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The Lives of Diamond Bessie

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“This affecting tale of a 19th-century American woman struggling to prove her worth other than as a marriage prospect leaves a lasting impression.” Publishers Weekly

The Lovely Bones meets the Wild, Wild West in this haunting tale inspired by a true story.

Pregnant out of wedlock, sixteen-year-old Annie Moore is sent to live at a convent for fallen women. When the nuns take her baby, Annie escapes, determined to find a way to be reunited with her daughter. But few rights or opportunities are available to a woman in the 1860s, and after failing to find a respectable job, she resorts to prostitution in order to survive.

As a highly sought-after demi-mondaine, Annie—now Bessie—garners many expensive gifts from her admirers and eventually meets and marries the son of a wealthy jeweler, a traveling salesman with a gambling problem. With her marriage, she believes her dream of returning to proper society has finally come true. She’s proven wrong when she suffers the ultimate betrayal at the hands of the man she thought would be her salvation. But Bessie doesn’t let her story end there.

Set against the backdrop of the burgeoning women’s rights movement, The Lives of Diamond Bessie is a captivating tale of betrayal and redemption that explores whether seeking revenge is worth the price you might pay.

"As fascinating as it is riveting as it is original, The Lives of Diamond Bessie is a compelling novel of historical suspense. Bessie is a character who will haunt you for all the right reasons—for her determination, her heart, and her soul. I was enthralled." NYT bestselling author M.J. Rose, The Last Tiara

328 pages, Paperback

First published April 5, 2022

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About the author

Jody Hadlock

1 book190 followers
Jody’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.

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5 stars
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73 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 280 reviews
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews416 followers
April 9, 2022
**3.5 Stars**

In the 1860s, Annie is young, alone and not a dollar to her name. Few options being available, she resorts to prostitution in a boardinghouse. She goes by the name of Bessie and soon becomes high in demand among the gentlemen callers. Bessie has expensive clothes, accessories, and diamond rings. What she really wants is a proper husband to change her life to reputable. She thinks she has found that in Abe. Bessie soon finds out Abe is a cad who ends up murdering her. Bessie's ghost remains, fueled by revenge and the desire to see her husband hang at the end of a noose.

This was a good ghost story. Bessie's life short as it was full of heartache. Recommend for the lovers of a ghost tale with no horror involved.
Profile Image for CarolG.
672 reviews265 followers
April 16, 2022
This book is historical fiction based on real people and events and follows the life of Annie Moore who became known as Diamond Bessie, a much sought-after lady of the night - a demi-mondaine - in the mid to late 1800s. She worked in brothels in Watertown and Syracuse NY, Chicago IL, and also travelled to Hot Springs AK, New Orleans LA, Cincinnati OH and finally Jefferson TX.

The book is well researched and well written and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half. Diamond Bessie seems to have made a deep impression on people she met along the way and even some she didn't meet. I found it really interesting to read how boarding houses (brothels) worked - the author made it sound like a desirable way of life! In spite of my reservations, I'd still recommend the book as historical fiction. It's a great debut novel.

Deepest thanks to SparkPress via Netgalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Profile Image for L.A..
455 reviews153 followers
April 3, 2022
I was totally immersed in this historical, 19th century suspenseful novel. The life of Annie Moore is worth telling to depict women before the women's movement and the plight of double standards. When this Irish immigrant becomes pregnant at 16 years old, it was customary to be shamed and sent into a convent. At the birth of her daughter, she watched the nuns snatch her baby away. She escapes, but chooses a harsher life as a prostitute.

Annie becomes "Bessie" and marries a wealthy man without heart and soul and clearly not good for her. Her marriage is lacking so much and you feel sorry for her on so many levels. Without giving any more away, just know Bessie's story was common for this time period and although she makes bad decisions it almost seemed inevitable in her choices.

This is Annie "Bessie" Moore's story about determination, betrayal, redemption and revenge. Find out if her revenge is satisfying? I'm fascinated by the research and effort of bringing her story to life. Good job, Jody!

