Danielle Steel, . . Delacorte, $27 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33634-5
Europe in the throes of WWI and II serves as backdrop for this latest dose of melodrama from megabestseller Steel. Bookish, raven-haired beauty Beata Wittgenstein meets dashing French nobleman Antoine de Vallerand while on vacation in Switzerland and falls passionately in love. An affluent German Jew whose strict Orthodox parents forbid marriage outside the faith, Beata knows that a union with a Catholic from war-rival France is out of the question. But love trumps all, and shortly after returning to Germany, Beata defies her family, arranging to meet Antoine in Switzerland, where they marry. When WWI ends, the de Vallerands return to Germany and live happily with their young daughters, Amadea and Daphne. Antoine manages the stables at an old friend's castle, the perfect job for him, but just as all seems well, he's thrown from a headstrong horse. Meanwhile, Hitler's anti-Semitic sentiments spread across Europe, and Beata fears that even her half-Jewish daughters are no longer safe. Devout Catholic Amadea plans to become a Carmelite nun, but as the Third Reich's campaign of cruelty escalates, she finds a greater sense of purpose outside the convent walls. There's enough romance to keep readers going, but fans who prefer the glitz and glamour of Steel's contemporary settings may be nonplussed, and the abrupt disappearance of several major characters leaves giant holes in the narrative.
Reviewed on: 10/04/2004