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~Download ⚓ The Darling Strumpet ♕ 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 CourtesansWitty 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 How have I not heard of Nell Gwynn before this I recognized the names of most of her contemporaries, but somehow she has skated under my radar until now Luckily I was able to snag the copy offered to Fiction Vixen and immerse myself in Nell s life during the era of King Charles II.The book opens in 1660 and a young Nell has finally tired of her life as an oyster girl She s decided to follow in her sister Rose s footsteps and go to work at Madam Ross s I m not clear on how old she is exactly, but we find out when she s interviewing sort of with Madam Ross that she has only just started her courses That very fact makes her life that much harder to read about She doesn t come across as a little girl though Throughout the book she seems much older than her years and I constantly found myself surprised when another birthday was mentioned because I kept forgetting that she was so young.I felt the writing and characterization in the beginning section was the roughest of the book Nell s decision to become a prostitute seemed willy nilly and the way she jumped into her role of seductress searching for her first customer just seemed off The lesson in hard knocks given to her by a group of young men on the day of King Charles s return seemed designed to cast her in a sympathetic light, but it didn t really work for me I felt bad, yeah, but I also was frustrated by her attitude and actions.The next day when she s at Madam Ross s waiting to be chosen we re told that her seemingly nonchalant attitude of the day before had been fueled by hunger and desperation and later by drink I just felt that if that was really supposed to have been her motivations it was clumsily done The only reason I knew that was because she thought it to herself.Luckily, the author hit her stride once Nell had been at Madam Ross s for a while I found it a little slow at times during this period, but that was just because the nature of Nell s work made her days a bit repetitive I really liked that along with the benefits like the pretty clothes and freedom from her mother, the downside of Nell s life was shown At one point after a celebration in honor of the royal marriage of Charles and Catherine the girls were so busy that they didn t even bother to leave the rooms because the line of men waiting their turns outside their rooms was so long Can you imagine that Ouch My favorite parts were when Nell was acting I loved seeing the camaraderie between the actors and the competition the King s Company had with the Duke s Company I also really liked learning little facts about the theater world I loved hearing about the reopening of the theaters after 18 years and the rise of women playing female parts instead of the traditional male actors.The theater was also the stomping ground of two of my favorite characters in the book, Charles Hart and the Earl of Rochester I loved Charles because he was really the nicest character in the whole book He and Nell actually seemed to have a bond that I was sorry to see eventually break Rochester was just a wicked, fascinating man who was written as an eventual dear friend to Nell It was nice seeing him in that role as I usually only see his self destructive, libertine ways cast I loved one of the scenes he had with Nell early in their relationship soon after they had become lovers You can give a man a quick ride that leaves him happy or a night of play that tires him But there is to learn You can give a man such pleasure, not just in his body but in his mind, his soul, that you become a drug So that he will crave you So that his bollocks will ache and give him no peace until his prick is once master of that smooth warmth And I can train you, pretty pet Do you want that Nell found that her heart was beating and her loins were on fire She looked up at Rochester and found she could hardly breathe Yes, my lord Good On your knees No, off the bed For this is your god, and you must worship it I just thought that last line was particularly apt and powerful He also said This bed is your stage, Rochester said From such a stage you could do anything Which was another great line when applied to Nell and her life.I really liked how the author showed Nell having stray meetings with the king at various times in her life It really helped build a nice foundation for their eventual relationship I also felt that the author did a great job of including important factual events and political happenings in the background It really gave me a nice frame of reference for when things were actually occurring.The last quarter of the book was very sad for me It was rough watching Nell lose such important people I though the author did an excellent job showing her pain and heartbreak though I never felt that any of it was gratuitously included and it was very sad watching Nell try to cope again and again.Although I really enjoyed this book I don t think I d ever want to walk in Nell s shoes She had a hard life and I was sorry to see her never be valued as much as I wanted her to be She came a long way in life, and she was content, but I was a little sad she never got the happy ending I hoped she would Alas, that s usually the case when I read books based off of real historical figures Review originally posted at Fiction Vixen. Gillain Bagwell s debut effort The Darling Strumpet was first published in trade paperback format back in 2011 Hilariously enough or maybe not, depending on how much you value your 7.99 the mass market paperback that I have in my hands declares this story as historical romance on the spine There is even a tagline on the