Moral Compass

Moral Compass

by Danielle Steel

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • At an elite private school in Massachusetts, a wide circle of lives will be forever changed by a devastating series of events in Danielle Steel’s riveting new novel.

Saint Ambrose Prep is a place where the wealthy send their children for the best possible education, with teachers and administrators from the Ivy League, and graduates who become future lawyers, politicians, filmmakers, and CEOs. Traditionally a boys-only school, Saint Ambrose has just enrolled one hundred and forty female students for the first time. Even though most of the kids on the campus have all the privilege in the world, some are struggling, wounded by their parents’ bitter divorces, dealing with insecurity and loneliness. In such a heightened environment, even the smallest spark can become a raging fire.

One day after the school’s annual Halloween event, a student lies in the hospital, her system poisoned by dangerous levels of alcohol. Everyone in this sheltered community—parents, teachers, students, police, and the media—are left trying to figure out what actually happened. Only the handful of students who were there when she was attacked truly know the answers and they have vowed to keep one another’s secrets. As details from the evening emerge, powerful families are forced to hire attorneys and less powerful families watch helplessly. Parents’ marriages are jeopardized, and students’ futures are impacted. No one at Saint Ambrose can escape the fallout of a life-altering event.

In this compelling novel, Danielle Steel illuminates the dark side of one drunken night, with its tragic consequences, from every possible point of view. As the drama unfolds, the characters will reach a crossroads where they must choose between truth and lies, between what is easy and what is right, and find the moral compass they will need for the rest of their lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399179532
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 413
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors, with almost a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Spy, Child’s Play, The Dark Side, Lost and Found, Blessing in Disguise, Silent Night, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children’s books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

Hometown:

San Francisco, California

Date of Birth:

August 14, 1947

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

Educated in France. Also attended Parsons School of Design, 1963, and New York University, 1963-67

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It was the day after Labor Day, one of those perfect, golden September mornings in Massachusetts, as the students of Saint Ambrose Preparatory School began to arrive. The school was over a hundred and twenty years old, and its imposing stone buildings looked as distinguished as the colleges where most of the students would be accepted once they graduated. Many illustrious men had attended Saint Ambrose and gone on to make their marks on the world.

It was a historic day for Saint Ambrose. After ten years of heated debate, and two years of preparation, a hundred and forty female students were about to arrive and join the eight hundred male students. It was part of a three-­year program that would ultimately add four hundred young women to the student body, bringing it to a total of twelve hundred students. This first year, they had accepted sixty female freshmen, forty sophomores, thirty-­two juniors, and eight seniors, who had either recently moved to the East Coast, or had some valid reason to want to change schools as a senior and not graduate with the class they’d gone through high school with until then. Each of the female applicants had been carefully vetted to make sure she was up to the standards, morally and academically, of Saint Ambrose.

Two dorms had been built to accommodate the new female students. A third would be finished within a year, with a fourth scheduled to be built the year after that. So far, all the new additions and changes had gone smoothly. There had been lengthy seminars for the past year to assist the existing faculty with the transition from teaching at an all-­male school to co-­ed classes. Its advocates had insisted that it would improve the academic standing of the school, as girls tended to be more dedicated to their studies at the same age, and settled down to academics earlier. Others said it would make the students better rounded, learning to live and work, collaborate, cooperate, and compete with members of the opposite sex, which was after all more representative of the “real world” they would be entering in college and thereafter.

The school’s enrollment had diminished slightly in recent years, with most of their competitors having already gone co-­ed, which most students preferred. They couldn’t stay current and compete if they didn’t go co-­ed. But the battle had been hard won, and the headmaster, Taylor Houghton IV, was one of the last to be convinced of its benefits. He could see endless complications as a result, including student romances, which they didn’t have to deal with as an all-­male school. Lawrence Gray, head of the English department, had asked if they would be renaming the school Saint Sodom and Gomorrah. After thirty-­seven years at Saint Ambrose, he had been the most vehement voice against the change. Traditional, conservative, and privately a bitter person, his objections were eventually overruled by those who wanted the school to keep up with the times, no matter how challenging. Larry Gray’s sour attitude stemmed from the fact that ten years into his tenure at Saint Ambrose, his wife had left him for the father of a tenth-­grade boy. He had never fully recovered, and never remarried. He had stayed for another twenty-­seven years since, but was an unhappy person though an excellent teacher. He wrung the best academic performance possible out of each of the boys, and sent them off to college well prepared to shine at the university of their choice.

