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Forever Amber

Forever Amber

4.7 101
by Kathleen Winsor, Barbara Taylor Bradford

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Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England—that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the


Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England—that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary—and extraordinary—men and women, Amber experiences it all. But throughout her trials and escapades, she remains, in her heart, true to the one man she really loves, the one man she can never have. Frequently compared to Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber is the other great historical romance, outselling every other American novel of the 1940s—despite being banned in Boston for its sheer sexiness. A book to read and reread, this edition brings back to print an unforgettable romance and a timeless masterpiece.

Editorial Reviews

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A lusty historical novel.
As a feat of storytelling, Forever Amber is irresistible.
Gale Research
"It wasn't such a daring book, " maintains Kathleen Winsor in defense of her first novel, Forever Amber. "I wrote only two sexy passages, and my publishers took both of them out. They put in ellipses instead. In those days, you could solve everything with an ellipse." Regardless of both her own opinion and her publisher's attempts to cool the passionate episodes, Forever Amber caused a nationwide scandal and was banned in Boston, Massachusetts, as an obscene and offensive book.

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Rediscovered Classics
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Read an Excerpt

Forever Amber

By Kathleen Winsor

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1971 Kathleen Winsor
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-514-4


MARYGREEN DID NOT change in sixteen years. It had changed little enough in the past two hundred.

The church of St. Catherine stood at the northern end of the road, like a benevolent godfather, and from it the houses ran down either side — half-timbered cottages, with overhanging upper stories, and thatched with heather or with straw that had been golden when new, then had turned slowly to a rich brown, and now was emerald green with moss and lichen. Tiny dormer windows looked out, wreathed with honeysuckle and ivy. Thick untrimmed hedges fenced the houses off from the road and there were small wooden gates, some of them spanned by arches of climbing roses. Above the hedges could be seen the confusion of blooming flowers, delphinium and lilacs, both purple and white, hollyhocks that reached almost to the eaves, an apple or plum or cherry tree in full blossom.

At the far end from the church was the green, where on festive occasions the young men played football and held wrestling matches and all the village danced.

There was an inn built of soft red brick and showing the aged silver-grey oaken timbers of its frame; a great sign painted with a crude golden lion swung out over the street on an elaborate wrought-iron arm. Nearby was the blacksmith's cottage with his adjoining shop and the homes and places of business of the apothecary, the carpenter, and another tradesman or two. The rest of the cottages were occupied by husbandmen who divided their time between working on their own small holdings and on the large neighbouring farms. For there was no manor or squire's estate near Marygreen, and the economic existence of the village depended upon the well-to-do yeomen farmers.

The day was quiet and warm, the sky blue with long streaks of white clouds, which seemed to have been put there by a paintbrush drawn across wet water-colour; the air was full of spring moisture and a rich loamy smell of damp earth. Chickens and geese and tiny sparrows had taken possession of the road. A little girl stood before one of the gates, holding a pet rabbit in her arms.

There were few people in sight, for it was late afternoon and each person had his own work to do, so that the only idlers were dogs, a playful kitten or two, and children too young to have learned a useful task. A woman with a basket on her arm walked along the street, pausing for a few moments to talk to another housewife, who threw open an upstairs casement window and leaned out, surrounded as though in a frame with wandering clematis and morning glories. Grouped about the village cross, which had somehow escaped Cromwell's soldiers, were eight or ten young girls — cottagers' daughters who were sent every day to watch their parents' cattle on the common and make sure that no single goat, cow, or sheep should stray or be stolen.

Some of the younger ones were playing "How many miles to Babylon?" — but the three oldest girls talked among themselves, full of indignation and bad humour. With hands on their hips they glared across the common to where two young men, thumbs hooked awkwardly in their breeches, shifting their weight from one foot to another, stood deep in conversation with someone who apparently upset their not too well established poise. But their combined bulk hid whoever it was from view.

"That Amber St. Clare!" muttered the eldest girl with a furious toss of her long blonde hair. "If ever there's a man about, you may be sure she'll come along! I think she can smell 'em out!"

"She should 've been married and bedded a year ago — that's what my mother says!"

