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The Perfect Royal Mistress

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,313 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Born into poverty and raised in a brothel, Nell Gwynne sells oranges in the pit at London’s King’s Theater, newly reopened after the plague and the Great Fire devastated the city. Soon, her quick sense of humor and natural charm get her noticed by those who have the means to make her life easier. But the street-smart Nell knows a woman doesn’t get ahead by selling her body ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by Broadway Books
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Move aside Cinderella, Nell Gwynne puts your rags to riches story to shame! Everyone should have an introduction (hopefully it will grown into a love) of Charles II's mistress, Nell Gwynne. Unlike the sex-crazed and overly ambitious mistress (and cousin of the Duke of Norfolk) Barbara Villiers (Lady Castlemaine), Charles's childhood crush the Duchess of Mazarin, Lucy Walter, the countless actresses, or even his wife Catherine whom he loved more like a sister than with any passion; Nell possesed ...more
Can you believe this is the Baroque era, the era when Duc de Saint-Simon was writing his memoirs, the era of the Sun King? Yeah, neither can I. Awfully anachronistic, no sense of time or place really. Nell Gwynn (and I read it for her, I like her, the Nell Gwynn from the historical records) is an impossible saint who does everything FOR LOVE. She is the only woman who has ever cared for the king. There is not an ounce of meanness or self-interest in her. Yeah right. Maybe. Only, a) from what I r ...more
Nov 01, 2008 Alaine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of Royal History
This really is a tale of rags to riches. Nell started out with nothing and ended up being the favourite of the royal mistresses to Charles II. Nell was an interesting character who used humour to cope with the difficulties she faced in her life. We could certainly all do with a dose of that in our lives.
Charles II was undoubtedly a man whore, he chased everything that moved. I wouldn't be surprised if what he really died from was a sexually transmitted disease. The man was certainly a stud who a
Jun 27, 2010 Christy rated it did not like it
It started out well enough: political machinations, the London fires, the potential for a steamy read...and it fell quite flat. After a few chapters, the phonetic voices of Nell and her sister were more annoying than endearing and her dialogue, which was supposed to be brash and witty, was actually quite dull.

I felt that there wasn't much depth to Nell's character, and while it was based on a real person, as fiction, liberties could have been taken to make the character more vivid. She just see
Lígia Bellini
Oct 28, 2015 Lígia Bellini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only time, i heard about Charles II, it was when i watched the movie "Restoration". Then years and years later on, i came upon this book and decided to read about him and his famous royal mistress.That was an interesting reading.I think Nell Gwynne, was a clever woman! She was poor and like many londoners, after the plague and the Great Fire, Nell was struggling to live her life.She knew how to use her charm and talent, and thanks to that, she got the attention of the King Charles II. From a ...more
Dawn (& Ron)
Jun 05, 2012 Dawn (& Ron) marked it as to-read
Recommended to Dawn (& Ron) by: Orsolya
Wow, what a wide range of opinions on this one with GR friends, from 1 star to 4.
Sasha Strader
Nov 11, 2011 Sasha Strader rated it it was amazing
The best book about Nell Gwynn I've found to date!
Gave up on page 283. The personal side of Charles II's reign has been done before, and better, by Kathleen Winsor in Forever Amber. The same characters are here: Castlemaine, Buckingham, Rochester, Nell, Minette, Duke of York, the spaniels, and the rest. There was nothing new, and nothing unique about Haeger's style to make me want to keep reading. In fact, Haeger's decision to have Nell and Rose's accent be phonetic with dropped aitches was irritating. I'd have preferred the reader be allowed t ...more
This is the rags to riches story of Nell Gwynne, a one time orange girl and then actress of The King's Theatre who captured the heart of Charles II, The Merry Monarch. Since two other reviewers have done such a fine job of recapping the story, I needn't rehash it again.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I felt the characters could have been better defined. Maybe it's because I've read Forever Amber and Dark Angels: A Novel and I kept wishing for more like that. The author did a nice job of d
Courtney Brown
Dec 08, 2012 Courtney Brown rated it it was ok
I loved the first part of the book - the meeting, the chase, the falling in love - but the second part of this novel really bumped down the rating. I realize that historically, women didn't have much power (and learned to deal with it). However, I got so tired of the protagonist sighing to herself about how much she loved the King and why she'd put up with anything.

