Manhattan heiress, wrongfully shunned as an adulteress, becomes a medic in the Great War, then a Paris physician, confounding all her detractors, in this cliché-riddled, exposition-bound umpteenth from Steel (Rogue, 2008, etc.).
Annabelle Worthington, born to a prominent banking family, enjoys an idyllic childhood, until the fateful night when her father and brother go down with the Titanic. Annabelle’s mother, Consuelo, worries that the yearlong mourning period might scuttle 19-year-old Annabelle’s marriage chances. So Consuelo and confirmed bachelor Josiah, age 38, agree that he will marry Annabelle. After a lavish wedding at the Worthington’s Newport estate, Annabelle, who’s fond of Josiah, doesn’t question his wedding night reluctance to consummate their marriage. But when abstinence drags on for two years, amid Consuelo’s anxious queries about grandchildren, Josiah admits that he’s homosexual. When the divorce, citing trumped-up charges of adultery, hits the tabloids, her New York friends, including the miserably married Hortie, ostracize Annabelle. Her mother has died, and now Annabelle, sole heir to her family fortune, can pursue her lifelong interest in medicine. She heads for France to aid the war effort in a field hospital, and after beginning medical school in Nice as the only female student, serves as a medic and ambulance driver. Raped by a drunken British officer, viscount Winshire, she’s horrified to find herself pregnant. The viscount is killed, and Annabelle gives birth to a beautiful daughter, whom she names Consuelo. At war’s end, Annabelle opens a practice in Paris. Smitten, handsome surgeon Antoine welcomes her and Consuelo II to his family, then viciously turns on Annabelle when she reveals her past. But Lady Winshire, the rapist’s mother, is enthralled with her grandchild, whom she legitimizes. She urges Annabelle to ignore the scandalmongers. Now fortified by two family fortunes, mother and daughter head back to New York to reclaim their place in society.
After a slow-moving start, the action accelerates during the war sections, but Steel’s tin ear and simplistic prose, even more than the predictable plot, make for a leaden tale.