The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

4.4 22
by Gillian Bagwell

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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


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 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] richly engaging portrait of the life and times of one of history’s most appealing characters!”—Diana Gabaldon, author of The Scottish Prisoner

“Bawdy and poignant...An ebullient page-turner!”—Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Romances

“Hard to resist this sort of seduction.”—C. C. Humphreys, author of Shakespeare’s Rebel

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Meet the Author

Gillian Bagwell began her professional life in theater and united her lifelong love of books, British history, and the stage by writing The Darling Strumpet. Her second novel, The September Queen (U.K. title, The King’s Mistress) recounts the perilous and romantic odyssey of Jane Lane, who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the disastrous Battle of Worcester in 1651. Venus in Winter is a sweeping and romantic novel of Bess of Hardwick, the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast who is the forebear of numerous noble lines including the current royal family of Britain.

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Darling Strumpet 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
AnitaDavison More than 1 year ago
Gillian Bagwell's Nelly was an oyster seller was born in the alleys round Covent Garden of a 'brandy soak' mother and unknown father, her life a constant round of beatings and hard work. On the day that King Charles II returns to his throne, Nelly decides to follow her sister Rose into whoring. Her pretty face, neat figure and quick tongue help her acquire a post as an 'orange wench," selling fruit in the pit. With the help of her first long term lover, Charles Hart, she starts acting on the stage and comes to the attention of King Charles II. John Dryden described Nell as, '"Oval face, clear skin, hazel eyes, thick brown eyebrows ... a full nether lip ... the bottom of your cheeks a little blub, and two dimples when you smile." Like all the King's women, Nell was paid out of the Secret Service funds, second only to Louise de Keroualle, the Duchess of Portsmouth, her greatest rival apart from the fading Barbara Palmer. The least ambitious and most faithful of Charles II's mistresses, Nell had two sons by Charles II. She made many true friends in the Royal court, many of whom she helped through hard times, among them, George Duke of Buckingham, Lord Rochester, Killigrew, Aphra Benn the lady playwright, the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth, and of course her beloved Charles Hart who was always her first love. On his deathbed, Charles besought his brother and heir, "Let not poor Nelly starve." James II kept faith, although her life was less extravagant after her royal lover's death. Nelly died of a stroke brought on by an occupational disease, at 37. I can thoroughly recommend this book, and enjoyed Miss Bagwell's meticulously researched novel through the cobbled, rubbish-strewn alleys of Covent Garden to the Royal Theatre in Drury Lane and into the royal court. She handles the 17th Century London street vernacular with aplomb, and Nell comes across as the epitome of the 'tart with a heart', who never apologises for her profession and is generous with both her time and her money.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really great book...definitely worth reading! The writer makes the characters & the time period come to life & I was very upset when the book ended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the start I was drawn into the tumultuous world of poor Nell, a street urchin. The story follows her through the struggles of survival for a low-born woman in17th century England, you cheer her on, laugh, and cry with her. Yes, she becomes a beloved mistress to the King, but there is no happy ending. It is a beautiful story about life, love, longing, and hope, with a bit of history for good measure.
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sandiek More than 1 year ago
The Darling Strumpet details the life of Nell Gwynn in the late 1660's in England. Nell started life as a child of poverty, never sure if she would have enough to eat or whether she and her drunken, abusive mother would have a place to live. She escaped that life by becoming a prostitute at an early age, probably around eleven or twelve. She and her sister meet a group of actors, who with the return of King Charles II, are reviving the London theatre. She leaves the whorehouse for the theatre, starting as an orange-seller but then getting her heart's desire and moving to the stage where she became London's darling. She also caught the attention of royalty and became the mistress of several lords and dukes. Over time, she met and settled into a long-term relationship with King Charles himself. They had two sons together and she was his mistress from her early twenties to the end of his life in her late thirties. Although Charles had other mistresses and children, he always came back to Nell, who was his comfort. She was also loved mightily by all who knew her and popular with the crowds of London Gillian Bagwell has created a book that will be a delight to readers of historical fiction. She does not attempt to hide the harshness of life--the plagues, the crime, the uncertainty of fortune. The political atmosphere was charged as this was the start of the tension between Protestants and Catholics. Succession to the king was always a charged issue, especially as in Charles's case, where he did not have a legitimate heir. Although these issues are discussed, the tone of the book is rollicking and merry for the most part, drawing the reader along and entertaining as it educates. This book is recommended for historical fiction readers.
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HistoricalFictionChick More than 1 year ago
When I first saw mention of the upcoming release of The Darling Strumpet , a novel on Nell Gwynn, I knew immediately I had to read it. You see, she's my favorite royal mistress and I try to read everything I can on her. Being a debut novel I wasn't sure what to expect, but I need not have worried because author Gillian Bagwell blew me away!! The Darling Strumpet recounts Nell's impressive rise from the streets of London to the most coveted position in the land, that of mistress to King Charles II, the Merry Monarch and tells it in such an entertaining way that the reader is kept in absolute rapture from start to finish! Nell's spirit was captured perfectly by Bagwell and this book just reminded me why I adore Nell so much. Her tenacity, keen wit and charm, big heart and refusal to make amends or feel ashamed of her role as royal mistress make her so likable, you can easily see why she was a favorite of Charles II. Being that the novel is just as juicy as the orange on the cover and with knowing that there are many YA readers that visit this blog, I feel I would be remiss in not disclaiming that there are some pretty racy scenes. They didn't bother me so much and I didn't feel they overwhelmed the story but they are pretty detailed, so I just thought I would mention it. I enthusiastically recommend The Darling Strumpet and if her debut novel is any indication of the fabulousness we can look forward to in future books by Gillian Bagwell then consider me hooked!!
