Zoya: a history lite novel

Crest of Imperial Russia is focus point of Zoya front cover
Zoya was a Romanov cousin

Zoya is a Danielle Steel, riches-to-riches romance about a distant cousin of Tsar who loses everything but her life in the October Revolution.

Alone of their household escape, Zoya, 17, and her grandmother to France.

Zoya’s works as a ballerina and grandmother sells her jewels to keep support them during World War I.

Rescued by Zoya’s marriage to a rich American soldier, they once more live a life almost on a par with the Romanov days.

A few years and two children later, Clayton is dead, his money wiped out in the ’29 stock market crash.

Zoya works as a burlesque dancer before landing a job in high-end dress shop.

On a buying trip to Paris, she meets Simon Hirsch. They marry, have a son, which further alienates Zoya’s daughter, who resents both years of being poor and her mother’s remarriage.

Simon encourages Zoya to start her own store, which is immensely profitable.

After Pearl Harbor, Simon enlists and is killed.

Zoya is left at 40 with three children, a store to run, and Simon’s extensive businesses to oversee.

There’s not enough history in Zoya to call it historical fiction. The historical incidents are merely billboards glimpsed as the limousine full of cardboard characters drives by.

Zoya by Danielle Steel
Delacourt Press. ©1988. 446 p.
1988 bestseller #3; my grade: c+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Fine Things by Danielle Steel

The “Fine Things” dust jacket is gold type on white with a modest gold ornament in the center.
Gold and silver are fine things

Fine Things is a Danielle Steel novel that takes readers inside the lives of the rich and famous to the depth of about two centimeters to show that they, too, suffer.

In Fine Things the sufferer is Bernie Fine. An only child, Bernie suffers from a Scarsdale upbringing, a stereotypical Jewish mother, and being denied the opportunity to teach Russian literature in a New England prep school.

Bernie accidentally discovers a gift for retailing, rising to be VP of an upscale department store chain at age 31.

Sent to San Francisco to open a new store, Bernie longs for New York.

An accidental meeting with a precocious five-year-old who wandered from her mother in the store leads Bernie to the altar. He falls in love first with Jane and then with her divorced, middle-class mother, who teaches second grade.

In less than three years from first their meeting, Liz is dead from cancer, Bernie has their son and her daughter to raise, and he’s still working 10 hours a day, six days a week at Wolff’s ‘Frisco store.

As recompense for his suffering, Steel gives Bernie a Mary-Poppins-lookalike nanny and a gorgeous, wealthy, child-loving second wife, and even enables him to enjoy California.

Fine Things by Danielle Steel
Delacorte Press. ©1987. 397 p.
1987 bestseller #8; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Scruples: A novel about folks without them

Judith Krantz’s novel Scruples is an immorality tale about the sex lives of the super rich and the sycophants who use them.

All-text cover with Krantz'a name in large red type, Scruples in white handwritten type, all on black backround.
Scruples’ content is about as original as its cover.

“Billy” Ikehorn, one of the Boston Winthrop’s poor relations, blossoms into a glamorous, sexy woman during a year in Paris.

A year’s study at Katherine Gibbs lands her a secretarial job at Ikehorn Industries and marriage at age 21 to multimillionnaire Ellis Ikehorn, nearly 40 years her senior.

After his death, Billy is no longer the center of anyone’s world.

To compensate, she builds Scruples, a store where the super-rich can get anything they want and nothing they need.

Billy knows zilch about retailing.

Within six months, the store is already failing.

Billy is tricked into hiring a dress designer and photographer, both talented unknowns, to turn things around.

By contrast to Billy, who is just another self-centered rich girl with a father fixation, the characters in the supporting roles are complex personalities with jobs more interesting than anything in the plot.

Krantz has each of the main characters’ lives turn out right—financially and sexually— in the end.

Krantz writes well enough to be a commercial success, but Scruples is a waste of her talent.

Scruples is drivel.

Scruples by Judith Krantz
Crown, ©1978 [Book Club ed]. 478 p.
1978 bestseller #5. My grade: C

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni