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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2010
This book is embarrassingly bad. In fact, I find it hard to believe that the same author who wrote "A Woman of Substance" (one of my favorite books ever) also wrote this.

"Breaking the Rules" starts off as the story of a young English woman, enigmatically called "M," who is brutally attacked, then moves to New York City to reinvent herself and become a top fashion model. This being a Barbara Taylor Bradford novel, M is, of course, an absolutely gorgeous, stunning, talented, smart, well-bred Audrey Hepburn look-alike who also happens to be knowledgeable about a vast array of subjects like art, history and foreign languages. Her friends are all beautiful, too, and the man she falls in love with--at first sight, of course--is handsome, adoring and uber rich (would we expect anything else?).

BTB's books are about beautiful people who live exciting, glamorous lives, so I wasn't expecting anything deep. But I also wasn't expecting total fluff, and the writing here is so bad I was appalled. For example... at one point, M's husband says to himself (and I quote): "If anything, she was more beautiful than ever, ethereal, and it struck him suddenly that she didn't walk, she floated." (Believe it or not, he's thinking this about his own mother!) The dialogue is equally atrocious. There's not a single person in real life who talks the way BTB's characters do. And worst of all, despite all the books she's written, BTB doesn't seem to have learned one of the basic rules of writing--to show, not tell. BTB tells us over and over again that M is so special, that there's no one else in the world like M, and on and on and on, but she fails to show us why we're supposed to believe this. To me, M seems like a rather bland character who's thrown into some extraordinary situations--but personality wise, there's nothing all that unique about her.

I'm giving this 2 stars instead of 1 because the book is halfway interesting in the beginning (if I could, I would have rated this 1 1/2 stars). There's not much plot, but I was somewhat interested in finding out if M would make it in the modeling world and if her perfect romance would remain perfect (although I already knew the answer would be yes on both counts). But suddenly, without any foreshadowing, everything changes about two-thirds of the way through the story. M fades into the background, a dozen or so new characters are introduced and the novel morphs into an incomprehensible mystery. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I've read a lot of BTB books, so I was familiar with the new characters and their backgrounds. The mystery was an utter bore and totally unnecessary, but at least I was able to follow the plot. But readers who haven't read any of the later Harte Family series will be find themselves scratching their heads, completely confused.

If I had realized that this was another installment in the never-ending Harte saga, I never would have picked up this book. Obviously, BTB has made a fortune off of the Harte family soap opera. But I think it's time for her to move on and put the franchise to rest. I, for one, never want to read another word about the Hartes and the glamorous but trouble-filled world they live in.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon October 17, 2009
In London, the wealthy twenty-three years old granddaughter of Emma Harte suffers an assault. She decides to leave England for New York and pursue a career as a model. The young lady feels she has the looks, the know-how and most important the connections. Thus M is invented.

M proves reasonably successful as a model and ultimately works in Paris. She falls in love with actor Laurence Vaughn, but eventually that adversary of her family who attacked her in Chelsea recognizes her and sets in motion a plan to destroy M and her loved ones.

Although much of the tale occurs in 2006, there is a throw back feel to the interesting story line; mostly because of the long running Harte series and somewhat M's courage under fire affirms she has Emma's DNA; she knows when to flight and when to fight. This story is a convoluted with a seemingly zillion support players with respective but related histories of their own that do not tie well together even with the marvelous Ms. M at the vortex. Still fans of the saga will relish the thirtieth anniversary of A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE updated for the new millennium.

Harriet Klausner
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I was totally entranced with A Woman of Substance. As I started to read the book on an airplane, a woman stopped to say it was her favorite book. BTB's character development made me feel that I truly cared for the members of this family and "tribe." Some of the books that followed, did not live up the Substance, and this latest book was absolutely the worst. The contrived names of M and Geo grated on my nerves from the beginning; the way she met and fell in love with Larry was too similar to that of her older sister's, which also was too hard to believe; and in the end, it seemed that the author could not think of a clever way of doing in the villain. It's my feeling that Barbara Taylor Bradford does not have another Woman of Substance in her. In fact, as I read the other books in this series, I wondered if she was using a ghost writer. The style is so different.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2012
Most authors get better with time and experience but not Bradford. This book reads like two separate novels that are not well linked together. The first one is horrible but the second is marginally little more interesting. The dialogue is not believable and does little to advance characterizations, which are very, very weak--like paper dolls. Conflict resolution is preposterously simply and not very interesting. The book is full of run-on and incomplete sentences. Bradford is given to those errors. She uses really strange words when other common words would be better. I came close to putting the book down but kept on reading hoping it would get better, which it did somewhat. I usually reserve 1 star for books I am unable to finish but give this one a 1 star just because it is so awful. I am bored with the Harte family, particularly since the portrayals have become so shallow. Don't waste your money.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I started this book and couldn't make it past page 20. There is NO WAY these characters are supposed to be in their 20s in this century, nooooo way. I have friends in this age range (as I am too) from all over the world and none of them talk this way which read more as people in their 50s and older. My British and New Yorker friends DEFINITELY don't talk like M and Dax.