The third girl smiled slyly and said in a knowing sing-song: "Well, maybe she an't married yet, but she's already been —"

"Hush!" interrupted the first, nodding toward the younger children.

"Just the same," she insisted, though she had lowered her voice to a hiss, "my brother says Bob Starling told him he had his way with her on Mothering Sunday!"

But Lisbeth, who had started the conversation, gave a contemptuous snap of her fingers. "Uds Lud, Gartrude! Jack Clarke said the same thing six months ago — and she's no bigger now than she was then."

Gartrude had an answer. "And d'ye want to know why, Lisbeth Morton? B'cause she can spit three times in a frog's mouth, that's why. Maggie Littlejohn seen her do it!"

"Pooh! My mother says nobody can spit three times in a frog's mouth!"

But the argument was cut short. For suddenly a sound of galloping hoofs echoed through the quiet little valley and a body of men on horseback rounded the turn of the road above St. Catherine's and came rushing headlong up the narrow street toward them. One of the six-year-olds gave a scream of terror and ran to hide behind Lisbeth's skirts.

"It's Old Noll! Come back from the Devil to get us!" Even dead, Oliver Cromwell had not lost his salutary effect on disobedient youngsters.

The men reined in their horses, bringing them to a prancing nervous halt not more than ten yards from where the girls stood in a close group, their earlier fright and apprehension giving way now to frank admiring interest. There were perhaps fourteen men in all but more than half of them were either serving-men or guides, for they wore plain clothes and kept at a discreet distance from the others. The half-dozen in the lead were obviously gentlemen.

They wore their hair in the shoulder-length cut of the Cavaliers, and their dress was magnificent. Their suits were black velvet, dark red velvet, green satin, with broad white linen collars and white linen shirts. On their heads were wide brimmed hats with swirling plumes, and long riding capes hung from their shoulders. Their high leather boots were silver-spurred and each man wore a sword at his hip. They had evidently been riding hard for some considerable distance for their clothes were dusty and their faces streaked with dirt and sweat, but in the girls' eyes they had an almost terrifying grandeur.

Now one of the men took off his hat and spoke to Lisbeth, presumably because she was the prettiest. "My services, madame," he said, his voice and eyes lazily good-humoured, and as he looked her over slowly from head to foot Lisbeth blushed crimson and found it difficult to breathe. "We're looking for a place to eat. Have you a good tavern in these parts?"

Lisbeth stared at him, temporarily speechless, while he continued to smile down at her, his hands resting easily on the saddle before him. His suit was black velvet with a short doublet and wide knee-length breeches, finished with golden braid. He had dark hair and green-grey eyes and a narrow black mustache lined his upper lip. His good looks were spectacular — but they were not the most important thing about him. For his face had an uncompromising ruthlessness and strength which marked him, in spite of his obvious aristocracy, as an adventurer and gambler, a man free from bonds and ties.

Lisbeth swallowed and made a little curtsy. "Ye mun like the Three Cups in Heathstone, m'lord." She was afraid to recommend her own poor little village to these splendid strangers.

"Where's Heathstone from here?"

"Heathstone be damned!" protested one of the men. "What's wrong with your own ordinary? I'll fall off this jade if I go another mile without food!" He was a handsome blonde red-faced young man and in spite of his scowl he was obviously happy and good-natured. As he spoke the others laughed and one of them leaned over to clap him on the shoulder.

"By God, we're a set of rascals! Almsbury hasn't had a mouthful since he ate that side of mutton this morning!"

They laughed again at this for apparently Almsbury's appetite was a well-established joke among them. The girls giggled too, more at ease now, and the six-year-old who had mistaken them for Puritan ghosts came out boldly from behind Lisbeth's skirts and edged a step or two nearer. At that instant something happened to create an abrupt change in the relationship between the men and girls.

"There's nothing wrong with our inn, your Lordship!" cried a low-pitched feminine voice, and the girl who had been talking to the two young farmers came running across the green toward them. The girls had stiffened like wary cats but the men looked about with surprise and sudden interest. "The hostess there brews the finest ale in Essex!"

