Taking advantage of her striking blonde looks and petite figure, not to mention her self-avowed love of sex, the U.S.-born academic worked as a £300-an-hour call girl, raking in thousands while she attempted to forge a career as a neurotoxicologist.
Of course, the cash she made from her antics was nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands she went on to make as Belle de Jour, author of the anonymous blog Diary Of A London Call Girl.
The Real Belle De Jour Dr Brooke Magnanti could lose her fortune after a defamation case was bought by an ex-boyfriend
A sequel, The Further Adventures Of A London Call Girl, followed in 2006, and the following year, the books were adapted for a television series starring Billie Piper.
This week, however, it appears that 37-year-old Brooke, who finally unmasked herself as Belle de Jour in 2009, is on the brink of financial ruin after claiming that a defamation case being brought by an embittered former boyfriend will wipe out all of her hard‑earned cash.
‘I have no choice but to defend this,’ she wrote this week in her latest online blog, entitled Sexonomics. ‘But am happy to do so even though it will almost certainly mean losing everything I have even when I win.’
It’s set to be a brutally personal fight which will be played out in Scotland where both Brooke and her former lover Owen Morris, a 38-year-old ex-RAF Flight Lieutenant, now live.
Brooke unmasked herself in 2009 as the author of the best selling books
Brooke, meanwhile, has hit back at her former lover — referring to him coldly as ‘someone I used to date’ — and insisted this week: ‘The last several years of dealing with these ongoing claims have taken their toll. I have suffered physically from the stress of defending myself against the actions of someone who, many years after we split, seems not to have moved on.’
Owen has already won what might be described as round one of his battle against the Belle de Jour publicity machine.
He has accepted ‘substantial’ libel damages from The Sunday Times newspaper over false claims that he threatened Brooke with violence when their six-year affair came to an end and that he had threatened to reveal her identity as the author of the Belle de Jour blog.
This week, the newspaper was forced to deliver a full apology which was read out at the High Court after Owen’s solicitor Jeffrey Smele told of the ‘damage and distress’ the untrue allegations had caused.
The roots of this ongoing bitter legal battle stretch back to 2002 when the pair first embarked on a relationship, with Owen blissfully unaware that one day he would be immortalised on the page as ‘The Boy’, or that their bedroom antics would be offered up as titillating fodder for millions of readers.
Indeed, when Brooke decided to unveil herself as Belle de Jour, she not only blew her own cover, claims Owen, but his as well — by outing him to his family and friends, not to mention superior officers who had met her at RAF dinners as well as his passing-out parade.
‘At least she has her literary career to fall back on, but what about me?’ Owen told the Mail in an interview in 2009.
‘Brooke has outed me to my friends and family without giving me any warning. People who have never read her blogs can look them up and see that The Boy is me.’
Certainly, Brooke’s salacious scribblings appear to be a world away from Owen’s recollections of the evenings he spent making jam with his former lover, stargazing or cuddling up on the sofa and watching episodes of Monarch Of The Glen while eating Scotch pancakes.
The books were turned into ITV series, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper
Even Owen’s parents, George and Christel who live in the town of Forres on the Moray coast, happily embraced Brooke into their family, blissfully unaware that their affection for her would one day be cruelly betrayed.
The pair met in 2002 in a nightclub in Sheffield where Brooke was studying for a PhD in computer visualisation, annotation and databasing of human skeletal remains and Owen was working as an engineer.
In the beginning, theirs was a long‑distance relationship. Brooke moved to London in 2003, while Owen, who was made redundant from his engineering job the same year, went on to join the RAF.
Brooke happily posed alongside his parents and brothers at his passing-out ceremony in 2005.
They were together for six years, during which time he insists that while he knew his girlfriend was working for an escort agency and writing a blog about it — and even suspected that she slept with clients she found attractive — he had no idea that she was having sex with men for money.
Brooke and her television alter-ego Billie Piper. Owen, from Kinloss, is suing Brooke personally for defamation and is demanding a settlement of £700,000
‘You can say love is blind, that love makes a fool of you, but I thought it was “knickers on” work, to put it crudely,’ he explained to the Mail at the time.
Conversely, after finally ‘outing’ herself in 2009 — which she did because she feared her real identity was about to be exposed — Brooke said that while working as a call girl between 2003 and 2004, she had slept with ‘somewhere between dozens and hundreds’ of clients for £300 an hour, £100 of which was given to her ‘madam’.
She turned to prostitution, she said, because she had a ‘pathological aversion to being in debt’.
All these admissions, of course, were heavily at odds with Owen’s once rose-tinted view of his girlfriend.
‘My Brooke was beautiful, funny, intellectual,’ he said in 2009. ‘My Brooke would walk along the beach with me, sit against hay bales and watch the stars.’ His parents loved her. He even planned to propose, having two rings made — which he later buried on a beach they visited regularly together.
Brooke said that she thought she would be able to fade back into private life after her huge success
But for a couple who at various times have bitterly complained about being on the receiving end of unwanted publicity, the impending court case in Scotland serves only to throw the spotlight back on them once more.
Despite Brooke’s claims that her former partner ‘hasn’t moved on’, it is believed that Owen is now in a new relationship and lives in Ministry of Defence accommodation at RAF Kinloss.
Since the frenzied media storm that broke out in 2009, Brooke’s life, meanwhile, has changed beyond recognition.
She got married in the U.S. in 2010 to Birmingham-born Nick Wilding, a qualified teacher and part-time firefighter. They live in a £300,000 detached home about an hour’s drive from Fort William in a loch-side village in the heart of the Highlands, where locals say she goes by the name of Samantha.
Indeed, for someone who has offered up so many intimate details about her life for public consumption, Brooke is a surprisingly private person. And yet, as ever, she happily gives away tantalising morsels of her life when necessary.
Last year, she revealed — when promoting her latest book, The Sex Myth — that she met her 36-year-old husband on the casual sex section of the website Gumtree when they were both living in Bristol.
Her life in Scotland is a far cry from the days she spent selling her body in some of London’s most upmarket hotels.
While still a prolific blogger, she now lives surrounded by deer and apple trees, grows her own vegetables and goes sea-kayaking and walking in the mountains with her husband.
‘He’s very into the mountains. He’s an ice-climber and things like that,’ she has said.
She once commented that she thought it would be easy, after her books were published, to ‘fade away back into normal life’.
But if there are aspects of the past Brooke thought she could put behind her, it seems clear that her former boyfriend’s broken heart is now coming back to haunt her.
How ironic it would be if, after working so hard for her ill-gotten gains, Owen’s determination to pursue her through the courts leaves her with nothing.