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Creator / Danielle Steel

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"Suddenly, Stephanie spotted Lance on the beach..."
— the Danielle Steel card in Apples to Apples

Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel (born August 14, 1947) is an American author who has written at least one book a year since 1973, totaling well over 100 novels as of 2018. (22 have been adapted for television, mostly in The '90s; only Now and Forever has been adapted for the big screen.) Most of her novels involve a love story of some kind and qualify as Romance Novels, but often overlap with Chick Lit, Generational Saga, and/or Historical Fiction. Even Science Fiction and Fantasy plots have appeared in her books.


She is the bestselling author alive in the world, outselling J. K. Rowling and Stephen King by hundreds of millions of copies.

Many of her works are self-referential: for example she marries and divorces a heroin addict, and then her next novel is about — quelle surprise! — a woman who marries and divorces a heroin addict.

For a full bibliography, click here.

This author provides examples of:

  • Airport Novel: Probably the best-known female author of this sort of novel, and certainly one of the most prolific.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Everyone in her books is either already filthy rich or becomes that way via hard work and success, with all the privileges/drawbacks that come with it.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: And how. Every. Single. One. of her lead characters is stunningly gorgeous or handsome, and if they're over forty, it's frequently mentioned that they look much younger than they actually are. Their good looks are just the tip of the iceberg, as the reader soon learns that they are perfect in every other way—intelligent, funny, hard-working, etc. Any "flaws" only serve to make them more endearing. The closest she's come to an unattractive heroine is the Hollywood Pudgy protagonist of the book "Big Girl".
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  • Beauty Is Bad: Conversely, her villains are just as attractive but it's always repeatedly stated that their good looks are artificial and fading (whereas the heroine is naturally lovely without any extra effort on her part necessary), and are the only attributes they have.
  • Big Applesauce: While she sets her books all over the world — see Scenery Porn below — New York City is a favorite locale, probably because it's where she's from.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In Jewels, William dies the night of his youngest son's first birthday party.
  • Broken Bird: The female protagonist often is this or ends up as this at some point.
  • Captain Ersatz: The book Beauchamp Hall (the protagonist is a fan of the titular TV show) is clearly a rip-off of Downton Abbey.
  • Character Title: Daddy, Zoya, The Ghost, Granny Dan, Johnny Angel, H.R.H., Sisters, A Good Woman, Big Girl, Prodigal Son, The Mistress, and The Duchess.
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  • Chick Lit: Not all of her novels fall under this heading, but among those that are less about romance and high drama and more about "modern women in a modern world" are Big Girl and Sisters.
  • Description Porn: Steel likes to treat her readers to endless descriptions and mentions of everything. The reader will read over and over about how gorgeous a character is, how beautiful their home is, how perfect their life is, etc.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Very common. An example is Gabbie in The Long Road Home, who has a very abusive mother and a father who doesn't help and leaves when she is 9 years old. Her mother then moves to California and leaves her in a convent, where she decides to become a nun and falls in love with a priest. However, they are not allowed to be together, and her lover feels guilty and hangs himself. She is kicked out of the convent and ends up moving into a boarding house. Just as things seem to be moving up, she falls in love with a con-man who beats her half to death so he can get the money she was left in a will...
  • Double Standard: Very often turns up, depending on the type of characters involved. Questionable or controversial behavior is always given a positive spin for her heroic characters, while being portrayed as downright despicable for her villains.
  • Domestic Abuse: An occasional subplot. And the main plot of the book Journey , though she chooses the emotional/verbal variety.
  • Ephebophile: The 49-year old "hero" of one of the subplots of Family Album is this, as he falls in love with a 15-year-old girl (his daughter's best friend) and marries her as soon as she turns 18, though the relationship is consummated while she's still underage. In what is probably her worst example of PCM, it's presented as a grand romance, with many of the excuses disturbingly used by Real Life predators and their victims—"I'm/She's very mature for her age", "She looks much older than she is", etc., and her older brother and parents being painted as the villains for their vehement objections. The book ends with them still together, the Happily Married parents of five.
