As I went through the various edits to The Titanic Mummy Mystery, the more I became absorbed by the character of La Belle Otero, who came vividly to life through the narrative journey. She was known as the World’s Most Famous Courtesan, and the Suicide Siren, for the number of men who threatened, and did, kill themselves for their unrequited passion. It’s hard to imagine one woman holding five different monarchs in the palm of her hand, including Britain’s Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, not to mention a slew of American oligarchs and Russian Grand Dukes. Belle knew everyone, the Emperor of Japan even gifted her a private island. She’s the natural society grande dame to introduce Ruby to the powerful people she’ll have to investigate.
Belle was not only copied in fashion and had more jewels than any other woman, including royals, she was one of the first women used in promotional advertising, as I discovered while researching the cars of 1912 that would have been used in Europe, particularly France. While Music Hall Murder was all about the Rollers, and the maharajah who used seven Rolls Royces as garbage trucks in India, in France the De Dion Bouton was chic.
With her suffragette leanings, Ruby was quick to point out her mentor’s modern thinking when she takes control of the rental motor car from Mimmo in Italy. It’s her way of showing she doesn’t really need him, when the pain of rejection from another is reflected in Mimmo’s perceived abandonment. Ruby is just learning how to manage the distressing emotions that come with love and Belle’s words of independence and self-direction are a powerful influence.
Belle in Titanic Mummy is now around 44 years old and the lonely battle with aging is uppermost in her character. She goes through an interesting struggle, having been the most wanted woman in the world, she shows signs of addiction, to gambling, as soothing and distraction. Still, as book 3 will show, the old girl still has what it takes.