy clouds which were slowly turning black and extinguishing the meagre light trickling along their outer edges. A storm was imminent. She ought to return to the waiting limousine and make her way back to the Bel-Air Hotel, before the rain started. But to her amazement she discovered she was unable to move. She did not want to move, for it seemed to her that only out here on this lonely pier was she able to think with a degree of clarity, to pull together her scattered and disturbing thoughts, to make sense out of the chaos in her mind.
The woman sighed with weariness and frustration. She had known, even when she had first made her decision, that to return was foolhardy, maybe even dangerous. She was exposing herself in a manner she had never done before. But at the time — was it only a few weeks ago? — it had seemed to be the only solution, in spite of the obvious hazards it entailed. And so she had made her plans, executed them efficiently and embarked for America with confidence.
I took a voyage towards the unknown. Was it the unknown which was the source of her distress? But the unknown had always tempted and beckoned her, had been the spur because of its inherent excitement and the challenge it invariably offered. But that was in the past, she told herself, and thought: I am a different person now.
Panic rose in her like a swift tide, dragging her into its undertow, and she gripped the railing tighter and drew in her breath harshly as another truth struck at her. If shestayed she would be risking so much. She would be endangering all that she had gained in the past few years. Far better, perhaps, to go, and if she was going it must be immediately. Today. Before she changed her mind again. In reality it was so easy. All she had to do was make a plane reservation to anywhere in the world that took her fancy, and then go there. Her eyes sought out the liner, so far away now it was a mere speck. Where was it bound for? Yokohama, Sydney, Hong Kong, Casablanca? Where would she go? It did not matter and no one would care; and if she left today, whilst it was still safe, no one would be any the wiser, no harm would have been done, least of all to her.
The idea of disappearing into oblivion, as if she had never set foot in the country, suddenly appealed to some deep-rooted instinct in her, to her innate sense of drama, and yet ... Is it not juvenile to run away? she asked herself. For most assuredly that was exactly what she would be doing. You will know you lost your nerve and you will live to regret it, a small voice at the back of her mind insisted.
She closed her eyes. Her thoughts raced, as she considered all the possibilities open to her and weighed the consequences of her actions, whatever they would ultimately be. Thunder rattled behind the blackening clouds, which rolled with gathering speed before the force of the gale blowing up. But she was so immersed in her inner conflict, so rapt in her concentration as she strived to reach a final decision, she was oblivious to the hour, the weather, her surroundings. Eventually she came to grips with herself and recognized one fundamental: she could no longer afford to procrastinate. Time was of the essence. Suddenly she made up her mind. She would stay, despite her misgivings and her sense of apprehension. She must, no matter what the cost to herself.
Large drops of rain began to fall, splashing onto her face and her hands. She opened her eyes and glanced down at her fingers still gripping the railing, watching the water trickling over them. Like my tears, she said to herself, and then, quite involuntarily, she laughed out loud, and it was a rich amused laugh. There would be no more tears. She had done all the mourning she was going to do. You're such a fool, Cait, she murmured softly to herself, remembering Nick's old nickname for her, borrowed from the Welsh Caitlin because he had said she had a Celtic soul, all poetry and mystery and fire.
She pulled herself up straight and threw back her head with a proud and defiant gesture, and her extraordinary eyes, not blue, not green, but a curious unique turquoise, were no longer opaque and clouded with uncertainty and fear. They sparkled brightly with new determination. Soon, in a few days, when her courage had been completely reinforced, and she had gathered it around her like a protective mantle, she would go to Ravenswood.
That would be her first step into the unknown. The beginning of her new life. And perhaps, finally, the beginning of peace.CHAPTER 2
Francesca Avery had long ago ceased to regret her actions, having years before reached the conclusion that since regrets could not undo what had been done, they were generally unproductive.
