Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Dec 29
The 15 Best Danielle Steel Books in Order of Publication
One only has to think of the romance genre for Danielle Steel’s name to immediately spring to mind. With an arsenal of silk-stocking protagonists and life-changing crises up her sleeve, Steel has mastered the formula for the perfect love story, with all the twists and turns you could wish for.
The fact that Steel still writes all her novels on a manual typewriter should be enough to tell you she is no ordinary writer— and it’s safe to say she has led no ordinary life. Pulling staggering twenty-hour writing shifts when she’s working on a new project is just another testament to her exceptionality, and we have this strict regimen to thank for the 190 books ranging from children’s books to poetry to fiction and nonfiction that Steel has published.
Regardless of what critics have to say, the numbers simply don’t lie. Having sold over 800 million copies, she is one of, if not the bestselling author alive today. Not content to rest on her hard —earned laurels, Steel continues to write with the same vim and vigor that she did 50 years ago — 2020 alone has seen seven new titles. With a catalogue that just keeps growing at a formidable rate, it’s difficult to know where to start. So we're here to help! But choosing an absolute favorite is never easy, so, by way of compromise, we’re going to give you the best Danielle Steel books in order of publication.
1. Summer's End (1979)
We begin our journey with Steel’s 6th novel, Summer’s End. As is the hallmark of Steel’s writing, our protagonist Deanna sits comfortably in the upper echelons of society and, from the outside, seems to have it all. At 18 years old, she married a dashing Frenchman, and in the many years since then she’s ticked off all the boxes for marital bliss — except the actual bliss part. When her distant husband and teenage daughter leave on holiday, Deanna meets a man who will show her a glimpse of life beyond the marriage she feels so trapped in.
But just like that blissful summer, all too soon her new-found solace must come to an end. Things go from bad to worse and life deals Deanna blow after blow, and now that moment of happiness seems nothing but a fever dream. Will she ever find her way back to the love that promised true joy?
2. Kaleidoscope (1987)
Arthur Patterson is ill and nearing the end of his life, but there’s one last thing he needs to do before he can rest easy — a wrong that must be put right. Once upon a time, Arthur was the close friend of a glamorous couple, Sam and Solange: a supporting character in their fairytale. But when their lives come to a sinister end, it’s up to him to make arrangements for their three young girls, and he chooses to send each off to a different home.
Now, he’s hiring a private investigator, who will enter three very different lives in an effort to reunite the sisters. But for one of the girls, the past hasn’t been easy to forget. Torn between running from the pain and yearning for the sisters she lost, between her fury and her heartbreak, will she find the courage to let love back into her heart, or would she rather run from the truth that’s been buried all this time?
3. Zoya (1988)
If there’s one thing Danielle Steel knows how to do, it’s turn a historical event into a dazzling story. In this case, it’s the Russian Revolution. For Zoya, a cousin of the Tzar, the seismic toppling of the monarchy is no victory,— she’s on the losing side. Luckier than many, Zoya and her grandmother manage to escape to Paris.
World War Two brings American troops into the city, and soon enough Zoya finds her way into the arms of one GI Clayton Andrews. He whisks her back to American when the war is over and, for a while, it seems everything might just be alright. But for Zoya, security appears to only ever be short lived. As she builds up from rock bottom once more, it seems that everlasting happiness may be just beyond her clutches.
Zoya is a rollercoaster of fortunes, a tale of just how quickly one’s luck can change. But through all of it, what remains constant is Zoya’s resolve and determination to make a better future.
4. Message from Nam (1990)
Our heroine Paxton, is an ambitious journalist, so curiosity runs through her veins. When she suffers a heartbreak thanks to the war in Vietnam, she makes it her mission to find out what is happening on those distant shores. Upon arrival, she is shocked by what she finds. Looking beyond the personal questions she came seeking answers to, her investigation goes into overdrive — Paxton just cannot let all she has witnessed go unknown. Committed to sharing her experiences, she begins documenting them in a newspaper column. As happenings of the war are immortalized in her articles, the men she meets along the way are etched into her heart forever, leaving impressions as enduring as printer’s ink.
Message from Nam artfully captures the havoc wreaked by war both on those actively fighting, and also on the civilians who cannot help but get caught up in the crossfire. A sad and very human reminder that when all is said and done, the effects of combat will continue to be felt by many for the rest of their lives.