Taylor Houghton was fond of Larry, affectionately calling him their resident curmudgeon, and was fully prepared for Larry’s grousing throughout the coming year. Larry’s resistant attitude toward modernizing the school had resulted in his being passed over as assistant headmaster for many years. He was two years away from retirement, and continued to be vocal about his objections to the incoming female students.

When the previous assistant headmaster retired, faced with such a major change at the school, the board had conducted a two-­year search, and was jubilant when they succeeded in wooing a brilliant young African American woman, assistant headmaster of a rival prep school. Harvard educated Nicole Smith was excited to come to Saint Ambrose at a time of transition. Her father was the dean of a respected, small university, and her mother was a poet laureate teaching at Princeton. Nicole had the academic life in her blood. At thirty-­six, she was full of energy and enthusiasm. Taylor Houghton, the faculty, and the board were thrilled that she was joining them, and even Larry Gray had few objections to her, and liked her. He no longer aspired to be assistant headmaster himself. All he wanted was to retire, and said he could hardly wait.

Shepard Watts, as head of the board, had been one of the most ardent supporters of the plan to go co-­ed. He readily admitted it was not without ulterior motive. His thirteen-­year-­old twin daughters would be coming in as freshmen in a year, followed by his eleven-­year-­old son in three years. He wanted his daughters to have the same opportunity for a first-­rate education at Saint Ambrose as his sons. The twins had already filled out applications and been accepted, contingent on their performing well in eighth grade. No one had any doubt about that, given their academic records to date. Jamie Watts, Shepard’s oldest son, was one of their star students, and would be a senior this year. His scholastic achievements were notable, as was his success as an athlete. He was an all­around great kid and everybody loved him.

Shepard was an investment banker in New York, and his wife, Ellen, was a full-­time hands-­on mother, and head of the parents’ association. She had worked for Shepard as a summer intern twenty years before, and married him a year later. Taylor and his wife, Charity, were extremely fond of them, and considered them good friends.

Taylor and Charity had one daughter. She was married, a pediatrician, and lived in Chicago. Charity taught history and Latin at the school, and was excited that she’d be teaching girls this year. From a staunch New England family, she was perfectly suited to the life of being married to the headmaster of a venerable prep school. She was proud of Taylor and his position. He was ten years away from retirement and loved the school. Despite its size, there was a family feeling to it, and Charity made a point of knowing as many of the students and parents as she could. Like other members of the faculty, she served as counselor to a group of students, whom she followed for all four years. She would be working on college applications with her senior counselees almost as soon as they started school, writing recommendations for them, and advising them on their essays. Most of the students of Saint Ambrose applied to Ivy League colleges, and an impressive number of their applicants were accepted every year.

Taylor and Nicole Smith were standing on the steps of the administration building, watching students arrive, when Shepard Watts and his son Jamie drove in. Shep left Jamie to find his friends, and came up the steps to greet Taylor and Nicole. She looked bright-­eyed and excited as she watched the procession of SUVs file in and go to designated parking areas for each class of students.

“How’s it going?” Shepard smiled at the assistant headmaster.

“It’s looking good,” she said, smiling broadly. “They started arriving at 9:01.” The parking lots were almost full as Shepard glanced at Taylor.

“Where’s Larry?” He was usually on hand to observe the arrival of the students.

“They’re giving him oxygen in my office,” Taylor said, and all three of them laughed. Taylor was tall and athletic looking, with salt and pepper hair and lively brown eyes. He had gone to Princeton, like all his male relatives before him. Charity had gone to Wellesley. Shepard was a Yalie, a handsome man, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, and was their most effective fundraiser. He simply would not take no for an answer, and brought in an astonishing amount of money from current parents and alumni, and he was a generous donor as well. Despite the demands of his business, he was a devoted father. For the past three years, he had amply demonstrated his dedication to the school.

The three stood on the steps, watching the SUVs arrive and go to the parking lots where they could unload bicycles, computers, and as many of the comforts of home as the students were allowed to bring. There were long tables manned by teachers, who were handing out dorm assignments. As always, there was a mild degree of confusion, as parents wrestled with duffel bags and trunks, boxes and computers, while returning students went to look for their friends and find out what dorm they would be in. All the information had been sent to them digitally a month before, but the dorm assignments and schedule for the day were being handed out again for those who hadn’t brought the papers with them. Freshmen were assigned to suites with four to six students, seniors were in singles or doubles, and sophomores and juniors were in rooms set up for three or four students. The female dorms followed the same system. There would be a female teacher in each dorm to help anyone who was sick or had a problem, and to see that everyone behaved and followed the rules.

