Book Review: The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

the darling strumpet #historicalFrom 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 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

Copy received from the publishers as part of Librarything‘s August 2011 Early Reviewer batch.

This was an enjoyable and easy read, introducing us to a 10 year old Nell Gwynn, just as she is starting out in the local brothel and gives a view of her progressing through society until she becomes one of King Charles II’s mistresses.

This is Nell’s story, so there is little court intrigue beyond jockeying for position with the other mistresses (and the Queen), and the right of succession when the matter of Charles’ health comes under threat. As a mistress not living in the palace she (and therefore we) often hear things second hand, and that is dealt with fine – I’ve read enough historical/Royal fiction recently to be a little jaded of all the backstabbing and manipulation found in some other in-palace stories.

Especially later, the story can jump months at a time, which is not a bad thing, as the story moves along at an appropriate pace. At near 400 pages, it’s good not to be bogged down with unnecessary prose over unhelpful or uninteresting plot lines.

Some of the story (especially in the first half, before she comes mistress) is …. not for the young or the too easily offended. Nell worked for several years in a particular line of business, which had to be represented, and Gillian has written this well, especially for a debut novel (no “wooden spoon for bad sex scenes” eh?)


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