Thank you NetGalley and SparkPress for this fantastic ARC in exchange for my honest review.
September 7, 2022
I read this many months ago, so I apologize for possible numerous inaccuracies. Never the less, the fact that I read this so long ago and still remember much of the convoluted plot, is commendable. I remember feeling like it was not one book but three, and while the character and plot are purportedly based on the events in the life of a real person, I would venture a guess that the character’s story is not unlike the plight of many other single young pregnant women of the period (c. mid 1800s) – dumped on the steps of a convent dedicated to dealing with a family’s problem that is humiliating, expensive, and unwanted.

So, we begin our journey with Annie Moore (aka Bessie and Diamond Bessie) giving birth in the convent under punishing conditions. Immediately after giving birth, her baby is whisked away to God knows where (did I really say that?). Bessie eventually escapes the convent, determined to return and reclaim her baby. Soon our heroine discovers that young women, skilled or no, could not possibly hope to find honest employment that would pay for an independent lifestyle, roof over head, and/or food on the table. After passing out on the street, she eventually ends up in yet another type of nunnery, and soon becomes adept at bringing in the dough for her Madam while socking away a tidy amount on the side – not to mention expensive diamond jewelry. Of course, she is the most beautiful and definitely the luckiest at plying her new trade – otherwise she would have been dead of consumption, venereal disease, or drug abuse within a year of her joining the profession.

Enter benefactor #1 who has a wife and child but is smitten with Bessie – up to a point (the point of giving diamond jewelry). Next, enter benefactor #2, who just happens to be the black sheep son of a Rothschild (how do I remember all of this after so many months?). Bessie chooses door #2, of course, which basically seals her fate as she foolishly falls for the rake who fleeces her for all she is worth. When she won’t give up the diamonds, Rothschild takes matters into his own hands – that is when things get really interesting as we move over to the supernatural. At this point I will let the reader who gets that far into the book, discover for him/herself the new direction of the plot. Although, I do not generally enjoy supernatural elements in a book, unless they are campy, this is where the plot becomes original and far less predictable.

This book is worth a read, especially for the final direction which is far more interesting than reading about Bessie’s tragic beginnings and foolish choices.

Thank you NetGalley and SparkPress for an ARC of this book. This could have been a DNF if the book hadn’t snagged my attention in the nick of time – and I’m so glad it did, because I really enjoyed! 3.5+ stars
Profile Image for Caroline D’cruz.
70 reviews22 followers
November 9, 2021
The lives of Diamond Bessie is a inspired true story of Annie Moore also known as Diamond Bessie, who was pregnant out of wedlock at sixteen year of age and was sent to a convent for fallen women. When her daughter is taken away from her by the nun's, Annie is forced to escape and make a life for herself, so she can reunite with her daughter. But due to less job opportunities given to women in the 1860's Annie is forced into prostitution to survive with a dream to live a respectable life with her daughter one day.

The lives of Diamond bessie is a well written book by debutant author Jody Hadlock and one can relate to it easily as it is a story that one must have heard and read before because I strongly believe that such stories even exist today. This is a well researched book and the author has tried to keep the story as real as possible.

I believe that one should go into reading this book blind to enjoy it to its fullest as I never saw the twist coming. Though the second half of the book is all the more interesting than the first half as I really liked how the author continued to tell the story through Bessie eyes rather than through a third person. This was sure hard to put down and kept me hooked till the end. I will surely recommend this book and I would also love to see this book made into a movie in the near future.

Thanks to Netgalley, sparkpress and author Jody Hadlock for the ARC.
Profile Image for Bonnie DeMoss.
833 reviews99 followers
March 12, 2022
I reviewed this book for the May issue of Historical Novels Review magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. Per their policy, I cannot post a review online until this review is published on their website on May 1st. I will update the review after that time.
Profile Image for Valleri.
781 reviews12 followers
September 12, 2022
My thanks to Spark Press, as well as to @NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Lives of Diamond Bessie.

