This is another review I did for the May edition of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. It’s true crime meets magical realism. A fascinating combination.
In 1860s New York, Annie Moore is sent to a convent for fallen women after getting pregnant out of wedlock. After the nuns take her baby, she tries to find the child but ends up going into prostitution just to survive. She becomes Bessie and is soon highly sought after by men. She earns her own money, is showered with jewels, and gets the opportunity to travel. However, she longs for a different life. When the man who she thought would return her to respectability betrays her, she begins to seek revenge. Based on a true story, this is a captivating book with a surprise.
The first half of this book stays very true to the real-life story, but then there is a supernatural element that begins midway through. It makes the novel even more interesting and unpredictable. As Annie, the main character is treated abominably by society and the church. As Bessie, she is used by men and madams but still finds a measure of success. After marriage, she eventually realizes that her husband has no intention of living a normal life with her. But by then it’s too late. We travel with Bessie to Chicago, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Texas, and then into the world of the paranormal as Bessie seeks revenge. The magical realism aspect of this story really sets it apart. The plight of women in those times is evident, and the theme of revenge is explored. This is an intriguing combination of genres—true crime, women’s fiction, and the paranormal—all woven into a compelling historical novel. Highly recommended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jody Hadlock’s love of history goes all the way back to junior high, when she was a member of the Junior Historians of Texas, so it’s no surprise her first novel is historical. She studied journalism at Texas A&M University and worked as a broadcast journalist and then in nonprofit public relations before turning her focus to fiction. She also writes screenplays and won the 2020 Dallas International Film Festival’s screenplay contest.