As one of the most prolific of bestselling novelists, it isn't really surprising to learn that The House on Hope Street is Danielle Steel's 49th novel. Her range has always been wide: although her speciality is the romantic novel, she has also tackled such themes as the legacy of the Vietnam War. This short but powerful book is among her most direct and affecting, a story of strength in the face of adversity and a celebration of the best aspects of family life, without ever being cloying.
Liz and Jack Sutherland have enjoyed a highly comfortable marriage. For 18 years, their successful law practice and happy family home near San Francisco (the eponymous House on Hope Street) have been a source of comfort and pleasure to both of them. But all of this is destroyed one Christmas morning, when a five-minute errand results in tragedy: Jack is dead, and Liz is alone, afraid that she will not be able to cope with the overwhelming sense of loss. Her main problem is her five children (one with special needs), and how she will help them come to terms with the tragedy. But Liz begins to find strength in the children and, after she has returned to work, she meets the beguiling Bill Webster. This new affair begins to transform her life (along with her relationship with her damaged son) but with another Christmas morning approaching, Liz is forced to face another crisis.
As in such books as Irresistible Forces, The Long Road Home and Special Delivery, Steel delivers the goods in detailing the emotional lives of her characters and their capacity to deal with dramatic, life-changing incidents. Liz is sympathetically characterised and her relationship with Bill Webster is handled economically but truthfully. Steel also has the skill to keep the reader turning the pages:
Phil lowered the gun slowly down from his aim at Jack's forehead, and Jack realised that he was slowly winning. Phil was wavering, and in a minute Jack was going to make his move and take the gun. He never took his eyes from Phil's and continued to advance slowly towards him... --Barry Forshaw