Bookist Review by Margaret Flanagan
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, Isabel 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.