She witnessed a murder- and now her life is in danger...This book was recommended to me by the lovely Lou Graham whose blog you can find here. I had received The Promise which is the sequel for review and I asked on Twitter if I needed to read Belle first. Lou said yes and that it was her favourite book of 2011, after reading it for myself, I can understand why.
Fifteen year-old bell, though raised in a London brothel, is an innocent. But when she witnesses one of the girls brutally strangled by a client, she is cast into a cruel, heartless world. Snatched from the streets and sold into prostitution, she is made a courtesan in New Orleans. At the mercy of desperate men who crave her beauty and will do anything to keep her, Belle dreams of home, family and freedom appear futile.
Are Belle's courage and spirit strong enough to help her escape? And what will await her at the end of the long, dangerous journey home?
Lesley Pearse sets Belle's story in 1910 and when we meet Belle she is living in her mother's brothel in the notorious Seven Dials in London. At 15, Belle is innocently unaware of what goes on upstairs in her mother's house until one fateful night when she witnesses the violent murder of Millie by the hands of one of her customers. On realisation that Belle is a witness, the murderer snatches her off the street and sells her into prostitution, initially in France and then bawdy New Orleans. What follows is two parallel stories; on the one hand we follow Belle and her terrifying ordeal and on the other hand we stay with the people who she leaves behind and the struggles they face to try and get her back.
I enjoyed both sides of the story equally, they are linked by the world of prostitution at the time and the danger and corruption involved. Mog is Belle's mother's maid but she pretty much brought Belle up and views her as her daughter. Mog is relentless in her mission to find Belle and enlists the help of Jimmy who is a friend of Belle's and Noah, an investigator and journalist who was close to the murdered Millie. These three demonstrate their loyalty and love for Belle by placing themselves in danger and never giving up on their search.
Belle's ordeal is quite difficult to read about at times. Lesley Pearse provides some very graphic descriptions of what Belle endures at the hands of some very violent and desperate men. It is evident just how much research has gone into this book and I found the events described in Paris, London and New Orleans to be fascinating.
Belle is long at just under 600 pages but I flew through it. Lesley Pearse has a great way of leaving you wanting more at the end of each chapter.
Belle is a great book and I can't wait to find out what happens to her next in The Promise and to also try some of Lesley Pearse's other books as she certainly knows how to deliver a good story.
Dot Scribbles Rating 5/5