The Inspiration for the Spirits of Belleview Novels
Each novel I’m writing for the series “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” takes place at the historic and, according to many, ‘haunted’ Belleview Biltmore Resort, located in the small, affluent town of Belleair, Florida.
Originally called the Hotel Belleview, the resort was built by railroad, shipping and hotel magnate, Henry Plant. She opened for her first winter season on January 4, 1897. Over one hundred years later, I walked down the main corridor of the hotel, finding it difficult not to gawk.
The hallways were built to be wide enough that two ladies wearing hoopskirts could pass one another comfortably. High, carved arches line the primary walkway like regal sentries; standing guard over historic artifacts and photographs, depicting the evolution of hotel, its amenities and pastime diversions. Other photographs immortalize a few of the hotels’ more famous guests – a diverse list that includes notables from every generation and runs the gamut from the Rockefeller, DuPont and Vanderbilt families, to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Al Capone, to Sam Snead, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, to Charlie Daniels, Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley, to the Duke of Windsor, Margaret Thatcher and United States Presidents Carter, Ford, Bush Sr. and Obama.
As I walked further down the corridor, each room I passed beckoned me to stop and admire its unique features. One ballroom boasts an elegant ceiling of Tiffany glass and matching interior windows, while another features a twenty foot high ceiling covered with twinkling ‘stars’, and still another shows off incredible white, wrought-iron-gates at its entrance. At both ends of the corridor, awe-inspiring, wide spiral staircases wind their way out of sight, leading to the guestrooms above. In contrast, several narrow employee-access doors reveal worn, wooden steps and hidden passages leading down to the basement work areas. I stopped to admire three tiny phone booths, installed by the military in 1941, when the hotel briefly joined the war effort, and could easily visualize hundreds of men standing in line to use these phones to call loved ones during WWII. I marveled at the way each generation seemed to have made its own mark on this elegant hotel.
And that’s when it hit me.
Past generations not only made physical changes to the hotel, but thousands left echoes of themselves here as well. I could actually feel some of them there with me. Soon after my first visit, I decided to write novels that would combine the actual history of the Belleview Biltmore Resort with fictional spirits (ghosts.)
My stories are based on the premise that some spirits remain in this realm with their personalities and memories intact, and are able to share some of their memories with guests of the hotel – whenever a special connection exists between the two. Interaction with the spirits eventually alters the course of the guests’ lives for the better, but getting to that point won’t be easy!
Each story will feature spirits from a specific decade of the Resort’s unique and glorious history. Only one character will appear throughout the entire series – the spirit of Margaret Plant (a largely fictionalized characterization of Henry Plant’s second wife.)As the strongest spirit occupying the Belleview Biltmore Resort, Margaret is a wise, no-nonsense, but good-hearted busybody, who likes to be involved in everything and enjoys influencing lives with her motto: “An intelligent and motivated woman with allies can accomplish anything!”
Pearls Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore (Book 1)
By: BonSue Brandvik
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Honor Macklin has no idea the Belleview Biltmore Resort is haunted when she decides to stay there while settling her mother’s estate in Belleair, Florida. But the Victorian spirits who are invading her dreams to share memories from the life of a young, troubled Victorian woman aren’t her only problem. Although he was only supposed to be a vacation fling, she has fallen hard for Josh Lancing, a single dad with a clairvoyant, four-year-old son. Also, her mother’s spirit could be haunting the old family home Honor is preparing to put on the market. And now she’s learned her conniving ex-husband/business partner is plotting a coup in her absence. She’s running out of time. If she doesn’t figure out some answers soon, she stands to lose everything from her livelihood to a chance at true love.
Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore
READING GROUPS/BOOK CLUBS – POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS
for Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore
- How might the world be different today if, as Margaret Plant suggests, women had developed their own version of the “Good Old Boys Network” over time?
- What are some alternative ideas about what might happen immediately after one passes beyond this life? Do you believe a soul or spirit still exists? If so, do you think the soul can still make choices?
- What would you do if a child came into your life with a “special gift” like Cody’s?
- Do you think it’s possible that an old building can hold onto “echoes” of people who once stayed there?
- Could you/would you incorporate “The Circle” into your own life? How might doing so affect your life and those of other women in your circle?
- Do you know anyone like William? Why do you think he is continually unsatisfied with his life? Do you think men like William can change?
- If you knew about a dark family secret, would you share it with your children?
- Have the lives of women improved since they are no longer automatically expected to marry and raise children? Has their struggle for equality improved society?
- Despite societal and technological advances of the last 100 years, some things haven’t changed at all – especially when it comes to human emotion. What are some of those things?
- If you were given the opportunity to revisit a memory of one person who has passed away, who would you choose and what memory/memories would you want to see?
Ripples Spirits Of The Belleview Biltmore (Book 2)
By: BonSue Brandvik
Lilyanna Thorne still suffers from serious injuries she received in the car accident that took the life of her son three years ago, but when she learns her grandmother has only a few days to live, she grabs the first flight to Florida and checks into the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, near Morton Plant Hospital. Her marriage is in ruins and she’s plagued with horrific nightmares of the accident and ghoulish visions of her late son, so the last thing she needs is spirits at the Belleview Biltmore invading her dreams to share their memories from the Roaring Twenties. But soon the spirits teach her that death is not as black and white as she believed it to be… and neither is love or marriage.