5. Jewels (1992)
It’s Sarah Whitfield’s seventy-fifth birthday and she’s taking a trip down memory lane. Rewind to 1930s New York, where Sarah’s ill-fated marriage to the wayward Freddie ends in divorce. In an effort to distract their daughter from her grief, her parents take her to Europe. Unfortunately, a change of scene isn’t quite what the doctor ordered — that is, until William, Duke of Whitfield comes along. After a whirlwind romance, they get married, but newlywed bliss is over before it’s properly begun as WWII breaks out.
While the world scrimps and scrabbles to rebuild itself post-war, The Whitfields stumble into a lucrative enterprise — buying and selling jewels. It’s not just their business that’s blossoming: their brood is expanding too. As the children grow older, Sarah must juggle motherhood and profits. When they finally fly the nest, an empty house isn’t the reprieve it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it brings a new problem; There won’t be any sitting back and relaxing until the family legacy is secured.
6. The Gift (1994)
Being sixteen and pregnant isn’t easy, especially when it’s the 1950s and your strict family wants nothing to do with you. Such is the predicament that Maribeth finds herself in. Cast out, she works her way to a convent — but when it’s not the sanctuary she thought it would be, she’s back on the move. She settles down again, and takes up a job as a waitress, determined to look after herself until the baby arrives.
In another home, another family is grieving a great loss, one that just might be the end of them. But when a chance meeting and a budding romance brings two worlds together, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. A heart-warming story of love lost and found, The Gift follows lives changed forever by being in the right place at the right time.
7. Silent Honor (1996)
18 year old Hiroko is sent from Kyoto to live with family in California. While everything is certainly not rosy, Hiroko starts to settle in and make a life for herself. Then disaster strikes: on December 7 1941, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, Hiroko’s new home is not so hospitable. Where many were already unwelcoming due to her heritage, she's now seen as a national enemy — and when the internment camps open, the struggle for acceptance becomes a fight for life.
From her move away from home, to a relationship with an older man, it is the brutality of a hateful xeneophobic regime that ultimately accelerates Hiroko relinquishing the innocence of her childhood — or rather having it snatched away. Lauded for its attention to detail on the historical particulars, Silent Honor is a poignant coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of atrocities many wish to erase.
8. His Bright Light (1998)
Steel is known for her portrayal of family tragedies across her fictional works, but His Bright Light is a stark reality check. In this astonishingly raw and personal piece of non-fiction, Danielle Steel tells the story of her son Nick, an extraordinarily gifted young man with his mother’s passion for words. We follow Nick on his lifelong fight with bipolar disorder, a fight which culminated in his tragic death at just 19.
Steel delves into her experience with great candor, detailing her frustrations as a mother up against a medical system that did not want to hear her concerns, and the continuous uphill battle to get proper treatment for her son. This enormously courageous and moving tribute is particularly special since the proceeds from its initial sales were used to set up a foundation in Nick’s name which funds treatment of mental illness.
9. Safe Harbour (2003)
When Ophelie finds her eleven-year-old daughter befriending a strange man, she is understandably concerned. Who is he? What does he want?
Well, he’s Matt Bowles, a man for whom luck seems to be in short supply. Once a happy husband and father, he’s now a lonely artist, nursing the wounds of a bitter divorce. He’s seen something in Pip, something that reminds him of his own daughter who’s now unreachable, halfway across the world.
As Ophelie begins to warm to the mysterious Matt, it seems Pip has inadvertently welcomed into their life a stranger that will change her and her mother’s lives forever. But just as new romance dawns on the horizon, remnants of past loves begin to rear their ugly heads.
A story of an unlikely friendship and unexpected connections, Safe Harbour is a touching testament to the joy and warmth that people can bring simply by being there.
10. Echoes (2004)
Beata and Antoine are hopelessly in love. Trouble is, he’s a French Catholic and she’s a German Jew — and with the First World War well underway, it's not a union their families are willing to get behind. But, in a tale as old as time, nothing will stand in the way of their being together and they choose each other. Left out in the cold by their families, the young couple set about building a life of their own.
However when WWII strikes, the past that Beata has concealed from her children snaps back into focus. Her family’s heritage means that they’re now all under threat. Even Amadea, her daughter who has recently become a Catholic nun, now has her safety compromised as the truth of her mother’s history threatens to come to light. But her identity is not the only thing she’s inherited: if only Amadea can summon the strength of will shown by those who came before her, she may just make it out alive. Echoes is a stirring reminder that we don’t know how mighty we are until we are pushed to our limits.
11. Prodigal Son (2015)
For as long as he can remember, Peter has hated his twin. Driven apart by a complex past, the two have each made very different lives for themselves. Peter left his small hometown behind to become a high-flying investment banker while Michael stayed, setting up as a local doctor. Then the Wall Street crash hits and Peter loses his job. This first loss is swiftly followed by another, as his wife promptly leaves him. Penniless and alone, Peter only has one place left to turn: a cabin he inherited in the hometown he so eagerly fled.