3.5 Stars

This fascinating book was inspired by the true story of sixteen-year-old Annie Moore. Few job opportunities are available to a woman in the 1860s, and after failing to find a respectable job, she resorts to prostitution in order to survive. She becomes known by the name Bessie and receives many expensive gifts from her admirers. So many diamonds, in fact, that she starts being known as Diamond Bessie. When she begins a relationship with Abe Rothschild, the charming son of a well-known jeweler, it seems as though her dreams of getting out of sex work are finally about to be realized. From there, it's difficult to write more without spoilers. I will just say that the parts about Bessie's relationship with her Catholic faith, and her Irish roots made her feel more human, as did her love of reading. (Especially her love of reading!)

There is a paranormal twist to the book that I felt was a brilliant way to tell what happened in the last part of the book! To do otherwise might have led to some dry explanations.

I also found the acknowledgments at the back of the book very interesting to read. The amount of research was astonishing. The documentation was engrossing. I definitely recommend The Lives of Diamond Bessie!
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,863 reviews146 followers
April 6, 2022
“The Lives of Diamond Bessie”, which is set in the Wild West days of the gold rush, is a very exciting book with lots of plot twists.

In particular, the characters are very well developed and show some of the best qualities of superb writing like love, revenge, and redemption.

It is based on a true story and includes physical abuse, violence and murder.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maria Smith.
239 reviews24 followers
January 4, 2022
This book is inspired by a true story of a young Irish immigrant in America, who was forced into prostitution. A really good twist half way through made it all the more interesting for me. Face paced, it was a real page turner and I stayed with the story all the way through. Bessie was a great character that was easy to connect with. Well researched, the author sheds light on the plight of women in this era and the double standards allowed to men. This was the first novel I read by this author but will certainly keep an eye out for her in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this book. Recommend for readers of historical true crime and historical fiction.
Profile Image for Mel.
539 reviews22 followers
December 30, 2021
What an engrossing read!

When I first started this book, I wasn't aware that this was inspired by true events of a woman named Annie Moore, who was murdered. This book sunk its teeth in me and did not let go until the very last page.

I think Jody Hadlock did a really fantastic job of combining real events with fictionalized storytelling. She was really respectful about what happened to Bessie and also made some really good points about brothels and the concept of the "fallen" women back in the 1800s. A lot of the prejudices and hypocrisies that were so prevalent back then still exist to this day unfortunately. Things like how women are perceived to be "less than" for having a lot of partners while men are considered top dog for sleeping with many women.

My emotions for Bessie and what she was going through was all over the place. My heart broke for her while also feeling frustrated about some of the decisions she made. But at the same time, when I took a step back and put myself in her shoes, I understood why she did what she did. The 1800s were a different time for women, oppression was high and there weren't a lot of options for women to have a good life unless they were married, although Jody Hadlock made a good point about how even marriage back then could be used to trap a woman.

This is a book that is gonna stick with me for a long time and I look forward to reading more work by this author.

*A sincere thank you to the author, publisher, and Booksirens for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,308 reviews126 followers
January 20, 2022
The lives of Dimond Bessie by Jody Hadlock is an entertaining read and a fictional account of the real life of Annie More nicknamed Diamond Bessie. It is also her debut novel.
Buffalo, New York 1866, Sixteen-year-old Annie gets pregnant out of wedlock. So, her mother sends her away to a nunnery. But she is mistreated and when she wakes up after the birth, she finds out her child has been taken away. She then escapes the nunnery and hopes to get a job and when she can be reunited with her child. But them times there is not a lot of work for women and the only option she has is to become a prostitute to survive. Which leads her across the country when her life re she meets Abe Rothchild. Thinking that her life will get considerably better she marries him. But the happy marriage that she is expecting. Isn’t to be.
Thank you, Spark Press, for a copy of The lives of Diamond Bessie. I wasn’t aware this was based on a true story until I finished the book. I really enjoyed this tale of Bessie and her life and the hardships she endured and even in her death taking out revenge on those who harmed her. This is great retelling of her story that I couldn’t put down. 4 stars from me.
Profile Image for Brittany (Britt's Book Blurbs).
691 reviews165 followers
March 28, 2022
Thanks to NetGalley & SparkPress for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

The Lives of Diamond Bessie reads like a book report about historical figures - more of an unemotional summary than an immersive story. The characters feel shallow, moving from one event to the next without a real emotional connection.