    • Technically, so is the "hero" of A Perfect Stranger, who at 62, falls in love with and marries his friend's 18-year-old daughter. (She's of legal age, but this disorder indicates an attraction to those 15-19 years old).
  • False Rape Accusation: At least one book has a scorned ex-lover filing one of these. And it's often inverted—a handful of her rape/ Attempted Rape stories will have the assailant claiming that the woman tried to seduce him.
  • Flat Character: Plenty. Especially if someone's sole purpose is to be a villain. Even good characters get this if they're merely just a stop on the hero or heroine's way to true love.
  • Gay Best Friend: Or relative. Any gay character in her books typically falls into this category.
  • Generational Saga: Many of her novels chronicle at least two generations of one family, and sometimes more (Zoya covers three, with the title character's daughter proving to be rebellious while her granddaughters are more like her).
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: It will almost always be perfectly okay for the hero/heroine to cheat on his/her partner/spouse, because said partner/spouse is a horrible, awful person. Conversely, it will always be despicable for the villain to cheat on his/her wonderful lover—played perfectly straight in The Wedding, where the heroine cheats on her boyfriend with a man she meets on a business trip, but it is outraged when she comes home and finds him cavorting with another woman. He's regarded as a bastard and gets kicked out, while she ends up marrying the other guy at the end, in the wedding in question.
    • To her credit, Steel does not always make all the bad adulterers male and good adulterers female and she often subverts this trope as well.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight in the few books that tackle this topic, usually in one of the ways laid out in the tropes page description. Occasionally, either the woman who wants the abortion or the man who wants her to have one is portrayed as a selfish jerk:
    • Averted in the novel Changes, when a teenage girl has one. Despite becoming ill afterwards, she is never portrayed as bad or condemned for her decision. Played straight later in the book, her mother becomes pregnant and contemplates having one, given the upheaval that the family is currently in, but sure enough decides against it.
    • Played straight in Heartbeat, when a woman's husband wants her to have one (having been abused as a child, he doesn't want to have any kids himself). When she refuses, he divorces her.
    • In the novel Daddy, the titular character's wife intended to have an abortion every time she got pregnant—she didn't feel ready for a child the first time, felt overwhelmed at the thought of caring for two infants the second time, and simply did not want to have any more children the third time. Each time, her husband talked her out of it, and she is never portrayed as anything but a loving mother.
    • Jewels. When a man discovers that his wife intends to have an abortion, he is shocked, having thought she was just as thrilled about her pregnancy as he was. It turns out that she doesn't want children and that the child in question might not even be his—she's been having an affair with his brother. Her infuriated husband informs her that the child is his—his brother had a vasectomy—and proceeds to basically force her to play this trope straight by offering her money to have the baby and threatening to divorce her without a dime should she even legitimately miscarry. This is borderline abusive behavior that is portrayed as completely okay because she's a horrible person.
    • The Apartment: When a woman decides to have an abortion as she simply doesn't feel ready for a child just yet, her boyfriend proceeds to do everything he can think of to prevent this—begging, demanding, offering to take sole custody of the baby, even going to the courts to try and find some legal way to stop her from doing it. Despite this downright abusive level of control that he attempted to take over her life, she eventually changes her mind and the book concludes with them happily engaged and anticipating the baby's birth.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Ad nauseum. The heroes and heroines always have a terrific sex life, with it always being better than it was before.
    • Even if it was already good before—the protagonists of Daddy and Dating Game are floored at how spectacular sex with their respective new paramours is—"Daddy" outright says that he thought his and his ex-wife's love life was "perfect".
  • Gratuitous Rape: Often paired with numerous other versions of Rape Tropes—Rape as Drama, Rape as Backstory, etc. In Accident, where the female lead is already going through hell — daughter injured in a car accident, husband cheating and leaving her for the other woman, distant ice queen mother and equally frigid sister, is it really necessary for a revelation that she'd been sexually abused by her father? There are numerous examples in her books, but that one really stands out as it has no bearing whatsoever on the story.
