The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell
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. (Goodreads)
The book starts with 10 year old Nell trying to fins something to eat and trying to stay clear from her drunken mother. King Charles II is making his return to London and the people are in party mood but Nell is more worried about getting something to eat. She ends up losing her virginity to a boy in exchange for money so she can buy food. She later tries to get more money from a group of boys that doesn’t end up well. Nell’s older sister Rose is working on a brothel and she convinces Madame Ross to take Nell in. There she meets group of actors and becomes fascinated by them. When she gets an opportunity on stage she is delighted. While on stage she catches the eye of the king whom she has met before and is surprised when he remembers her.
Having never read about Nell before I was really interested to read this. I’m still not sure how to feel about this. It wasn’t bad but I think it still kept lacking that something. Can’t say if it’s the book or the fact that I’m not that interested in this time period and don’t know much about it.
I liked Nell: she was nice, likeable girl who was to determined to have better life. But I also felt like she was too nice. All liked her and if they didn’t they were clearly bad. I’m pretty sure she did something unlikable sometime…
I knew it had quite many sex scenes and while I understand that since Nell is a whore I think there didn’t have to be so many of those. And I really didn’t need to read in so many details 10 year old having sex twice (okay there were more guys involved but still) on the day she loses virginity. But I’m also happy that it wasn’t too sanitized because she was after all a whore.
What I really missed was to know how she felt when the queen was accused plotting against the king. The thing was mentioned, Charles flew into rage and that was it. It would have been interesting to read Nell’s thoughts about the matter.
I liked Buckingham and how he and Nell were friends. She didn’t seem to have many friends at court so that was nice. But I’m still wondering if they were friends in real world?
And I liked Charles Hart and he was so adorable. I just wanted to shake Nell and get some sense into her to stay with Hart.
All in all it was enjoyable read and I’m curious to read the author’s next book to see if it goes in the same lines.
Published: Avon (2011)