cover image Message from Nam

Message from Nam

Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (389pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29907-7

An audacious--and ill-conceived--departure from her usual glitzy settings, Steel's ( Daddy ; Star ) 25th novel focuses on the Vietnam War, though it merely skims the surface of that turbulent era. In an attempt at seriousness, Steel awkwardly shoehorns in a veritable almanac of historical facts and such painful milestones as the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. Her heroine, feisty Savannah native Paxton Andrews, disdains the role of a Southern belle and flees to UC Berkeley, where she pursues a journalism major and instantly falls in love with law student Peter Wilson, son of a newspaper tycoon. When Peter is killed in Vietnam, grief-stricken Paxton wangles a ticket to the front as a journalist, where, with an initial boost from a tough, fatherly AP correspondent, she knocks out an acclaimed column for seven years. Steel's undemanding style is too often marred by gushing, breathless prose that trivializes serious events. While the mega-selling author isn't at the top of her form, her fans will enjoy the emotional firestorm as Paxton reels from a series of tragic blows, some concerning her hotheaded lover, Sergeant Tony Campobello, a POW. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections. (June)