But as she inserted the key into the front door of her apartment and stepped into the silent and shadowy hall, she experienced such an overwhelming sense of regret at having returned to New York without her husband that she was momentarily startled. The heavy door slammed shut behind her, but she hesitated before moving forward into the apartment, thrown off-balance by this unfamiliar feeling, and one so unprecedented in her that she found it disconcerting. Harrison had not wanted her to leave Virginia ahead of him, and she had done so only out of a sense of duty to the charity committee of which she had recently become chairwoman. Ten days earlier, the secretary of the committee had telephoned her in Virginia, to say that an urgent provisional meeting had been called, because of unforeseen difficulties with their plans for the summer concert to be held at Avery Fischer Hall. Only she had the power and connections to get the benefit back on the track, the secretary had gone on to point out, adding that no one else could rally the support that was necessary. In short, her presence was imperative.
Francesca knew Harrison thought otherwise, although he had not actually come out and said so. Years in the Foreign Service had refined his innate ability to get his point across by subtle implication, in his usual diplomat's manner. He had gently intimated that he thought the committee members were panicking unnecessarily, and had made a quiet reference to the fact that the telephone service was as efficient in Virginia as it was in Manhattan. Francesca tended to agree that anxiety was prompting the committee to act prematurely, and she was about to decline, but then the matter of the interview had come up and she felt obliged to comply with both of their requests.
Francesca sighed. Duty had been inculcated in her since childhood and to shirk it would be unthinkable, even shoddy, and quite alien to her nature. Nevertheless, she wished she was back at the rambling old house with Harry and his boisterous and unruly grand-daughters, surrounded by the spontaneous love and camaraderie of that special, if somewhat unpredictable and unorthodox, clan. Resolutely she quenched the rising impulse to turn around and go back to La Guardia Airport to catch the next shuttle for Washington.
Francesca groped for the light switch and snapped it down impatiently. She blinked in the sudden brightness. The immense antique French chandelier, with its cascading slivers of crystal prisms and blades and elongated teardrops, flooded the black-and-white marble hall with a blinding blaze. It threw into bold relief the Gobelin tapestry soaring high on the staircase wall, the Rodin busts and Sèvres palace vases in their respective niches and the Louis XV commode, once owned by Madame de Pompadour, upon which reposed a Ming Dynasty vase containing a lovely arrangement of yellow roses, their sweet scent bringing the nostalgic fragrance of a summer garden to the wintry stillness.
Once again her eyes swept over the splendid hall with its priceless objects of art, a setting which never failed to impress with its perfection and timeless beauty, and then, quite involuntarily, she shivered despite the warmth of the hall. Somebody walked over my grave, she thought. How silly she was being, yet there was no denying the fact that she felt curiously alone and lost without Harrison. She was baffled by her reaction. She often came to New York on her own. There was nothing unusual about that, but today she felt decidedly odd, vulnerable, and exposed in the most peculiar way. Oh, it's just the aftermath of Christmas and I'm tired, she decided.
She walked in determined, measured steps across the hall to the library, the high heels of her boots resounding with a sharp metallic ring against the cold marble, the echo disturbing the silence. She stopped in her tracks abruptly. Perhaps that was it — the quietness after the bustling activity of the house in Virginia, with the continual comings and goings of the servants, Harry's grandchildren and guests. The apartment seemed so still, so deserted and devoid of life. Of course, that was undoubtedly the explanation. She was simply missing the girls, their whoops of joy and excitement, their running feet and constant laughter. She would call Harrison later and suggest they all come to the city for a few days. This thought gladdened her heart, and her face brightened as she pushed open the door and went into the library. Although this room was, in many respects, just as imposing as the entrance hall, it was much less intimidating. It appeared welcoming and intimate with its ash-panelled walls, English antiques and comfortable sofas and chairs covered in a cheerful floral chintz. A fire burned brightly in the grate and several lamps had been turned on; and the combination of this warming light cast a lovely glow throughout, one that was both cheerful and reassuring.