Plus, Charles wasn't even likable. He'd lament his lust for women and talk about change, but he never did it. I really wanted Nell t
Jul 16, 2008 Eh?Eh! rated it it was ok
Shelves: babble-added
historical fiction novel of this particular mistress of Charles II. a mistress's frustrations interspersed with actual religious/political/social events of the time. i kept wanting her to leave him but apparently it was her constant love and subjugation of her personal desires to his whims (or perhaps one could say making his whims her personal desires) that made her a refuge for him...blah.
S. Noël
Feb 28, 2016 S. Noël rated it liked it
This book illustrates both how enjoyable a historical novel can be and also the challenges involved in writing one. The Perfect Royal Mistress is a fictionalized biography of actress Nell Gwynne, one of King Charles II’s girlfriends. It takes place in the theatre world of 17th century England. The story opens in London shortly after the Great Fire of 1666, and introduces a resourceful young woman determined to rise above the poverty and hardship into which she was born. Nell starts off selling o ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Danielle rated it liked it
Recommended to Danielle by: Dawna
Shelves: fiction, chick-lit
2.5 Stars. I liked this because it was a period of time and historical characters I knew next-to-nothing about, and it was a quick read. I didn't like it because Nell seemed more like a caricature than a living, breathing person, and because the whole "love" story was basically the King using her as a doormat and her being cool with it. Also, the pace was weird because we spent a lot of time on the first year of their affair, then a fair amount of time on the subsequent five or so years, and the ...more
Nick Sweet
Apr 26, 2015 Nick Sweet rated it it was amazing
In this book, Diane Haeger flushes out the life and times of the most well known of Charles the II's mistresses, Nell Gwyn. From humble beginnings as an orange girl in the streets of London, we watch as Nell rises through the ranks of royal power to one of the powerful woman in all of England. However, Haeger gives this hooker a heart of gold in her story, and this Nell truly cares about her monarch in a way that is both touching and heartening. We also see Nell adopt an orphaned black girl into ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Mallory rated it it was ok
I enjoy Diane Haeger's novels immensely, but this one fell short for me. I have had a lot of back reading on this particular topic, and even though it started out well, it then declined rapidly. My problem with this story is the characterization. Yes, we don't know how these historical individuals actually were or conversed in private, maybe other than individual accounts, but based on what I have learned Charles obviously knew what he was doing "collecting" women as he did. The back and forth o ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Kerry rated it liked it
Shelves: everything
The Perfect Royal Mistress is the story of Nelly Gwynne and her rise from poverty to become a famous actress and then mistress to England’s King Charles II. The book’s main charm is its title character. The author does a great job of making Nelly charming, witty and spunky. Nelly’s straightforward nature and well known humor would have been enough to carry the story but Diane Haeger gives her added depth and history which makes her truly sympathetic. And Nelly needs all the sympathy she can get ...more
Mar 24, 2011 Taylor rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
Review: The Perfect Royal Mistress was a breath of fresh air. This was my first encounter with King Charles II and despite all of his affairs I actually admire him as a King. He had to deal with his father’s, King Charles I, murder as a young boy, which greatly affected his adult life. Diane Haeger did a great job with setting the tone for the book. I found the characters to be well developed and well researched.

What I loved so much about this book was how descriptive it was for example the desc
Jul 28, 2010 Mitzi rated it liked it
This book read like a run of the mill historical film with lots of attention paid to the costumes and furniture. The women twitter about and the men are power hungry libertines. The women use what they can to secure a future for themselves and that usually involves sex. (Still, like those movies, that usually involves lots of bedsheets and fading to black). Nell Gwyene is no different--she rises from an orange girl to an actress to the kings mistress and even bears him a son, ensuring financial ...more
Jan 09, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Royal Mistress tells the story of young Nell Gwynn, a fascinating historical character who has been explored by a number of different writers. Nell's rags to riches story is one of the most unique stories in history, as well as one of the most fascinating.