Customer Reviews

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Moral Compass: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
LN59 15 days ago
This book was okay. All the characters were described in the first few pages, and personally, I had to keep going back to see who was who. A bit confusing. I think I expected more of a punch than this story delivered. Not her best, but not her worst.
Karrie Walker 6 days ago
Loved how the story flowed. Did not like the ending at all. That part of the story could have been left out.
Lg Yton 11 days ago
highly topical, powerful and thought provoking. Good job, Danielle!
Svara 17 days ago
Where does your moral compass lie? This is a story of choices...right and wrong. Saving yourself or saving the wronged one and giving them their life back? This was an incredible read with a great life lesson. One of Ms Steel's best!
the_judylwd 17 days ago
Danielle Steel did it again with Moral Compass. This book was wonderfully written. She takes a subject that is unfortunately way too common and handles it with dignity and grace. She also didn't allow the victim to be shamed by other characters. A couple tried, but they were quickly shot down by the headmaster and others. I am a Danielle Steel fan for life and as long as she writes, I will read. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Ballantine for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
Kristi_thebookfaery 17 days ago
First Sentence: It was the day after Labor Day, one of those perfect, golden September mornings in Massachusetts, as the students of Saint Ambrose Preparatory School began to arrive. Saint Ambrose Prep is the place where the wealthy and elite send their children for a top-notch education. Traditionally an all-boys school, they’ve recently admitted in females which is a point of contention among much of the faculty. When one of the female students is sexually assaulted while inebriated, it becomes a social and legal issue that will divide friends and family before the truth is revealed. Ms. Steel delves into a topic that has been all to common place in the media as of late. A topic that leaves many people divided and often leaves the victim in a place of blame and the very subject itself one of moral ambiguity. While I felt that what the character went through in relationship to an actual demoralizing and traumatic sexual assault was a bit diminished, I do understand that for the purpose of this book and its readers, it was necessary to minimize the details. With that being said, the characters were interesting and well-developed and the story flowed well. Moral Compass is a chronicle for the times and brings awareness to the issue of underage drinking and sexual assault and will hopefully help eliminate the stigma and traumatic impact of sexual violence and assault regardless of whether the victim was drinking or not. A big thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for allowing me to read and review this title.
Amy Bragg 3 days ago
I enjoyed this book and thought Danielle Steele wrote a good tale about a difficult subject.
Michelle Lindert 4 days ago
Danielle Steele is a well known author. She has written many number one best sellers. i have to honestly say i haven't read her books in a while until now. This book may be triggering for others because it talks about raper, abuse, and drinking alcohol. It also talks about surviving it all and learning how to forgive and how to learn to speak up when it is really important I didn't see any errors in the typing which is good. i do have to say everyone should read this book and it will bring out a lot of emotions but i don't think you will be disappointed.
KrisAnderson_TAR 4 days ago
Moral Compass by Danielle Steel is different from the authors other novels. It delves into the serious topic of teenage drinking and a female being assaulted. Saint Ambrose Preparatory School is admitting female students for the first time in its history. Taylor Houghton IV, the headmaster, knows that his career is on the line so this venture must be a success. There are no problems until Halloween arrives and some students decide to bring out alcohol they have sneaked onto campus. Campus security receive a late night anonymous call that has them finding a female student unconscious. She must have her stomach pumped from the vast quantities of alcohol consumed and a SAFE exam performed. The book follows the investigation along with the trial and its outcome. We see the consequences of making the decision to overindulge in alcohol and how it affects others. I thought the story was well-written and it proceeded at a steady pace. I like how the author dealt with the such terrible and relevant topic of violence against a young woman. Moral Compass is a timely novel (what people call “ripped from the headlines”) that hopefully will allow people to see that the victim should not be blamed when they are assaulted. The victim is not on trial nor should they be. Moral Compass allows readers to see this sensitive issue dealt with from various points-of-view. Moral Compass is a compelling story whose title truly fits.
Mary Milazzo 6 days ago
Could+not+put+it+down%21
trollman 10 days ago
