Even faithful fans will need a wake-up call during Steel's latest, which is the stertorous and decidedly unglittery story of a ""spinster"" who falls in love and sees the world. After their wandering parents are lost at sea off Bora-Bora during the Roaring Twenties, Audrey Driscoll and her younger sister Annabelle are raised in San Francisco by their strict and extremely rich Grandfather Edward. Annabelle grows up beautiful but shallow and bitchy, while dutiful Audrey runs the mansion and takes care of Gramps, all the time dreaming of faraway places. When Annabelle finally gets hitched, Audrey sees her chance and cons Edward into giving her a short European tour, during the course of which she meets Lord James and Lady Violet Hawthorne, who invite her to summer with them on Cap d' Antibes, where she just misses Hemingway (but meets the Murphys) and ends up head over heels in love with dashing British/American travel-writer Charles Parker-Scott. The besotted duo hop the Orient Express to begin a 5,000-mile journey that has all the glamour of your grandmother's vacation slides of Niagara Falls (Tibet: ""One felt closer to God here""; China and the Great Wall: ""It is surely the most impressive thing ever built by man""). Through a complication contrived even for this genre, Audrey ends up in Manchuria taking care of abandoned orphans threatened by the Japanese, while Charles (who doesn't approve) huffily heads back to England to publish his book. Grabbing a cute pagan baby as a kind of souvenir, Audrey finally returns to San Francisco but refuses to marry Charles when he joins her there because she still has to take care of Grandpa Edward. When Edward dies, Audrey races to Europe to claim Chuck, only to find that he's been trapped into marriage by Charlotte Beardsley, the hard-nosed, grasping daughter of his publisher. It turns out Charlotte isn't really pregnant (and is also a lesbian), so Charles dumps her and he and Audrey head off to London to live in sin and work as a journalist/spy team during WW II. Charlotte won't agree to a divorce; Charles gives her an ultimatum: either let him go or he'll spread news of her sexual preference all over town. Charlotte is crashed and is even more so when Steel has the Luftwaffe drop a 1,000-pound bomb on her, thus clearing the way for wedding bells and happily ever after. Many are called but few are chosen to be Romance Queen; if Steel keeps sleepwalking, she may awaken one morning to the hoofbeats of the thundering herd.