cover image The Ranch

The Ranch

Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press, $25.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31634-7

Twenty years ago, in college, the three female protagonists of Steel's 40th novel were ""like sisters."" Now, Mary Stuart Walker is on all the best charity boards in Manhattan, Tanya Thomas is a Hollywood megastar and Dr. Zoe Phillips runs an AIDS clinic. But sometimes it's tough on women who seem to have it all. Mary Stuart's marriage is glacial, and her husband, a big-shot lawyer, blames her for their son's suicide. Tanya's third husband walks out on her, unable to withstand life in the tabloid fishbowl. Zoe, single mother of an adopted child, learns that she has AIDS. What to do? If you're one of these three, you head for a Wyoming dude ranch for a little R&R--Reunion and Romance. In Steel's cotton-candy world, horses, female comradeship and new men prove the panacea for every woe--except for bad writing. Steel seems to be going for the world record here for sentences that begin with the word ""And,"" imparting a herky-jerky rhythm to her narrative. The trials of being a megastar are granted far more dramatic weight--both in terms of sheer page length and depth of discussion--than are those of someone stricken with AIDS. As usual, Steel's world is one in which, no matter what they're going through, the women always look ""spectacular."" As for the real world, there's just no room for it here. (May)