Danielle Steel 's novel Moral Compass deals with lines of integrity and how different individuals define and integrate their moral compass. Set at an exclusive boarding school, the reader is introduced to the characters on the first day of school through the eyes of the faculty and staff of the school. The all boys boarding school is now co-ed! The staff are excited to see returning students and new students arrive. As the semester is underway, they slowly fall into a rhythm as the novelty of girls being at the school fades. One night after their Halloween party, some of the kids start drinking and invite a girl to join them as she happens to walk by. Things go far, way too far and soon, all the students in this small group are way too drunk. I like the way Danielle Steel handled the victim and why she would not talk. The victim's journey in Moral Compass is as important as the journey that the student who attacked this young lady and his accomplishes undertake on their way to exploring integrity. I also like how the accomplices are shown with honesty about their characters and why they are not speaking up about what happened. Thank you to NetGalley, Danielle Steel, and Random House Publishing Group for an advanced digital review copy for me to read and enjoy. As always, my opinions are my own. Spoiler Alert: triggers: rape/assault
Teri1957 12 days ago
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I don't know anything about prep schools but if they are anything like this one......WOW! Review blurb from description:"In this compelling novel, Danielle Steel illuminates the dark side of one drunken night, with its tragic consequences, from every possible point of view. As the drama unfolds, the characters will reach a crossroads where they must choose between truth and lies, between what is easy and what is right, and find the moral compass they will need for the rest of their lives. " I could not have said it better!!! Enjoy!
Anonymous 13 days ago
I received an ARC of Moral Compass by Danielle Steel. I used to read everything Danielle Steel wrote, but she was writing so many books, that I felt it was keeping me from reading other books. This was a book similar to most books she has written, in that it was about super rich people, in this case, high school students. The story involves this group of students making a bad decision one night. The consequences of this decision is shown from several perspectives in the book. It's a good story that parents worry about a lot, kids, not so much. If you are like me and haven't read Danielle Steel for awhile, this one is definitely worth reading.
Anonymous 13 days ago
I received an ARC of Moral Compass by Danielle Steel. I used to read everything Danielle Steel wrote, but she was writing so many books, that I felt it was keeping me from reading other books. This was a book similar to most books she has written, in that it was about super rich people, in this case, high school students. The story involves this group of students making a bad decision one night. The consequences of this decision is shown from several perspectives in the book. It's a good story that parents worry about a lot, kids, not so much. If you are like me and haven't read Danielle Steel for awhile, this one is definitely worth reading.
Anonymous 13 days ago
I received an ARC of Moral Compass by Danielle Steel. I used to read everything Danielle Steel wrote, but she was writing so many books, that I felt it was keeping me from reading other books. This was a book similar to most books she has written, in that it was about super rich people, in this case, high school students. The story involves this group of students making a bad decision one night. The consequences of this decision is shown from several perspectives in the book. It's a good story that parents worry about a lot, kids, not so much. If you are like me and haven't read Danielle Steel for awhile, this one is definitely worth reading.
LoriKB 13 days ago
3.5 stars rounded up to 4. For me, this book was slightly different from DS’s usual books. She tackled a difficult subject of underage drinking and rape at an exclusive private school gingerly from introducing a large cast of characters, to the incident thru the investigation and sentencing. So many kids and parents to remember, in addition to school administration and teachers, detectives and lawyers. Interesting dynamics on how the parents handled the incident, and I thought one in particular could have been explored more, and one completely glossed over. Of course in typical DS fashion, the ending is tied up nicely and not really in line with the main story, more of the secondary players. This is a fast-paced read that will hold your attention, but might frustrate you also. I felt the sympathies in the book leaned to one side. But, with that said, there is a lot to discuss and more to think about. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Press/Ballantine for this ARC. Opinion is mine alone.
Doreena Silva 13 days ago
Thank you to Netgalley, Danielle Steel and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I'm a fan of Danielle Steel so I read all of her books. I really enjoyed this one and found it to be not only timely but it could definitely be a "ripped from the headlines" type of read. The title "Moral Compass" totally tied in to the book, it's characters and subject. Well done Danielle!
sbart84 13 days ago
A riveting story that I had a hard time putting down. How one night that starts out of innocence of fun will change of the lives of seven teenagers. An elite prep school has accepted females for the first time under much controversy and now a night of drinking that ends up with a rape of a fellow student. I must say I was a little confused in the beginning with so many characters and had to go back to see who was who, but was still engrossed with the story. This is a delicate topic that was well written. I highly recommend this book.
DebbieLTD 15 days ago
