updated 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
So much for determination. At 22, Flora shut the door, stayed behind it four and a half years and now emerges with Emma Lady Hamilton. The biography, to be published in the U.S. by Knopf next March, has been hailed in Britain as "authoritative" and "rip-roaring" and seems likely to put another Fraser on the best-seller list.
Flora is the second eldest of Lady Antonia's six children by her first husband, the late Hugh Fraser, who unaccountably never wrote a book. She made her no-writing vow at 13 and studied the classics at Wadham College, Oxford. While there she wed barrister Robert Powell-Jones. "I wanted to be a barrister," she says, "but my husband was already so advanced I felt I would always be behind." She tried the antique business instead, then took up teaching English to foreign students, which only "confused my sense of grammar." A stint helping her mother on The Weaker Vessel, a book about 17th-century women, introduced her to the joys of research, and a publisher suggested she try biography. "Once I thought of Emma as a subject, I knew she was right," Flora says. "Emma was quite a celebrity in her time, and her romance with Lord Nelson was one of the great love affairs of history. Some people even think she had a lesbian affair with the Queen of Naples."
Now at work on a biography of another spicy lady—Queen Caroline, the adulterous wife of George IV—Fraser is unfazed by charges that she is trading on the Fraser name. "It's snappy and I like it," she says, "and if it should help the book sell really well, I wouldn't mind."