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As Diana Morrison laid the table for six at her elegant Central Park apartment, there was no warning of what was to come. Spending New Year’s Eve together was a sacred tradition for Diana, her husband of ...
As Diana Morrison laid the table for six at her elegant Central Park apartment, there was no warning of what was to come. Spending New Year’s Eve together was a sacred tradition for Diana, her husband of thirty-two years, Eric, and their best friends, Pascale and John Donnally and Anne and Robert Smith. The future looked rosy as the long-time friends sipped champagne and talked of renting a villa together in the South of France the following summer. But life had other plans . . .
Just two weeks after New Year’s, tragedy strikes the heart of their close circle, as Robert Smith suffers a sudden, unexpected loss. Without hesitation, Diana and Eric, Pascale and John rally to his side, united in their support, love, and shared grief. Convinced that a change of scenery is just what Robert needs, they urge him to join them on the Riviera in August. But as they soon discover, the ramshackle old mansion they rented in St. Tropez--sight unseen--is far different from the exquisite villa and sun-drenched gardens touted in the brochure. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling. Beds collapse beneath them. All while a would-be housekeeper in a leopard-skin bikini and six-inch heels sashays through the house with a trio of yapping poodles at her heels. But the biggest surprise of all is the woman Robert invites to the villa as his guest--a lovely, much-younger film actress with mile-long legs and a million-dollar smile. Diana and Pascale hate her on sight. But the men are dazzled. And amid the crumbling furniture and the glorious sunsets, the strained relationships and the acts of forgiveness, more surprises are in store for the villa’s occupants. With the last days of summer fast approaching, each couple finds themselves changing in unexpected ways, as old wounds are healed, new love discovered, and miracles unfold...all beneath the dazzling sun of St. Tropez.
By turns wise and moving, heartbreaking and wickedly funny, Danielle Steel’s new novel is about forgiving without forgetting, about the sorrow that shadows our lives and the hope that saves us. And it is about once-in-a-lifetime friendships . . .the kind that heal, sustain, and change us forever.
From the Hardcover edition.
Diana Morrison lit the candles in her dining room, on a table set for six. The apartment was large and elegant, with a view of Central Park. Diana and Eric had lived there for nineteen of the thirty-two years they'd been married, and for most of those years their two daughters had lived there with them. Both girls had moved out only in the last few years, Samantha to an apartment of her own when she graduated from Brown, and Katherine when she got married five years before. They were good girls, bright and loving and fun, and despite the expected skirmishes with them in their teens, Diana got along with them extremely well, and she missed them, now that they'd grown up.
But she and Eric had enjoyed their time alone. At fifty-five, she was still beautiful, and Eric had always been careful to keep the romance fresh between them. He heard enough stories through his work to understand what women needed from their men. At sixty, he was a handsome, youthful-looking man, and a year before he had talked Diana into getting her eyes done. He knew she would feel better if she did. And he'd been right, as she checked the table again that she had set for New Year's Eve, she looked glorious in the candlelight. The minor cosmetic surgery she'd had, had knocked ten years off her age.
She had let her hair go white years before, and it shimmered like fresh snow in a well-cut, angled bob that showed off her delicate features and big blue eyes. Eric always told her that she was as pretty as she'd been when they met. She'd been a nurse at Columbia-Presbyterian, when he was an obstetrical resident, and they'd gotten married six months later, and been together ever since. She'd stopped working when she got pregnant with Katherine, and stayed home after that, busy with the girls, and understanding with Eric as he got up night after night, to deliver babies. He loved his work, and she was proud of him.
He had one of the most successful ob/gyn practices in New York, and he said he wasn't tired of it yet, although two of his partners had retired the year before. But Eric still didn't mind the hours, and Diana was used to it by now. It didn't bother her when he left in the middle of the night, or had to cancel out of dinner parties at the last minute. They'd been living that way for more than thirty years. He worked on holidays and weekends, and loved what he did. He had been there with their daughter Katherine when both of her boys were born.