Francesca sat down at the English Regency desk and read the note from her housekeeper, Val, who had apparently gone shopping and would return within the hour. She glanced at a number of telephone messages received that morning and then turned her attention to the mail, quickly flipping through it, discarding unopened several invitations, her bank statement and bills. The last envelope had a Harrogate postmark and she recognized her brother's handwriting. Picking up the gold and malachite opener, she slit the envelope and leaned back in the chair, reading Kim's letter eagerly. It was mainly about his children and their Christmas activities, along with bits of news of their mutual friends. There were a few complaints about the burdens of running the estate, but she knew these to be justified. By nature Kim was not a whiner and, God knows, managing the ancestral Langley lands and making them pay was no mean feat these days. He ended the letter with a reminder that he was expecting to see her now that all the seasonal festivities were out of the way. There was a postscript. Happy New Year, darling. And let's hope 1979 is going to be better for both of us.
A strand of her blonde hair fell across her face and Francesca pushed it aside quickly, looping it over one ear in her habitual way. Thoughtfully, she perused the letter again, endeavouring to read between the lines, to truly assess Kim's mood and disposition. She detected a certain wistfulness there — no, it was sadness really — and it bespoke his unhappiness, despite the cheerful tone he had adopted in an obviously conscious effort to reassure her. Francesca put down the letter, which troubled her, and stared into space, frowning deeply. Her hazel eyes, soft and transparent, were suddenly reflective, and they betrayed her concern.
Kim was two years older than she, yet she always thought of him as her baby brother, for she had looked after him and shielded him all through their childhood and youth, after their mother's death when they were small. These days she was more protective of him than ever, anxious about his wellbeing and state of mind. He had simply not been the same since Pandora had left him, and Francesca understood the reasons why. She, too, had been completely astounded by Pandora's extraordinary behaviour, for it had been the perfect marriage, and outwardly the happiest union she had ever encountered. Kim's stunned shock, his heartbreak and profound hurt had been hers, for she had felt them just as acutely.
Will he never recover from that blow? Francesca asked herself, and she did not like the resounding 'no' that reverberated in her head. A proud young woman, and infinitely more pragmatic than her brother, Francesca had long since come to believe that broken hearts were the stuff of romantic dreams and bore no relationship to the true reality of everyday life. You picked up the pieces, glued them together, and went on living as best you could, until the pain receded. That was exactly what she had done years before, and she was fully convinced that no one was irreplaceable. Despite these beliefs, and because she was blessed with considerable intelligence and insight, she realized Kim was different, knew intuitively that he would mourn Pandora, not replace her, as most other men would have done.
She shook her head sadly. He was so isolated in Yorkshire, and lonely with his two elder children away at boarding school. She wished he would spend more time in London with his friends, but then had to admit this was not always feasible. His responsibilities kept him tied to Langley for most of the year. On the other hand, if she were in England she might conceivably be able to exercise some influence over him, persuade him to lead a more active social life than was his custom.
Francesca decided she must go home to England at the end of the month. Harrison would not object, she was certain of that, and perhaps he would accompany her if he was not overburdened with work in Washington. Since his retirement from the Foreign Service a year ago, her husband seemed to be busier than he ever was as an ambassador. He was the country's foremost elder statesman, and consequently he was constantly being sought out by senators and political bigwigs and members of the cabinet; and then again, his role as an adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs was time-consuming and exceedingly tiring. Although he had fully recovered from his two heart attacks and was enjoying good health, Francesca watched over him like a hawk, for ever instructing him to slow down and take things at a gentler pace. Harrison always readily concurred, and then did exactly as he pleased, caught up in the complex machinations of politics and thoroughly enjoying every exciting minute of it. A trip to England would be a tonic for Harry, as well as an enforced rest, and she resolved to take him with her, was determined to brook no argument from him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Voice of the Heart"
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
In the Wings 1979,
Act One Downstage Right 1956,
In the Wings 1979,
Act Two Downstage Left 1963-1967,
Act Three Centre Stage 1979,
Finale April 1979,
An Excerpt from A Woman of Substance,
Other Barbara Taylor Bradford titles from RosettaBooks,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Voice of the Heart is one of the most brilliant books i have ever read. Barbara made the characters come alive and made me feel as if i was there living the story. It made me laugh, cry you name it. It all resolves around four characters, Victor, Francesca, Niky and Katherine Tempest. It is a very interesting story and whoever reads it will surely thouroughly enjoy it as i did.