Krantz, seen by her swimming pool in 1986, got her start in journalism before the novel Scruples shifted her career.
Terry O'Neill—Iconic Images/Getty Images
June 27, 2019 6:30 AM EDT

Judith Krantz wrote juicy Cinderella stories in which a poor, plucky girl possessed of otherworldly beauty–and perhaps even a royal title–could, through hard work, climb to the top of her chosen world, acquiring a closet full of clothes and significant sexual satisfaction along the way. I swiped Krantz’s Princess Daisy off my mother’s bookshelf (probably when I was way too young for it) and fell into the world of Daisy, born Russian royalty and consigned to poverty through the machinations of an evil stepbrother. She talks her way into an advertising job and eventually makes it to the top of a perfume-and-cosmetics empire.

The ladies crafted by Krantz, who died on June 22 at 91, were winners. Whether they flew planes or ran magazines or ran Beverly Hills boutiques, they did it better than anyone else, and were rewarded with jewels, mansions, designer wardrobes and love. Her stories were lavished with name brands, laced with exclusive locales, studded with … well, studs. If the critics reviled her as much as readers loved her, it bothered her not at all. “It’s not Dostoyevsky,” she told the Washington Post. “It’s not going to tax your mental capacities.”

Maybe not. But it certainly fired my imagination, and those of many other readers. In her characters, we could see ourselves, only amplified. And we could aspire to be–or to create on the page–a woman as strong and smart and sexy and confident as one of Judith Krantz’s world-beating heroines.

Weiner is the best-selling author of the new novel Mrs. Everything

This appears in the July 08, 2019 issue of TIME.

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