Bitter Like Orange Peel
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Six women. One man. Seven secrets. One could ruin them all.

Kit is a twenty-five-year-old archaeology undergrad, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. Life seems purposeless. But if she could track down her father, Roger, maybe her perspective would change.

The only problem—Roger is as rotten as the decomposing oranges in her back yard according to the women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clichés, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and named her daughter after "Intravenous."

Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger.
Enter a sister Kit never knew about.
But everyone else did.


If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she'd give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a 30-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, award-winning poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she's written.

Being the daughter of a semi-famous rock 'n' roll duo from Melbourne, she grew up surrounded by song. For a while it seemed logical to travel the musician's path, especially when her first band, spAnk, hit it off in the Melbourne indie music scene back in the late 90s. Although she spent her years writing and recording dozens of songs she decided she also had a love for the written word, and began to pursue a career as a writer.

She started as a poet, drawing from her musical background and etching her thoughts and feelings into verse. Those stanzas soon turned into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually into published books. Her literary voice is said to overflow with "lyrical descriptions, unique metaphors, tight dialogue, and an abundance of sensory detail." She has also been told she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a main stage event.

In addition to her novels, her poetry collections (including FABRIC, which was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2012), and her pocket writing guides (WRITING IN A NUTSHELL SERIES), she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia's Cordite Review, and the anthologies 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND and SHADOWS AT THE STAGE DOOR, both released through Australia's, eMergent Publishing.

Additionally, she is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and makes a living as an editor/writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Note: Check out the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop she annually runs. In 2012 she had Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest, this year, 2013, she has Katharine Sands, New York literary agent as the main instructor.



"A novelist of immense talent and a cast of remarkable characters that seep under your skin like poison. Bitter Like Orange Peel is an extraordinary novel of love, loss - and delicious lies." ~ Dawn Dalton, co-author of Killer’s Instinct

"Colorful, well-developed characters in a world vividly imagined. Bitter Like Orange Peel is equal parts gorgeous writing and gritty reality as four women come to terms with the past. A must-read for Jessica Bell fans." ~Leigh Talbert Moore, bestselling author of The Truth About Faking

“A tightly plotted read with fascinating characters, Bitter Like Orange Peel compels readers to unravel the layers of intertwining stories until the shocking core is revealed.” ~ Talli Roland, bestselling author

“A gritty, bitter tale of what brings family together and tears them apart. A uniquely told and startling novel!” ~ Michelle Davidson Argyle, author of The Breakaway


“I loved Kit. A lot And I loved Ailish and even Eleanor. Eydie was awesomeness. I loved her spunk and wanted her to make it. I felt invested in the characters. I kept reading, driven to know each incremental secret they would slowly reveal to me.” ~ Heather Truett, author of Felicities

“While the title of this book alludes to the fresh citrus, there's nothing sweet about this tale. At the story's heart is a rotten mix of lies, mistrust and lives half-lived. It's a very modern drama that reveals itself like a segmented orange, leaving behind the aftertaste of its zesty but bitter peel.” ~ Lily Mulholland, published short story writer


The blurb for Jessica Bell's forthcoming novel Bitter Like Orange Peel states that there are 6 women, 1 man, and "7 secrets", and all that is true. However, sometimes I felt like the secrets would never stop being revealed, the lies would never stop being uncovered and the extremely "unconventional" family unit described in this book would never get its poo together.

I'm not sure they really did manage that immense feat by the end of the book, but they were a darn sight closer to it than they had been at the start of the book. The family(ies) in this book seem(s) to have a much-clung-to tradition of keeping all the important truths about the past (and in some cases the future) hidden. Secrets are a must because ... why? You don't want to hurt your daughter's feelings? You don't want to DISAPPOINT your daughter? You don't want to admit that the past still has a serious hold on you? Maybe those are some of the reasons and maybe there are a lot more, like plain old pride? Either way, I just read a book about a pretty unhealthy family, and I feel immensely grateful to belong to a family that doesn't exist in a web of lies like this one did.

Jessica Bell's writing is as beautiful as ever, though this time she writes about characters who, for the most part, are pretty well flawed and often unlikeable as well. There were two characters I could mostly feel sorry for: Kit (though she was a bit mean to Sein sometimes) and Eydie. Especially Eydie. Oh, and I felt sorry for Brian too, particularly at the Christmas scene - but I was very glad to read the hotel scene later. Brian also disappointed me on occasion, but now that I have his whole story I conclude that he's generally a good guy. Note that I am talking about all these characters as if they are real and believable people, because they really are, and that is what makes Jessica Bell such a great writer. Well, there's the beauty of her style, of course, but her characters are always very real. Not always particularly "likeable", as mentioned already.

