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

"The Darling Strumpet" is a well-researched look at Restoration-era theatre, politics and people through the eyes of orange-girl-turned-actress Nell Gwynn. Gwynn rather famously became one of Charles II's many mistresses, and one of the few who was loved by the English populace.

The tale starts in Nell's childhood; her mother owns a brothel and Nell herself is an oyster-monger at age 11. She sees prostitution as her only way out of poverty (during the period in question, this is not necessarily inaccurate), and in due course enters the trade. She starts seeing clients from the theatrical community, and is in love with the stage from the moment she sees her first play. She eventually trades in prostitution for selling oranges, and it is there that the king's eye falls upon her.

The story looks at the politics of the restoration, as I already mentioned, and is peopled with interesting personages like John Wilmot, the rather notoriously libertine 2nd Earl of Rochester, diarist Samuel Pepys and more.

The book was very entertaining; those who are sensitive to such things should be aware that there are some explicit scenes, however.

While I realize that authors seldom have control over cover art, the design for this book bothered me and it took me a while to put my finger on it. The dress on the cover model didn't look right for a Restoration gown to me, and one night I realized it's because it has a zipper up the front; the pull is readily noticeable in the bodice. A minor gripe, to be sure, but there you are.