Bessie lived an interesting life, but I wish she was capable of taking advice from just one person or even just some critical thinking. Instead, she moves from one situation to the next with little planning, usually assuming her looks will get her to where she needs to be. Bessie is also pretty selfish most of the time. She uses others as needed and drops' friends' when they stop being useful. Despite all the help she receives from others, Bessie is not one to reach out a hand to others.

I wasn't expecting the shift from historical/biographical fiction to paranormal about halfway through. I'm usually on board for a fantasy twist, but this was too inconsistent for me and created more plot holes than interest.

Despite being described as 'set against the backdrop of the burgeoning women's rights movement', this doesn't seem to have been a significant theme in the narrative and could have been done better. Overall, The Lives of Diamond Bessie is pretty average, and while I wish the emotions and events were explored more, it does tell an interesting story about real people.

Review originally posted here on Britt's Book Blurbs.

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Profile Image for  Bon.
1,201 reviews115 followers
January 17, 2022
Thank you to Book Sirens and the author for an ARC to review. Sad to report this book left me frustrated and feeling unfulfilled, even as someone unfamiliar with the true events the story was based on. In fact I don't know if I can say I enjoyed any of this sad tale, despite the fact I mainlined the first sixty percent in one go out of grim intrigue. It's tough to avoid spoilers, as even the summary hints at Unsavory Happenings, but I'll try.

Bessie Moore's story is, as the end notes describe, one of many, rather than an outlier or exception. Sent to a convent after getting pregnant out of wedlock, her story quickly moves on from convent to various brothels, hotels, and finally a lonely grove of trees in Texas. The pacing was great for the first half of the book, the detail of Bessie's enjoyment for books and the fineries of life like jewelry and nice dresses lending her dimension as a person. That said, nothing...nothing happy or anything happens in this book, so it's difficult to find highlights.

Besides the obvious separation from Respectable Society that being a high-quality lady of the night brings, Bessie is a refreshingly independent, with her own money and freedom to travel. Until she isn't, fooled by a man who flashed more red flags than a whole bullfighting festival. I was disappointed in her character after that, though obviously her case happened a lot, and even the most sensible woman can be fooled when she thinks she's in love. The problem is - I didn't read this for realism, I read it for bloody revenge.

The biggest disappointment for me was the revenge storyline, which completely fizzled out in a lame moment of Christian charity, or something. I also didn't appreciate the depictions of spirituality and the afterlife in this - too much heaven and Catholic suicide limbo and things tied in for me to enjoy the ghosts and otherworldly aspects much. Not many of the ghosts are interested in a truly malicious haunting, which, yawn.

If you're familiar with the true events of this story, the book is probably nothing special. I was not and so suspense kept me reading eagerly, until everything slowed down around the sixty percent mark. Ironically the spookiest, most vengeful part of the book was the lamest for me.

This is no badass wild west tale of revenge, like I somehow thought it'd be. It's about a woman, and her spirit, deciding to be a better person than the garbage man who ruined her.

I'm sad to say that simply didn't satisfy me. Two stars for unfulfilled promises on the part of the summary. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Profile Image for Jodie | GeauxGetLit.
658 reviews88 followers
September 7, 2022
One of the most fascinating historical periods that I enjoy reading about, is the 19th century in the US. I also love reading true crime and this book is an homage to both!

Pregnant out of wedlock, Annie Moore, was sent away in shame to have her baby in a convent. When the nuns took her baby, she chose to escape wanting more for herself and in order to survive she resorted to prostitution.