gorgeous cover A novel of Nell Gwynn, who captured the heart of England and King Charles II to make it sound like this is the literary upgrade of an average romance novel, where reading it will make you feel smarter and profound about love.Well, first of all, this is a romanticized tale of Nell Gwynn s life, yes, but it is only romantic in that Nell tells me that she s in love with King Charles II That man is juggling her and three other mistresses at the same time, and he never tells her or behaves in a manner to suggest that he s in love with her The love thing happens in the later half of the story The first half is the story of Nell s rise from nobody to mattress queen, with some sex scenes, including a threesome reminiscent of those sexy times Bertrice Small usually writes, only Ms Bagwell s sexy times are tamer compared to Ms Small s Oh, and King Charles II dies in the end, and so does Nell So, if you are expecting a romance novel, as in a romance novel and not a soap opera with a tacked on ending that tries to emulate some kind of When Evita and Rose DeWitt Bukater compare who has the bigger kind of tearjerker ending melodrama, then you may want to wave that 7.99 somewhere else.Nell Gwynn, in history, is supposed to be this witty, beautiful, and popular actress whose greatest claim to fame is that she is a long time mistress of King Charles II Alas, historical fiction tends to treat her like a placeholder for political events during her time, and this one is no different Worse, this version of Nell is flat, boring, and devoid of any memorable trait I always assumed that Nell would have a pretty good degree of cunning to retain King Charles II s interest as well as survive the dangerous political currents of his court, but from Ms Bagwell s version of Nell, it s akin of Nell just somehow stumbling to the last page by default.This Nell shows little actual wit, and the few witty scenes are lifted from previous anecdotes in history, such as Nell s famous line to King Charles II and his brother the Duke of York, But this is the poorest company I ever was in or her line to a bunch of enraged mob who mistook her carriage for that of Louise de K rouaille, You are mistaken I am the Protestant whore Left to her own devices, Ms Bagwell s idea of wit for Nell often falls flat This Nell s wit, therefore, is an informed atrribute I don t see the vaunted wit the author just insists that it s there somewhere.The author also doesn t seem to know what she wants her version of Nell to be I think Ms Bagwell just wants Nell to be liked, so she has Nell becoming this weepy creature that is often carried along by the people around her This Nell has no interest in politics or anything at all Her greatest concern, whenever some political disturbance takes place, is when the theater would reopen When the man she is living with, Charles Hart, comes home to complain bitterly about King Charles II shutting down the theater after a play offended that man, Nell s response is to ask Hart whether he wants to practice his lines with her now that he s home Nell is this girl child thing that manages to waddle all the way to the last page without having to display any depth in her character.The only time Nell actually does something on her own is to leave her mother and become a prostitute in the author s version of Nell s teenage years Even then, her sister does all the actual work to help Nell get set up at the neighborhood posh brothel That s understandable, given that Nell is in her early teens, but Nell s passive character becomes exasperating to follow when she grows older and she s supposed to be even a little shrewd and smart But no, the guys are the ones who pursue her, and she gets passed around until, how lucky, the King thinks that she s hot and decides to keep her as his mistress.The Duke of Buckingham, the guy who becomes Nell s procurer in his ambitions to find a woman to supplant King Charles II s current mistress Barbara Palmer, is portrayed here as an elderly friend and confidante No mention of Nell wanting money from Charles, because this would distort the author s agenda to portray Nell as a gold hearted tart, and no mention of Nell s cunning efforts to secure titles for her illegitimate children No, Nell is this selfless, giving sweetheart who only wants the love of the king, and who only does something when she gets jealous about his other women, and even then, in the end all women are happy to share him because they all know he has a place for each of them in his heart.No, no mention of Nell possibly dying from syphilis she dies of a broken heart, poor thing, after Charles took his kingly affections to the afterlife No mention either of Nell leaving some money in her will to Newgate prisoners, because the author would prefer her sweet, saintly Nell leaving money for poor people without criminal records instead.Perhaps knowing that all that bland one dimensional sweetness will put me to sleep, the author has some half baked sex scenes thrown in, although these scenes only serve to either show me how every good guy wants Nell from first sight because she s so amazing or how every bad guy wants Nell and turns her into a victim of their rampant beastly lusts Nell s exchange of her body for financial security is made so pretty by showing me how those guys give her money willingly because she s just so witty, beautiful, awesome, and sexy and she s only doing it because she really needs the money.Sigh.Interesting political events are glossed over quickly, and the later half of the story is like a history book chopped up with all the readable bits thrown out to be replaced by Nell making cow eyes at Charles The author for some reason introduces a cartoon crazy guy that shows up every few years to terrorize Nell, and even