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The Secret of the Belles Reviewed By Amy Lignor Of Bookpleasures.com
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Amy Lignor

Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles.  She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books.  She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben

 
By Amy Lignor
Published on November 7, 2009
 


Author:  Kathryn Witt
ISBN:  978-160844-132-7

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to receive this book in the mail.  It couldn't have gone to a better person.


Author:  Kathryn Witt
ISBN:  978-160844-132-7

Click Here To Purchase The Secret of the Belles 

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to receive this book in the mail.  It couldn't have gone to a better person.  Why, you ask?  Am I one of the famous "Windies?"  (This is the group of die-hard Gone With the Wind fans who live throughout the world).  Do I watch GWTW all the time?  Do I wish that I lived in hoop skirts, and pined for Ashley Wilkes?  Actually, no.  I had something even better during my lifetime that taught me every nuance, line, word, and breath that the characters of GWTW took...my sister.  Except for an occasional mention of The Wizard of Oz with my sister, Scarlett O'Hara and crew were the people she liked the most.  And...apparently I've really been missing her.  (Another side note, my sister's name is Kathryn - just like the author.)  Coincidence?
 
Our story begins in 1939 with a thirteen-year-old girl named Lanie Sullivan.  Lanie is a die-hard Margaret Mitchell GWTW fan and wants nothing more than to leave her home in Marietta, and travel to Atlanta for the premiere of the greatest movie ever made.  Once her mother sees the stars beaming from her daughter's eyes, she relents, and sends Lanie to stay with her Aunt in the big city for a week.  In fact, her Aunt Callie works at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta where all the stars are coming to stay for the big premiere.  Lanie's heart is in her throat.  She can hardly believe that she could be standing in the same room as her idol, Ona Munson.  Now, I know you thought that I was going to say Vivian Leigh or Clark Gable, but (and this is so exciting for me, because I completely agree) Ona Munson is the little girl's favorite actress in the movie.  Ona played Belle Watling - for all you non-GWTW folk; the red-headed spitfire, long-suffering madame with a heart of gold.  
 
The reader is then taken forward to the year 2003, where a young girl by the name of Isabelle (yes, she is called Belle) is studying to be a curator when she grows up.  She has copper-colored hair and a yen to learn absolutely everything she can about her chosen career by helping with the opening of a new museum in her hometown of Marietta, Georgia.  The museum will be called The Gone With the Wind Museum - Scarlett on the Square (this is a real building, by the way).  In the book, Dr. Clay Sinclair is a gentleman who has purchased almost every artifact there was for this once-in-a-lifetime movie.  He's placed bid and gotten many of the actors and actresses estates after they'd passed away - including Ona Munson's estate.  In one of the boxes, Belle finds letters from a young girl to Ona Munson explaining how wonderful her trip to the premiere was, and how she was so grateful to Miss Munson for giving her a gift.  Belle can't understand.  What gift?  Did this young child in 1939 actually meet Belle Watling and become friends with her?  But how?  And what gift could the mega-star have given to an unknown child working at a hotel?
 
The story unfolds, taking us periodically back and forth between Lanie in 1939 and Belle in 2003.  We get to see through the eyes of Lanie as she struggles to meet her idol.  We watch her as she is stuck cleaning rooms with her Aunt, waiting for the arrival of the biggest stars of all time.  Of course, Lanie is too poor to buy a ticket to The Premiere, but she will settle for simply "catching a glance" of the famous stars. 
 
Back in 2003, we watch Belle struggle between going to school, getting a recommendation from the museum's owner, Ms. Josephs, to be allowed to go to a "curator-camp" for the summer, and the letters of a young girl who she soon finds herself identifying with in every way.  Poor Belle also struggles with the fact that she's in love with the handsomest boy in town - Cole Bishop.  Unfortunately, she knows she's a geek and he probably won't want anything to do with her.
 
From the fantastic descriptions of 1930's Atlanta wardrobes:  "A wide-brimmed hat trimmed with a brilliantly colored ribbon bobbed next to a derby in a Model T, what Lanie's daddy called a Tin Lizzie.  Belching black smoke in its wake, a city bus chugged by, its occupants perched stiffly beneath berets and pillbox hats, fedoras and panamas"  To the wonderful explanation of a home in Marietta, Georgia in 2003, built by a man who loved to add hidden places under floorboards and tunnels behind pictures in the walls:  "concealed passageways that would creak open...buttons that could be pushed to release openings in the walls with hidden treasures inside...false bottom drawers to hide secrets..."  I wanted to live in this house once this well-written book came to an end.
 
The story is fresh and new and full of surprises.  Heartfelt is the word that comes to mind as I follow the life of a young girl waiting to meet her idol, and a young girl struggling to find her dream and uncover a startling puzzle that will make the reader gasp in surprise.  Again, this is classified as a young adult book, but parents and grandparents - GWTW lovers or not - will be more than happy with this lovely story.
 
To you, my sister, I finally understand the "point" of GWTW through the eyes of these characters.  I miss you and our strange talks about movies, and such.  Hopefully one day I can find the reason why The Big Chill was so important, as well.  See?  After twenty years, maybe there's hope for me yet.    
 
I thank the writer of this novel - I hope she continues to write more wonderful stories.  And, "Frankly, my dear....", you all need to go out and buy this book.
 
Until Next Time

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