The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron
Dora is newly transplanted from New Orleans to Chicago. Although her mother’s family is from money, she and her mother were reduced to running a guest house after her father’s death. Now that she has married Charles Chambers from Chicago, she is restored to what she and her mother see as her proper place in society. Charles is pursuing a Vice Presidency at his bank and has arranged for Dora to be on the World’s Fair Board of Lady Managers in order to bolster their social position.
Chicago society is quite different than what Dora is accustomed to in New Orleans. In addition to trying to navigate the often choppy waters of female society, Dora’s assignment for the Board of Lady Managers is to enforce proper conduct in the Egyptian belly dancing exhibition – not an easy task due to the prejudice against the belly dancers. However, Dora’s time with the belly dancers begins to change her, making her more comfortable with herself and giving her more self-esteem to deal with those in Chicago society who treat her poorly.
I really enjoyed Cameron’s descriptions of the World’s Fair and the belly dancing exhibition. She clearly did her research and seemed to describe late 19th-century Chicago society well. The romance aspects of the book, including Dora’s self-discovery and an affair aren’t as much my speed, but I still found the book as a whole very enjoyable.
Cameron based her story on the legend of the belly dancer Little Egypt who may or may not have performed at the World’s Fair and created an historical romance around it. I think that this would be enjoyed both by those who enjoy historical fiction that gives them a sense of a period and those who enjoy a romance without too much sex.