They were the perfect family in many ways, and life had been good to them. Theirs was an easy, fulfilling life, and a solid marriage. Diana kept busy now that the girls were grown, doing volunteer work at Sloan-Kettering, and organizing fund-raisers for research. She had no desire to go back to nursing once the girls grew up, and she knew she'd been out of it for too long. Besides, she had other interests now, her life had grown by leaps and bounds around her. Her charity work, the time she spent with Eric, their many interests, their trips, and her two grandsons filled her days.
As she stood in the dining room, she turned as she heard Eric walk into the living room, and for an instant, he stood in the doorway of the dining room, smiling at her, as their eyes met. The bond between them was evident, the solidity of their marriage rare.
"Good evening, Mrs. Morrison . . . you look incredible." His eyes said it even before his words did. It was always easy to see, and to know, how much he loved her. He had a handsome, boyish face, strong features, a cleft chin, eyes the same bright blue as her own, and his hair had drifted effortlessly from sandy blond to gray. He looked particularly handsome in his dinner jacket, he was trim, and in good shape, with the same narrow waist and broad shoulders he had had when they got married. He rode a bike in the park on Sunday afternoons, and played tennis whenever he wasn't on call on the weekend. And he either played squash or swam, no matter how tired he was, every night when he finished at the office. The two of them looked like an ad for healthy, attractive middle-aged people. "Happy New Year, sweetheart," he added as he walked over, put an arm around her, and kissed her. "What time are they coming?" "They" referred to the two couples who were their favorite companions and best friends.
"At eight," she said, as she checked the champagne cooling in a silver bucket, and he poured himself a martini. "Or at least Robert and Anne will. Pascale and John should be here sometime before midnight." He laughed as he dropped an extra olive in his glass and glanced at Diana.
Eric and John Donnally had gone to Harvard together, and been friends ever since. They were as different as night and day. Eric was tall and lean, easygoing, open, and generous of spirit. He loved women, and as he did every day in his practice, he could spend hours talking to them. John was stocky, powerful, irascible, ornery, argued constantly with his wife, and pretended to have a roving eye, although no one had ever actually seen him do anything about it. And in truth, John loved his wife, although he would rather have died than admit it publicly, even among his closest friends. Listening to him and Pascale talk was like hearing a series of rapid-fire explosions. She was as volatile as he was, and eight years younger than Diana. Pascale was French and had been dancing with the New York City Ballet when John met her. She was twenty-two years old when they met, and twenty-five years later, she was as tiny and graceful as she had been then, with big green eyes, dark brown hair, and an incredible figure. She had been teaching ballet for the past ten years, in her spare time. There were only two obvious things that were similar about Pascale and John--neither one was ever punctual--and both had difficult dispositions, and loved to argue, for hours on end. They had turned the art of bickering into an olympic sport.
The last of Eric and Diana's guests for New Year's Eve were Robert and Anne Smith. They had met the Morrisons thirty years before when Eric delivered Anne's first baby, and their friendship with the Morrisons was born at the same time. Anne and Robert were both attorneys. She was still practicing, at sixty-one, and Robert had become a superior court judge. At sixty-three, he had the appropriately solemn looks that went with his position. But his sometimes dour demeanor was a mask for a kind and gentle heart. He loved his wife, his children, and his friends. He was tall and good looking, and deeply devoted to Anne, and their three children. Eric had delivered all three, and had become one of Anne's favorite friends.
Robert and Anne had married in law school, and had been together for thirty-eight years. They were the elder statesmen of the group, seemed the most staid, mostly because of their jobs. But they were warm and lively among friends, and had their own style, as the others did as well. They weren't as colorful or as excitable as Pascale and John, or as youthful and stylish in their looks as Eric and Diana. Robert and Anne looked their age, but were young at heart. The six friends were deeply attached to each other, and always had a good time together. They saw a lot of each other, more so than other friends.
