In Pam McCutcheon’s Belle of the Ball, we meet the three Sullivan sisters – Belle, Charisma and Grace – who were named after the Three Graces of Greek legend. The novel takes place in 1862 Colorado Springs and none of the sisters live up to their names. Belle is considered to be unattractive; Charisma has no tact and Grace is just, well … graceless. Their mother fears that they will never find what she calls “men of substance and breeding” who love them enough to marry them.
Belle, a tomboy, is the major female character in the book. She is quite happy with her life, doesn’t care that she is a tomboy and is weary of her mother’s social-climbing ways and tasteless efforts to get her daughters wed. Belle is happy, that is, until she and her sisters, while on a drive with three young bachelors of Colorado Springs’ high society, overhear those same young men mocking them. The sisters, having been coerced by their mother to accompany the young men, are appalled to also learn during this conversation that their mother has paid the men to take them out. Standing in the Garden of Gods, the sisters make a wish to their namesakes that they all will begin to live up to their names. Unbeknownst to the sisters, The Three Graces (“three elegant, fingerlike spires of varying heights”) hear them and decide to grant them their wishes. Belle also determines to get revenge against the three men for their cruelty.
Kit Stanhope, Belle’s date and the man she secretly has a crush on, is the second son of a British aristocrat. He has been banished from home by his father because he has been unjustly accused of ungentlemanly behavior. He ends up in Colorado Springs, living off a quarterly allowance from his father while trying to find suitable ventures in which to invest. Kit knows from the way the girls act on the ride home, that they have overheard his and his companions’ rude remarks. He feels guilty and wants to make it up to them. He agrees to help Belle become “beautiful” and make a splash debut into society, never knowing that she has ulterior motives. In the process of helping her, Kit falls in love with Belle.
The book is well written, charming, funny and somewhat silly. The characters are really quite likable. Author Karen Fox tells Charisma’s story in Touch of Charm and Yvonne Jocks writes about Grace in Fallen from Grace.