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Property of a Noblewoman

Cover of Property of a Noblewoman

Property of a Noblewoman

A Novel
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In Danielle Steel's thrilling novel, a woman's legacy—shaped by tragedy, fortitude, and undying devotion—transforms lives and hearts long after she is gone, and fulfills at last her most precious bequest.

Faded photographs of a glamorous couple in postwar Europe. Old letters hinting of tragic loss. And a breathtaking array of magnificent jewelry, spectacular stones in exquisite settings. These are the contents of a safe-deposit box long abandoned in a New York City bank. If no heir can be identified, the jewelry will be auctioned. But who was the woman who left such a fortune and no will?

Two people, drawn together by chance, begin to unravel the mystery. Jane Willoughby is a law clerk at the surrogate's court and Phillip Lawton a fine arts expert for Christie's auction house. They are simply doing their jobs when they come to the bank to inspect the contents of the box. But for both Jane and Phillip the search turns personal—and their efforts to reconstruct an enigmatic life will lead from New York to London and Paris, to Rome and Naples, and a series of stunning revelations.

Eighteen-year-old Marguerite Pearson left America with a broken heart in the shadow of World War II. She found a new life in Europe but forever mourned what she left behind. As the truth about Marguerite's extraordinary history—her forbidden love affair and her family's treachery—is slowly revealed, more people are drawn into the puzzle that Jane and Phillip have pieced together, and one among them will inherit the most unexpected gift of all.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In Danielle Steel's thrilling novel, a woman's legacy—shaped by tragedy, fortitude, and undying devotion—transforms lives and hearts long after she is gone, and fulfills at last her most precious bequest.

Faded photographs of a glamorous couple in postwar Europe. Old letters hinting of tragic loss. And a breathtaking array of magnificent jewelry, spectacular stones in exquisite settings. These are the contents of a safe-deposit box long abandoned in a New York City bank. If no heir can be identified, the jewelry will be auctioned. But who was the woman who left such a fortune and no will?

Two people, drawn together by chance, begin to unravel the mystery. Jane Willoughby is a law clerk at the surrogate's court and Phillip Lawton a fine arts expert for Christie's auction house. They are simply doing their jobs when they come to the bank to inspect the contents of the box. But for both Jane and Phillip the search turns personal—and their efforts to reconstruct an enigmatic life will lead from New York to London and Paris, to Rome and Naples, and a series of stunning revelations.

Eighteen-year-old Marguerite Pearson left America with a broken heart in the shadow of World War II. She found a new life in Europe but forever mourned what she left behind. As the truth about Marguerite's extraordinary history—her forbidden love affair and her family's treachery—is slowly revealed, more people are drawn into the puzzle that Jane and Phillip have pieced together, and one among them will inherit the most unexpected gift of all.
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  • From the book Chapter 1

    It was one of those January days in New York that feels like winter will never end. There had been record-­breaking snows since November. And the morning's snowfall, the second one that week, had turned to sleet with a bitter wind. People were slipping and sliding on the ice, and wincing in the wind as it stung their faces. It was a good day to stay indoors as Hal Baker sat at his desk at a branch of the Metropolitan Bank on lower Park Avenue.

    Just over three years before, the bank was on the dividing line of the part of New York that had lost power in the epic hurricane that devastated the city. A few blocks north of the power outages and floods, the bank had continued to function and serve its clients, and even offered trays of sandwiches and coffee to flood victims in a gesture of civic compassion.

    Hal was in charge of the safe deposit boxes, a job others found tedious and that he had always liked. He enjoyed the contact with their older clients, as they came in to riffle through their belongings, check their stock certificates, or deposit new wills in the boxes they rented. He chatted with them if they wanted to, which they often did, or left them alone if they preferred. He knew most of the safe deposit box clients by sight, and many by name. And he was sensitive to their needs. He liked meeting the young clients too, particularly those who had never had a safe deposit box before, and explained to them the value of having one for their documents and valuables, since they lived in apartments that weren't always secure.

    He took his job seriously, and at sixty, he was five years away from retirement, and had no burning ambitions. He was married, had two grown children, and running the safe deposit box department suited his personality. He was a "people person," and had been at the branch for twenty-­eight years, and at another branch of Metropolitan for ten years before that. He was hoping to complete the final years of his career where he was. The safe deposit boxes had always felt like an important responsibility to him. They were entrusted with their customers' most valuable possessions, and sometimes darkest secrets, where no one else could go or pry, see or touch them, save themselves.

    The bank was located in the East Thirties on Park Avenue, a previously elegant, entirely residential neighborhood called Murray Hill, which had long since become interspersed with office buildings. The bank's clients were a mixture of people who worked in the area, and the genteel older customers who lived in the remaining residential buildings. None of their elderly customers were venturing out today. The streets were slick from the sleet, and anyone who had the option would stay home, which made it a good day for Hal to catch up on the paperwork that had been gathering on his desk since the holidays.

    Hal had three matters to deal with today. Two of the smaller safe deposit boxes had not been paid for in exactly thirteen months, and the clients who had rented them had not responded to the registered letters he'd sent them a month before, reminding them of that fact. The lapse of payment usually meant that customers had abandoned them, although not always. After waiting a month past the unpaid year, with no response to the registered letter, Hal could now call a locksmith to drill them open, and assumed he would find the boxes in question empty. Some people didn't bother to tell the bank they no longer wanted them, stopped paying the monthly fee, and threw away the keys. In those two cases, if the boxes were empty, Hal could then turn them over to the waiting list he had of people in need of safe deposit boxes. It was usually a...
About the Author-
  • Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world's most popular authors, with over 650 million copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Blue, Precious Gifts, Undercover, Country, Prodigal Son, Pegasus, A Perfect Life, Power Play, Winners, First Sight, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina's life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children's book Pretty Minnie in Paris.

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Property of a Noblewoman
A Novel
Danielle Steel
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