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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
Berkley Trade
January 4, 2011
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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.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Gillian Bagwell:

the september queen
The September Queen

venus in winter
Venus in Winter

Find Gillian Bagwell: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Thank you for this review. While I'm interested in reading more about Nell Gwynn, too many descriptive sex scenes are not what I'm looking for. This book doesn't sound as if it is one for me.

  2. Melissa - I almost put the book down in the beginning because it was a little strong for my liking, but as I persevered it eventually became less of the focus. But I knew there would be a lot before I even started reading it.

  3. Thanks for the review - I hope you enjoy "September Queen" as well. And there's somewhat less sex in it! Different woman, different story.

  4. Gillian - I look forward to reading the September Queen - I have not really heard much about her before.

  5. Absolutely ridiculous! You cannot read a fiction book on Nell Gwynn and King Charles and NOT expect sex scenes and plenty of them! After all King Charles was known for his mistresses and Rochester known even more for this!
    No offense but this is a typical American reaction to the sex scenes! I have seen and read FAR FAR FAR more explicit! I found the detailed scenes a little mild, to be frank!
    Heaven knows how any of you would cope with reading any of Rochester's poetry! Nell Gwynn was the protestant whore.... that's kind of a give away!

    1. I'm not sure what you are up in arms about - I gave the book 4 stars and only commented on the sex scenes to give a heads up to other readers who it may make a difference to. I even stated that "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." I did expect there to be sex in the novel which is why I said I waited until I was in the right mindset to read the novel. I have read much more explicit novels as well, and I don't appreciate being attacked based on generalizations about all Americans on my own blog.

  6. Fans of historical fiction or the Restoration era, or simply desirous of an immersive, fast-paced look into another time, will likely find much to enjoy here.

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  7. This author has only three books on line I found and have read all of them. Another excellent author and true story pertaining to charles II. She writes beautiful stories regarding these overlooked women in history and find them fascinating. Highly recommend.

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