Whenever I start a story I try to finish it but this one I just could not. After reading the reviews, I'm glad that I didn't waste my time as it wouldn't have gotten better.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2010
I have read many books by this author and don't ever recall the writting to be this bad. I had to give up before I was a quarter of the way into the book. I will be afraid to buy another one by Barbara Taylor Bradford.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2010
This is my second time reading a Barbara Taylor Bradford novel and it will be my last. I should've known better after reading "Three Weeks in Paris." This book was no better.

It started out with potential. M seemed like an interesting character, but it started to fizzle around the point when she met Larry. Larry's one of those characters that's all surface and no substance. He barely made a blip on my radar (he was described as dark-haired in the novel, but he made such a little impression on me that I kept visualizing him as a blond) and I think he and his family worthy of a bad soap opera should've been left out of the story altogether. I hate how stories about women finding themselves and making a name for themselves always end up with that woman not being whole unless she has a man.

Other than Larry and his family, I feel that way too many other characters were introduced and it was hard to keep up with who was who. For instance, what was the point of the designer's treacherous cousin being mentioned? Characters like him added nothing to this story whatsoever.

I also think BTB has a way of underestimating the intelligence of her readers. I hate how a word is mentioned by one of the characters and how the next character will define what that character's said. The dialogue in this novel was akin to "Superfriends" --- where everything was over-explained and more expositional than conversational. Speaking of the designer's treacherous cousin, is it really necessary for the designer and his brother to have a conversation about how the treacherous cousin is related to them? "His father is our father's brother - our uncle" or something like that. Hello, BTB --- those characters will know how the cousin is related to them, they don't need to tell each other that. Find a better way to carry a story along to your readers.

Other instances of bad dialogue occurs with the use of French. One character will say a word in French ("fraises des bois," which means wood strawberries) and the next character will define it. Is that really necessary? If there's no better, less obvious way of defining or explaining something in the novel, let the reader find out by herself by going to Google or looking in a dictionary. Something similar occurred when a character called M to report the death of her fiancé, and M corrected her pronunciation of the location the fiancé was killed at. Superfluous.

I earlier mentioned M being an interesting character, but, as I mentioned in my review for "Three Weeks In Paris," BTB doesn't know how to write younger women. M started off cool, but came off very quickly as a middle-aged woman trapped in a young woman's body. Her style of dress (trouser suits?! sigh) and her interests seemed incongruous with that of a 23-year-old girl. Yes, I realize those raised upper-class are slightly different than the average 23-year-old, but there's still something about those upper crust girls that reads "youth." A 23-year-old who wears trouser suits and who's into antiques doesn't read as a wannabe New York fashion model to me. For a group of young folks living in a hip part of NYC, those characters just read "old" to me. A girl can still be sophisticated (think Ivanka Trump) without coming across as matronly.

All that said, I think BTB should've trimmed about 200 pages from this novel. A lot of it drags, is boring, is repetitive and unnecessary. She also needs to research younger folks and see what they're about. What could've been a good interesting book that involves fashion and intrigue ended up being a long-winded snoozefest.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2009
Barbara Taylor Bradford is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her record-breaking debut novel, A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE, with her 25th bestseller, BREAKING THE RULES. It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since I first read about Emma Harte, the beloved matriarch who ignited Bradford's career.

