Everything Voice of the Heart's Barbara Taylor Bradford Does Rubs Romance Buffs the Right Way

Precious Mumsy,

My arms are pooped! I just toted home Barbara Taylor Bradford’s second novel, Voice of the Heart—all 732 pages and two and a half pounds of it. The book [Doubleday, $17.95] has been out less than two months, but it’s climbed as high as No. 4 on the New York Times best-seller list. Her first, 1979’s A Woman of Substance, was on the mass-market paperback list 43 weeks—the longest ever for fiction!

You’ll think Bradford’s style is a bit like mine—all breathless and full of italics—but can she spin a yarn! The Voice story spans 23 years. It’s about an English aristocrat, Lady Francesca Cunningham Avery, and her adorable brother, Viscount Kim, who take up with actress Katherine Tempest, who was actually born O’Rourke and is as Irish as Paddy’s pig. The brazen wench just ruins everything with her saucy pride and schemes, including refined Francesca’s torrid affair with a Gable-like macho film star, and…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Bradford is that divine 49-year-old British journalist turned New York author. Her first novel sold seven million copies in 12 languages. Though she’s barely started her third and fourth, Hold the Dream and Act of Will, she has deals worth $3 million with Double-day for the hardcover sales and $4.25 million with Bantam for the paper-backs! Those are Michener numbers!

Barbara is like her fabulous heroines—a dainty blonde with a Princess Di raspberry-and-cream complexion but also lots of pluck. Just like marvelous Emma Harte Lowther Ainsley, the rags-to-Vuitton leading lady of A Woman of Substance, Barbara was born in Leeds, England—Mummy a housewife, Daddy an industrial engineer who lost a leg in World War I. A totally adored only child, she sold a short story to a children’s magazine at 12. She went to an exclusive girls’ school, but refused to go on to college. Dropping out at 16, she started in the typing pool of the Yorkshire Evening Post and worked her way up to women’s page editor. At 20, she became fashion editor of Woman’s Own, an English McCall’s, but soon quit. “I hated that job,” she says. “There were all these chic ladies in hats, while I wanted to be a hard-bitten reporter in a trenchcoat.”

So she joined the London Evening News and did showbiz profiles. She also became terribly good pals with noble notables such as the Earl and Countess of Bathurst—even staying at their estate in Gloucestershire. Although very engage with such aristocrats, Barbara did make time for one Robert Bradford, an American film producer then involved with a European firm. (He did that French $25 million grosser, To Die of Love, we saw when we were in Paris in 1972.) They met through intime friend Jeanne Gilbert (David Merrick’s second wife). After courting a year and a half they married and moved to New York in 1963.

There Barbara first wrote The Complete Encyclopedia of Home-Making Ideas and five books on decorating as well as a “Designing Woman” newspaper column. So it’s not surprising her novels are full of riveting detail on the possessions of her rich characters—their Waterford crystal, Regency silver and so on. And her plots have you jet-setting around with fabulous people—movie folk, nobles, prominent politicians!—to fabulous places. Voice has minute detail about Yorkshire castles, yachts on the Côte d’Azur, Bavarian ski chalets, luxurious L.A. hideaways and New York penthouses.

But Mumsy, I know you’re concerned about S-E-X. Not to worry. Bradford says, “Everyone knows how two people make love. I’m more interested in what people think and feel during the act of love than what they’re doing to each other.” Of course, she does add, “I don’t do a Barbara Cartland, who puts three dots when she gets to a sex scene.” But as Barbara’s agent, Morton Janklow, says, “Bradford writes about love, not screwing.” (Oops! He said it, not me!)

Lots of kisses,

Pooh xxxx

P.S. If you can’t plow through either of Barbara’s novels, don’t fret. Her husband is working to turn them into TV miniseries.

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