cover image Act of Will

Act of Will

Barbara Taylor Bradford / Author Doubleday Books $17.95 (374p)

Though enjoyable, Bradford's latest novel lacks the sweep and grandeur that characterized her bestsellers, A Woman of Substance and Hold the Dream. Left to the indifferent care of an aunt after the death of her mother, well-bred Audra Kenton is sent to work at Yorkshire's Fever Hospital, where she trains as a nurse before taking a post in the home of an affluent suffragette. Though she captures the heart of a handsome bounder, Audra's independent spirit is not much appreciated by her working-class husband, and the two clash fiercely over her encouragement of their daughter's artistic genius. Audra's ceaseless efforts backfire, though, when Christina tries to repay the debt by choosing a lucrative career in fashion. With its trademark painted silk garments, the House of Christina is an instant success. But handing the flourishing business on to her only daughter proves harder than Christina expected, since Kyle, in her turn, rejects the world her mother has carved out to seek her own path as an artist. While written in a comparatively minor key, this is a light, pleasing tale of three generations, marked by ironic twists of fate and finely etched period detail. (June 20pSLAVES OF NEW YORK Tama Janowitz. Crown, $15.95