As a highly desired demi-mondaine, Bessie became her “performing name”. She enjoyed the luxury this life gave her and spoiled herself with jewels and fine garments. After a few years, she steadily hoped one of her wealthy suitors would take her away from this life.

While living in a New Orleans brothel, she met Marie Laveau and Marie warned her of a man and gave her some gris gris to ward off danger.

Bessie finally meets a man and he happens to be the son of a very rich family and she follows him in hopes to leave the prostitution life behind her and to become a fine lady of society finally.

Things don’t go as planned for Bessie, but as the story goes you can’t keep a good woman down, no matter how hard one might try!

This was so freaking good y’all! Jody Hadlock’s writing was brilliant and I flew through this book so fast! Based off a true story, it’s one of the reasons why so many people love, read and wonder about paranormal life.

Do not pass this book up, you will not regret it!
Profile Image for Cat.
464 reviews21 followers
February 19, 2022
Jody Hadlock draws a realistic picture of life for the free woman in the 19th century. Looking back, it’s truly shocking to appreciate how women were treated, and Jody handles the story of Annie/Bessie with care and patience.
Tricked into pregnancy by her sweetheart, 16-year old Annie is shipped to the convent. The living conditions for her were horrible, and then they took her child away with no discussion. Annie is determined to come up with the money needed to find her child again. Destitute, starving, cold, and hungry, Annie passes out but is rescued by a group of ladies who work together in a “joy house”, or brothel. Annie enjoys the camaraderie and friendships of the ladies in the home and decides this is what she will do to make the money needed to rescue her daughter. She changes her name to Bessie and quickly becomes one of the more sought after, prestigious and elegant ladies. She travels to New Orleans each winter, enjoys fine food, clothing, and the company of numerous well-to-do men.
One man who saves her from a brute catches her eye. She plans her travels to coincide with Abe’s, and before long, he falls into her trap. But as the relationship progresses, it seems she’s the one in a hopeless trap. Bessie agrees to marry, thinking this will mean she can quit her line of work. But things turn bad very quickly, and Abe commits the ultimate betrayal.
When Bessie tells you she waited fifteen days, you realize the format of the story has evolved. This adds a different dimension to our character. Bessie has a new goal, a new set of friends, and an entirely new level of anger and hate to deal with.
Full of detailed descriptions of what life was like in the late 1800s, and written with great compassion for women “of ill repute”, Jody Hadlock’s debut novel is a must-read for historical fiction buffs.
Sincere thanks to Spark Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is April 5, 2022.
Profile Image for Jennifer *Nottoomanybooks*.
271 reviews25 followers
May 17, 2022

The synopsis for this book drew me in right away. A pregnant (out of wedlock) 16 year old is sent to live at a convent for fallen when and has her baby taken away from her. Afterwards, she can’t find a respectable job and takes up prostitution in order to survive. She becomes very well know and highly sought after, eventually marrying the son of a jeweler, and is killed. This story was so intriguing and I found it interesting how women lived in the 1800’s and what little rights they had.

About halfway through, the story takes a crazy turn that I didn’t expect and didn’t know if I would like. This is the reason I knocked the book from a 4 to a 3.5. Once I got used to it, it was ok. The second half tends to focus mostly on Bessie’s murderer, his trial, and if she gets the justice she deserves.

I definitely think this is a book you should pick up. It was an easy read and kept my attention. I loved the fact that this story is based off the lives of real people, as the afterward tells us. The author lets us know which parts she fictionalized and which were true. Bessie really got into my heart and after I read the book I had to find out more information about her!
Profile Image for Vidhi.
152 reviews21 followers
June 23, 2022
The lives of Diamond Bessie follows a young woman throughout her life, from being a young mother forced into prostitution to marrying a man who shows his true colours too late.

This was a really good novel. I really enjoyed the plot and I thought the transition between real world and paranormal was done at a very good point in the story and was done in a really interesting and understandable way. I enjoyed the resolution a lot especially as it wasn’t one that I could see happening. The characters were all multi dimensional and enjoyable to read and the book itself was well written and easy to follow.

