"It's a funny thing about love: you don't need to have it returned to love somebody. Loving's enough."
Taylor Caldwell, A Prologue to Love
Born in Manchester, England, Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell came from a Scottish background, Taylors being a sept of the Clan MacGregor. In 1907 Caldwell emigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother. The family struggled after her father's death. She started to write stories at the age of eight, and wrote her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, when she was twelve, although it was not published until 1975. Caldwell also wrote under pen names such as Marcus Holland and Max Reiner as well as her married name of J. Miriam Reback.
In 1919 Caldwell married William F. Combs. Their daughter, Mary (known as "Peggy") was born in 1920. In 1931 she graduated from the University of Buffalo, and was divorced from William Combs. Caldwell married her second husband, Marcus Reback, and had a second daughter, Judith, in 1932. They remained married until his death in 1971.
In 1934, she began to work on the novel Dynasty of Death, which she and Reback completed in collaboration. It was published in 1938 and became a best-seller. The novel was a family saga about two families in western Pennsylvania who rise to control a great armaments business. The story spanned the period from 1837 to World War I and was continued in The Eagles Gather (1940) and The Final Hour (1944).
Caldwell's heroes were often self-made men of ethnic background, in books like The Strong City (1942) and The Balance Wheel (1951). Her themes included intolerance in The Wide House (1945), the failure of parental discipline, Let Love Come Last (1949) and the conflict between the desire for power & money and the values of love & family Melissa (1948), A Prologue to Love (1962), and Bright Flows the River (1978). In her later works Caldwell explored rags-to-riches stories. She also wrote a great many historical novels, including several about well known religious figures.
Over her 43 years, she published over 40 novels, many of them best-sellers. Her works sold an estimated 30 million copies, were big sellers right up to the end of her career, won awards, and made her a wealthy woman.
In her 70s Caldwell became interested in reincarnation. Occultist author Jess Stearn, suggested to her that the vivid detail in her many historical novels was actually subconscious recollection of previous lives. According to Stearn's book, The Search of a Soul - Taylor Caldwell's Psychic Lives (1973), under hypnosis, Caldwell began to recall her own past lives - eleven in all, including one on the "lost continent" of Lemuria.
In 1972, she married William Everett Stancell, but they divorced in 1973. In 1978, she married William Robert Prestie, an eccentric Canadian 17 years her junior which caused problems with her children.
In 1979, Caldwell suffered a stroke, which left her unable to speak, though she could still write. (She had been deaf since about 1965.) Her daughter Peggy accused Prestie of abusing and exploiting Caldwell, and there was a legal battle over her substantial assets.
She died of lung cancer in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 30, 1985 at age 84.