She made a quick little curtsy to Almsbury and then her eyes turned to meet those of the man who had spoken first and who was now watching her with a new expression on his face, speculative, admiring, alert. While the others watched, it seemed that time stopped for a moment and then, reluctantly, went on again.

Amber St. Clare raised her arm and pointed back down the street to the great sign with its weather-beaten gilt lion shimmering faintly as the falling sun struck it. "Next the blacksmith's shop, m'lord."

Her honey-coloured hair fell in heavy waves below her shoulders and as she stared up at him her eyes, clear, speckled amber, seemed to tilt at the corners; her brows were black and swept up in arcs, and she had thick black lashes. There was about her a kind of warm luxuriance, something immediately suggestive to the men of pleasurable fulfillment — something for which she was not responsible but of which she was acutely conscious. It was that, more than her beauty, which the other girls resented.

She was dressed, very much as they were, in a rust wool skirt tucked up over a green petticoat, a white blouse and yellow apron and tight-laced black stomacher; her ankles were bare and she wore a pair of neat black shoes. And yet she was no more like them than a field flower is like a cultivated one or a sparrow is like a golden pheasant.

Almsbury leaned forward, crossing his arms on his saddle bow. "What in the name of Jesus," he said slowly, "are you doing out here in God's forgotten country?"

The girl looked at him, dragging her eyes away from the other man, and now she smiled, showing teeth that were white and even and beautifully shaped. "I live here, m'lord."

"The deuce you do! Then how the devil did you get here? What are you? Some nobleman's bastard put out to suck with a cottager's wife and forgotten these fifteen years?" It was no uncommon occurrence, but she looked suddenly angry, her brows drawing in an indignant scowl.

"I am not, sir! I'm as much my father's child as you are — or more!"

The men, including Almsbury, laughed heartily at this and he gave her a grin. "No offense, sweetheart. Lord, I only meant you haven't the look of a farmer's daughter."

She smiled at him quickly then, as though in apology for her show of temper, but her eyes went back immediately to the other man. He was still watching her with a look that warmed all her body and brought a swift-rising sense of excitement. The men were wheeling their horses around and as his turned, its forelegs lifted high, he smiled and nodded his head. Almsbury thanked her and lifted his hat and then they rode off, clattering back up the street to the inn. For a moment longer the girls stood silently, watching them dismount and go through the doorway while the inn-keeper's young sons came to take care of their horses.

When they were out of sight Lisbeth suddenly stuck out her tongue and gave Amber a shove. "There!" she cried triumphantly, and made a sound like a bleating female goat. "Much good it did you, Mrs. Minx!"

Swiftly Amber returned the shove, almost knocking the girl off balance, crying, "Mind your knitting, chatterbox!"

For a moment they stood and glared at each other, but finally Lisbeth turned and went off across the green, where the other girls were rounding up their charges, running and shouting, racing with one another, eager to get home to their evening suppers. The sun had set, leaving the sky bright red along the horizon but turning to delicate blue above. Here and there a star had come out; the air was full of the magic of twilight.

Her heart still beating heavily, Amber crossed back to where she had left her basket lying in the grass. The two young farmers had gone, and now she picked it up again and continued on her way, walking toward the inn.

She had never seen anyone like him before in her life. The clothes he wore, the sound of his voice, the expression in his eyes, all made her feel that she had had a momentary glimpse into another world — and she longed passionately to see it again, if only for a brief while. Everything else, her own world of Marygreen and Uncle Matt's farm, all the young men she knew, now seemed to her intolerably dull, even contemptible.

From her conversations with the village cobbler she knew that they must be noblemen, but what they were doing here, in Marygreen, she could not imagine. For the Cavaliers these past several years had retired into what obscurity they could find or had gone abroad in the wake of the King's son, now Charles II, who lived in exile.

The cobbler, who had fought in the Civil Wars on his Majesty's side, had told her a great many tales of things he had seen and stories he had heard. He had told her of seeing Charles I at Oxford, of being almost close enough to have touched him, of the gay and beautiful Royalist ladies, the gallant men — it was a life full of colour and spirit and high romance. But she had seen nothing of it, for it disappeared while she was yet a child, disappeared forever the morning his Majesty was beheaded in the yard of his own Palace. It was something of that atmosphere which the dark-haired stranger had brought with him — not the others, for she had scarcely noticed them — but it was something more as well, something intensely personal. It seemed as though, all at once, she was fully and completely alive.

