Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received for review from publisher
“The Darling Strumpet transports the reader to the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England, charting the meteoric rise of the dazzling Nell Gwynn from London's slums to its bawdy playhouses, where her saucy humor and sensuous charm earned her the affection of legions of fans-and the heart of the most powerful man in all of England, the King himself.”
I kept putting off reading this book for awhile because I had heard some mixed reviews about it and I wanted to make sure I was in the right mindset to read this one as I knew it had some scandalous scenes. Let me say, if you are one easily turned off by sex scenes in novels, you may not want to read this one – as they are aplenty.
The sex scenes are basically the first thing that you encounter in this book – from about page 4 right through the first half of the book – and they can be pretty descriptive. While there is a lot of sex in the novel – it did make sense as Bagwell takes us through Nell’s life from her childhood through her death. She was a prostitute and eventually a king’s mistress – those details alone make it required somewhere in the text.
Bagwell creates a world that feels so real to a reader. Even for someone who is unfamiliar with this time and place they would easily find themselves at home in this vivid world. The descriptions of the people and the places are absolutely gorgeous. The characters are well constructed. No one is purely one thing or another but very three dimensional. Nowhere was that seen more so than in the lead character of Nell. You can feel all of her emotions and really empathize with her plights. I even shed a few tears for her at the end of the novel which really surprised me as I did not realize how much I enjoyed her.
My favorite scenes were those that took place in the theatres or on stage. You could tell how absolutely in love with acting and the stage Nell was. Even when she eventually leaves it she frequently thinks about going back. We get a lot of information about plays that were performed and how they were performed and the atmosphere of the playhouse. Bagwell certainly did her research.
Gillian Bagwell creates a world that literally jumps off the page and envelops you as a reader. No stone is left unturned and no detail is too small to be included. A truly wonderful atmospheric read. I am interested in getting into her second book, The September Queen, soon.
Author Gillian Bagwell also has written The September Queen about Jane Lane. You can visit her website or her Nell Gwyn blog for additional information about the books.
You can also check out a series of videos featuring the author as she talks about Nell, takes you around London and hear a dramatic reading of a section from The Darling Strumpet performed by Bagwell, C.C. Humphreys and Diana Gabaldon at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June 2011 (I saw this in person!).
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