then, this problem is solved by the men around Nell Nell, like she always does, just cries and acts like the most tragic and sexy, don t forget that, oh, and also witty heroine in the land.The Darling Strumpet is pretty amazing in that the author manages to use over 300 pages to turn one of the most popular figures in Restoration England history into a singularly bland and lifeless thing with no discernible personality throughout the whole story Nell is every man s favorite personality free mattress of love, King Charles II is a pimp daddy with bastards than the entire NBA roster, but their love is so pure that when Nell dies, they meet again in heaven, along with Nell s ex lovers turned BFFs, where they d presumably have a holy orgy forever as C line Dion belts out their love anthem, specially composed by James Horner just to cherish this beauteous love for all time. Since I wrote it, I must give it a good review But in all fairness, others who have read it agree with me The Darling Strumpet opens in May 1660 As the restored King Charles II makes his official entry into London, the young Nell Gwynn is taking the first steps in a career which will take her from oyster seller, to prostitute, orange girl, actress, courtesan and finally to royal mistress At this stage in her life, sex is a means to an end for Nell, but Gillian Bagwell conveys her sensual nature by describing her pleasure in eating a hot pie she buys after selling her virginity for sixpence.Nell s life as an actress and Restoration playgirl will be familiar territory to anyone who has read Kathleen Winsor s Forever Amber, but whereas Winsor was interested in the rivalry between the actresses, Gillian Bagwell focuses on the camaraderie of the theatre, which becomes a true home and a second family for Nell Nell s roles also allow her to create a public image and to win popularity.Forever Amber, for all its racy reputation, never ventures beyond the bedroom door I remember being particularly frustrated when Amber breezes in after her first night with the king to which the reader is not made privy By contrast, The Darling Strumpet is refreshingly frank, and while the sex scenes are not just vanilla there s definitely some chocolate and raspberry ripple in there too they are both well written and true to the time and the historical record The Restoration, at least for the court, was a period of hedonism and sexual freedom comparable to the Swinging Sixties three hundred years later and Nell makes the most of it She is a born survivor who has to learn to trust her head over her heart, yet she never loses her compassion for those still mired in the poverty into which she was born.The atmosphere of Restoration London is beautifully rendered in this richly textured novel Sedan chairs, frost fairs, hot wassail, changeable silks the details on every page evoke time and place, while the dialogue strikes the right note between authenticity and accessibility The Earl of Rochester in particular has some wonderful lines, as does King Charles, whose relationship with Nell is realistically drawn The Darling Strumpet packs the events of twenty five years into fewer than four hundred pages, and while I found it enjoyable and very readable, the relatively limited page space and the breaking up of the narrative into short scenes meant that it sometimes seemed a little breathless I find it easier to engage emotionally with longer scenes and one in particular, Charles s last meeting with Nell, has stuck in my mind as particularly moving.I would definitely recommend The Darling Strumpet to anyone looking for a rich and spicy winter read thanks to Berkley for providing me with a review copy. This is not for me Prostitute or no, I do not need that much detail to grasp what she had to do Less is. I cannot praise this book enough Bagwell took on quite a challenge It is very difficult, in my estimation, to write a novel that covers an entire lifetime, albeit a short one like Nell Gwynn s It s strange because I didn t perceive that I was becoming attached to the characters within the story until something happened to them and there I was, blubbering hysterically as if I knew them myself I highly recommend this novel to not only lovers of historical novels but to anyone and everyone who will read it It is the perfect historical novel about one of the most lovable characters in history. Two and a half stars.I love this cover, I think it s gorgeous, the title is perfect and Gillian Bagwell is obviously well versed in the history of this period But I have to be honest, I wanted to love Nell and see the way all of England loved her But I didn t feel England s love or anyone else s love The novel starts out strong enough when Nell, a poor oyster monger, decides to leave the home of her bitter and unloving mother for the whorehouse where her sister sells herself Nell is a clever plucky girl with a sharp wit and soon is selling oranges in the Theater Royal I enjoyed the details of Nell s life when she worked selling oranges and when she worked as an actress but I didn t feel that any of the characters came to life, not even Nell There was a vast breadth of history incorporated into this novel, but in my opinion, very little depth There was a fair amount of graphic sex, which I think was sometimes appropriate given the period and the subject of the novel However, there were times when it felt like the sex was too much and a bit on the gratuitous side There were two scenes that in my opinion were way over the top and had me rolling my eyes a bit One has to do with Nell s skill at love making and the other has to do with the way a particular revenge was taken I didn t care for the story line involving Jack, the evil tough, from Mrs Ross s brothel The drama created by him felt overblown and