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Belladonna Hardcover – May, 1998

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1935, His Lordship "purchased" 18-year-old Isabella Ariel Nickerson for one #1 million in an auction for members of an exclusive club of rich Britons eager to satisfy their sexual appetites. Isabella's transformation into Belladonna after more than ten years of degradation is fueled by a desire to find and punish the club members, who had always worn masks and used code names. Her quest for revenge is told by Tomasino, who with his twin brother had helped her and her baby daughter escape from this nightmare. Castrated for participating in the Italian Resistance during World War II, the twins were also prisoners of His Lordship. Tomasino's narrative includes flashbacks and excerpts from Belladonna's diaries. Afraid to love, Belladonna almost allows the desire for revenge to corrode her own soul. The horrors revealed make readers eager for her to outsmart His Lordship, but this novel by the author of Lunch (LJ 7/94) is not for the squeamish.?Kathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., MN
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Second-novelist Moline (Lunch, 1994) returns, this time with an S&M wannabe that hovers somewhere between deliciousness and dreck. The notorious femme fatale Belladonna, whos always masked and who always travels bookended by her bodyguards, owns the hottest nightclub in 1950s New York. Shes set up shop there with an army of security guards, spies, hidden microphones, and enough costumes, wigs, and jewels for a Cecil B. De Mille productionall in order to ensnare and destroy the ``Hellfire Club'' of British aristocrats who, in 1935, auctioned her off for a million pounds to a man known only as His Lordship, a British sadist who kept her drugged, tortured, and sexually enslaved for 12 years, and who supposedly stole her infant son. Helped to escape from His Lordship's prison by Thomasina and Matter Canaan, twins from Brooklyn, who were castrated by the Italian Fascists and rescued by His Lordship to do his bidding, Belladonna spends her life plotting revenge. And while she waits, she uses her vast supply of money and power to help other women whove also been betrayed by men. In this effort shes been aided by a wise and kindly old Italian count, Leandro, who nursed her back to health, married her, died, and left her enough money to ``buy the Bank of England.'' Belladonna's tortured life, as told by her faithful and purportedly witty companion Thomasina, is intercut with sections of Belladonna's memoir of enslavement (printed completely in italics), which any reader who has seen a bad S&M movie can already predict (tight corsets, blindfolds, chains, dungeons, and a lot of unpleasant abuse). Belladonna (formerly Isabella Ariel) eventually confronts His Lordship and, after exacting her revenge, even learns to love again. Trite and unconvincing. Neither grim enough to compel nor gaudy enough to entertain. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 501 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; 1st edition (May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446523186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446523189
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,221,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I admit, I picked up this novel for the sex. I expected a light but juicy story about glamorous people and their hidden lives. What I found was much more compelling, much more provocative -- just more.
Belladonna has been promoted as "A Novel of Revenge." A beautiful and innocent young American woman is kidnapped by powerful European aristocrats, then held as a helpless sex slave. Later, she gets them back, and then some. All true, but it doesn't begin to cover the depth of Karen Moline's characters, or the bitter truth in their responses to whatever life throws at them. Instead of going for cliches, she goes for gritty reality, every time. Nothing on the dust jacket mentions the rich thematic layers she weaves into a hypnotic cloth: the power dynamic that operates under the surface of all relationships; or how imprisonment of the mind can be much stronger than any physical ties that bind. Heavy stuff, but Moline serves it up skillfully in a perfect literary souffle.
On a more tender note, she also explores how "family" is truly defined by unconditional acceptance and support, not by genetic connection. I love the way she takes a group of walking-wounded individuals and joins them together with more commitment to each other than you'd find in many birth families.
This writer knows the meaning of style. Her narrator, Tomassino, doesn't just tell the story, he confides it to you with gossipy delight, as witty and entertaining as your favorite gay hair stylist. I actually heard the abridged book on audio tape, read by actor Tim Curry, before I read the novel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen G. Shumate on February 17, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Like a Jackie Collins novel on acid, this baroque drag queen fantasy run amok will amuse any former reader of romance. Just when you think the plot could not possibly get any more ridiculous, it does, with delightful results. There is a dark theme, but the book is so over-the-top that it is impossible to take seriously. It reads as high camp. The perfect, by-the-pool page turner. As soon as I finished reading it, I bought a dozen copies to give to my friends. I have yet to hear a bad review from them. This book has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but it's so much fun you won't care. Enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By book lover on December 11, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd just gone through a spate of books I could not sink my teeth into, then I picked up Belladonna and was hooked, read it over one long weekend. It's the kind of book that makes you glad your Saturday night date had to cancel: wonderfully twisted characters, great plot, amazing scenes. I can't wait for Moline's next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. L. Walker on February 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Isabella Ariel Nickerson is kidnapped and auctioned for 1 million pounds in 1930s England. She finds herself the unwilling play thing of a club of men who get their kicks out of forcing sexual tortures on women. Isabella is actually purchased by a man she knows only as "His Lordship", a man she will dedicate the rest of her life to finding and destroying once she escapes her hell.
The story is narrated by a man named Tomasino, one of the few men that Belladonna truly trusts (along with his twin Matteo). They were castrated in the war, and therefore, Belladonna doesn't see them as a threat. Belladonna finds herself the heir of a large fortune, and she dedicates her money and time to Club Belladonna, a popular club, where she hopes to lure one of the members into her club. One member is all it will take to find the rest.
I went into this expecting that I wouldn't like it, and honestly, the very beginning, the chapter before the actual story of Belladonna begins, was quite dull. It had that same rambling, verbose, tedious style as Middlesex did in the beginning, which sort of throws me off for a second because I like to get immediately sucked into a book. After that first chapter though, I was thorougly engrossed with Belladonna's story.
Tomasino is a witty narrator. He loves to talk. He loves to gloat. He loves to be right. Honestly, I'm glad he was the one telling the story. It gives it a flair that I think would be missing if Belladonna, or even his brother Matteo, told the story. Belladonna's diary is also scattered throughout the book; the diary she kept while she was imprisoned. The diary format was an interesting one as well, as it was written in third person rather than first.
I think the concept of revenge appealed to me, as it would many people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
"Glossy cover, catch the eye/ Belladonna watch you buy." It looks above the average rank of romance by the promise of "A Novel of Revenge" on the cover - anticipating a modern-day version of "The Count of Monte Cristo", I bought it. But as I read it I saw no real evidence of the character's hardening or adopting the cruelty of her persecutors, as is surely the point with revenge novels. Instead what we see as the plot moves along is a pretty woman exploiting her cool beauty without becoming hardened herself - which will satisfy the romantics amongst you but leave everyone else vaguely annoyed. The plotline is glitzy, pacy and fairly glamorous (and the heroine gets the necessary multi-millions whilst still managing to retain her integrity!) but the only time I got any hint of the sexual psychology the book promises was the "Diary" section two-thirds of the way through. Moline is evidently a skilful erotic writer, and perhaps her mistake was trying to make her woman a triumphant dominatrix when she's better at presenting her as a victim. The above average review I give it is due to the erotic writing: buy it if you want a light read this summer, but if you do want a psychological study involving money, revenge and eunuchs try Durrenmatt's play "The Visit" instead.
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