4/5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and the author for this copy to review
Profile Image for Melissa (Nissa_the.bookworm).
563 reviews48 followers
August 19, 2022
Read this if you
🧳 have traveled all across the US
🕰 enjoy historical fiction
👀 love unexpected plot twists
📖 like to mix fact with fiction

The Lives of Diamond Bessie revolves around Annie, a 16 year old girl sent to a convent for “fallen girls,” in the 1860s. After finding herself pregnant out of wedlock, the man in the relationship refused to own up and marry her. After the delivery of her daughter, she is taken away to an orphanage. Distraught and alone, Annie slips away from the convent to find a better life, one where she can afford to raise her daughter.

Soon, she finds herself living in a brothel, entertaining men for a living. And as time goes on, Annie, now known as Bessie, seeks to find a way out of this life and into a more respectable one, one with her daughter and a loyal and loving husband by her side. But when the man she sees as her salvation turns out to be anything but, Bessie isn’t done. Not yet.

I have to say, I did not expect to get what I got from this story. I absolutely loved it, and after reading the reviews, you either love the plot twist or hate it! After reading Jody’s afterward, the entire story began to make more sense for me. Bessie Moore, or Diamond Bessie, was a real woman who inspired this fact mixed with fiction story. So while some may not have liked the plot twist, it is a work of fiction, so who is to say that it couldn’t have happened that way? While we may never know everything about Bessie, this story is a work of art. I always love to see these “what if” kinds of novels. They both introduce me to a real person who once upon a time existed while also providing me with an interesting piece of fiction!
Profile Image for Lindsay.
184 reviews
January 22, 2022
Incredibly well researched and compelling historical fiction. I was deeply invested in Bessie and couldn’t put this book down. I felt the first half of the book was much stronger than the second, but the afterword saved it for me. You can tell this was a passion project for the author.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC, in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Mina.
296 reviews29 followers
December 1, 2021
Thanks NetGalley and Sparkpress for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Based on the true murder of Diamond Bessie, the author gives us her story and what leads up to her murder. It is fast paced and gives us a glimpse into 19th century life for a woman. There is some paranormal license which adds to the story.
Profile Image for The Sassy Bookworm.
3,467 reviews2,361 followers
June 9, 2022

The Lives of Diamond Bessie by Jody Hadlock was a super entertaining read (I finished it all in one go). A debut novel inspired by the true life story of Annie Moore, aka Diamond Bessie. A young Irish girl in America, who was forced into prostitution in the 1860s. I found it to be well written and well paced. The plot was engaging and kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed the twist halfway through and the added bit of supernatural. There were a couple of minor issues I had. I thought the first half of the book was stronger in the storytelling, and I wasn't a fan of the ending and that a certain character didn't get their comeuppance. Overall, though, this was a strong debut for this author and I look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve next.

**ARC Via NetGalley**
Profile Image for Dorian Clark.
1 review2 followers
February 5, 2022
Genuinely an amazing book. I've not read a book for some time that made me cry like this one.
Bessie is a character thats easily empathise with, she has a bad lot in life but makes the best of it, working to be the best he is. She feels very real and what she goes through is relatable. By the end she felt almost like a friend. There are moments where you wish you could reach out and grab her so she doesnt do things.
Profile Image for Catherine Drake.
Author 1 book64 followers
January 21, 2022
In this retelling of the life of Diamond Bessie, aka Annie Moore, Hadlock takes a unique approach to capture the life of this young Irish immigrant who gets pregnant out of wedlock and is forced into a life of sex work. Bessie longs for a life that she could be proud of, but instead continually faces difficult circumstances and people until the ultimate betrayal by a man she loved. With an unexpected twist, the story kept me captivated yet frustrated on behalf of women of the era who had so few choices. Jody Hadlock is a talented writer whose characters and rich historical background kept me firmly engaged in the time period. Just excellent.
Profile Image for Ash.
180 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2022
Pub date - 4.5.22

𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒐𝒘𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒐𝒐𝒌 𝒊𝒏 𝒂𝒅𝒗𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆❣︎

Jody Hadlock takes us on an emotional tale inspired by a true story of a feminist heroine. Annie Moore is a young teen who has a child in 1800s born out of wedlock. She is forced to give her child away and is disowned by her family. In order to survive, she finds herself out the door of a brothel, where the women embrace her and take her in. Where will this new life style take her? Will it bring her happiness or suffer betrayal after betrayal?

