My love affair with the Emma Harte saga began in 1979, when the first in the series, A Woman of Substance, was published. At the time, I was 18 and recuperating from major abdominal surgery, which caused me to delay my start at college, where I would major in English so I could learn how to write. Instead I joined the Book of the Month Club and the Literary Guild and had the best in contemporary fiction shipped straight to my door. This was a marvelous service I couldn’t get enough of and I read voraciously. I particularly enjoyed family sagas, the bigger (figuratively and literally) the better. Although it has been many years since I’ve read anything by Barbara Taylor Bradford I had to jump on this one when it hit my Net Galley dashboard. Who doesn’t love a good prequel, the “story behind the story?” And what a fine story it is. Now I need to reread the original, A Woman of Substance and see if it still enchants me as it did at 18.
About the Book
In A Man of Honor, the true Blackie O’Neill is revealed. For the first time, readers discover his story: his tumultuous life, the obstacles facing him, the desire he has to throw off the impotence of poverty and move up in the world. Like his friend Emma, he is ambitious, driven, disciplined, and determined to make it to the top. And like Emma Harte, he is an unforgettable character for the millions who loved the book.
Opening five years before the start of A Woman of Substance, A Man of Honor begins with 13-year-old Blackie O’Neill facing an uncertain future in rural County Kerry. Orphaned and alone, he has just buried his sister, Bronagh, and must leave his home to set sail for England, in search of a better life with his mother’s brother in Leeds. There, he learns his trade as a navvy, amid the grand buildings and engineering triumphs of one of England’s most prosperous cities, and starts to dream of greater things… And then, high on the Yorkshire moors, in the mists of a winter morning he meets a kitchen maid called Emma Harte.
Blackie is a dear, dear boy full of wide-eyed ambition. grit and determination. Like Emma Harte, he is “a man of substance.” l almost expected the two of them to get together, which I knew wouldn’t happen but it did not seem unlikely.
It was interesting to read about English society at the turn of the last century but sometimes I felt like the story wasn’t true to to the day’s norms and mores. The language often seemed a bit modern for the times. For instance, there was mention of couples’ “hooking up,” more than once, which I doubt was the term used in 1903. The women seemed a little loose, looser than the men, shockingly, and I found myself wondering about that as well.
The book seemed a bit rushed and broken into parts that confused me. For example, the sections involving Lord Lassiter and his troubles seemed to sprout from nowhere and I didn’t understand how they fit into the whole scheme of things. Still don’t, although I enjoyed reading about them.
I really wanted to love this book for old time’s sake but it fell short of my expectations. At the same time I was compelled to finish it, wondering what happens next, so in the end it was a fairly good read.
Recommended for lovers of family sagas, prequels, and early 19th century English heroes.
About the Author
Barbara Taylor Bradford, OBE is one of the world’s best loved storytellers. Her 1979 debut novel, A Woman of Substance, ranks as one of the top-ten bestselling books of all-time, with more than 30 million copies in print. All 31 of her novels to date have been major worldwide bestsellers. Her 32nd book, Secrets Of Cavendon, will be published in hardcover and eBook on November 21 by St. Martin’s Press.
Bradford was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire (UK) as the only child of Freda and Winston Taylor. She grew up in the Leeds suburb of Armley and after Town Street Church of England School worked in the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post before going into journalism. By the age of twenty she was the fashion editor of Woman’s Own Magazine and an editor and columnist on Fleet Street for the London Evening News.
Bradford’s books have sold more than ninety one (91) million copies worldwide in more than ninety (90) countries and forty (40) languages. Ten (10) of her books have been made into miniseries and television movies, making her one of the best-selling authors over the last 30 years.
In April of 2003, Mrs. Bradford was inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America alongside Mark Twain, Langston Hughes and Dr. Seuss. She was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list for her contributions to literature. Her original manuscripts are archived at the Brotherton Library at Leeds University, alongside the works of the Bronte sisters. In 2009, Barbara’s publishers began a worldwide 30th anniversary celebration of A Woman of Substance. The first annual Woman of Substance Awards took place on September 10th 2009 at the Dorchester Hotel in London. She lives in New York City with her husband, of 51 years, television producer Robert Bradford.
Her official website is: http://www.barbarataylorbradford.com