In her 37th bestselling novel, Danielle Steel tells the compelling story of a woman who must struggle to overcome a shattering betrayal, and the cruelest kind of malice.
At seventeen, the night of her mother's funeral, Grace Adams is attacked. It is not the first time, and a brutal crime ensues.
And to everyone's horror, Grace will not tell the truth. She is a young woman with secrets too horrible to tell, with hurts so deep they may never heal. She is also beautiful enough for men to want her no matter how much she does not want them. Whatever the outcome, Grace Adams will have to live with whatever happened during those terrible years. After a lifetime of being a victim, now she must pay the price for other people's sins.
From the depths of an Illinois women's prison to a Chicago modeling agency to a challenging career in New York, Grace must carry the past with her wherever she goes. And in healing her own pain, she reaches out to battered women and children who live a nightmare she knows all too well.
When Grace meets Charles Mackenzie, a New York lawyer, she has found a man who wants nothing from her-except to heal her, to hear her secrets, and to give her the family she so desperately wants. But, with happiness finally within her grasp, and precious loved ones to protect, Grace is at her most vulnerable-in danger of losing everything to a vicious tabloid press and an enemy from her past, an enemy bent on malice at all costs.
Sexual abuse in myriad forms imbues Steel's new novel with uncharacteristically dark tones. The narrative covers more than 20 painful years in the life of Grace Adams, an incest victim who, at age 17, shoots dead her abusive father. Sent to prison, Grace is rescued from a lesbian gang-rape by a pair of women who provide protection during her two-year sentence. Once released, she heads to Chicago, where she lands a job in a modeling agency, only to be sexually harassed by a series of men, including her parole officer, her boss and a wicked photographer. After her probation ends, Grace moves to New York; there, she works as secretary in a major law firm and volunteers in a shelter for abused women. Steel is careful not to let the nearly fatal beating that follows mar her heroine's good looks, or future. Grace emerges from a coma to find handsome Charles Mackenzie, her high-powered lawyer boss, at her bedside. A happy ending?which follows some satisfying vengeance on Grace's part?doesn't minimize the aura of victimization that surrounds this heroine. Only in a Danielle Steel novel would a 19-year-old ex-con show up at her first job interview in a "little Chanel knockoff" suit?but neither pseudo-high fashion nor the high-handed conclusion keep this yarn from being, ultimately, a big downer that earns its title in more ways than one.
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May 05, 1997
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Excerpt from Malice by Danielle Steel
The sounds of the organ music drifted up to the Wedgwood blue sky. Birds sang in the trees, and in the distance, a child called out to a friend on a lazy summer morning. The voices inside the church rose in powerful unison, as they sang the familiar hymns that Grace had sung with her family since childhood. But this morning, she couldn't sing anything. She could barely move, as she stood, staring straight ahead at her mother's casket.
Everyone knew Ellen Adams had been a good mother, a good wife, a respected citizen until she died. She had taught school before Grace was born, and she would have liked to have had more children, but it just hadn't happened. Her health had always been frail, and at thirty-eight she had gotten cancer. The cancer started in her uterus, and after a hysterectomy, she'd had both chemotherapy and radiation. But the cancer spread to her lungs anyway, and her lymph nodes, and eventually her bones. It had been a four-and-a-half-year battle. And now, at forty-two, she was gone.
She had died at home, and Grace had taken care of her single-handedly until the last two months when her father had finally had to hire two nurses to help her. But Grace still sat next to her bedside for hours when she came home from school.
And at night, it was Grace who went to her when she called out in pain, helped her turn, carried her to the bathroom, or gave her medication. The nurses only worked in the daytime. Her father didn't want them there at night, and everyone realized he had a hard time accepting just how sick his wife was. And now he stood in the pew next to Grace and cried like a baby.
John Adams was a handsome man. He was forty-six, and one of the best attorneys in Watseka, and surely the most loved. He had studied at the University of Illinois after serving in the Second World War, and then came home to Watseka, a hundred miles south of Chicago. It was a small, immaculately kept town, filled with profoundly decent people. And he handled all their legal needs, and listened to all their problems. He went through their divorces with them, or battles over property, bringing peace to warring members of families. He was always fair, and everyone liked him for it. He handled personal injury, and claims against the State, he wrote wills, and helped with adoptions. Other than the town's most popular medical practitioner, who was a friend of his too, John Adams was one of the most loved and respected men in Watseka.