I couldn’t believe this was a debut novel. The captivating story telling and the rich layers that weave this story together is that of a seasoned writer. I loved the way Hadlock combined historical fiction, mystery, and a ghost story to create such a magical novel. She didn’t miss a single detail when she wrote about the characters, especially Annie. I felt her pain and emotions. I am so happy I was granted the permission to read this novel. I would recommend this novel to my bookish community who are in the mood to read historical fiction with lots of mystery.
326 reviews
December 20, 2021
Jody Hadlock, The Lives of Diamond Bessie, Spark Press, 2022

Thank you NetGalley for this uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review.

The Lives of Diamond Bessie is a fictional account, based on the life of a real woman. The book is divided into two parts, the first following Bessie’s life as a young pregnant woman who is forced into a convent where her baby is born and taken from her. Bessie must find a paid occupation and becomes a prostitute, albeit one with the status of belonging to a fine house and being attractive and popular there. The paucity of paid work available to young women who can supply no references, have little training or none, who are dependent on men as employers or husbands for any financial security is the theme that runs through the novel. The second part uses a clever device to continue Bessie’s story after her short-lived marriage. Here, again, women’s dependence on men is a major theme.

Women’s political movements also feature, with events related to women’s fight for the vote providing historical points related to the larger story of women’s fight for equality together with Bessie’s personal narrative. These events could have been far more valuable if they had been woven into the story rather than at times seeming as though they have been added to provide authenticity to the idea that Diamond Bessie’s story is a feminist one. Although she is suffering from the discrimination attendant upon being a woman, uneducated and untrained, and having to make her own living – all the issues that are relevant to women’s political activity - Bessie’s story seems to exist side by side with these ideas, rather than written to examine anything more than her personal story.

That story has some enlightening aspects. For example, the reality of the ‘boarding house’ culture has more impact in this story of a real woman, than in fictional accounts. However, as real as the disturbing features become, that Bessie was the owner of magnificent diamonds, was largely independent, and was as foolishly optimistic about marriage as any woman outside that culture places her differently from her less attractive, drug dependent friend whose fall was heartrending. Bessie’s journey to a New Orleans house as a ‘visiting prostitute’ is also another aspect of the work that is brought to light by her story.

I was disappointed in the writing which seemed rather pedestrian at times, but perhaps it was that for me Bessie’s story was far from gripping. I found her an uninspiring character. The strength she showed in controlling her use of laudanum was sadly missing in her relationships with men. While she initially fought to maintain her financial independence in a world designed to thwart her, Bessie’s aspirations did not go beyond marriage. Despite her independent wealth she failed to use it to her advantage, falling too easily into a situation that experience told her would continue to frustrate any attempts at achieving security and happiness. Although Part 2 introduces a very smart way of continuing Bessie’s story, I would have liked a bit more liveliness in the writing, and more use of the political points of reference.
Profile Image for Christine M in Texas.
1,037 reviews103 followers
May 16, 2022
This novel is so fascinating, and takes you on a journey of one women’s life which is surrounded my mystery. Annie Moore, an Irish immigrant becomes pregnant at 16. She is sent to a convent and shamed by her family and even the nuns. After the birth of her daughter the nuns take her child, and she escapes the convent hoping to find her daughter and make a better life for herself.

Annie’s life is not easy and she finds a life of prostitution. Women were expected to marry rich men and stay home and raise children. Not many options in those days, but this life was very common. Annie becomes “Bessie” in this world. She meets and marries a wealthy man who is enamored with her beauty and perhaps her money.

