God help me, I actually enjoyed reading Ivana Trump’s dishy, ridiculous, semi-autobiographical 1992 novel, For Love Alone. Except, of course, for the parts where I kept picturing Donald Trump in the throes of orgasm.
The story of the book’s existence goes like this: Donald and Ivana Trump were hugely famous, larger-than-life characters, and it was big news when they divorced in 1991. As Ivana struck out on her own, somebody got the idea she should write a big commercial fiction love story. And so, in 1992, For Love Alone hit the shelves.
For Love Alone was packaged like a romance novel—compare to Judith McNaught’s Perfect, for instance—but it’s closer to the great primetime soap operas of the 1980s. That’s probably because much of the actual writing was done by Camille Marchetta, who worked on both Dallas and Dynasty, though the only clue provided is a note at the beginning: “I would like to thank my friend Camille Marchetta for helping me to tell Katrinka’s story.” As a 1992 Los Angeles Times piece noted, Ivana preferred to consider Marchetta as her “collaborator,” rather than her “ghostwriter.”
“Ghostwriter is a person which you meet for 20 minutes and then the book is done and they put a name on it and that’s the end of it,” she said, explaining that she spent many hours talking through her vision for the book.
And so the results are—if you enjoy that campy rich-people-misbehaving Dynasty/Scruples vibe, which I do—surprisingly entertaining. Sure, the first 150 pages are dedicated to Katrinka’s youth in Czechoslovakia and largely to her competitive skiing. She also gets pregnant by a married man and is strong-armed by an unscrupulous doctor with a financial incentive into giving up the baby for adoption, but mostly she skis. She skis her way onto the Czech Olympic team, and finally she skis right on into Switzerland and defects.
From there it doesn’t take long to find her way into modeling, and then hotel ownership, and then the international jet set. (It’s all pretty simple once you’re out from behind the Iron Curtain, I guess.) She marries Adam Graham, an up-and-coming businessman, and together this beautiful couple climbs to the upper echelons of the business world. Katrinka supports Adam every step of the way, even while building her own portfolio of very classy hotels.
Their world is described in loving detail. They bounce from St. Moritz to London to Manhattan to Los Angeles. Katrinka goes to couture shows and hosts charity parties. Entire paragraphs are dedicated to interior decor. Famous names are sprinkled liberally through the text, with Rupert Murdoch, Barbara Walters, and the Prince and Princess of Wales all making appearances. (My favorite celebrity cameo: “‘Nice place,’ said Ted Turner in his flat voice with its pronounced Southern drawl.”) But there’s a fly in the ointment: The gossip columnist Sabrina. Sabrina is unattractive and unappealing, and she is vicious because she is just jealous, causing trouble the entire book. This isn’t even one of the nastiest descriptions:
“She writes about fashion?” Katrinka had rarely felt so shocked. The woman’s upswept hair was falling out of its clips in dull, lifeless strands, her makeup looked smudged, and, in a year when waistlines were definitely in, she was wearing a full, gathered blouse over a long straight skirt in what looked like a very cheap silk. “What is that thing she is wearing?”
“With Sabrina it is always difficult to tell.”
But much of the book details Katrinka’s relationship with her dashing, arrogant husband. Now, Adam Graham is not Donald Trump. One of the central conflicts of their marriage is their inability to get pregnant and present an heir to Adam’s withholding, demanding mother; the Trumps had three children, two of them boys. Trump was born to a successful Queens real estate developer, while Adam is from Newport and money so old it’s truly geriatric. His family even makes yachts, though not at a profit. Their fortune has withered and Adam is determined to revitalize it. His inner life sounds less like Trump than what Trump might imagine is happening inside some stereotypical Harvard Man antagonist’s head:
While the Graham family star was sinking into oblivion, whose was rising? Pop singers and television actors, film directors and computer designers, real estate developers and advertising executives, salesmen and hustlers, the sorts of people he had been raised to consider somehow inferior. Not that he did, of course. He had too much respect for success to discount those who had achieved it. But he was not about to take second place to them, to relinquish what he considered his rightful place, to give up one inch of social position or one ray of limelight.
“He had no intention now of letting a bunch of nouveau riche ‘entrepreneurs’—how respectable the word sounded, he thought contemptuously—walk away with the prizes,” the book informs us at another moment. Meanwhile Donald, despite his father’s money, seems to revel in being seen as newly minted, the social equivalent of a bright, shiny penny.
But the book shares so many of the same beats as Ivana’s public biography—the baby plot is fictional and her parents were still alive when she published the book, unlike the orphan Katrinka, but the skiing, the modeling, and the hotel work all track—that Trump is always lurking in the back of your head. So when Adam starts blustering about business, well, he sounds a little familiar. More disturbingly, every time there’s a sex scene, it’s impossible not to superimpose the Donald’s panting face onto the proceedings. His mouth haunts passages such as this one, where they fuck on a private plane:
Reassured, she returned her attention to Adam as she felt his hands again on her thighs lifting her body slightly from the seat so that he could, still concealed by the blanket, raise her skirt and slip her panties and hose down past her knees. Reaching to take them off entirely, leaving them in a crumpled heap on the carpeted plane floor, she could feel Adam’s hands stroking her bottom, her stomach, between her legs. She turned back to him and, as his mouth closed over hers, she opened the belt of his trousers and pulled down the zipper of his fly.
Here we have them poolside:
He poured a small amount of oil into his hand, put the bottle down, rubbed his palm together, and began again to stroke her legs, moving upward, over her knees, gently prying her legs apart. “Don’t you think we should get started?” he had said, his fingers straying under the thin protective strip of her bikini.
The part when Adam buys Katrinka a fur coat broke me. Emphasis and also horror mine:
While he stroked her naked back with his hands, his mouth followed the line of the partially open coat to her breast. He took a nipple between his lips, flicked it with his tongue, and felt Katrinka’s arms tighten around his neck, her body arch in pleasure. In a moment, they were on the floor, on top of the mink coat, Katrinka’s legs gripping his waist as he moved deeper and deeper into her. Finally, after a long time, they finished and lay quiet, each one trying to come to terms with the depth of feeling the other inspired, so much stronger, more compelling than anything either had experienced with other lovers, sometimes bewildering in its intensity, producing alternately joy and terror.
As Adam pulled away from her, his cock fell for a moment into the valley between her legs, leaving a smear of semen on the dark silk. He smiled with satisfaction. “Now you have to keep the coat.”
Enough people went looking for similarities between the real Trump marriage and the fictional Graham marriage that it became a legal scuffle within the larger war that was the ugly Trump divorce, with Donald’s lawyers fighting to preserve a gag order keeping Ivana from talking about their marriage. For her part, Ivana insisted she wasn’t writing about her ex. She told the Los Angeles Times: “There is no way he can prove that he’s Adam because he’s not Adam and I make sure that he’s not Adam,” adding that, “And even I think I have constitutional rights of speech in America. I did not abuse them.”
At any rate, Adam is ultimately unfaithful and they eventually divorce—while we’re doing comparisons, maybe more amicably than the Trumps. Katrinka ends up with the handsome newspaper magnate who always remembered a short Czech phrase to say to her, instead of pestering her about her English verbs.
Critics of course had a field day with the book. The Columbus Dispatch noted: “Sooner or later, every character is described as ‘’good-looking,’’ which is the common way the rich imagine themselves,” with the headline: This Love Story Is Worth Hating. But it was a success, attracting scads of media attention, spending weeks on the best-seller lists, and ultimately making it as far as the small screen as a CBS Sunday movie, the trailer for which you can still see on YouTube. It has not, however, remained in print.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.