BECOMING BELLE, by Nuala O’Connor, Penguin/PenguinRandomHouse


A witty and inherently feminist novel about passion and marriage, based on a true story of an unstoppable woman ahead of her time in Victorian London.

In 1887, Isabel Bilton is the eldest of three daughters of a middle-class military family, growing up in a small garrison town. By 1891 she is the Countess of Clancarty, dubbed “the peasant countess” by the press, and a member of the Irish aristocracy. Becoming Belle is the story of the four years in between, of Belle’s rapid ascent and the people that tried to tear her down.

With only her talent, charm, and determination, Isabel moves to London alone at age nineteen, changes her name to Belle, and takes the city by storm, facing unthinkable hardships as she rises to fame. A true bohemian and the star of a dancing double act she performs with her sister, she reigns over The Empire Theatre and The Corinthian Club, where only select society entertains. It is there she falls passionately in love with William, Viscount Dunlo, a young aristocrat. For Belle, her marriage to William is a dream come true, but his ruthless father makes clear he’ll stop at nothing to keep her in her place.

Reimagined by a novelist at the height of her powers, Belle is an unforgettable woman. Set against an absorbing portrait of Victorian London, hers is a timeless rags-to-riches story a la Becky Sharpe.

Out August 2018


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Belle is way ahead of her time and thrives in a Bohemian life setting.  This is a historical fiction piece of work and people should not expect a factual declaration about Isabel Bilton’s life. O’Connor bases her fictional piece on the life and struggles of Bilton adding creative fiction to enhance the story.  With that said, the author has written a very lovely story about a woman during the Victorian age who moves to London determined to find love, make a life where she can support herself in a way that allows her to remain true to herself, despite society’s dictation of standards of the times. It’s layered and vibrant and truly entertaining!

Belle’s character truly transforms on the pages right before you, moving from a naïve and innocent woman to one of determination and survival.  She is outspoken and uses wit and charm to secure her position in society despite the attacks she endures against her reputation.

I just loved immersing myself into this story, losing myself in well-structured settings and smooth plot transitions all the while watching Belle’s character grow and develop and move toward her ultimate goals.

If you love historical fictions, you’ll love this book.

I gave it:



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