I don’t want to give away the rest of her story, as it’s intriguing and full of mystery. Excellent debut by Jody Hadlock. I highly recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Teagan Cook.
94 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2022
Once I started this book I didn’t put it down - it was that interesting! This novel follows Annie Moore “Diamond Bessie” through her short but exciting life & in the end, we follow Bessie through her last moments. This book compelled me to continue reading due to how interesting Hadlock had made Bessie, and the fact that this is partially a true story.

Dare I say I wanted the book to be longer? I really could not get enough of all the dynamic characters throughout this novel - they were so easy to connect with and follow through their lives.

If reading this, all I can recommend is that you go in blind. There are twists that make the reading experience so much better!
Profile Image for Denise.
2,010 reviews86 followers
April 24, 2022
Based on actual events, this historical mystery is perfect for true crime lovers.

Annie Moore is only 16 when she is sent away to a convent to give birth to her illegitimate baby. When the baby is taken to an orphanage, Annie makes the difficult decision to run away and to try to find some sort of work that will allow her to regain custody of her infant daughter. Unfortunately, opportunities for a woman like her are few and far between and she is taken in by a house of prostitution and soon begins working there. As the years go by, Annie changes her name to Bessie and moves up in the hierarchy, working in fancy brothels and attended by a more wealthy clientele. She's making her way in a difficult situation but longs to return to respectable society.

As it so often happens, Bessie's ultimate downfall is a man. Although what happened to her is not unique, the way the author tells her story is wholly engaging and a compelling tale of what women suffered before women's rights were a thing.

I really enjoyed the way the story shifted after Bessie is betrayed by her new husband and it did indeed remind me of The Lovely Bones with that point of view though I typically am not into any paranormal. The characters in Bessie's inner circle were interesting, but the way the author wrote about Bessie was so endearing that I felt such empathy for her. This was a fast read that I consumed in a matter of hours in one sitting as I could not wait to find out how it ended. The best part of the conclusion was the author's notes about the real people and historical records at the back of the book.

This is definitely a book that I will recommend and thank you to NetGalley and Spark Press for this e-book ARC to read and review.
333 reviews8 followers
May 5, 2022
AWFUL!!! If I could give this book negative stars I would.

The first 170 pages were just ok and would have garnered a 2 star rating. Nothing special about the writing. The most "G rated" version of life in a brothel one could imagine. Her relationship with Abe was so incredibly frustrating to read.

And then at page 170 ... she's dead. And I'm thinking, "wtf? I still have over 100 pages left." But my confusion doesn't end there because ... wait for it ... enter her spirit. That's right, her spirit! I wanted to quit reading at that point, but I can't in good faith mark a book as "read" that I abandoned.

Quite frankly, if this book was told solely (pun intended) from the perspective of the spirit as the narrator by taking a page from "The Book Thief" it would have been palatable. But the spirit interacted with other spirits, it clung to the living, it spoke to the living.

The back of my paperback copy says, "Inspired by a true story ..." which might be true up until she's killed, but then it went off the rails with this nonsense. I get that some people are into this genre, but I don't get it.
Profile Image for Darinda.
8,289 reviews150 followers
December 30, 2022
Diamond Bessie was killed and her killer was never brought to justice. Before that, Diamond Bessie was Annie Moore. After much tragedy in her young life, Annie became a prostitute known as Bessie. One day Bessie met Abe Rothschild, they fell for one another, and got married. Not long into their marriage, they traveled to Jefferson, TX, where Bessie was killed.

The Lives of Diamond Bessie is told from Bessie’s point of view. While most people suspected they knew who Bessie’s killer was, he was never convicted. This novel is Bessie’s story of bringing her killer to justice.

I was okay with the first part of the novel, but when things switched to Bessie’s spirit’s point of view, I lost interest. It felt almost like two separate novels. A solid start with a lackluster ending.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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