BELLADONNA by Karen Moline


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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, who’s always masked and who always travels bookended by her bodyguards, owns the hottest nightclub in 1950s New York. She’s 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 production—all 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 who—ve also been betrayed by men. In this effort she’s 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.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-52318-6
Page count: 512pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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