John Adams had been the town's football star as a young man, and he had gone on to play in college. Even as a boy, people had been crazy about him. His parents had died in a car accident when he was sixteen, and his grandparents had all died years before that, and families literally argued over who was going to invite him to live with them until he finished high school. He was always such a nice guy and so helpful. In the end, he had stayed with two different families, and both of them loved him dearly.
He knew practically everyone in town by name, and there were more than a few divorcees and young widows who had had an eye on him ever since Ellen had been so sick in the last few years. But he never gave them the time of day, except to be friendly, or ask about their kids. He had never had a roving eye, which was another nice thing people always said about him.
"And Lord knows he has a right to," one of the older men who knew him well always said, "with Ellen so sick and all, you'd think he would start to look around...but not John...he's a right decent husband." He was decent and kind, and fair, and successful. The cases he handled were small, but he had an amazing number of clients. And even his law partner, Frank Wills, teased him occasionally, wanting to know why everyone asked for John, before they'd ask for Frank. He was everyone's favorite.
"What do you do, offer them free groceries for a year behind my back?" Frank always teased. He wasn't the lawyer John was, but he was a good researcher, and good with contracts, with minute attention to detail. It was Frank who went over all the contracts with a fine-tooth comb. But it was always John who got all the glory, whom they asked for when they called, whom clients had heard about from miles away in other towns. Frank was an unimpressive little man, without John's charm or good looks, but they worked well together and had known each other since college. Frank stood several rows back in the church now, feeling sorry for John, and his daughter.
John would be all right, Frank knew, he'd land on his feet, just like he always did, and although he insisted now that he wasn't interested, Frank was betting that his partner would be remarried in a year. But it was Grace who looked absolutely distraught, and shattered, as she stared straight ahead at the banks of flowers at the altar. She was a pretty girl, or she would have been, if she'd allowed herself to be. At seventeen, she was lean and tall, with graceful shoulders and long thin arms, beautiful long legs, and a tiny waist and full bust. But she always hid her figure in baggy clothes, and long loose sweaters she bought at the Salvation Army. John Adams was by no means a rich man, but he could have bought her better than that, if she'd wanted. But unlike other girls her age, Grace had no interest in clothes, or boys, and if anything, she seemed to diminish her looks, rather than enhance them. She wore no makeup at all, and she wore her long coppery auburn hair straight down her back, with long bangs that hid her big cornflower-blue eyes. She never seemed to look straight at anyone, or be inclined to engage them in conversation. Most people were surprised by how pretty she was, if they really looked at her, but if you didn't look twice, you never noticed her at all. Even today, she was wearing an old dreary black dress of her mother's. It hung like a sack on her, and she looked thirty years old, with her hair tied back in a tight bun, and her face deathly pale as she stood beside her father.
"Poor kid," Frank's secretary whispered, as Grace walked slowly back down the aisle, next to her father, behind her mother's casket. Poor John...poor Ellen...poor people. They'd been through so much.
People commented from time to time on how shy Grace was, and how uncommunicative. There had been a rumor a few years back that she might even be retarded, but anyone who had ever gone to school with her knew that that was a lie. She was brighter than most of them, she just didn't say much. She was a solitary soul, and it was only once in a while that someone in school would see her talking to someone, or laughing in a corridor, but then she would hurry away again, as though she was frightened to come out and be among them. She wasn't crazy, her classmates knew, but she wasn't friendly either. It was odd too, considering how sociable her parents were. But Grace never had been. Even as a small child, she had always been solitary, and somewhat lonely. And more than once as a child, she had had to go home from school with a bad attack of asthma.
John and Grace stood out in the noon sun for a little while, shaking hands with friends, thanking them for being there, embracing them, and more than ever, Grace looked wooden and removed as she greeted them. It was as though her body was there, but her mind and soul were elsewhere. And in her dreary too-big dress, she looked more pathetic than ever.
Her father commented on the way she looked on the way to the cemetery. Even her shoes looked worn. She had taken a pair of her mother's black high heels, but they were out of style, and they looked as though her mother had gotten plenty of use from them before she got sick. It was almost as though Grace wanted to be closer to her now, by wearing her mother's clothes, it was like camouflage, or protective coloring, but it wasn't flattering on a girl her age, and her father said so. She looked a lot like her mother, actually, people always commented on it, except that her mother had been more robust before she'd been taken ill, and her dress was at least three sizes too big for Grace's lithe figure.
"Couldn't you have worn something decent for a change?" her father asked with a look of irritation as they drove to St. Mary's Cemetery on the outskirts of town, with three-dozen cars behind them. He was a respected man, and he had a reputation to uphold. It looked strange for a man like him to have an only child who dressed like an orphan.