The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II by Gillian Bagwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
(originally reviewed at Seductive Musings)