Arriving at the inn she did not go in by the front entrance but, instead, walked around to the back where a little boy sat in the doorway, playing with his fox-eared puppy, and she patted him on the head as she went by. In the kitchen Mrs. Poterell was rushing about in a frenzy of preparation, excited and distraught. On the chopping-block lay a piece of raw beef into which one of the daughters was stuffing a moist mixture of bread-crumbs and onions and herbs. A little girl was cranking up water from the well that stood far in one corner of the kitchen. And the turnspit-dog in his cage above the fireplace gave an angry yowl as another boy applied a hot coal to his hind feet to make him move faster and turn the roasting-joint so it would brown evenly on all sides.

Amber managed to catch the attention of Mrs. Poterell, who was careening from one side of the room to the other, her apron full of eggs. "Here's a Dutch gingerbread Aunt Sarah sent you, Mrs. Poterell!" It was not true, for Sarah had sent the delicacy to the blacksmith's wife, but Amber thought this the better cause.

"Oh, thank God, sweetheart! Oh, I never was in such a taking! Six gentlemen in my house at once! Oh, Lord! What shall I do!" But even as she talked she had begun breaking the eggs into a great bowl.

At that moment fifteen-year-old Meg emerged from the trapdoor which led down into the cellar, her arms full of dusty green bottles, and Amber rushed. to her.

"Here, Meg! Let me help you!"

She took five of them from her and started for the other room, pushing the door open with her knee, but she kept her eyes down as she entered, and concentrated all her attention on the bottles. The men were standing about the room, cloaks off though they still wore their hats, and as she appeared Almsbury caught sight of her and came forward, smiling.

"Here — sweetheart. Let me help you with those. So they play that old game out here too?"

"What old game, m'lord?"

He took three of the bottles from her and she set the other two on the table, looking up then to smile at him. But instantly her eyes sought out the other man where he stood next the windows with two companions, throwing dice on a tabletop. His back was half turned and he did not glance around but tossed down a coin as one of the others snapped his fingers at a lucky throw. Surprised and disappointed, for she had expected him to see her immediately — even to be looking for her — she turned again to Almsbury.

"Why, it's the oldest game in the world," he was saying. "Keeping a pretty bar-maid to lure in the customers till they've spent their last shilling — I'll warrant you've lured many a farmer's son to his ruin." He was grinning at her and now he picked up a bottle, jerked out the cork and put it to his lips. Amber gave him another smile, arch and flirtatious, wishing that the other man would look over and see her.


Excerpted from Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Copyright © 1971 Kathleen Winsor. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Barbara Taylor Bradford is the best-selling author of twenty-five novels, ten of which have been made into television miniseries. Kathleen Winsor has written a number of historical romances, including The Lovers and Robert and Arabella.

