The Mistress by Danielle Steel
Natasha Leonova’s job is to keep Vladimir Stanislas happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. She knows her place and the rules. She feels fortunate to be spoiled and protected and is careful not to dwell on Vladimir’s ruthlessness or the deadly circles he moves in.
Theo Luca is the son of a brilliant, world-famous, and difficult artist, Lorenzo Luca, who left his wife and son with a fortune in artwork they refuse to sell. Lorenzo’s widow, Maylis, has transformed their home in St. Paul de Vence into a celebrated restaurant decorated with her late husband’s paintings and treats it as a museum. There, on a warm June evening, Theo first encounters Natasha, the most exquisite woman he has ever seen. And there, Vladimir lays eyes on Luca’s artwork. Two dangerous obsessions begin.
— Delacorte Press, 2017
The entire story is all tell. Steel does not show, inferring, or add unique voices to any of the characters. The limited stilted dialogue is nothing but a reverberation of what the narration already said, and that can’t even keep its story straight. Vladimir is supposed to be a grandmaster of business, known around the world, but he needs a referral to get a table for dinner? Vladimir never cheats on Natasha…oh except when out with business associates. Huh?!
Opportunities to create depth for the one-dimensional cast are avoided at all cost. Natasha only knows extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Where her moral compass comes from and how she so easily recovered from being kicked out of the lap of luxury is never explained. What’s a good price for an apartment? What am I going to do with my time? Should I just go back to my old life? Those conflicts are all glazed over and great opportunities for character development and growth in the face of uncertainty are lost.
Natasha’s lack of personality makes it hard to understand Theo’s infatuation with her beyond her beauty. Theo’s struggle to find romantic compatibility with a slew of other women is also not explored. Leaving you to wonder what Natasha had that his other conquests didn’t.
The Mistress is a long-winded outline for a grander novel I would love to read when the characters are fleshed out and the dialogue adds something to the story. —Borrow It