By Danielle Steel
#1 USA Today bestseller, 1/12/17
What it is: By my count the 109th novel from writer Danielle Steel, though feel free to check my math if you want. Centers on Natasha, the beautiful Russian mistress of Vladimir, an older and incredibly wealthy Russian industrialist. Theo, a French artist and heir to the fortune of a more successful French artist, meets Natasha and falls in love with her, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead Natasha to question whether she’s really being fulfilled by the life she’s chosen.
Technically Vladimir Putin is a character in this book. He’s never mentioned by name but at least one scene involves the fictional Vladimir having an illicit meeting with “the Russian president,” and I just think a romance novel about Putin seems like an appropriate bestseller for the month leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Anyway, I was ready to dismiss this book as a fantasy glamorizing the lifestyles of wealthy sociopaths, and for the most part that’s what it is. But I have to admit that (spoiler alert) there comes a point in the novel when Vladimir cuts Natasha loose and she ends up taking pride in building up a humble but independent life for herself–picking out a tiny apartment, furnishing it with IKEA products, etc.–and I actually found those scenes kind of touching. They redeemed the book for me, despite the fact that Steel’s writing is incredibly plain and repetitive.