Danielle Steelathon II – Leap of Faith pub. 2002
A shorter, but by no means a lesser book, this is the story of Marie -Ange, daughter of an American man and French woman, who grows up in an idyllic chateu in the 1950s. The book is in two parts. The first describes how, at the age of 11, Marie-Ange’s world falls apart when her parents and older brother are killed in a car accident and she goes to with in the Iowa plains with her cold-hearted bitter Aunt Carole, who owns a farm there. Carole is a very interesting character; she contracted polio as a child and is a wheelchair user. Although this could lead to an interesting plot revolving cantakerous old lady learing to love through adopting a beautiful and charming French niece a la Pollyanna, it doesn’t, because it’s Danielle Steel.
In Iowa, Marie-Ange lives the life of a servant, recieving no warmth or affection from her aunt or neighbours, expception Billy, the boy-next-door. Although Billy is desperatly in love with her, Marie-Ange cannot return his affections as he is like a brother to her (*coughs* pricktease *coughs*). He helps Marie-Ange get into college by buying her a car, and she in return teaches him to speak French. Then when she is 21, she discovers that her parents (sorry, sorry, father) left her tne million smackers in a trust fund and she is literally free to do whatever the fuck she wants. She promtly buys Billy a Porsche (that’ll go down well in Iowa, on a farm), fucks college off and moves back to France.
And thus begins Part 2, whereupon this book changes from gentle coming-of-age fluff to gripping-thriller. Re-visiting the chateau she grew up in, Marie-Ange meets The Count (cannot remember his name, thats how much I was gripped. I can only remember her’s cos it amused me for a while trying to figure out how to pronounce it. Have sneaking suspicion it should have been Marie-Angst, from how the rest of the book pans out). The Count has a Suitably Tragic Past, his wife and baby son died in a fire ten years ago. Of course, she falls in love with him. marries and pops out a couple of sprogs, all the while with Billy in the background telling her how unwise it all is. The Count proceeds to spend literally all her money on his flashy lifestyle, which she blindlu ignores for four year, “trusting him”. She then gets a message from the not-so dead wife. It turns out that The Count set the fire that killed the baby and scarred her in order to get his filthy hands on her money. It could never be proved that it wasn’t an accident. Marie-Ange is shocked at this, but continues to stay with him *because she loves him*.
Then, of course, it all goes horribley wrong. Marie-Ange being unable to access any more of her millions from the trust, The Count commits arson in the chateau and attempts to her kill both her and her babies. Marie-Ange manages to flee to the topmost tower and throw the children out the window. Although she is afriad to jump herself, she hear’s the ex-wife’s voice in her head and takes the ‘leap of faith’ in the title (in future books I’m gonna play Spot The Reference To The Title because it is just so much fun).
And of course, The Count gets done, and Billy flies over the France to visit, and she realises she should have been with him all along…
Now I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy this book, because I did. It was incredibly silly, and would have been better if it hadn’t been so rushed, but that’s not the style of the book. The bit with the fire and the jumping out the window made me howl with laughter, and throughout I couldn’t understand how Steel’s heroine could be so bloody rubbish, but it was fun. I look forward to the next one…