They had dinner once or twice a month, and had shared their joys and hopes and disappointments over the years, their concerns about their children, and even Pascale's deep grief when she was never able to have children. She had wanted them desperately once she retired from the ballet, but it had never worked out for her, and even the fertility specialists Eric sent her to had been unable to do anything for them. Half a dozen attempts at in vitro, and even donor eggs, had been fruitless. And John had stubbornly refused to even consider adopting. He didn't want "someone else's juvenile delinquent," he wanted his own, or none at all. So at forty-seven and sixty, they were childless, and had only each other to rail at, which they both did often, on a variety of subjects, most of the time much to the amusement of the others, who were accustomed to the heated arguments Pascale and John made no attempt to hide and seemed to enjoy.
The three couples had chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean together once, and rented a house in Long Island several times. They had gone to Europe together more than once, and always enjoyed their joint travels. Despite their very different styles, they were totally compatible, and the best of friends. They not only tolerated each other's foibles, but understood each other in important ways. They had shared a lot of history with each other over time.
It was fitting that they spend New Year's Eve together. And for the past two decades, it had been a tradition that all three couples cherished, and counted on every year. They rotated houses from year to year, going to Robert and Anne's for quiet, early evenings some years, which ended just after the stroke of midnight, or to John and Pascale's, for disorganized, hastily thrown together, but delicious dinners, and the champagne and wines John and Pascale argued about and collected. She preferred French wines, and he opted for California. But everyone's favorite locale for New Year's Eve was Eric and Diana's. Their home was comfortable and elegant, the cook Diana used for evenings like these was excellent and capable, and never intruded, the food was good, the wines were great, and in their impeccably decorated apartment, everyone felt they had to look their best and be on their best behavior. Even Pascale and John made an effort to behave when they came there, although they didn't always succeed, and some minor argument would erupt about the name of a wine neither of them could remember, or a trip they wanted to take. John loved Africa, and Pascale the South of France, and often John would make inflammatory comments about Pascale's mother, whom he hated. He pretended to hate France, the French, and everything about them, including and most especially his mother-in-law, and Pascale would cheerfully reciprocate, with acerbic comments about his mother in Boston. But despite their quirks and vagaries, there was no doubt about the fact that the six friends were far more than fond of each other. Theirs was a deep bond of affection, which had withstood the test of time, and no matter how often or seldom it was, they looked forward to seeing each other. And best of all, whenever they were together, all six of them had a good time.
The doorbell rang at exactly seven-fifty-nine, and neither Eric nor Diana was surprised when she opened the door, and found Anne in a high-necked black evening gown with discreet pearl earrings, her gray hair combed into a bun, and Robert in a tuxedo, with perfectly groomed snow-white hair, standing on the doorstep, smiling at them.
"Good evening," Robert said with a twinkle in his eye as he bent from his considerable height to kiss Diana, and the foursome wished each other a happy New Year. "Are we late?" Robert asked, looking concerned. Robert was punctual to a fault, as was Anne. "The traffic was awful." They lived in the East Eighties, whereas Pascale and John had to come from their apartment near Lincoln Center, on the West Side. But God only knew when they would get there. And to complicate matters further, it had started snowing, which would make it hard to find a cab.
Anne took off her wrap, and smiled at Diana. Although she was only six years older than Diana, Anne looked like her mother. She had warm brown eyes, and wore her silvery-gray hair in a bun. She was a pretty woman, but had never concentrated on her looks. She wore almost no makeup, and had exquisite creamy skin. She preferred to spend her time on art, theater, obscure books, and music, when she wasn't busy with her family practice law firm. She was an advocate for children's rights, and had spent huge amounts of time in recent years, helping to set up programs for abused women. It was a labor of love for which she had received numerous awards. She and Robert shared their passion for the law, the plight of children and the abused, and both were well known for espousing liberal causes. Anne had thought long and hard about going into politics years before, and had been encouraged to do so, but had decided against it, for the sake of her husband and children. She preferred private to public life, and had no desire for the attention it would have focused on her. In spite of her considerable professional abilities, she was an admirably unassuming person, to the point of being humble, and Robert was proud of her. He was one of her most vocal fans.