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Forever Amber 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 101 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amber is a less-likeable, English, Scarlett O'Hara, but that doesn't make this book 'Gone With the Wind.' I found her an utterly unsympathetic heroine. If she can't get her way by sleeping with somebody, she'll whine about it and throw things. The only time I really found myself enjoying reading this book was during the plague scene, where she and Bruce are quarantined together and forced to take turns nursing each other back to health. But after that, things get back to normal. I might have liked Bruce more if he didn't continue sleeping with Amber while professing to love his sweet, little American wife. Amber seems to get a come-uppance in the end, but the author leaves it ambiguous, as if she was planning some sequel that never got written. It left me shaking my head. I often see this book on the same lists as 'GWTW' and Anya Seton's 'Katherine.' It doesn't hold a candle to either of them. If you want a good historical romance read one of them.
ranger_doj More than 1 year ago
The heroism and ambition of Amber makes this book an automatic page turner and I found it very hard to put down. From just a dream and a longing to become more then a farm girl, she built her life and gained a title for herself in a time where ambition in females was extremely frowned on. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read!
eeyeager More than 1 year ago
This book has wonderful stories of adventure, romance and intrigue. I enjoyed the historical fiction of King Charles' court and time era. The problem with the book is that the characters go on forever (the book is appropriately named) without an ending and I require a happy ending to really enjoy a book. Call me unrealistic, but that's one of many reasons I read.
OceanJL More than 1 year ago
I read the flyleaf in Barnes & Noble and truly want to read the book, but I don't want to lug around a huge book when I could read it on my Nook. Please, please, please make it available on Nook!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have greatly enjoyed Forever Amber, which takes you through major happening of the 17th century (from the great fire of London to the Plague to the fashion of the era.) This book is recommended to anyone who loves the history of England mixed with a story of love and lust.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is exactly, but exactly, the kind of book they don¿t write any more¿big and lush, full of intrigue, and overflowing with romance and detail. Amber may not be the kind of woman who makes a good role model, but she makes a terrific heroine. Just about every page¿and there are a lot of pages in this huge book¿has a new turn of events, as Amber makes her ruthless way up the ladder of Restoration England. The case can be made that Winsor wrote this book to take advantage of the success a few years earlier of Gone With the Wind, but that doesn¿t detract one iota from its pleasures. You can¿t have too much of a good thing. An enormous spectacle, as dramatic as they come, this one shouldn¿t be missed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to find another book by this author
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I discovered Forever Amber MANY years ago as a teenager and have reread it dozens of times as well as loaned it to many others (often having to replace it when I didn't get it back). Truly a classic in that it never goes "out of style". Don't understand the review which stated it was written by a man-COME ON!!! This is so obviously a woman's story::Amber may be labelled as immoral but she loved one man and one only in her life-the others were poor substitutes for Bruce. His infidelity to his wife (who is one of the truly likeable characters in the book) seems shocking to us now but that wasn't so unusual in that time. Charles II is drawn as considerably more sympathetic than the history books describe him--his story and that of his mistresses is a great subplot. All in all an excellent adventure that stands the test of time. As usual the movie with Cornel Wilde and Linda Darnell couldn't begin to do justice to the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
920 pages of historical fiction. Follows Amber during the restoration of Charles 2's decadent England. Packed with historical figures & lustful without any graffic loves scenes. Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Banned in the 1950's considered too risqué-she does a great job describing the décor/habits/clothing/mileau of the time-King Charles Restoration-slightly bodice ripperish at times-but still what fun to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this so long ago i had forggoten how captivating the strory is
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MarianaR More than 1 year ago
This book stays with you forever. My great aunt read this when she was 16, my mother after her at the same age, and then it was my turn a few years back to pick up this book. I was instantly drawn into the world of Amber and could not put it down! At frist the thickness of the novel had my 16 year old self doubtful but it went by too quickly. I'm 20 now and have given this book to many of my friends who also fell in love with the story. Amber to me wasn't "unsympathetic" at all. She loved only one man in her entire life and I'm sure will always love him, but he never loved her back. The characters were completely fleshed out and dynamic. Kathleen Winsor made this story feel real and true! I can see why in the 1940's this book was banned from the public but now in 2013 it isn't risque at all. A must read, you will not be disappointed!!  SPOILER ALERT** The ending however is a little unsatisfactory because she doesn't end up with the man she loves. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My all-time favorite historical romance. Amber is a 17th century Scarlett O'Hara; self-centered, vain, passionate, and courageous. She is one of those characters you love to hate, and yet you can't help but admire her. The book is also a wonderful and vivid - and fairly accurate - account of Restoration England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KLS500 More than 1 year ago
Oh do I ever remember "Forever Amber" as being one of my all time favorite books that I just couldn't put down! I went into labor with my now 40 year old son when I was close to the end of reading it, and had my husband keep my place with every labor pain. It was finished before his birth and had he been a girl, she would have been named Amber. It's without a doubt one of the most memorable books of my life. Now it's long past time to read it again if only it was Nook available! We've come a long way baby. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bought this book several years ago in hard cover, and just now read it on nook. Soo glad I did. Loved it!!!! Its a real classic. Want to keep the memory; forever .
goldieinaz More than 1 year ago
Have this book many times and just love it! Would love to have it on my nook to read. Pleassseeee do the book in nook form.