Booklist Reviews 2018 July #1
O'Connor wrote about Emily Dickinson in Miss Emily? (2015); here she vividly reimagines the life of another nontraditional historical heroine. Though certainly less well-known than the poet, Isobel Bilton nevertheless leaves an indelible mark on the Victorian-Edwardian world she inhabited. The daughter of a middle-class military family, she chafes against both the familial and societal expectations that decidedly restrict the breadth and scope of her life. Making her way to London, she claws her way to the literal and figurative top, as she morphs herself into Belle Bilton, toast of the London stage and object of fancy to a bevy of well-heeled admirers. Falling hard for William Trench, Viscount Dunlo, she must overcome the objections of his disapproving father as well as those of society at large. Defying both class and convention, Belle engages in a magnificent spiritual battle that pits her desires and emotions against the restrictions placed upon her gender and her social status. Grounded in real-life characters and events, this passionate tale of ambition and love has cross-genre appeal for fans of historical fiction and romance. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2018 March #2
An award winner for her poetry and short stories, O'Connor (who also writes as Nuala Ní Chonchúir) offered a wonderful told-slant view of Emily Dickinson in
LJ Reviews 2018 April #2
In 1897, Isobel Bilton dreams of leaving her home at a Hampshire military base for London. The oldest daughter of a British officer and his formidable wife, Isobel struggles against the familial and social expectations that diminish her. At 19, she fulfills her ambition to go to the capital, where she becomes Belle Bilton, star of the London stage. Though she relishes the nontraditional artistic and social freedoms offered by city life, Belle still has to contend with people who seem compelled to control her. This remains a theme throughout her life, even after she marries the dashing Irish aristocrat William Trench, Viscount Dunlo. Their marriage scandalizes Trench's family and London society. Undeterred by malicious legal action and the threats of disinheritance, William and Belle relocate to the Trench family demesne in Ireland, their romance triumphant.
PW Reviews 2018 June #3
In this lively novel from O'Connor (Miss Emily) the story of Isabel Bilton is tracked from a dull Hampshire upbringing under her mother's thumb to a giddy yet difficult life as a Victorian music hall entertainer and Irish countess. Isabel follows her dream to move to London, cajoling her sister Flo to join her. The two find success as a music hall sister act, and Isabel becomes entangled with a con artist claiming to be a baron from America; her subsequent pregnancy causes him to flee. A good friend, Mr. Wertheimer, sets her up in his country home, where her pregnancy progresses far from the scandal sheets, and helps her find a nursemaid to raise her son. After returning to the stage as "Belle Bilton," she takes up with an Irish viscount. But after their marriage, his dismayed father forces him to leave the country and eventually sign divorce papers. Awkwardly written sexual encounters and the tedious back and forth between the lovers during their separation are a drawback, but O'Connor skillfully captures the mores of the time and tops it off with a wonderfully suspenseful court case. This is a transportive, enjoyable novel. (Aug.)Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.