Born in Berlin and orphaned by World War II, Maxim Westheim is left to fend for himself. With brains, charm, and grit, he forges a new identity for himself as Maximilian West, billionaire corporate raider. Max is ruthless in the business world, but his personal affairs are another story. His work takes him around the world to such opulent locales as London, New York, Paris, Venice, and Morocco, mingling with the world’s rich and powerful. But his marriages end in divorce, and even his mistresses can’t avoid heartbreak. When his life is shattered, he looks back at the women who have loved him and begins a search into his own soul which will lead to the one woman who holds the key to his heart.
“Legions of readers undoubtedly will be satisfied by the romantic fortunes of the cultured, wealthy and powerful people whose lives she evokes.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Bradford] is one of the world’s best at spinning yarns.” —The Guardian
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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
He came out of the imposing house on the corner of Chesterfield Hill and Charles Street and stood for a moment poised on the front step. It had rained earlier and the dampness lingered and the air was raw on this chilly Thursday evening in January.
Normally oblivious of the weather, he found himself shivering and turned up the collar of his black trenchcoat. The weather underscored his morose mood, his sense of desolation. For a long time there had been a deep sadness inside him; tonight, for some reason, it seemed more acute than usual.
Pushing his hands in his pockets, he forced himself to stride out, heading in the direction of Berkeley Square. He walked at a rapid pace along Charles Street, his step determined, his back straight, his head held erect. He was dark-haired with dark-brown eyes, tall, lean, trimly built. There was an athletic hardness about his body, which was echoed in his lean and angular face, its raw-boned sharpness softened by a deep tan. He was an exceptionally handsome man, in his early fifties: his name was Maximilian West.
He cursed mildly under his breath, wondering at the heaviness he felt and suddenly regretting that he had agreed to this meeting set for such a late hour. He had done so impulsively — he who was rarely impulsive — out of deference to his old schoolfriend, Alan Trenton. Alan had made his presence sound so vitally important. But eight-forty-five was late even for him, renowned as he was for being ready to do business at any time of day or night, any day of the week, especially since he had another appointment that evening. What saved the situation for him was the fact that Alan's office was only a stone's throw away from the late-night dining club where he had a table booked for nine-thirty.
He circled Berkeley Square, dodging the traffic as he made for the far side, wondering why Alan needed to see him, what this was all about. When Alan had telephoned the house earlier his voice had vibrated with urgency, yet he had been curiously reticent. Intrigued, Maxim had agreed to stop by, but now he was acutely aware of the time, reminding himself that Alan was talkative, could be a bit long-winded on occasion. He would have to keep his eye on the clock, move the meeting along quickly if he was to stay on schedule.
Oh what the hell, he thought, as he reached the corner of Bruton Street. Alan's been special to me most of my life. I owe him ... we go back so far, he knows so much — and he's my best friend.
Crossing the street, his eyes focused on the Jack Barclay showroom on the opposite corner, and when he reached the plate-glass windows he paused to admire the sleek Rolls-Royces and Bentleys gleaming under the brilliant spotlights. He was always promising himself one of these super-deluxe models, but he never seemed to get around to buying it. On the other hand, he did not have much need for a car for his personal use anymore. Corporate jets that sped around the world were more his style these days, and when he was on the ground there were always company limousines at his disposal.
He walked on past the Henley car showroom and Lloyds bank, and pushed through the doors of Berkeley Square House, the best commercial address in town and a powerhouse of a building. Here, floor upon floor, were housed the great international corporations and the multinationals, companies that had more financial clout than the governments of the world. Maxim thought of it as a mighty treasury of trade, for it did hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of business a year. And yet the buff-coloured edifice had no visible face, had long since blended into the landscape of this lovely, leafy square in the very heart of Mayfair, and most Londoners who walked past it daily were hardly aware of its existence. But it was the British base for an amazing number of mega corporations and the spot where the big bucks stopped.