"Substance" is a befitting word to describe Bradford's style of writing. She opens BREAKING THE RULES with this description of M: "tall, slender, lithe, she moved with grace and had an inbred elegance...She carried a battered old black Hermès Kelly bag..." A simple introduction with notable substance keeps readers turning the pages to learn more about this mysterious 23-year-old, whose breeding, desire and determination give her the courage to flee a rape in London and embark on the journey to make it on her own as a model in Manhattan. M's background remains a mystery throughout part one of this epic novel; we coast along as she navigates the sea of hopeful actors, artists and models in New York, visiting the modeling agencies where she is registered and waiting for her big break. When that comes via an introduction to a photographer, M breaks the rules and rises to the top of the industry, immediately becoming the international face of French designer Jean-Louis Tremont's couture collections.

Adding to the glamour of her allure, M is the recipient of one of life's little surprises --- she meets the man of her dreams at a Park Avenue party: "He walked toward her...Their eyes were locked on each other...And I know who you are...You're the elusive woman I've been searching for all of my life." This opening line from legendary British actor Laurence Vaughan begins their grand romance.

Thankfully, Bradford's style of writing does not include steamy bedroom scenes or salacious interludes. She writes with a regal grandeur that alludes to the former and leaves the particulars to the reader's imagination. Few authors use this style with much commercial success, yet Bradford pulls it off with the proper etiquette befitting a recipient of the Order of the British Empire bestowed upon her by Queen Elizabeth in 2007 for literary achievements.

Readers are swept away by their instant attraction and seeming destiny. Destiny is certainly made more real when the man of your dreams --- who happens to be theatrical royalty --- makes a beeline for you across a crowded room and says very softly, "You're the woman...the woman I want to run away with...Let's do that, shall we?" Thus begins the romantic prelude to a "Burmese sapphire, flawless, cushion-cut and mounted in platinum, with two diamond baguettes on each side." Fantasy is such sweet destiny.

However, even grand romances include their share of baggage, and Larry's former addiction to prescription drugs and M's family skeletons and enemies interfere with the couple's bliss. M must reveal her true identity to Larry --- she is the great-granddaughter of Emma Harte, the founder of the most famous department store in the world. Parts two and three of BREAKING THE RULES take place in Paris, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul. M and Larry, newly married and "head over heels in love," find themselves dodging the Hartes' enemies, multiple threats and mysterious accidents.

The Vaughan and Harte family dynasties are vast and full of theatrical and classy characters the reader will embrace. The Harte ladies --- M, Paula, Linnet and Tessa --- are truly women of substance, possessing endless breeding, wisdom, family loyalty, and an eternal love and respect for the traditions begun by Emma Harte at the family home, Pennistone Royal: tea at four in the upstairs parlor. The modern-day Hartes have added a tradition that permeates the novel most pleasantly: pink champagne to celebrate life's surprises, accomplishments and grand romances.

--- Reviewed by Hillary Wagy
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
I'm sorry, but this is one of the most uninteresting books I have read! It is actually the first book I started reading and don't want to finish.

In my opinion, the dialog is BAD... I don't believe that people talk/phrase things the way these characters do. It is not believable. Maybe that's how people from England speak but I just didn't get it. The storyline is flat... I keep waiting for something to happen but even when it does it doesn't increase my interest in the story. I don't understand why M is so mysterious... if she is hiding from someone why would you want to be a famous model? If you just want to make it as a model on your own instead of based on your family name why so mysterious with the reader as well as the other characters? This prevents me from getting to know M, from caring about what happens to M. Why must the story be told through so many different characters? Instead of a zillion characters I would prefer less characters with more depth to them. It is just a disjointed, unbelievable plot. Even the love story part of the book was flat - love at first sight, and after a slight problem (quickly resolved), get married and live happily ever after?

I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because other reviewers have said this is part of a series or something. If it is that may account for the many characters and lack of depth to the backround information. Maybe this story appealed to some readers but it didn't for me... I'm sorry to say I will not be reading any more books by this author.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
When a young woman flees to New York after a terrifying encounter in the English countryside, she reinvents herself and embarks on a journey that will lead her to fame, love, and good fortune.

But just when everything is finally coming together for her, the mysterious "M" is about to encounter a dark figure from her past--a psychopath with deadly intent who has vowed to shatter her world forever.

As we finally learn M's true identity and understand the complex dynamics of her famous family, we are intrigued by her history and captivated by the unfolding drama.

Will M find the strength to overcome her past once and for all? And will her unusual family dynamics give her the courage to fight?

What seemingly began as a fluffy, fashion story turned into a mystery, full of conspiracies and dramatic intrigue. We find in Breaking the Rules another masterpiece from the beloved Barbara Taylor Bradford.
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