  • Happily Ever After: How all her books end, no matter what trauma her protagonists have been put through.
  • Historical Fiction: She's worked through quite a few periods of Hollywood History. Depending on the plot, the novel might be entirely set in one period, cover several (often up to The Present Day), have a Framing Device set in The Present Day, or alternate between two time periods in a case of Two Lines, No Waiting as a connection between sets of characters is formed/revealed. Time periods she's used include:
    • Victorian Britain: The Duchess
    • The Edwardian Era: No Greater Love, A Good Woman (both of these use the RMS Titanic disaster as the inciting incident; the second moves on into World War I), and Past Perfect
    • Romanovs and Revolutions: Zoya (starting point for a story that ends in The '70s) and Granny Dan
    • The '30s: Wanderlust and Wings
    • World War II: Probably the most popular historical setting, it figures into the events of The Ring, Remembrance, Crossings, Family Album, Wanderlust, Kaleidoscope, Zoya, Jewels, Silent Honor, Lone Eagle, Echoes, Pegasus, and Property of a Noblewoman
    • The '60s: Full Circle and The Good Fight
    • The Vietnam War: Message from Nam
  • Ivy League for Everyone: In line with the "elite" trope mentioned above, most of her characters attend or are alumni of Ivy League colleges, their equivalents (the Seven Sisters, Oxford, the Sorbonne, etc), or schools that are excellent in their own right—NYU, Stanford, etc.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: A frequent occurrence is for a female character in her late-40's/early-50's to assume that she's starting menopause, only to learn that she's pregnant. Even her younger female characters aren't exempt from this, often miraculously getting pregnant after assuming that they were infertile for other reasons. Pretty much the whole plotline of Mixed Blessings, and affects both male and female characters in the story.
  • Lifetime Movie of the Week: During the early-to-mid '90s, many of her books were adapted for television. Although they initially ran on NBC, sure enough, Lifetime soon acquired the rights to them. It probably helps that her books are essentially literary versions of this trope.
  • Lover and Beloved: Proving that her May–December Romance fetish isn't limited to her heterosexual couples, at least two of her gay couples have included the 20-25 year age difference that's frequently seen in her pairings. At least one is an even more direct example of this trope, with the younger man having been outright seduced by the much older and more experienced wealthy man.
  • Marital Rape License: Occasionally, some of the villainous husbands to their wives. And disturbingly enough, one of the heroic husbands displays this towards his wife on one occasion. His demeanor is playful and cajoling, but the bottom line is, she declines his advances and he ignores her refusal. As cited in the "morality" post, this is never portrayed as wrong, and worse yet, implied that she deserves this because she's been cheating on him.
  • Mills and Boon Prose: The sex scenes in her novels usually fall into this.
  • Monochrome Casting: Aside from an occasional Token Black Friend or overseas trip and/or war, one would think minorities don't exist in the Danielle Steel universe—as of 2018, only one of her heroines has been non-white (Japanese Hiroko in Silent Honor). In HRH, the titular heroine travels to an African country for missionary work, Legacy has a Caucasian protagonist tracing the history of her Native American ancestor, and Magic has an Indian man among its four leads.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Any character who either is or becomes a mother is repeatedly said to look more like her child's older sister.
  • Novelization: One of her early books, The Promise, is this for a 1979 romantic drama. Due to her subsequent fame, it is still in print (a rare feat for a non-genre Novelization), and the film's DVD release was as a "bonus movie" in one box set of Made For TV Movies adapted from her original novels!
  • Older Than They Look: Related to the "Mum" post, any character over 40 is repeatedly said to look much younger than they are.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Related to several other posts on this page. Pretty much anything her heroes/heroines say or do is portrayed as perfectly good or okay, while when the villains do the exact same thing, it's despicable. Case in point, in The Wedding, when the heroine comes home from a business trip, she's outraged to find her boyfriend cavorting with another woman—even though she spent her trip cavorting with another man. His fling is treated as cheating and she throws him out. Hers is treated as her finding true love and the book concludes with her marrying the other guy. Or in The Duchess, where the heroine runs a whorehouse, but this is apparently okay as it's full of High Class Call Girls.
  • Quitting to Get Married: In Changes, the heroine has a kick-ass job as a TV news reporter handed to her on a silver platter, but she turns it down because "I'm getting married." She's madly in love with a rich handsome doctor in Los Angeles, and while she's famous enough that she can get a job as a newscaster in L.A., it's not the same.
