- Title: The Lives of Diamond Bessie
- Author: Jody Hadlock
- Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
- Genre: Historical Mystery, Ghost Fiction
- Would I recommend: Yes. This is a very good fictionalized account of a little-known historical figure, and it’s an engrossing tale.
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.
I had never heard of the historical Diamond Bessie. I had to go look her up!
This fictionalized account of her life is fascinating. Annie Moore finds herself in the family way after a young man sweet-talks her into going further than was proper for an unwed girl. The young man wants nothing to do with her once he learns she’s pregnant, and, betrayed, she is packed off to a convent. There she is to redeem her soul by God’s grace and harsh treatment at the hands of the nuns. When the nuns take her baby, Annie determines that she won’t stay there. She flees the convent, and ends up taking employment as a demi-mondaine – a prostitute to a generally higher class of clientele.
When Annie – or Bessie, as she is now known – meets Abe Rothschild, spendthrift heir to the Rothschild diamond fortune, she falls hard for him. He apparently falls hard for her, too, but harder for her jewels, the diamonds with which she is identified. Their relationship is up and down, but when he finally proposes to her, Bessie hopes she can leave her working life behind her. But Abe, still more interested in her assets than Bessie herself, leaves her dead in Jefferson, Texas, far from home.
My heart just broke for Annie/Bessie. She made the best of the bad hand she was dealt in just about the only way a “loose woman” could in her era. What she’d given away for love, she now sold for profit. She knew what waited when she lost her youth and beauty, and it was nothing good. She hoped that her marriage to Abe would be her salvation, but it was the end of her instead.
And Bessie’s viewpoint after her earthly life ends is almost the more intriguing part of the book. From a Christian perspective, I don’t believe spirits linger here, seeking to finalize unfinished business. But what a thought, that she wanted revenge badly enough not to “go to the light.”
Jefferson, Texas still remembers Bessie to this day. After reading this book and learning of her, I might feel the need to pay a visit to her final resting place the next time I’m in the Lone Star State.