AMAZING! What a page turner! A boarding school in Boston for mostly privileged students has finally gone co-ed, and everyone is adjusting to the differences with having both girls and boys on campus. On Halloween night, 6 boys decide to stay out after curfew and drink from a bottle of tequila one of the boys smuggled in. As the night goes on the boys become completely inebriated, when along comes a female student, who happens to be friends with a few of the boys. One thing leads to another, and by the end of the night all the kids are drunk, she has been raped and passed out from alcohol poisoning, and sadly left alone in the woods. The boys work hard to cover for their friend who raped her, but the evidence is stacked against them, and their consciences get the best of them. This is a story about love, friendship, mistakes, knowing right from wrong, and forgiveness. Did not want to put it down. An amazing, emotional story told as only Danielle Steel can.
MJK108 16 days ago
Danielle Steel’s latest novel takes on a dark subject revealing the wide spread consequences of underage drinking and its effects. St Ambrose Preparatory School, an elite boarding school that prepares students to attend Ivy League universities, becomes a coed facility after generations as a male only institution. With the influx of female students, the dynamic among students and staff changes radically. Seven young people find their lives altered dramatically as a result of one night of illegal drinking and the heartless rape that transpired as a result of their poor choices made under the influence of alcohol. Vivienne Walker’s life will never be the same as she struggles with taking the blame for a situation that was out of her control. As with many victims, the emotional impact of the rape is traumatic and lingering. As the police gradually expose the truth, six young male students will find their lives and those of everyone around them altered as a result of the wide reaching consequences of their decisions. As some of them struggle with the ability to live with their conscience, they must make difficult choices and accept the role they played that night. This is an excellent story to help bring public awareness of a very real problem in this country, underage drinking and its consequences. The novel also emphasizes the difficulty people, both adults and young people, have distinguishing right from wrong. The story is relevant and emotionally charged. A good solid read with a realistic ending! This ARC copy was received from Delacorte Press and Netgalley.com. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own. #MoralCompass #NetGalley
MKF 17 days ago
Steel fans will appreciate her take on the topical issues of teenage binge drinking, sexual assault, and hidden lives- and on how parents and teachers react when things go tragically wrong. This doesn't plow any new ground on any of the themes but it's worth a read. Some of the students are more sympathetic than others but so many bad decisions! Thanks to Netgalley for the Arc. A quick read that asks you to think more than one generally expects from Steel.
Anonymous 17 days ago
As her longtime fans of her, this is a VERY different writing style of her, and it was fabuolous, modern, and as her trademarks...everyone move along to their new journey and live happily. The story brings us about how people make small mistakes and leads them to the big one and changed their lives forever. A nowadays issue about “rape” and how the victim have to deal with it, denial, protecting the loved ones, honesty, and how you decide an important decision for the sake of your life and everyone’s...all is happening in this book. All characters are related with each other, all handling important rules, even I noticed a soft or slightly suspense dialogues between some characters, which is very rare for her books. And I do like this sentece : “the world needs good, honest men with a strong moral compass, not weak, dishonest ones without integrity”, one of the important point of view not just for men but also for everyone. All in all, it’s a good book, easy read, and touching. Thank you Danielle Steel for another amazing story in this novel! Thank you Danielle Steel for another great story from you.
boclairedesigns 17 days ago
Danielle Steel hit it out of the ball park with this one. It was so different from recent novels she's written and is a fantastic read! The title says it all. After a drinking party at Halloween in the woods at an elite prep school, a young girl is in the hospital with alcohol poisoning and suffering from a sexual assault. The 6 young men in involved band together and protect the rapist while the victim refuses to cooperate. It's a story of how different people have a moral compass that guides their actions to do what's fair and right in the end and face consequences, regardless of the results. Run, don't walk to read this book. It was one of the best I've read in a long time . I couldn't out it down once I started reading it. Kudos to Ms Steel! I received a free ARC eBook from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions.
baj1963 17 days ago
Wonderful book! I love all Danielle’s books. She makes her books suspenseful and also intriguing. This book was about a crime that happened on a campus that was at a school and it really made me wonder how many of these crimes happen but are ignored. It was a true eye opener. I would recommend this!
Anonymous 17 days ago
Thanks to netgalley, Danielle Steele and to Random House publishing for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review. I always enjoy a Danielle Steele book and this was no exception. Very timely subject matter. Lots characters in the story so it took some time to keep them straight. Liked how it all played out in the end