Special Delivery

full moon above Hollywood skyline signals romanceThe leading characters in Special Delivery, Jack Watson and Amanda Robbins Kingston, are respectively 59 and 51. Their ages are the only unusual element in an otherwise totally predictable Danielle Steel romance.

Since a failed marriage that produced a son and one happy affair that ended tragically before marriage, Jack has been a most eligible and unattachable bachelor. He keeps his bed partners far from the altar but manages to keep most of them as friends.

Amanda was a Hollywood star 26 years earlier when she ditched the spotlight for marriage to a dull banker whom she adored. She and Matt had two daughters, Jan and Louise. Jan is married to Jack’s son, Paul.

As the book opens, Matt has just died.

Amanda and Jack exchange civil remarks at Matt’s funeral.

Almost a year later, Jan talks her mother into coming to a Christmas party Jack is throwing at his Hollywood store. Amanda surprises herself by being glad to be there, and Jack surprises her by being attentive and understanding.

Special Delivery is typical Steel fare, only about a hundred pages shorter than usual. The only suspense is waiting to see if your predictions as to the novel’s ending are correct.

(They are.)

Special Delivery by Danielle Steel
Delacorte. ©1997.   217 p.
1997 bestseller #5; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

White Banners entertains inoffensively

White Banners is the best sort of bad religious novel.

Its religion is so nondescript it won’t offend an ardent atheist; its story’s so entertaining the devout won’t notice the religion is tepid.


White Banners by Lloyd C. Douglas

P. F. Collier and Son., 1936, 400 p. 1936 bestseller #6. My grade: B.


A woman selling apples knocks on Paul and Marcia Ward’s door one snowy afternoon. Marcia buys an apple from her, gives her a meal, learns she’s just been released from the hospital after having a child.

Hannah feels as sorry for Marcia as Marcia feels for her, though for different reasons.

Hannah talks Paul Ward into letting her stay as housemaid until after Marcia’s third child is born.

By the time infant Sally joins the other two children, Hannah is an indispensable part of the Ward home.

Wards are so pleased with Hannah, they overlook her peculiar belief that refusing to fight those who hurt her makes her stronger than her antagonists.

Wards also don’t inquire where Hannah goes on her days off.

The plot is complicated and, in many respects, absurd.

The Wards and Hannah’s friends are sufficiently endowed with peculiarities to make them seem human.

Lloyd C. Douglas sees that virtue is rewarded, sin is punished enough to jog repentance, and that everyone gets a chance to try living happily ever after.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Biological clock ticks, alarms in Soundings

From age 8 until Curley kisses her, Nancy Hawthorne’s artist father is her teacher, mentor, and companion.

Though Nancy doesn’t want Curley, she knows she wants passionate love.


Soundings: A Novel by A. Hamilton Gibbs

Little, Brown, 1925. 320 pages. 1925 bestseller #1. My grade: B.


To divert her, Jim suggests art study on the Continent.

In Paris, Nancy shares a flat with an American. Cordelia introduces Nancy to her brother, Lloyd, and Lloyd’s best friend at Oxford, Bob Whittaker.

Foot of week-old baby

Nancy likes Lloyd but falls hard for Bob. He appears to reciprocate.

When her father is injured in an accident, Nancy rushes back home to Brimble.

Bob doesn’t write.

When Nancy goes to Oxford to find out what’s changed, she finds Bob with another woman.

Nancy devotes herself to painting and to her father, now a paraplegic.

On her 27th birthday, in the midst of World War I, Nancy realizes she wants children. Lloyd’s death in France ends possibility of him as a husband.

Then a changed Bob is temporarily stationed in Brimble.

A. Hamilton Gibbs writes passages of absolutely beautiful prose but leaves gaping holes in character development.

Although the other characters are shown in varied situations, Gibbs rarely shows Bob when he’s not pursuing Nancy. Thus the ending of Soundings leaves a vague sense of distrust that Bob has fundamentally changed.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 Photo credit: Babyfoot by johnnyberg @ FreeImages.com

Three Loves Reveals One Controlling Woman

Old photos of women

If you expect A. J. Cronin’s Three Loves to be one of his typical heartwarming tales of a dedicated doctor, you are in for a shock.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Lucy Murray married Frank Moore, an easy-going commercial traveler, whom she loves as much for what she thinks she can mold him into as for what he is. She’s willing to do anything for Frank except let Frank decide what he wants done.

Frank’s death in a boating accident for which Lucy was really responsible leaves her to raise their son, Peter, alone. She’s willing to accept any hardship to see that Peter becomes a doctor.

Lucy wrangles her way into Frank’s old job, and does it better than he. When the firm is sold, she is forced to take the only job available: collecting rent in the slums.

Peter gets his degree, but marries a rich girl whose father made his fortune renting the slum dwellings where Lucy collected rents. Lucy’s fortunes sink lower.

She wanders into a church where she falls in love with Jesus and decides to enter holy orders. Instead of the ecstatic spiritual union she seeks, she finds debilitating emotional and physical deprivation.

Lucy’s personality mingles resourcefulness, perseverance, and loyalty with a selfish passion for control, which she calls love. Having established her essential characteristics, Cronin turns her loose and watches what happens.

The novel is uneven. It would be stronger without plot elements Cronin introduces only to drop them again. But despite its flaws, Three Loves is a compelling portrait that readers won’t soon forget.

Three Loves
A. J. Cronin
Little, Brown, 1932
Pyramid Books, 1960
1932 Bestseller #10

Photo credit: “Old photos”  by juliaf  http://www.sxc.hu/photo/706638

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni