Belle Cora

Publisher: Anchor

In the home where Arabella Godwin was raised it is forbidden to speak her name, and her picture is turned to the wall. But in the turbulent America of the 1850s, everyone knows her as "Belle Cora," madam of San Francisco's finest bordello. Judges and senators do her bidding; a vicious newspaper editor plots her downfall; a preacher looks at her from across his pulpit and tries to forget that once she was his wife. Merchant's daughter, farm girl, prostitute, mother, madam, murderess, avenger, protector—she has worn all these masks: the only thing that never changes is her tireless pursuit of the one man who can see her for who she really is.


There is a story about a girl who took the wrong path, and rues it all her life. She is too trusting. She is too passionate. The result: an error than can’t be corrected, a stain that can’t be washed out. Back on the old homestead where she grew up, no one is permitted to speak her name, and her picture is...
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This guide is intended to aid your discussion of Belle Cora.

1. What role do the forward and the introduction play in Belle Cora

2. Why do you think the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 prompted Belle to tell her life’s story?

3. Belle mentions that the book’s...

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“You don’t just read Belle Cora. You live it.” —Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker

 “Memorable at every turn and set against the backdrop of a nineteenth century America that was, like the novel’s protagonist, many different things all at once.  —Edward Rutherfurd, author of Paris

 “An enthralling historical drama . . . told with sympathy, feeling, humor, and accuracy.  Phillip Margulies is a superb writer.” —Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd  

  “As exquisitely seductive as its enigmatic heroine. . . . Will captivate readers from start to finish.” —BookPage

“A rollicking novel that tracks an American Moll Flanders on her roller-coaster ride from respectability into quite profitable sin and back again.” —The San Francisco Chronicle 

“Gripping, sweeping, and tragic, Belle Cora is the story of an extraordinary woman making her way through an extraordinary time. . . . A character I won't soon forget. “ —Anton DiSclafani, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

“Not only this year’s best read, but last year’s as well. In a can’t-put-it-down historical epic filled with suspense, romance, keen wit, adventure and scandal.” —Bookreporter

“Bighearted. . . . Belle belongs in the ranks of literary heroines strong enough to survive illness, heartbreak, financial ruin, scandal and their own worst impulses, and her quintessentially American story makes her a memorable character.” —The Columbus Dispatch

“The past is a foreign country. If, like me, you long to visit nineteenth-century New York and San Francisco, I can't imagine a better time-travel substitute than Belle Cora. This is a splendid feast of a novel.” —Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday  

“Margulies strikes gold. . . . Belle’s remarkable story mirrors that of her young country, on the verge of civil war, and her sharp, engaging voice brings her tale to vivid life.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Hard to put down.” —The New York Journal of Books
“A story to lose yourself in, by turns thrilling, witty and poignant. Phillip Margulies has given us a luminous portrayal of an unforgettable woman. You will be utterly seduced.” —Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier’s Wife

“A debut novel of great scope and top-level excitement.” —The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) 
“Enthralling. . . . Above all else, it tells a great story.” —Bookriot

“A story that will captivate historical fiction fans as they follow her exploits during a turbulent era.” —Library Journal

“Phillip Margulies has taken the scant known facts about Belle and created a magnificent heroine. . . . Utterly compelling. . . . A memorable and outstanding work on many levels.” —Historical Novel Society