Emma Harte returns, though not in the flesh, for a hefty fourth in the series that began with the bestselling A Woman of Substance (1979).
The gold-flecked blood of a true retailer flows in the veins of Linnet O’Neill, great-granddaughter of the legendary Emma Harte, founder of the world-famous department store that stands in Knightsbridge to this very day. Like her ancestor, Linnet loves to roam the misty moors in pink-cheeked solitude, warbling like the wild bird she’s named for, crushing the fragrant heather underfoot, just aglow with the glory of it all, not to mention the ladylike ambition to sell that burns within her soul. And she is but one of Emma’s many descendants, born on the right and wrong sides of various blankets (of pure wool trimmed with silk, madam, and just feel the quality). Meet Linnet’s mother, Paula McGill Harte Amory Fairley O’Neill. (How’s that for crossbreeding?) Linnet’s nearest and dearest include Tessa, Lorne, Toby, Gideon, Lady India, Chloe, Fiona, Emsie, Desmond, and that’s just for starters. The Hartes and the O’Neills and Kallinskis (clans founded by friends from Emma’s youth) have gone forth and multiplied indeed. A handy genealogical chart is provided for the hopelessly confused. Meanwhile, back at the store, Linnet is setting up a display of eighty years’ worth of fashion, basking in the approving glow of her great-grandmother’s painted portrait smile. Pages of gushy descriptions of assorted frocks follow, plus a few steamy sex scenes tucked in here and there. Then—aha! Emma’s diary is found. Though the great lady has been dead for decades, those still living are reluctant to read it. Perhaps it holds further secrets. Oho! It seems that Emma’s long-ago secretary, gorgeous Glynnis, was pregnant by an Unknown Admirer when she married a nice American GI. Could the Unknown Admirer have been a Harte? If so, which one?
Fans will be interested. Everyone else, mystified.