Forced back to the scene of the crimes that drove him and Michael apart, Peter must once again confront their troubled past. But as he immerses himself in the life he left behind, a strange truth starts to unravel and Peter is left questioning all he ever thought he knew about his brother. Prodigal Son will take you down a dark path to find out what really happened all those years ago, and leave you questioning your own judgement. After all, does anyone know good from evil as well as they think they do?
12. Blue (2016)
In one fateful moment, rising TV star Ginny’s life comes screeching to a halt. Suddenly left without her family, Ginny is rudderless, trying desperately to pick up the splinters of her life and find something worth living for. After some soul-searching, she decides helping others could be the answer and embarks on a second career as a humanitarian aid worker. As time ticks on, so does her sorrow — that is, until she meets Blue.
At just thirteen years old, Blue, like Ginny, has found himself alone in the world. Learning to trust again isn’t going to be easy for him, but he opens up to Ginny and the pair begin to build a friendship, filling the family-shaped void in each other’s lives. But Blue has a secret that Ginny wasn’t quite prepared for. She’s going to have to put aside the grief that’s been wearing her down if she’s going to be there for Blue when he needs it the most.
A troubling tale of trauma and grief, Blue is an enduring testament to friendship, and the power of found families.
13. Accidental Heroes (2018)
On the ground, it's just another day at the office for TSA agent Bernice, until a cryptic postcard bearing an image of the Golden Gate Bridge turns up at JFK. Immediately, Bernice tries to raise her concerns with her superiors, but they don’t want to listen. Her last resort is to go over their heads and contact Homeland security. It’s Ben who answers her call, an agent tortured by a recent hostage situation gone wrong. Unable to bear the consequences of another miscalculation, he heeds Bernice’s concerns.
Up in the air, two planes are on their way to San Francisco. At the helm of one is an Air Force veteran, and she has some high-profile passengers aboard. But as the cogs start turning, Ben begins to suspect this plane could be a target. Diverting disaster is going to require all hands on deck.
Accidental Heroes takes us on a nail-biting race against time through the eyes of ordinary folk who find themselves suddenly at the forefront of a daring rescue mission, proving heroes can crop up in unexpected places.
14. Spy (2019)
Alexandra Wickham is another of Steel’s blueblood characters, starting out life in the lap of luxury thanks to her aristocratic status. But she yearns for more, and the outbreak of WWII presents Alexandra with the perfect opportunity to seek out more than the lifetime of pampered tedium that awaits her. Endowed with remarkable linguistic abilities, she’s just what the British Special Operations Executive is looking for. She’s snapped up, and thus begins her career as a spy.
This might be an espionage novel at heart, but it would hardly be a Danielle Steel novel without a little mention of love, and Spy doesn’t disappoint. Alexandra falls head over heels for a handsome soldier. Propriety suggests she should give her life of intrigue up, but she’s caught the espionage bug, and a husband certainly isn’t going to slow her down. A diplomat’s wife by day, she furtively continues as a spy even after the war ends. While she’s mastered the art of duplicity when it comes to her job, Alexandra finds the deception she must sustain in her personal life trickier. Will she be forced to choose between the two great loves of her life, her family and her career? From perilous missions to perils of the heart, Spy is truly an adventure you don’t want to miss out on.
15. All That Glitters (2020)
We round off our list with a book that came out just this year but which stays true to Steel’s well-loved early style. Life is unpredictable, and — as so many of Steel’s characters have learned — everything you love can be snatched away from you in a second. When it happens to Coco, she's suddenly forced to leave behind her sheltered childhood, sharpish.
We follow Coco over her formative years as she learns to navigate the world. Through it all she has her oldest and dearest friend, Sam, by her side. But, try as he might, he can’t seem to steer her away from the questionable men that come and go from her life. Meanwhile,Sam too has decisions to make, and it seems he doesn’t necessarily know it all either. As they both stumble through early adulthood, it’s their unbreakable friendship that will see them through all the hardships life throws at them. All That Glitters tells the story of imperfect lives peppered with unwise choices but hey, isn’t that what makes us human?
We hope that, armed with this list, you’ll be ready to take a deep dive into the colorful lives and journeys of Steel’s characters — stories which promise to have you smiling, crying, and everything in between.
Looking for even more pulse-raising romance? You can check out our recommendations for 15 swoon-worthy romance writers here.