Danielle Steel presents Jewels as Sarah Whitfield’s 75th birthday retrospective.
As a Manhattan debutante, Sarah fell for the wrong man. The marriage ended in a divorce that humiliated her into seclusion. To get her out of her funk, her parents took her to Europe where she met and married the much older William, Duke of Whitfield.
As the Nazis mobilized, William was called to military service. With an infant son and another baby on the way, Sarah stayed in a rural French chateau occupied by Germans while he’s gone. Although believed dead, William survived the war.
The couple had three more children and built a business buying jewels from war survivors who need money to rebuild their lives.
After William’s death, Sarah ran the jewelry stores and tried to cope with the problems her adult children cause.
Steel would have readers believe that, Sarah, despite her lack of training for anything, could refinish woodwork, direct a multi-national business, and assist in the hospital when casualties are heavy.
The historical content is equally preposteous. In rural France under Nazi occupation, Sarah and her children never so much as miss a meal.
Jewel is a novel full of characters but no real people, glass passed off as a gem.
In Mixed Blessings, Danielle Steel splits her attention among three couples and their decisions to have or not have children.
One couple are young, hard-driving professionals in glamorous jobs. She wants a baby desperately and immediately; he thinks she should relax and let nature take its course.
The second couple are a lawyer in her 40s and a judge in his early sixties. She’s never had the least interest in babies until her stepdaughter has one.
The third couple are lower-class. The man, an orphan, wants babies to love because he never had love. The woman doesn’t want babies because they mean families and she hated hers.
Steel has one or more of the spouses in each couple to visit ob-gyn specialists, and treats readers to the details of the 1990s examination procedures.
None of Steel’s characters is fully developed, which may be for the best. The women are all immature and silly. Like a bunch of fifth graders, they scream, “That’s not fair” when things don’t go their way. And like fifth graders, upon reflection, they conclude that things don’t turn out the way you planned.
Steel herself philosophizes, “Fertility as well as infertility can be a mixed blessing.”
Heartbeat is a typical Danielle Steel story about a romance between two beautiful, personable, talented, wealthy-but-hardworking people in the California television industry.
The male half of the romance is Bill Thigpen, writer-producer of the hottest daytime soap opera and father to two boys who live in New York with his ex-wife and her new husband. Bill grieves not being able to have his sons with him.
The female half of the romance is Adrian Townsend. Adrian is a production assistant for TV news show that’s headquartered in the same building as Bill’s soap opera.
Adrian has about as much common sense as a caterpillar. She has been married for nearly three years to a hard-driving ad agency executive who is a control freak, ruthless in his drive for money and power. Adrian always explains away Stephen’s behavior as a reaction to having grown up poor.
Before they married, Stephen made Adrian promise they’d never have children. When Adrian learns she’s pregnant, Stephen says either she gets rid of the fetus or she’s rid of him.
Adrian is surprised and shocked.
Anyone who has ever read a Danielle Steel novel knows what will happen.
The happy ending is totally predictable and totally absurd.
In No Greater Love, Kate and Bert Winfield and the man who is soon to marry their daughter Edwina, perish when the Titanic sinks April 15, 1912.
Although Kate could have left the ship—women and children were given priority in filling lifeboats—she chose to go down with her husband.
Safely back home in San Francisco, Edwina takes on the task of bringing up her five younger siblings, certain that she will never marry and bitterly angry at her mother for choosing to stay with her father instead of caring for her family.
The two oldest Winfield boys, ages 12 and 16, and the two youngest, ages 4 and 12, come through the ordeal relatively unscathed. The middle daughter, a fearful child before boarding the Titanic, is emotionally damaged for life.
Edwina does an admirable job of raising the children.
The youngest are already teenagers when she begins to be interested in a man again. Thanks to him, Edwina realizes that her mother died because she loved her husband too deeply to be parted from him.
Thank you, Danielle Steel, for such an uplifting ending. It feels so much better than acknowledging that the Titanic death were due to a shortage of lifeboats and lack of satisfactory emergency procedures.
Message from Nam is a surprising departure from Danielle Steel’s typical romances. And it’s also far better than they.
Paxton Andrews, a Georgia teen who idolized her late father and is emotionally estranged from her mother and brother, chooses UC Berkeley for college.
Within months, she falls in love with a law student who has burned his draft card. When drafted, Peter chooses to serve, despite his opposition to America’s involvement in Viet Nam. Five days into his first tour of duty, he’s killed by “friendly fire.”
Paxton drops out of college a few credits short of her journalism degree.
Peter’s father, who owns the San Francisco Morning Sun, agrees to let Paxton go to Saigon as a reporter for six months.
Paxton extends her assignment to seven years, writing her “Message from Nam” until she catches the last helicopter out of Saigon.
The novel has the usual romantic bits, including an ending that feels downright fraudulent, but the bulk of the book is Steel’s retelling of the headline news of 1963 through 1975.
Of all of Steel’s novels I’ve read thus far for GreatPenformances, Message from Nam is the most atypical and the most memorable. It stands out as an historical snapshot.
Danielle Steel’s Star is an inspiring story of how Crystal Wyatt, a teenager from a northern California ranch with nothing but a gorgeous body and incredible voice, becomes a Hollywood star by overcoming daunting obstacles such as her own ignorance and her reluctance to sleep with her agent.
Around that story, Danielle Steel wraps a love-at-first-glance story, in which Crystal at 14 falls hopelessly in love with ex-Army officer, Spencer Hill, age 27.
Although equally smitten, Spencer does the sensible thing. He goes to law school, and marries the daughter of a Supreme Court justice.
Within days of their wedding, Spencer is recalled to service in Korea. As he waits to deploy, he meets Crystal again.
When he leaves for Korea, she’s carrying his child.
Spencer spends three years in Korea. For the last year, he’s so miserable he doesn’t write to anyone stateside.
Finally home, Spencer becomes a political figure in Kennedy White House.
Kennedy has been shot and buried when Crystal calls saying she’s been arrested for the murder of her agent.
Spencer leaves Washington, wife, and career to go to Crystal’s defense.
The novel ends with the obligatory happy ending of all Danielle Steel novels.
Daddy is most unusual for a Danielle Steel novel: It’s told almost entirely from a man’s viewpoint.
The novel opens with a brief history of the 18-year marriage of Oliver and Sarah Watson, who met as students at Harvard.
When she became pregnant, Sarah wanted an abortion. Oliver had talked her into marrying him instead.
Although Sarah hadn’t wanted babies, she’s a wonderful mother to their three children. Oliver thinks they have a perfect marriage.
Then Sarah announces she’s been accepted into a master’s program at Harvard. She leaves right after Christmas.
The reactions of Oliver and the children are predictable: They’re hurt, angry, feel abandoned, wonder what they did wrong.
While they’re trying to deal with those issues, Oliver’s father is trying to cope with his mother’s dementia while also trying to pretend it’s not happening, and Oliver gets a big promotion that requires the family to move cross country to California.
Daddy attempts to explore the “What do women want?” question, but Steel can’t get beyond the surface. For Oliver (and perhaps Steel and her legions of devoted readers) the answer is that real women want a man and children.
Daddy isn’t a great novel, but it’s extraordinary for a Danielle Steel novel.
Three days after reading it, I could still remember the plot.