Lone Eagle by Danielle Steel
(Delacorte, $26.95, PG) ISBN 0-385-33537-7
*
When the editor of TRR asked if anyone was interested in reviewing the latest Danielle Steel novel, I jumped at the chance. As a public librarian, I find myself shelling out plenty of cash to get multiple copies of anything this author writes. Having never read one of Steel’s first fifty novels, I thought I should educate myself. After finishing Lone Eagle, the old “be careful what you wish for” adage seems more than appropriate.

Kate Jamison and Joe Allbright met at a debutante ball, December 1940. At twenty-nine, Joe is already a brilliant protégé of Charles Lindbergh, and Kate, while a youthful seventeen, is every man’s dream. They immediately hit it off, and over the course of many years, their love grows all consuming.

Over the next thirty years, Kate and Joe face seemingly insurmountable odds. From his stint in World War II, her years at Radcliffe, his obsession with airplanes, the start of his own business, to her first marriage - Joe and Kate never stop loving each other. However, is their love strong enough to survive the obstacles that life throws in their path?

Lone Eagle is not a romance - it is a story of an unhealthy relationship between a spineless woman and an emotional stunted man. Kate is the picture perfect heroine - intelligent, poised, articulate, beautiful, yada yada yada. However, for all her perfection, she is seriously lacking in the self-esteem department. When she meets Joe, he is already married - to his planes. He admits, several times, that any woman in his life will have to be content with coming in second. So what does Kate do? She is more than happy to sit herself on the shelf and pine away for the man.

Let me repeat here that Joe is twenty-nine when we first meet him, and by the time he hits his thirties, he is still clueless about what marriage really means. Marriage to Joe is a prison, a noose around his neck, something that will take him away from what he really loves - himself and flying. Joe is by far the most egotistical, self-centered hero I have ever come across in a book that is supposed to be about love. He doesn’t even know what love means - Kate is the one who must make countless sacrifices over the course of this story.

Besides two characters that I wanted to strangle over the course of 396 pages, I also had a problem with the author’s writing style. She tells the reader the story, instead of showing it to them. The author explains what Joe is doing, Kate is feeling, what is happening - instead of letting the characters show us through their own thoughts, actions, and words. Because of this, even if I wanted to get inside their heads, I always felt like an outsider looking in.

The final straw is that the only remotely likeable characters in Lone Eagle are relegated to villainous roles. Kate’s mother is depicted as a shrew that does nothing but pressure Joe and Kate, when in fact, Liz Jamison’s only crime is that she has Joe’s number:

“I think men like Joe don’t marry. And if they do, they botch it. They don’t really know what marriage is. It’s something they do in their spare time when they’re not playing with their toys or their friends.”

There is also the ubiquitous nice guy, Andy Scott, who wants to be with the heroine, but is unable to because she is too busy mooning over the worthless hero. Andy’s villainous crimes are that he is nice, sweet, supportive, and loves Kate. Mothers lock up your daughters!

One of my coworkers has read Danielle Steel over the years, and has shared with me that she found Lone Eagle an improvement over her last few books. Therefore, if you have followed this author over the years, you may want to ignore my objections and check out the book for yourself. However, I think now would be a good time to support your local library, and save your hard earned $26.95.

--Wendy Crutcher


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