Maxim crossed the richly-carpeted, white-marble hall, and nodded to the security guard who touched his cap in recognition. He stepped into the elevator and rode up to Alan Trenton's offices on the sixth floor. Trenton's secretary of many years responded to his knock and opened the door. She smiled warmly when she saw him standing there. 'Good evening, Mr West. Oh dear, I'm so sorry, do excuse me. I mean, Sir Maximilian.'
He swiftly brushed aside her apologies, flashed a dazzling smile. 'Hello, Evelyn,' he said, stepping inside briskly, shrugging out of his trenchcoat.
She took it from him, ushered him towards Trenton's inner sanctum. 'He's waiting for you.'
Maxim nodded, went in.
Alan Trenton was standing next to a carved mahogany console of Chippendale design, pouring Roederer Cristal Brut into a silver tankard. He was Maxim's age, yet appeared older. His figure was stout, he was of medium height, fair of colouring, and slightly balding above a ruddy face.
'Maxim!' he exclaimed, his pale-blue eyes lighting up with the most obvious pleasure. He put the bottle of Cristal down with a clatter, hurried across the faded but highly valuable Aubusson carpet, grasped Maxim's hand, put an arm around him, half embraced his oldest and dearest friend.
Maxim returned the gesture.
'It's good to see you,' Trenton said.
'And you, Alan. It's been too long this time. My fault.'
'No problem. I understand.' Alan's face filled with sudden glee, and he beamed. 'I know I've said it on the phone, but I feel I must say it to you in person ... congratulations, Maxim, on your great honour.'
'Thanks, Stubby,' Maxim said, reverting to his old nickname for Trenton from their schooldays. He grinned hugely, punched Alan lightly on the arm. 'Who'd have thought it, eh?'
'I would, Duke, that's who,' Alan shot back, following Maxim's lead, using the name he had bestowed on the other man some forty-seven years before. 'And thanks for coming at such short notice, I know how pressed you are.'
'And why am I here?' Maxim's gaze turned quizzical. A dark brow lifted.
Trenton did not at first respond. He stepped over to the console, lifted the bottle. 'A drop of bubbly, old chap.'
'Thanks, but not really,' Maxim said, then instantly changed his mind, realising the champagne was in his honour. He added quickly, 'Of course, why not? But do make it a drop. A quarter of a tankard, please, not a full one like yours, Stubby.'
Maxim watched Trenton dispensing the champagne, waiting for him to open up, but when nothing was said about the reason for his presence, he casually strolled into the middle of the room and glanced around.
Alan had recently finished redecorating his office and Maxim liked the new ambience. A sense of elegance and warmth had been created with pine-panelled walls, fine English antiques and bucolic landscapes of the English countryside hanging in elaborate carved and gilded frames. All bespoke Trenton's life-long predilection for ancient objects and artifacts, which had developed into a very serious and consuming hobby. He had become a well-known collector, an avid bidder at mighty auctions. All that oil money to spend, Maxim commented to himself. North Sea oil money. Big Texas oil money. He had encouraged Alan to pursue his own ideas, to expand the family business after he had taken over from his father, had backed him to the hilt in every way, giving him moral and financial support. The combination had worked, and Alan's great prosperity over the past fifteen years pleased him greatly.
A moment later Trenton joined Maxim, handed him the champagne. They clinked tankards. Alan said, 'Here's to your title. Wear it in good health, old chap.'
Maxim couldn't help laughing. 'Thanks. And here's to you, Stubby. Your good health.' Maxim savoured the icy Cristal, liking its dryness. He took another sip, then said, 'So, Alan, what is this all about?'
Trenton eyed him speculatively. 'How would you like to be a white knight?'
Maxim stared. A dark brow lifted again. This was the last thing he had expected.
There was a small silence.
'To come to the rescue of Lister Newspapers, I presume,' Maxim said at last.
Trenton was taken aback. 'Someone else has already approached you!' he exclaimed, managing to make his words sound like both statement and question.
Maxim shook his head emphatically, the expression in his dark eyes denying. 'Not at all. But that's the only company in London facing a hostile takeover bid, at least that I'm aware of. Anyway, how come you're involved?'
