Master of His Fate (Falconer)

Written by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Review by Julia C. Fischer

With Master of His Fate, Barbara Taylor Bradford begins her new House of the Falconer series, which takes place in late 19th– century Victorian England. The series centers around two characters: James Falconer and Alexis Malvern. James comes from a working-class family; his grandparents are in service and his father works at a market. James dreams of creating a luxury chain of department stores and he is eager to start working his way up the ladder. Alexis Malvern is the daughter of the owner of one of the most successful companies in London and seeks freedom and independence at a time when this was difficult for a woman to do. Along the way, the reader is introduced to a plethora of characters, from James’s lively family to Alexis’s great love, wealthy banker Sebastian Trevalian.

Unfortunately, fans of Bradford’s iconic A Woman of Substance will probably not like her latest book, which meanders and has no plot other than to tell the early parts of Alexis’s and James’s stories. In this book, these two storylines rarely even connect. Essentially Master of His Fate is a long introduction to the rest of the series that is to come. In addition, while Alexis and James are the protagonists, Bradford frequently includes chapters on minor characters; this does not help to propel the book forward. Finally, Bradford does a lot of telling instead of showing, especially when it comes to historical details. For example, several characters recount Jack the Ripper’s killing spree. Likewise, Sigmund Freud’s talk therapy is discussed many times. One wishes Bradford could more seamlessly work these historical details into her novel.