Review: The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

Thursday, January 27

Title: The Darling Strumpet *
Author: Gillian Bagwell
Series: N/A
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Trade size paperback
Date/Year: January 2011
Reviewed by: ElaineReads

*This book was provided to the reviewer by the publisher for review

Summary from the publisher:

A thrilling debut novel starring one of history's most famous and beloved courtesans.

From London's slums to its bawdy playhouses, The Darling Strumpet transports the reader to the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England, charting the meteoric rise of the dazzling Nell Gwynn, who captivates the heart of King Charles II-and becomes one of the century's most famous courtesans.

Witty and beautiful, Nell was born into poverty but is drawn into the enthralling world of the theater, where her saucy humor and sensuous charm earn her a place in the King's Company. As one of the first actresses in the newly-opened playhouses, she catapults to fame, winning the affection of legions of fans-and the heart of the most powerful man in all of England, the King himself. Surrendering herself to Charles, Nell will be forced to maneuver the ruthless and shifting allegiances of the royal court-and discover a world of decadence and passion she never imagined possible.

ElaineReads' Musings:

First of all, a thank you to Seductive Musings for asking me to guest review this book.  Although I read a lot of historical fiction, I tend to concentrate on the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.  The Darling Strumpet takes place in the latter half of the 1600s, so it is a new era for me.

Oliver Cromwell is dead and the beloved Charles II has returned to England to take up his crown.  In the streets of London, a young Nell Gwynn runs away from her abusive mother and joins her sister in a brothel.  Who would ever expect the paths of the King of England and a lowborn child prostitute to cross?

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  I loved Nell and thought her life was described fairly honestly.  There was no attempt to romanticize her career as a prostitute and mistress.  She knew her existence was strictly at the whim of whatever man had her in their power, be he low born or royalty.  However, despite that, she had many male friends (including former lovers) who she kept due to her wit and loyalty.

Although Charles II was presented very sympathetically, I could not like him.  Infidelity has always been the sticking point for me and he had three mistresses, a wife, and numerous casual trysts.  This was all at the same time.  And yes, I do realize the morals of the time, not to mention the fact he was King are supposed to make a difference.

Of course, the book is based on historical fact.  Charles II did have multiple mistresses.  The author is only being true to the facts.

This is probably not a book I will ever re-read.  I don’t need to . . . I will never forget it.

According to her website, Gillian Bagwell spent twenty years researching this, her debut book.  The wealth of historical detail makes it obvious that the time was well spent.  Fortunately, we will not have to wait so long for her next book which is based on another woman in Charles’ life:  Jane Lane.  The September Queen is due to be published in November of 2011.


Overall:  4 stars - in love (didn’t care for the quotations from plays)
Sensuality Level:  4 steamy

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