'Actually, I'm not,' Trenton was quick to say. 'I'm sort of —' he paused, half laughed, groped for a word, came up with '— a go-between. It's John Vale, my merchant banker, who is the one involved. The merchant bank acts for Lister Newspapers and John is very close to the chairman, Harry Lister, and is seeking to help him. He's aware we're old friends and asked me to arrange this meeting.'
'But it's hardly my bailiwick, I'm not interested in —' Maxim abruptly broke off, looked towards the door as it flew open.
'Ah there you are, John,' Trenton said, hurrying to greet the newcomer, his genial hand outstretched. 'Come in! Come in!'
'Hello, Alan,' John Vale said, shaking Trenton's hand. He was in his late thirties, of average height, wiry, very English in appearance, with a fair skin, streaky blond hair and light grey eyes behind thick tortoiseshell glasses. He allowed Trenton to propel him across the room to its centre, where Maxim stood.
'Maxim, I'd like to introduce John Vale of Morgan Lane,' Trenton said. 'And, of course, this is Sir Maximilian West, John.'
'Glad to meet you.' Maxim thrust out his hand.
'It's my very great pleasure, Sir Maximilian,' John Vale responded, almost wincing at Maxim's vice-like grip, staring at him, yet trying to conceal, as best he could, his avid curiosity. Maximilian West was one of the world's most brilliant tycoons, a buccaneer like Sir James Goldsmith and Lord Hanson, both shrewd operators in the takeover game. West more than outmatched them, at least in John Vale's considered opinion.
Leaving the two men standing together, Alan went over to the console, exclaiming, 'Champagne coming up immediately, John.'
'Thanks,' Vale replied. He turned to Maxim and smoothly began to make small talk, all the while studying him surreptitiously. West had the effluvium of power; it seemed to emanate from him. Vale had not expected such a good-looking man, though. There was something rather spectacular about that wide engaging smile, the very white teeth, the dark eyes filled with vivid intelligence. And that tan! It was the golden tan of a playboy garnered in some exotic winter playground, not that of a workaholic conglomerateur who spent the majority of his time cooped up in boardrooms and circling the globe in his private jet. The clothes were equally unexpected, hardly the usual drab garb of a typical businessman. More like movie star clothes, Vale thought, eyeing the grey, pure-silk shirt, the pearl-grey silk tie, the superbly-cut black gabardine suit that hung on West with such precision that it had undoubtedly been engineered by the world's greatest tailor for a large quantity of money. John Vale recognised at once that there was an intense glamour about Maxim West which had just as much to do with his personal magnetism as his dashing appearance.
Trenton's voice, booming out suddenly, interrupted Vale's thoughts and the discussion he was having with Maxim West about the filthy English weather and other trivialities.
'Here you go, John, a drop of the old bubbly for you,' Alan cried. 'And now we can get down to business. At least the two of you can. Although I've brought you and Sir Maximilian together, I intend to sit back and be the observer. The silent observer.'
Maxim chuckled. 'The day you do that I guarantee it'll snow gold bricks. You haven't drawn breath since you uttered your first word,' he said, but there was no hint of criticism in his voice, only warmth and great affection.
Alan threw back his head and roared. 'I suppose there's some truth in what you say. And you should know — after the years we've been together.' He ambled across the floor, brought the tankard of champagne to Vale. 'Good health,' he said.
The three men drank, and Trenton gestured to a group of chairs around a Georgian occasional table. 'Shall we sit?' Once they were settled, Trenton again glanced at John Vale, and continued, 'I told Maxim why I asked him to come over this evening. I think you should elucidate further.'
Vale nodded, gave his attention to Maxim. 'Firstly, I'd like to know whether you would be interested in being the white knight for Lister Newspapers?'
Maxim frowned. 'I honestly don't know. Just as you were arriving, I had started to say to Alan that I didn't think a newspaper empire was my bailiwick exactly.'
