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Barbara Taylor Bradford

Barbara Taylor

(1933-05-10) 10 May 1933 (age 90)
Occupation Novelist
Robert E. Bradford
(m. 1963; died 2019)
  • Winston Taylor (father)
  • Freda Taylor (mother)

Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE (born 10 May 1933) is a best-selling British-American novelist. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979 and sold over 30 million copies worldwide. She wrote 39 novels, all bestsellers in England and the United States.

Early life

Barbara Taylor was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England to Freda and Winston Taylor. Her father was an engineer who had lost a leg while serving in the First World War. She attended a nursery school in the Leeds suburb of Upper Armley alongside the writer Alan Bennett. As a child during the Second World War, she held a jumble sale at her school and donated the £2 proceeds to the "Aid to Russia" fund. She later received a handwritten thank-you letter from Clementine Churchill, the wife of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Her older brother Vivian died of meningitis before she was born. She later described her mother as having "put all her frustrated love into me." Her parents' marriage is fictionalized in her 1986 novel An Act of Will.

In her youth, Barbara Taylor read Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy, and Colette. At the age of ten she decided to be a writer after sending a story to a magazine. She was paid 7s 6d for the story, with which she bought handkerchiefs and a green vase for her parents.

Taylor Bradford's biographer, Piers Dudgeon, later uncovered evidence that her mother Freda Walker was the illegitimate daughter of Oliver Robinson, 2nd Marquess of Ripon, a local Yorkshire landowner who employed her mother, Edith Walker, as a servant. Dudgeon informed Taylor Bradford that her grandmother and Ripon had had three children together. After some hesitation, Taylor Bradford allowed Dudgeon to publish this information in his biography. Although initially angry at Dudgeon's discovery, she later said that "I came round. There's no stigma now." Her grandmother later spent time in workhouses, which Taylor Bradford explored in the ITV television series Secrets of the Workhouse (2013).


Taylor left school aged 15. After working briefly in the newspaper's typing pool, she became a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post. While there, she worked alongside Keith Waterhouse.

At the age of twenty, she moved to London, where she later became the fashion editor of Woman's Own magazine and a columnist for the London Evening News. She went on to write an interior decoration column syndicated to 183 newspapers.

Her first fiction writing efforts were four suspense novels, a genre she later abandoned. Taylor Bradford would subsequently describe "interviewing herself", saying that "I was in my late thirties. I thought: what if I get to 55, and I've never written a novel? I'm going to hate myself. I'm going to be one of those bitter, unfulfilled writers." Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, became an enduring best-seller and, according to Reuters, ranks as one of the top-ten best-selling novels of all time. It was followed by 38 other novels, all bestsellers in England and the United States.

Taylor Bradford's works have sold more than 92 million copies worldwide in more than 90 countries and 40 languages.

Taylor Bradford considers Irish historian and author Cornelius Ryan her literary mentor. Ryan encouraged her writing and was the first person (other than her mother) to whom she had confided her literary ambitions. Her favourite contemporary authors are P. D. James, Bernard Cornwell, and Ruth Rendell.

Recurring plotlines and common themes

A common pattern in her novels is a young woman of humble background rising in business through years of hard work, often involving enormous self-sacrifice. As Taylor Bradford is often quoted: "I write about mostly ordinary women who go on to achieve the extraordinary."

Film adaptations

Ten of Taylor Bradford's books were made into television mini-series and television movies, produced by her husband Robert E. Bradford.

Five of her television adaptations were rereleased on DVD in the UK in September 2008 by Acorn Media UK:

  • A Woman of Substance
  • Hold The Dream
  • To Be The Best
  • Act of Will
  • Voice of the Heart

Personal life

Taylor Bradford met her husband, American film producer Robert E. Bradford, on a blind date in 1961 after being introduced by the English screenwriter Jack Davies. They married on Christmas Eve 1963, and moved permanently to the United States. Taylor Bradford became an American citizen in 1992.

In December 2013, Taylor Bradford auctioned 40 pieces of jewellery given to her by her husband at Bonhams in London. She donated the proceeds to two relatives in England.

Taylor Bradford received an honorary doctorate from Leeds University, the University of Bradford, Mount St. Mary's College, Sienna College, and Post University. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the 2007 Birthday Honours for her contributions to literature. Her original manuscripts are archived at the Leeds University Brotherton Library Special Collections beside those of the Brontë sisters. In 2017, Bradford Taylor was recognised as one of 90 "Great Britons" to commemorate the Queen's 90th birthday.

Taylor Bradford's wealth is estimated at between £166–174 million, leading to rumours that she owns 2,000 pairs of shoes and that her former Connecticut home's lake was heated for the benefit of her swans. Taylor Bradford addressed the rumours in a 2011 interview, tracing the shoes rumour to a joke and the heated lake to the previous owners of the house who had installed it on part of the lake to provide an ice-free area for a pair of swans in winter.

In 1990 she was the subject of This Is Your Life where she was surprised by Michael Aspel at Heathrow Airport.

Her husband died in 2019. Taylor Bradford lives in Manhattan, New York City.

Selected works


The Emma Harte Saga
  • A Woman of Substance (1979)
  • Hold the Dream (1985)
  • To Be the Best (1988)
  • Emma's Secret (2003)
  • Unexpected Blessings (2005)
  • Just Rewards (2005)
  • Breaking the Rules (2009)
  • A Man of Honour (2021)
The Ravenscar Trilogy
  • The Ravenscar Dynasty (2006)
  • Heirs of Ravenscar (2007) (published as The Heir in the U.S.)
  • Being Elizabeth (2008)
The Cavendon Chronicles
  • Cavendon Hall (2014)
  • The Cavendon Women (2015)
  • The Cavendon Luck (2016)
  • Secrets of Cavendon (2017)

The House of Falconer

  • Master of His Fate (2018)
  • In the Lion's Den (2020)
Other fiction
  • Act of Will (1986)
  • The Women in His Life (1990)
  • Remember (1991)
  • Angel (1993)
  • Voice of the Heart (1983)
  • Everything to Gain (1994)
  • Dangerous to Know (1995)
  • Love in Another Town (1995)
  • Her Own Rules (1996)
  • A Secret Affair (1996)
  • Power of a Woman (1997)
  • A Sudden Change of Heart (1999)
  • Where You Belong (2000)
  • The Triumph of Katie Byrne (2001) (NL, De wereld aan haar voeten)
  • Three Weeks in Paris (2002)
  • Playing the Game (2010) (NL, Liefdesspel)
  • Letter From a Stranger (2011) (NL, De geheime brief)
  • Secrets From the Past (2013)
  • Hidden (2013) (published as an eBook)
  • Treacherous (2014) (published as an eBook)
  • Who Are You? (2016) (published as an eBook)
  • Damaged (2018) (published as an eBook)


  • A Garland of Children's Verse (1960)
  • The Dictionary of 1001 Famous People: Outstanding Personages in the World of Science, the Arts, Music and Literature (with Samuel Nisenson, 1966)
  • Etiquette to Please Him (How to be the Perfect Wife series) (1969)
  • Bradford's Living Romantically Every Day (2002)
Interior design
  • The Complete Encyclopedia of Homemaking Ideas (1968)
  • Easy Steps to Successful Decorating (Illustrated) (1971)
  • How to Solve Your Decorating Problems (1976)
  • Making Space Grow (1979)
  • Luxury Designs for Apartment Living (1983)
Christian books
  • Children's Stories of Jesus from the New Testament (1966)
  • Children's Stories of the Bible from the Old Testament (1966)
  • Children's Stories of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments (1968)
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