  • Recycled Script: The Ring, Zoya, and No Greater Love all have virtually the exact same plot, the only difference being the time period and the major historical tragedy that launches the main storyline. (World War II in The Ring, the Russian Revolution in Zoya and the sinking of the RMS Titanic in No Greater Love.)
  • Rich Bitch: Most of the villainous women are also wealthy.
  • Riches to Rags: The protagonists of Remembrance, Family Album, Loving, Zoya, Pegasus, and The Duchess all go through this in the first act of their stories. In fact, poor Zoya goes through the experience twice (first thanks to Romanovs and Revolutions, second thanks to The Great Depression).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The book Vanished is clearly inspired by the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. With a much happier ending, of course — the child is eventually found safe and sound, and his father is revealed to be the one who engineered everything, allowing the heroine to get him out of her life and reunite with her first love.
    • Rushing Waters is clearly inspired by the Hurricane Sandy disaster in New York City, even referencing the tragedy several times.
    • In the novel Beauchamp Hall, the heroine is a huge fan of the titular TV series, which is obviously an Expy of the immensely popular Downton Abbey
  • Romance Novel: Probably the best-known American author in this genre. Unlike many of her contemporaries, all of her novels are standalone rather than organized into trilogies, series, etc.
  • Scenery Porn: Steel likes to set her books in glamorous locations—New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, London, etc—and treat the reader to endless, repetitive descriptions of them.
  • Secondary Character Title: Pegasus is the name of a snow-white Lipizzaner stallion who helps secure the American fortunes of a German refugee family in World War II. (Its original name is Pluto, but it's changed by a Ringling Bros. executive because by that time Americans associated that name with Mickey Mouse's pet dog.)
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: It is outright stated that the reason one of the heroines in Kaleidoscope has spent her entire life fending off sexual assaults is because of her beauty. It's also implied that beauty is somehow the reason for many of her other heroines' woes due to the jealousy of those less fortunate.
  • Strictly Formula: Probably what she is most known for. A particularly common plot has a female protagonist who had a hard life but who now is most likely a career woman with a husband who cheats and lies to her and is probably abusive. She meets a wonderful man who changes her life, but may be married or otherwise unavailable. They will have an affair and get together at the end. Alternatively, this man turns out to be a Romantic False Lead; he will either die or they will get divorced, then she falls in love with another man (or the same guy again) and they have hot sex and live happily ever after.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Usually either because the cuckolded spouse is evil or also cheating. And even if not, he or she is often portrayed as genuinely remorseful.
  • Trauma Conga Line: For someone whose books are geared towards women, Steel has a disturbing tendency to frequently employ this trope, Malice and The Long Road Home being two of the most egregious examples. The only redeeming factor is that there's always a happy ending for the protagonist but still...
  • Too Happy to Live: If a book starts off with an endless description of a character's utterly perfect life, there's a pretty good chance that either (a) all hell is going to break loose any minute (especially in the historical novels), or (b) the person is a Stepford Smiler who is actually miserable (i.e. Journey).
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Sometimes (especially in her older books)... her characters... they tend to use a lot of... ellipses... usually when they are in deep thought.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The novel Fairytale is this to "Cinderella" with the Gender Flip of the heroine having to deal with two evil stepbrothers.
  • Write Who You Know: While she has no specific Author Avatar, many elements of her personal life are filtered through her books. The two books that launched her writing career, Passion's Promise and Now & Forever are based off her brief marriage to a prison inmate. She also often sets her books in New York, (where she is from), San Francisco, (where she lived for many years and still has a home), and Paris (where she also lived for many years and also still maintains a home).
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The initial plot of Jewels—an English Duke marrying an American divorcee and having to abdicate—is clearly based on the love story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Though in the book, the Duke was 13th in line and highly unlikely to take the throne in the first place.