'But why not, Maxim?' Alan demanded peremptorily, forgetting his vow of silence of a moment ago. 'Surely it's a perfect acquisition for you at this stage of your career. Think of the added power and influence you would have if you controlled Lister. A national daily, a national Sunday newspaper, and a galaxy of prestigious magazines.'
Maxim threw Alan a swift look but did not respond. Instead he addressed John Vale. 'What makes you think I'd be acceptable to the stockholders?'
'Harry Lister is certain of it; so are the other members of the Lister board. I agree with them, as do the directors of Morgan Lane.' Vale perched precariously on the edge of his seat, leaned forward, fixed his bespectacled, earnest gaze on Maxim. 'You have the name, a formidable reputation, and an extraordinary track record. You're not an asset stripper, far from it. The companies you have taken over have flourished under your good management. These things are tremendous points in your favour. Quite frankly, you're impressive, very impressive indeed, and that's why we're absolutely positive you'd be acceptable to the stockholders. Incidentally, so are Birch, Rider, stockbrokers for Lister Newspapers. They're as enthusiastic about you as we are, in point of fact.'
'Those are very kind words. Thank you,' Maxim murmured, and paused, steepled his fingers, brought them up to his mouth. He was thoughtful, then continued, 'Arthur Bradley's International Publishing Group has tendered an offer of five hundred million pounds for Lister Newspapers. As a white knight I would have to top that offer by at least two hundred million pounds.'
'Not necessarily,' Vale shot back. 'It could be less.'
'Two hundred million pounds, one hundred million pounds, what's the difference ... it's still a big ticket,' Maxim remarked coolly.
'True,' John Vale agreed, nodding his head. 'But look at it this way, you stand to make a lot of money.'
'I don't always consider how much I might make,' Maxim replied in a quiet voice. 'Rather, I ask myself how much can I lose?'
'Oh I'm certain you wouldn't lose,' John asserted, sounding confident. 'I would like to give you some relevant information regarding Lister Newspapers, a few facts and figures.'
'Go ahead.' Maxim settled back in the chair, ready to listen.
At this juncture, Alan Trenton rose.
'If you'll excuse me, I'll attend to a bit of my own business,' he murmured and went to the far side of the office where he sat down behind his desk. He studied the faxes and telexes from New York, which had come in earlier, wrote succinct replies to be dispatched in the morning, perused other urgent papers, making notations on them.
Once he had finished, he looked at Maxim and John Vale. He saw they were still deep in conversation, decided to leave them to their own devices for a short while longer. There was nothing pertinent he could say, little he could contribute to their discussion. It was best he remain out of it altogether.
Swivelling the desk chair, Alan sat gazing out of the window which overlooked Berkeley Square. His thoughts drifted aimlessly for a few seconds, and then inevitably they settled on Maximilian West, as they generally did when Maxim was in close proximity. It was difficult not to focus on him, so powerful was his charisma and his presence.
It delighted Alan to see him in such great form, such good spirits. If one judged him by his appearance, Maxim looked as if he led a life of ease and pleasure in one of his many beautiful houses or on his floating palace of a yacht. Nothing was farther from the truth. He worked around the clock, was never off a plane, kept up the most killing pace — and yet somehow managed to remain remarkably unscathed. In fact, Alan often thought that Maxim thrived on it all. In the past nine years Maxim had been under excessive pressure and not so readily available socially, travelling the world at large as he did. Also, London was more of a stopping off point for him these days, even though he had his head office here and the house in Mayfair. Greener fields, in the shape of Manhattan, beckoned most beguilingly.
And Alan sorely missed Maxim.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Women in His Life"
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
PART 1: MAXIMILIAN, LONDON — NEW YORK 1989,
PART 2: URSULA, BERLIN 1938,
PART 3: THEODORA, LONDON 1944,
PART 4: ANASTASIA, PARIS 1959,
PART 5: CAMILLA, TANGIER 1981,
An Excerpt from A Woman of Substance,
Other Barbara Taylor Bradford titles from RosettaBooks,