Hell's Belles
Kristen Robinette
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Hell's Belles

Kristen Robinette
Harlequin NEXT
304 pages
October 2005
rated 5 of 5 possible stars
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Four friends from the small town of Haddes, Georgia, are graduating from high school, and they make a pact to meet back up in Haddes, in two decades to see which direction their lives have taken and to reunite with each other. The four friends - Erica, Della, Shay, and Mattie - each write a letter of their hopes and aspirations and seal their letter in an envelope to be opened in twenty years during the “reunion.”

What transpires for the remaining bulk of the novel is not what most readers would expect. Instead of a washed-up “women finding themselves” reunion, Hell’s Belles is so much more as we learn about the lives of the four friends approaching the big “4-0” age mark, and the past intertwines with the present in an exciting mystery plot involving the group.

Della, the leader of the group, is married to her high school sweetheart, Donald. They live locally in Haddes with their three children. Della loves Donald but she feels unappreciated, and the pounds that she has packed on since her teen years have affected her self-esteem. Mattie owns a bookstore in Haddes and leads a quiet, single life having never married; she secretly has had a crush on Della’s brother since high school. Erica, the feisty one of the group, has led a worldly life as a photojournalist and has been globetrotting for years. Finally, Shay is the introspective friend who secretly fled Haddes years ago to escape a violent marriage to a Haddes police officer and has never truly settled down anywhere since leaving Haddes.

When Mattie suddenly becomes the victim of a break-in and vandalism at her home and the bookstore, it is clear that something is amiss in Haddes, although Mattie is scratching her head over how her quiet existence could make her a target. Della’s brother, now a private investigator, has returned to Haddes and he helps get to the bottom of things, as well as trying to figure out what Mattie’s feelings are for him. Shay is gifted with psychic abilities that come in handy as things heat up and it becomes clear that someone wants something from Mattie – or perhaps is it a disgruntled, abusive lover of Shay’s who is after her and disrupting Mattie’s life as a result? Lastly, and not to be ignored, the independent Erica harbors a life-changing secret that may require her to “open up” to her group of friends as she is going to need emotional support life never before.

Hell’s Belles is a unique novel with several themes that meld together nicely to create an engrossing, poignant, and suspenseful read with a laugh or two along the way. Friendship, love, and mystery are all explored in Hell’s Belles, and I highly recommend this entertaining read to fans of Harlequin’s NEXT line, as well as fans of contemporary fiction and romantic suspense.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Shannon Bigham, 2005

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