This is my um-teenth D.S. novel I’ve read to date, some I’ve liked…some I’ve hated. This one I liked. Really liked. This may be a front-runner for one of my favorites of her novels.
Thurston House is the story of Jeremiah Thurston & the legacy that he built. It’s divided into 3 different “books”. I’m a sucker for a good, epic, Historical-fiction novel & this one fit the bill. At over 500pages, it’ll take you awhile to get through, but it will hold your interest.
Book 1 introduces you to Jeremiah Thurston; Napa Valley, CA, 1860. She opens the novel with laying down the foundation that the rest of the epic is built upon. Thurston is a small-time owner of a quicksilver mine beginning his life with his young bride. A lost-battle with influenza takes the life of his bride & he spends the next several decades in bachelor-dom, building up his mining empire. Alone with his housekeeper (Hannah), she becomes the mother-figure he never had & she, in turn, becomes a pivotal character in the novel. On a cross-country train ride to Atlanta, middle-aged Thurston meets Amelia & falls immediately in-love, however, its not reciprocated & a strong friendship is built that, also, transpires throughout the rest of the novel. Once in Atlanta, he meets the (very) young , 17year old Camilia Beauchamp & she quickly becomes his wife.
Now I LOVE a good villain in a novel…love them! I have a weakness for nastiness, debauchery, bitchiness, arrogance, vile, great villain characters (no surprise my favorite movie characters are; Wicked Witch of the West, the Evil Queen in Snow White, Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians. They just make things “interesting” *insert maniacal “wa-ha-ha” laugh*). Camille definitely falls under the category of “villain”. Evil! Right from the beginning she weaseled her way into Jeremiah’s heart (as only a young girl can do to a middle-aged man), he’s beyond loaded with money & she is the quintessential “gold-digger”. He even had clues prior to the wedding that she had ulterior motives, but chose to ignore them. Being so young, he knew she’d never be happy living in the very desolate country-lifestyle that was Napa Valley at the turn of the century, so he built her a grand house, “Thurston House” in San Francisco; at the time it was marveled as being the grandest house in the country, comparable to the Castles of Europe. After the wedding, she made his life miserable, as well as, the life of his staff & friends. Even though Danielle Steele emphasizes what a “victim” Thurston is to Camille, my sympathies were limited towards him. There was moments of abuse, he raped her (which resulted in her pregnancy, something she was adamantly against. But he thought she’d grow out of that mindset), eventually she cheated & left him to move to Paris. He never divorced her (so you knew she was going to show up later in the novel with more malicious intent) & raised his daughter, Sabrina, to believe she had died when Sabrina was a baby.
Books 2 &3 are about Sabrina’s early & later years. I really, really liked what Danielle Steel did with this character. Talk about a ball-buster! Thurston mines are beyond booming & grape vineyards are added into the mix. Biggest mining-industry in the country, rivaled only to that by their arch-rival the Harte mines. The first few chapters are about Sabrina coming-of-age as a late teenager & when her father unexpectedly passes away, Sabrina takes on the challenge of managing the mines & vineyards. This is pre-WW1 era, she’s a female & is 18 to boot. Needless to say, she had to grow a huge pair! I loved the chapters how she toughened up & had to fight her way to keep her father’s business afloat. It was no surprise that, eventually, she fell in love with the owner of her arch-rival, John Harte, married & settled into a more relaxed life with her running the vineyards (her real passion) & him running the mines. They have a child together, Jonathan, but she once again finds herself alone when John dies tragically in a train accident.
She raises John, as I imagine any child in that situation would be raised, as spoiled ROTTEN. He’s showing the same character traits of Camille & Steel brilliantly brought her character back to life through Jonathon (although, spoiling him obsessively to make up for Sabrina’s lack of being involved in his life probably didn’t help!), eventually through a series of events Jonathon (as an adult) is introduced to Camille, realizes it is his Grandma & connivingly brings her back into Thurston House to take over Sabrina’s life & money (because he’s mad his mom didn’t buy him a new car). I wish that part of the story would’ve drug out longer because I really enjoyed it, but it only lasted a few chapters.
During Book 3, Sabrina loses the mines, is forced to sell most of her belongings & is only able to hold onto the vineyards, which she only manages to stay afloat when she’s introduced to Andre & Antoine; father & son wine-makers from France who help build up her wine-empire. Eventually, she marries Andre & they have a daughter together, Dominique.
Plenty of secondary-characters are throughout this novel: Mary Ellen, Spring Moon, Dan Richfield, Hannah, Amelia, & Arden whom are all instrumental in the shaping of events. Typical Danielle Steel style, she uses the backdrop of history to give a personal feel to the story; WW1 & 2, the Great Depression, the California Gold-Rush & hot debatable topics; domestic abuse, rape, women’s rights, abortion, even religion & divorce. When you mix that with late 19th/early 20th century ideals it can create an interesting story!
I definitely recommend this novel, even if you’re not a Danielle Steel fan (it does have some romance) it’s a heavy book & not necessarily a light read. Its full of lots of history & hot debatable topics. It’ll piss you off, it’ll make you smile, & some parts will make you laugh at the absurdity of that time-period’s thinking. It’s one of her early ones (circa 1985), but still a good find for me (.99 at a used-bookstore…score!).