The Women of Nell Gwynne'sby Kage Baker, J.K. Potter
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Lady Beatrice was the proper British daughter of a proper British soldier, until tragedy struck and sent her home to walk the streets of early-Victorian London. But Lady Beatrice is no ordinary whore, and is soon recruited to join an underground establishment known as Nell Gwynne's. Nell Gwynne's is far more than simply the finest and most exclusive brothel in Whitehall; it is in fact the sister organization to the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, that 19th-century predecessor to a certain Company... and when a member of the Society goes missing on a peculiar assignment, it's up to Lady Beatrice and her sister harlots to investigate.
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The Women of Nell Gwynne's Kage Baker Subterranean Press ISBN: 9781596062504 Publication Date: June 30, 2009 122 pages Illustrated by J. K. Potter "The Women of Nell Gwynne's" is a Victorian steampunk murder-mystery with characters and locations reminiscent of a Dickens novel. Nell Gwynne's is a high-class bordello in London that caters to Parliament, nobility, and the aristocracy. While servicing these distinguished men the women of Nell Gwynne, a highly unusual group of whores, attempt to uncover and collect political secrets for use by their employer the GSS, a super-secret scientific agency that protects the Crown. While attending a diner party held by a British nobleman, Lady Beatrice and her fellow ladies-of-the-evening, uncover a scheme to sell anti-gravity technology to the highest bidder. After the various groups retire to their bedrooms for a night of frolicking the host is found murdered and the women take it upon themselves to investigate. As well they should. Mrs. Corvey, the madam, and her stable of working girls are no ordinary whores. They are strong, smart, capable, and not above kicking some high-brow ass when needed. This compact and well-written novella is filled with intrigue, turn-of-the-century dialogue, steampunked technology, murder and mystery and sets up a universe that will hopefully become a recurrent one in Baker's universe of strange and exciting times and places. An enjoyable, entertaining, and quick read I, for one, hope to see more of "The Women of Nell Gwynne's" soon. 4 out of 5 stars The Alternative Southeastern Wisconsin http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/
... another reason to mourn the late Kage Baker.
This jewel-like novella successfully mixes a direct writing style and pragmatic sensibility with Victorian era intrigue and 'steampunk' technology. The primary characters are finely drawn, and the dialogue, descriptions and attitudes are entertainingly Victorian. The third-person narrative is fast paced and compelling. It eventually evolves into an entertaining and absorbing mystery. The basic story-line follows the history and experiences of Lady Beatrice, the daughter of a respected British military man who becomes a London streetwalker and eventually joins Nell Gwynne's exclusive bordello for the purposes of extracting information from its well-heeled clients for use by a secretive and inventive British watchdog group known as the Gentlemen's Speculative Society. Beatrice, three sister harlots and their presumably blind but surreptitiously enhanced madame travel to the medieval estate of a semi-impoverished British lord to uncover the function and nature of a mysterious item he is privately auctioning to four millionaires, (three of whom are foreign nationals). They also hope to discover the whereabouts of a missing member of the 'Society' who disappeared during his investigation of the lord. The whores arrive and costume themselves in bed sheets to provide a pre-auction bacchanal for the millionaires. Humor, intrigue, murder and unexpected revelations ensue. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fanciful, incisive and thoroughly entertaining story.