A MAN OF HONOUR by Barbara Taylor Bradford (HarperCollins £7.99, 448 pp)


by Barbara Taylor Bradford (HarperCollins £7.99, 448 pp)

Fans of A Woman Of Substance — and who isn’t? — will thrill at the prospect of a prequel to the 1979 opus charting the rags-to-riches rise of the indomitable Emma Harte.

This is the story of charismatic Irishman ‘Blackie’ O’Neill, one of the two main men in Emma’s life. He, too, overcomes hardship to achieve wealth and success. But at the turn of the 20th-century, Blackie is a poor little orphan in County Kerry. His big break is a move to Leeds to work for his uncle.

The bustling northern city abounds in opportunities and Blackie soon discovers his talents as a builder as well as his power over women but, as the title suggests, he’s one of nature’s gentlemen.

Actual gentlemen are the subject of a somewhat meandering aristocratic subplot, but there’s plenty of period Yorkshire flavour and all is forgiven once Emma appears and the story really takes off.


by Anne Glenconner (Hodder £16.79, 352 pp)

Lady Glenconner of Lady In Waiting autobiography fame has turned her hand to fiction, and her latest novel mines more personal territory.

The author grew up at Holkham Hall, daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, and casts herself as the main character in this winning, well-plotted read in which a ghost, missing diamonds and a sadistic governess combine to create trouble.

The action flits between Holkham in wartime, with the child Anne in the grip of the cruel Miss Crane, and 1950 with 18-year-old Anne’s coming-out ball at the Hall.

The chapters with helpless child and horrible governess are sad and disturbing. But the mystery’s denouement at the dance makes a glamorous and dramatic conclusion.

THE STRANGER IN THE LIFEBOAT by Mitch Albom (Sphere £14.99, 288 pp)


by Mitch Albom (Sphere £14.99, 288 pp)

Jaws, Titanic and The Ancient Mariner meet the Bible in this mystical mash-up, where a vast luxury yacht stuffed with celebrities has sunk. Ten survivors have crowded onto a life raft circled by sharks and they become 11 once a mysterious stranger is pulled from the ocean.

He declares he is The Lord and various miracles occur, but nine of the ten perish anyway. Benji, the narrator, keeps a diary of events at sea.

This alternates with the police investigations on land once the empty raft is found. But how reliable a witness is Benji to what has happened?

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