As Anne sat down in the living room, Eric sat down next to her on the couch and put an arm around her. "So where have you been for the past two weeks? I feel like we haven't seen you in ages." Robert and Anne had spent the holidays in Vermont, as they always did, with their children and grandchildren. They had two married sons, and a single daughter, who had only recently finished law school. But no matter where Anne and Robert were, or what they did, they always came back to spend New Year's Eve with their friends. They had missed only one year, when Anne's father had died and she had to go to Chicago, to be with her mother. But other than that, this was a sacred engagement every year, for all six of them.
"We were in Sugarbush, changing diapers and looking for lost mittens," Anne explained to Eric with a smile. She had a kind face, and laughing eyes. They had five grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law whom Diana had always sensed Anne didn't like, although she would never have said it out loud. Neither of her daughters-in-law worked, and Anne didn't approve of the extent to which her sons indulged them. She thought women should work too. She always had. And in the privacy of their own home, Anne had said to Robert repeatedly that she thought their daughters-in-law were spoiled.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted April 10, 2010
As a fan of Danielle Steel's is is tough to write a review others won't think has no merit. Steel just tells a good story. To that end, she has no need to use complicated words or long metaphoric sentences to convey human feeling. She tells it like it is and in "Sunset" she writes a great little story of three couples - friends who come together at a house in St. Tropez to heal old wounds and find new happiness. Predictable and ends with hope, but that is the kind of book we want to read sometimes. And what others term as repetitiveness is really just the realism of life. We often say and do things repeatedly and it keeps the story firm. Her longer books have more character depth, but the story was simple and told simply. A wonderful afternoon or beach read.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2010
My mom has read many of Danielle Steel's books (she is her favorite author). I got bored one day and noticed this book on the shelf. This is one of Steel's shorter books. I've always wanted to read a novel by her, and I'm glad I read this one. Although I am only sixteen years old, and this novel is about three couples is their 60s, this story was still an absolute page turner. I did a lot of critical lens essays on this novel, too, because each couple overcame different hardships, so it fit into many essay categories. Even though it's an adult novel, Steel's writing can be easily understood by many young people. In addition, this book was quite entertaining too! I didn't expect the maid to dress in high red stiletto's and wear a bikini. I'm sure I will be reading more by her soon in the future.
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Posted August 8, 2014
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Posted February 26, 2013
simple, sweet and quick read. friends for a life time coming together to find comfort from each other in the magic of St. Tropez!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2012
Posted January 11, 2012
Posted December 8, 2006
This was a really great book. it had lots of happiness and sadness in it. The ending was really great, I think that was my favorite part of all. I have published my own book so if anyone reads this and wants to buy it it is on this site, you can search by my name. Avanti ScrivenWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2005
Posted July 12, 2004
Posted September 17, 2003
I cannot believe someone gave this trite, worthless book - five stars. Thank God I did not purchase it or I would be kicking myself. It saddens me that such trash sells so readily...maybe it is just one more sample of 'dumbing down America'...this book is awful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2003
I usually enjoy DS but this was the pits. Not only was it too short to give any depth to the couples envolved, it seemed every other word was 'and'. I'm sorry, but I would not reccommend this book to anyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 5, 2003
This was one of the worst books I've read in quite a while. It was repetitive, boring, and simplistic. Steele kept using the same descriptive phrases about the characters within paragraphs of each other. It almost seemed that she couldn't trust the reader to remember anything. A huge disappointment.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2002
I read this book thinking that it would be as stellar as some of DS's others. I did not find the plot as enticing or the outcomes as meaningful. I recommend any of her other books I have read, but this one was not my favorite.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2002
I liked the story line and the characters, but I think this book was just too short. It could have and should have been longer. It's almost like she was in a hurry to finish it! The ending left you wondering and wanting more...as in, she should've added at least another couple chapters to let us know how the couples fared after leaving St. Tropez.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 3, 2002
Posted August 13, 2002
This is one of the best from Danielle Steele I have read in a long time. I was captivated from start to finish which was read in one day! Her characters are a refreshing change from the usual heroines, sex and new love that she normally writes about. I was genuinely pleased there was only two curse words in the whole book. The fact that it was based on older couples and lifelong friends was a delightful change.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2002