Master of His Fate
by Bradford, Barbara Taylor

Part One The Barrow Boy London 1884
Part Two New Horizons London-Kent 1887
Part Three Unique Relationships Kingston Upon Hull-London 1888
Part Four The Road to Destiny Hull-London 1888
Part Five The Way it is London-Paris 1888-1889

A charismatic and ambitious businessman in Victorian England faces the tragic ruin of everything he has worked to achieve before a royal summons gives him a chance to prove his talents. By the award-winning author of Secrets of Cavendon.

BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD was born and brought up in England and started her writing career as a journalist. She has written dozens of international bestsellers, including Master of his Fate, her thirty-third novel. In 2007, Queen Elizabeth awarded her the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her literary achievements. She lives in New York with her husband, TV and film producer Robert Bradford.

In Victorian England, teenager James Falconer has what it takes to get ahead: ambition, intelligence, and looks. He also has a plan: to rise from working at his father's market stall and become a successful merchant and owner of an arcade full of shops. Alexis Malvern is likewise gifted, although she starts out higher on the social ladder; this beautiful and wealthy socialite is already helping manage the family company. Consumed by the twin callings of business and charity, Alexis vows never to marry, until immediately tumbling head over heels in love. In spite of the title, James' story often takes a backseat to Alexis' in this first of a new series for the prolific, best-selling Bradford. Historical-fiction enthusiasts may balk at repetition, infodumps, tenuous marquee-name connections (e.g., Sigmund Freud, Jack the Ripper), and sketchy historicity. But Bradford's legion of fans will flock happily to this romantic saga for its clothing descriptions, frock-flick feel, love at first sight, and extended family networks that promise to figure in future novels in the House of Falconer series. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

The launch of what promises to be another blockbuster Bradford series. Putting aside her Downton Abbey homage (Secrets of Cavendon, 2017, etc.), Bradford returns to her roots chronicling retail dynasties like the Harte family of A Woman of Substance (1979). Readers be warned: The opening volume of The House of Falconer saga appears to be an extended prologue. Replete with opulent décor, beautiful but unassuming rich people, and homey scenes, the narrative is untroubled by the jeopardy this genre demands. A few exceptions: In 1884, 14-year-old James Lionel Falconer, future founder of what is sure to be the Falconer mercantile empire, suffers chest pains while pushing a wheelbarrow near his father's stall at Malvern Market. His mother, Maude, is afflicted with a cold which could become pneumonia. However, since no outcome ensues for either ailment, we can only assume this is foreshadowing for future novels. When James, now 17, and a friend are set upon by thugs and badly b eaten, the police and family suspect a targeted attack, but this loose end is also left dangling. Sent to the port city of Hull, James advances in an uncle's shipping company and is seduced by an older and cooperatively unclingy widow. James states he "prefer[s] older women"—which bodes well for his future, spoiler alert, liaisons. Meanwhile, Alexis, 25, the auburn-tressed daughter of commercial real estate kingpin Henry Malvern, falls in mutual love at first sight with Sebastian Trevalian, a widowed banker 15 years her senior. Their families approve (including Sebastian's daughter Claudia, Alexis' friend), and money is no problem; something has to go wrong, but large swaths of genteel gloating must be endured before it does. As one forgives a dear friend who tends to blather on, readers may tolerate Bradford's pedestrian, repetitious prose and even enjoy this leisurely stroll through Victorian times, contenting themselves with occasional celebrity references: Doctor F r eud, Jack the Ripper, Crown Prince Bertie, among others. The good characters are unambiguously and tediously good, and no believable antagonist arises to create conflict. A slow-paced, complacent introduction to the excitement to come—we hope! Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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