Author Spotlight: Danielle Steel
Bestselling author Danielle Steel asserts that her books are not romance novels, saying that she writes more about "the human condition." Yet, it's her patented combination of high stakes and enduring love stories that makes readers devour her books (she releases several a year) and inspires critics to anoint her the "Queen of Romance." Obstacles including blackmail, prison time and amnesia lend Steel's stories greater depth, and the author herself is no stranger to life-altering situations, ranging from tumultuous marriages to the personal tragedy that was her son's suicide.
Steel has sold 600 million copies of her books; at last count, she has written 128 books that include novels, children's books and nonfiction. We've highlighted the titles that represent key points from her career--from her breakout book and more serious fare through the novels that inspired Golden Globe-nominated movies.
Most recent book: "First Sight"
Steel's latest novel--hitting shelves now--makes an ideal beach read, as it combines her signature elements: a strong heroine, a seemingly dreamy life and the dark personal demons lurking beneath the surface. Fashion designer Timmie O'Neill seems impossibly chic, especially when she's jetting to Fashion Week in New York City, Paris and Milan. However, when she falls ill in Paris, she is drawn to her doctor, an intriguing Frenchman named Jean-Charles Vernier. As their love grows, Timmie must confront her fear of losing control.
Early success: "Passion's Promise"
Also published as "Golden Moments" in 1977, Steel's second novel detailed the double life of socialite Kezia Saint Martin: When not attending lavish parties with European elite, she investigates cases as a journalist operating under a pseudonym. She has never been able to reconcile her opposing lives, until she meets ex-con and social justice crusader Lucas Johns. Although at the time, details of Steel's personal life were not very public, fans have come to believe that she based "Passion's Promise" and her subsequent novel "Now and Forever" on her relationship with ex-con Danny Zugelder, who she married shortly after her divorce from her first husband was finalized.
Breakout book: "Now and Forever"
Steel's tale of the fallout of an affair established her signature narrative of wealthy people confronting dark issues: After Ian Clarke--who has grown resentful of his wife Jessica financially supporting his writing career--has an affair, the other woman accuses him of rape and assault. Whereas "Passion's Promise" was about a socialite falling for an ex-con, "Now and Forever" sees Jessica and Ian rediscovering their love while he languishes in jail.
Award-nominated book: "Jewels"
Set before and during World War II, "Jewels" is a portrait of the Whitfield family: the love between William, Duke of Whitfield, and commoner Sarah Thompson, for whom he gives up his claim to the throne; her survival during the Occupation while he's missing in action; and the gem business she establishes after the war. In the same year that the book was published (1992), Roger Young directed the TV movie adaptation, which was nominated for two Golden Globes, for Best Mini-Series and Best Actor in a Mini-Series.
Experimental book: "Toxic Bachelors"
While Steel had previously written from the male perspective, "Toxic Bachelors" (published in 2005) was a departure from her usual style in that she told the story through the eyes of the three eponymous bachelors. Unlike her previous books that revolved around high-stakes conflicts including blackmail and death, "Toxic Bachelors" focuses on each man's relationship and secret desire for stability and family. Fans seemed to accept the book--although not enough, it would seem, for Steel to continue writing male protagonists.
Book that divided readers: "Honor Thyself"
Not that Steel could do much to completely alienate her readers at this point, but the reviews for her 2008 novel "Honor Thyself" were especially brutal. Though an ambitious idea--a former movie star is injured in a terrorist attack in Paris and reunites with her ex-lover--for some readers, the execution left a lot to be desired. Dear Author challenged Steel on the extent of her research into brain injuries, while some readers complained about repetitive syntax and a weaker-than-usual narrative.
Book that won them back: "Until the End of Time"
Despite any stumbles, Steel commands a loyal readership that will pick up her new releases for the emotion of the stories. It's likely that she won her readers back long before "Until the End of Time" was published in early 2013, but this novel exemplifies the best qualities of Steel's writing: a generation-spanning love story that's well-paced and invites the reader to believe in destiny.