Sometimes it felt like every chapter of this book ended with another bombshell, though I know that having finished the read, my mind is now simply churning with all the secrets that were so slowly revealed over the course of the book.

The Christmas Day scene in particular is one that makes me smirk to think about, because it was almost comedy how the truth kept inching towards being revealed. Eydie's experience that day was the most tragic part of the book for me. However, I'm not entirely sure if I "get" what Kit's ultimate story was - was Ailish right or did she misunderstand the scene she walked in on 25 years ago? It's probably obvious to others, but I'm just not ENTIRELY sure I can trust my conclusions (which are that Ailish misunderstood). Anyway ... those are just some very rambly thoughts on this book that kept me gasping with each newly revealed sliver of truth. There were many gasp-worthy moments, but the three that stick in my mind most now are: 1) finding out about Brian's upcoming significant life event; 2) finding out how Eydie was conceived; 3) finding out what Ailish had been keeping hidden from everyone.

Multi-talented author Jessica Bell has provided the discerning reader a wonderful novel.

Bitter Like Orange Peel IS rapid-fire story-telling through the eyes and mouths of multiple intersecting lives; it IS rough-edged dialogue and internal monologue; it IS soothed with narrative as smooth as poetry; it IS filled with perfect metaphors, uniquely-fitted and thought-provoking; and, it IS a work of art, as much poetry as personality mystery of the multiple characters.

Bitter Like Orange Peel is NOT formulaic; it is NOT written from a single point-of-view; it is NOT predictable; and, there is NOT a single one-dimensional character in sight.

Bitter Like Orange Peel provides smooth transitions from character to character, from the changing of one point-of-view to another. It is a novel of lies and lies about lies abound. It is a novel complicated by those internal and external truths we all conceal from family, and ourselves. It is a novel about family strangers and strange family members.

I enthuse much as I know Jessica Bell’s Bitter Like Orange Peel will not disappoint.

This story is told from the perspective of the wives, lovers, and daughters of one man named Roger.

Ivy's mother, Eleanor, was married to Roger when he began an affair with one of his students, Ailish. Ailish has a child by Roger named, Kit. After Eleanor's divorce, Ailish and Eleanor become friends and raise the two half sisters together as a family. Now, as adults, both girls are emotionally stunted. Ivy especially, is incapable of maintaining relationships, holding a real job, or knowing just what it is she really wants in life.
Kit is only a tiny bit better. Kit, though has decided she wants to find and meet her father, Roger. It seems that Roger had married once again and had yet another daughter. However, Kit is unaware she has another sister. None of the women seem to know where Roger is presently.
Kit's insistence on finding Roger and begging for Ivy's help in doing so, opens up a plethora of long kept secrets. They ALL have a piece to the puzzle and all have their own reasons for keeping these secrets.

Sadly, each person involved is left feeling betrayed. Harsh words and actions result and Ivy seems to sort of come unhinged.

These people take dysfunctional to a whole new level. How many ex-wives deliver their ex-husband's child with another woman? How many former wives/lovers are actually friends and allow their offspring to grow up together? Is it OK for one to keep a secret from the others?
More shocking revelations develop as we go along. Not only do the main characters harbor secrets, but some secondary characters are also less than forthcoming, including a guy Ivy begins dating named Brian.

So, do you have all that? It sounds like a giant soap opera, and is in a way. There is a REALLY big shocker at the end. This big reveal leaves it up to the reader how to interpret these revelations. There is no neat, all tied up in a neat bow, conclusion. We know that some people will find a kind of peace that will allow them to move forward with their lives, others will remain just as they are, most likely, and some will most likely need some professional help before it's all said and done.
Hopefully, all these women will continue to lean on each other and become closer now that some of the secrets are out in the open. But, I think maybe there is still more to be told in this story, and I hope the author will consider an update on what becomes of these characters in the future.

The author did an excellent job of keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next. It was hard to put this book down. I kept thinking about the characters and maybe was a little worried about them from time to time. If an author can evoke that sort of reaction from readers, they are a real talent. A very skillful author indeed.

Bitter Like Orange Peel is a fresh take on family drama. The narrative explores how secrets and withholding shape the life of an extended family through the eyes of three half sisters. Each sister is at a place in her life where she needs answers to her questions about their mysterious father.
Jessica Bell’s prose is interesting and engaging. Each of the sisters are uniquely flawed in ways that make the characters jump off the page and take up residence in the reader’s head.


When I first heard about this book, I knew it sounded like a really interesting book. I liked the format of the book being divided into character chapters therefore making the focus on one individual at a time. The language used by Bell is really powerful. I was shocked by some of the plot twists but certainly my attention was held unto the end.