incongruous with the rest of the story If the character development and the emotional depth of the characters had been greater I would have enjoyed this story much It often felt like the author was telling rather than showing the reader A variety of people told Nell how much she was loved by everyone and by all of England, but again I didn t feel the love It seemed like the author was having a bit of fun writing this novel and I can appreciate that Nell Gwynn is obviously a historical figure near and dear to her heart Perhaps if I had a greater familiarity to the politics and the players during the reign of Charles II I would have appreciated this novel Though I did enjoy the story when the characters grew older and had diminished libidos. I should warn you that Nell is my favorite historical figure and therefore I judge works on her quite harshly With that being said, I still gave Gillian Bagwell s The Darling Strumpet a fair shot and didn t stop reading even when my eyes started rolling The harsh onslaught of graphic sexual encounters within the immediate first few pages is a bit hard to digest, even being aware of Nell s lifestyle This sort of introduction to those readers who may not familiar with Nell can cause distance which may not be lapsed Nell is likable enough, however, she lacks the usual spunk and wit displayed in other historical fiction novels about her life It is difficult to decide whether to root for her or be disgusted in The Darling Strumpet because the lack of character development prevents a detailed feel and look into her psyche The Darling Strumpet took until page 60 to become a bit bearable meaning less about sex and emphasized the foreshadowing and introductions of Nell s theatrical career However, speaking of foreshadowing, Bagwell exhausts the references to Lady Castlemaine and Nell s desire to be like her and command her position with the King Even a reader unfamiliar with Nell could decipher that she would become on par and sometimes above Barbara in the mistress world Not only is historical accuracy not 100% but also much of the historical backdrop is lacking in terms of imagery and actually living the era Oftentimes, it felt like a story with Nell simply in it versus her actual life story I suppose The Darling Strumpet is fiction than history This is also weakened by the plot which is choppy and at times and too rushed Plus, in order to explain the historical elements and lay the foundation for future events Bagwell uses the method of having characters gossip Again, the events aren t lived and are instead merely discussed This is supplemented by odd storylines such as fictional murders and mysteries These simply don t fit into the story, don t add any essence, and are only briefly mentioned but then never explored The characters involved are usually abruptly cut off The effort to make Nell witty falls short Other characters in The Darling Strumpet comment on her spunk but it doesn t make sense because she is not feisty in the novel Basically, something is missing from Nell s usual personality Issues also arise with the writing style which is too modern and contains literary style which is one dimensional and YA than adult oriented and thus, lacks a certain depth Consistency is a problem as the enjoyment factor is up and down For instance, the theater descriptions are always hearty which exposes Bagwell s own possible extensive interest in the topic and less in others As mentioned earlier, the sex scenes which include threesomes are a bit much to handle if you possess some lady like qualities Despite Nell s whore background, it is a degrading portrayal and I ve read better If this was my first Nell book, I wouldn t be as attracted to her In terms of other characters, Charles Hart is a good guy in The Darling Strumpet with Nell leaving him broken hearted Usually, Hart is a promiscuous character and thus this alternate view can either upset or entice readers Also skewed is the missing elements of relationships whether positive or negative between Nell and other female actresses like Moll Davis and Beck Marshall Wondering about the King and Nell Charles and Nell lack chemistry and AGAIN the witty Nell we know and love is lost These interactions between Nell and Charles should have been the meat and potatoes in The Darling Strumpet but they fall flat and Nell is child like and under developed The ending of The Darling Strumpet was rushed and without much substance Every other page consisted of a character dying off, clearly to prep for Nell s own death It felt like Bagwell ran out of a plot Overall, The Darling Strumpet is not the best portrayal glimpse into Nell or historically worthy I wouldn t necessarily want a first time Nell reader to be acquainted with her in this light. Full disclosure I am a huge fan of Nell Gwynn, so basically any book with her at the center is alright by me I think that Nell is such a rich and fascinating historical figure and The Darling Strumpet definitely did her justice The most important thing for me, when I read a book focusing on Nell, is if the author properly catches the sense of humor, generosity and caring personality she was famous for I think Ms Bagwell has done so in spades This book was just all around solid The characters were rich and complex, the plot was paced well and the period language felt naturalYou saw Nell for what she was unashamed to do what she needed to do to support herself and her family because let s face it, being born into poverty at that time left a woman with very few options other than the road Nell took She was flawed, she was funny, she was faithful, she was generous, and last but not least, she was absolutely outrageous as gorgeously captured in this bookTo see the full review over on The Book Buff, click here the Book Buff