BrokenTeepee More than 1 year ago
I would first like to say - isn't that cover AMAZING?! I just love it. Not that a cover necessarily has any bearing on a book but I know if I were in a book store that cover would call me from across the room. OK - on to the book. I loved it. I sat down and read it in one sitting. Yup. That good. I found myself caught up in the story and just didn't want to put it down. This was not the first book I have read about Nell Gwynn but this one had more detail regarding her early childhood. Ms. Bagwell has a way with words that draws you into the story so it's rather like watching a movie in your head. I love when a book does this to me. Nell Gwynn's story is not always an easy one to read; she rose out of abject poverty to be a whore. She worked with her sister in a brothel and the tales of her working days are not always easy to read. The Restoration period in English history brought a period of gaiety and excess after the reign of Cromwell. Part of that was the return of the theatre to England and Charles II allowed women on the stage for the first time. This is where Nell was to find her true calling. She was a quick witted woman and I feel a very intelligent woman; she was able to memorize her lines for all of her plays by having them read to her. She was apparently also lethal with a sharp comeback. This endeared her to her public. She had a love affair with her co-star on the stage, Charles Hart and several plays were written specifically for them. But Nell wanted more. She ultimately caught the eye of the king himself, Charles II. Through the machinations of the Duke of Buckingham (not entirely just for Charles' erm, benefit) Nell ends up as Charles' next mistress. The relationship has its ups and downs but the two really do care for each other until Charles' death. Ms. Bagwell writes with a strong depth of feeling so that when Nell reaches the latter part of her life and starts to suffer what seems to be a series of unbearable losses you are feeling them with her. The book also contains much of the history of the time but told in a way that you don't feel like you are in a classroom. It is well woven within the dialog and threads of the tale. This is a very enjoyable book on an extraordinary woman from history.
Alice-in-London More than 1 year ago
Nell walks streets that Londoners will recognize. From selling oranges in the theater, she becomes the darling of the Restoration stage - and later loyal mistress of the King himself. The complex relationships and power-play within Charles II's court are delicately described. Nell's unabashed tale is told with verve and humor by an author who knows history and human nature intimately, and who brings every emotion alive.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1660 following a decade of bleak Cromwell gray, thirty year old Charles II is crowned king. In London as the monarchy returns, young Nell Gwynn was beaten by her partially intoxicated mother Eleanor for losing her oyster barrow when the girl was caught up in the royal festivities. She vowed no more beatings and she will find a way to escape from the smell and oil of oysters that Nell believes has penetrated her brain. She flees to her sister Rose the whore who advises her to leave their termagant mother and the Golden Fleece tavern but must get the money first. Nell turns to whoring working for Rose's employer Madam Ross though she only recently started her courses. The patrons love her deprecating cheeky humor. She goes to watch the return of The King's Company performing Shakespeare's Henry the Fourth after years of being shut down. There she meets Robbie Duncan who takes her away from the brothel. Soon her bawdy commentary leads to her performing on the stage. When King Charles II sees her act, he makes her his favorite courtesan. Nell understands that she is the Protestant whore of the king, but also is fond of her kind lover while maneuvering the deadly royal courtesan court. She "captures the heart of England and Charles II" as even when he is dying, the monarch wants his beloved taken care of after he is gone. This historical biography of Nell Gwynn is a terrific tale from the invigorating different perspective of a courtesan who rose from abject poverty and family abuse to become the nation's Darling Strumpet. Decades before Fielding's "lewd" classic Tom Jones, Nell's real life witty ribald comments about herself and the life in the men (paraphrasing Mae West) wanting her make for a fun look at the Restoration. Harriet Klausner
AAR More than 1 year ago
THE DARLING STRUMPET: NELL GWYNN, WHO CAPTURED THE HEART OF ENGLAND AND KING CHARLES II by Gillian Bagwell is a historical romance set in 1660 London. It is this author's debut novel and one to keep an eye on.It is written with history,depth,and details.The characters and plot are well designed,engaging and will have you wanting more. It has saucy humor,prostitution,actress,betrayal,sensuality,abuse,passion,trust,love,romance,ruthlessness,the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England and of course King Charles II. Nell Gwynn,went from poverty to being an abused child by her mother. To prostitution to survive. To being a beloved saucy actress.To the Kings's mistress.To the most fameous courtesan in all of the mistress and beloved mother of two of King Charles II illigientment sons.She was forced into prostitution to survive,forced to maneuver the ruthless,shifting allegiance of the royal court and was the most loved courtesan of England.She never forgot her routes,her people or where she came from.She had caught the eye of some of the most powerful gentlemen of England,but to most fortunate enough to catch the King.Although,he had numerous mistresses,Nell was his favorite and most beloved to him.This is a powerful story of survivial during harsh times, bound by society,standing on the sidelines,while others paraded in the forefront.Nell was loved by many,for she was generous,kind,loving and never throught herself better than others.She was often called a whore,but was loved by all of England. She was one of history's most compelling, engaging,and appealing characters.If you enjoy historical charcters,England during harsh times,love,romance and the true meaning of love forever this is the story for you.I would highly recommend this story.It is heartwarmin,heartbreaking,fast paced and full of emotional heart.This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher and author and details can be found at Berkley Publishing Group,published by the Penguin Group and My Book Addiction and More.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soft porn covered in a layer of insignificant historical trivia