Nell was making her living by selling oranges to theatre patrons at the popular King's theatre. While most women of her status -born into poverty and raised in a brothel -have little option other than to sell their bodies, Nell beco
Apr 10, 2013 Sx rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Think of a soft fluffy cake you just ate that hit all the right spots, then promptly forgetting what it was all about 5 minutes later. That was how reading this book felt like.

There was nothing wrong with the book, it was just bland. Nell Gwynne was too perfect and there's only so much even the best author can do to expound on someone's goodness before boring the audience. Nell loved the King, pure and simple, never in want of anything, just standing quietly by him - that message was incessantl
May 06, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
The Perfect Royal Mistress tells the extraordinary tale of Nell Gwynne, a woman who rises above the harsh poverty of her childhood to become the famous actress and beloved mistress of England’s King Charles the II through her renowned wit and charm. The story begins with Nell traversing the ash strewn streets and debris from the London Fire of 1666 to sell oranges outside the King’s Theater. She does not let herself be crushed under the weight of crippling poverty or the cruelty of men, and her ...more
Freda Lightfoot
Sep 03, 2010 Freda Lightfoot rated it really liked it
Haeger captures the charm and character of Nell perfectly, even to the witty dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which moved along at a cracking pace. Charles is sympathetically portrayed although he is no more faithful to his adored Nell than to the gentle Queen Catherine. His weakness over women is all too evident, but also his undying loyalty to a barren wife.

Nell is not overly ambition, her only object initially being to survive, to feed herself and her sister Rose and escape the pover
Jul 31, 2014 Marianne rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. Never heard of Nell Gwynne. The author fills out this relationship between Nell and King Charles II with insight and sensitivity. The old boy gives stud new meaning!
Its tough to be king. Seriously, it is a study in discipline on the one hand, and unbridled self-gratification----I am the king, and I can do anything I wish---on the other.

Down deep, he wasn't a very likeable character.
Dec 14, 2009 Ari rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historians.
Recommended to Ari by: myself
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Margaret Bramlett
Dec 20, 2014 Margaret Bramlett rated it liked it
This was a quick, fun read. I might have enjoyed it more if I was not already familiar with the story. Nell was presented as a likable woman, as she undoubtedly was. Having read a number of nonfiction books on the Stuart era, I would say that Charles was presented more sympathetically than he deserves. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for a good Cinderella story based on some facts from the historical record.
When I started reading this, I couldn't put it down. It was fun, fast-paced, and had that thing I like in books that I just kept reading because I had to know what was going to happen next. However, I'm sure the original Nell was not so much a saint as this version. The continual self-sacrificing got sickening, but it was a fun ride, and easy read.
Jun 10, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would; it was a perfect, mindless accompaniment to heavier literature. The story of Nell's ingratiation to (at least fringe) court life is fun. Don't expect it to be any more than that, and this novel will certainly find a niche in your repertoire.
Mirah W
Jul 29, 2011 Mirah W rated it liked it
Unfortunately, I didn't like this as much as I was hoping I would. I thought it was rather shallow. I like historical fiction that gets a little deeper into the minds of the characters...I feel like this one only touched the surface. I didn't really know anything about Nell Gwynne and that was redeeming because I wanted to know how her story would end. The writing was good, but it seemed to lack that spark that really kept me interested. I had a hard time keeping track of how much time has passe ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Christin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
Really great book! King Charles II was a very complex individual and the women in his life sure had to deal with a lot of crap. Some delt with it better than others, and this book is a fictional peek into that world.
Jun 29, 2008 Allison rated it liked it
I had stumbled upon this book by accident, but I quickly fell in love with the clever and spunky Nell Gwynne. I can honestly say I have not encountered historical fiction quite this engaging since I read The Other Boleyn girl several years ago. The character of Nell is so real and believeable on the page, I was simply blown away!

I didn't think it was perfect- as my score reflects. Although I absolutely loved Nell's character, I HATED her hubby, and found myself (more often than not) speed-readi
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Diane Haeger is the author of thirteen historical novels, including Courtesan, The Ruby Ring and My Dearest Cecilia. She lives in California with her husband and family.
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