Gilded Serpent presents...

Belly Dance Novels, Light and Dark

Wendy and DeAnna's Books

The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron &
Midnight Rose by Wendy Buonaventura

Reviewed by Bonita Oteri
posted September22, 2009

"The Belly Dancer"  by DeAnna Cameron
Berkley Books, ISBN# 978-0425227787

The Belly Dancer"The Belly Dancer" is a delightful, light, entertaining romance novel with unusual twists.The book also affords readers an educational, historical background. This novel, like most historical fictional novels, does make minor "poetic license" leaps in character traits to bridge the gap between their time and ours and to afford us empathy with their situations. However, author DeAnna Cameron deftly peels back the layers of Gay Nineties society and affords a richly descriptive and fascinating glimpse into the life, times and giddy excitement of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  DeAnna has researched turn of the century Chicago and paints a believable atmosphere of this momentous, historical event where Belly Dancing reportedly was first introduced into the United States.  While I am no academic, historical expert on the era, I found only one minor editorial oversight that places Ouled Nail Dancers in the Turkish Pavilion/Tent.

The overall carnival excitement, curiosity and wonder of the Chicago Fair visitors is infectious.The pages teem with the unbridled enthusiasm and hope of our still young, shiny and new pioneer nation.

Any fictional heroine such as our intrepid leading lady must also traverse the dark, murkier side of 1890s Chicago. She experiences dilemmas and choices that are relevant in any era – racism, exclusive "members only type" societal cliques and the age old question of "What if you get everything you wished for, and it’s not what you really wanted?"  I will not spoil the book by revealing too much… but suffice to say that the conventions of the time and culture are as tight and constricting emotionally and spiritually, as are her corset stays physically. How does she overcome these inhibitions and set herself free?  By learning and channeling the power of belly dance to launch all that suppressed inner passion and fire.

My favorite exchange in the book is when the scandalized, gently reared heroine comes upon a choice between a "fun" liaison and the serious marriage choices she has been taught are vital all her life long.  She asks her saucy, adorable but rock-steady Egyptian belly dance mentor,  "But what if HE meets someone else?" The Egyptian Ghawazee teacher laughs and replies confidently, "What if I meet someone else? "Wow, consider the hours of mutual girlfriend counseling we could avoid if we all shared this positive, self-esteem building, light-hearted attitude.

This book makes for great end-of-summer beach reading or a unique Christmas gift for moms, sisters, adult daughters or girlfriends who might not be dancers themselves but would like a glimpse into what motivates some to study belly dance.  Perhaps the tiniest, tantalizing taste…will overcome and seduce them into the next belly dance class opening in your neighborhood….. The cover art is lovely and DeAnna Cameron the author will be glad to send you some bookmarks as supplies last to distribute to your students.

You can contact her at  deanna@deannacameron.com.

Zil Ratings: 3 zills
Zil Ratings

“Midnight Rose” by Wendy Buonaventura
Cinnabar Books, www.cinnabarbooks.co.uk, ISBN 978-1-898495-07-9

Midnight Rose"Midnight Rose" is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Maud Allan.  A British gentleman quips, “She was the Marilyn Monroe of my times.”  Maud was an American born dancer who gained notoriety in Europe for performing on stage as Salome, The “evil” biblical temptress. 

Her dancing career and her adventurous youth occurred at the dawn of the bohemian lifestyle era, which allowed women to toss their corsets and become flappers of the Roaring Twenties.

She was a contemporary of Isadora Duncan and Mata Hari; and while never as famous as these two women, her dancing appears to have incorporated some of the elements for which these dancers were best known.  Her character seems more similar to that of Mata Hari, for whom dancing was a means to an end, than that of Isadora, who was a true pioneer in the modern dance field.

This book blends historical court record transcripts, actual reviews and media articles of the era with fictional dreams and diaries to provide the author’s insight into how this fearless woman might have felt and what might have motivated her behavior, which was scandalous by Edwardian era standards. 

Maud definitely walked on the wild side even by today’s societal mores; this fictional account suggests she might have dabbled in threesomes and lesbian relationships.  Nonetheless, she is a hypnotic character brought to bold life on the pages by Wendy’s seamless fusion of fact and fiction.

Zil Ratings: 3 zills
Zil Ratings

The Gilded Serpent Editor asked me to compare and contrast these two novels, which may appeal to totally different audiences.

“The Belly Dancer” has mass marketing appeal to many women as a light, entertaining romance novel; it is a good introduction to the art form which, I believe, will even entice more than a few ladies into our classes. In contrast, “Midnight Rose” has a darker side and is not for the faint hearted who want to read a happily ever after type novel.

 Wendy has done a great service to the dance world in painting an unabashedly brazen portrait of this fascinating, incorrigible and yet in some ways vulnerable woman.  This more serious, semi-biographical literature will appeal to those interested in the Edwardian era, the dance style emerging at the time and a fascinating tale of the “liberated” woman from the early days of the twentieth century.

See Bonita’s GS bio page here.

This is not the correct price. Check Amazon UK or get direct and authographed from Cinnabar linked above

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