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The Darling Strumpet

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,228 ratings  ·  174 reviews
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
Paperback, 376 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Berkley
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Community Reviews

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This is one of the very few books I had to leave unfinished. The detailed descriptions of TEN-year-old Nell selling herself so she could buy herself some ribbons for her hair and something to eat just squicked me out. And then, she basically suffers a gang-rape at the hands of a group of boys who offered her money and then refused to pay.

Nell losing her virginity at such a young age may well be historically accurate. I know that girls were married young and that life was tough. But surely the au
I should warn you that Nell is my favorite historical figure and therefore I judge works on her quite harshly. With that being said, I still gave Gillian Bagwell’s “The Darling Strumpet” a fair shot and didn’t stop reading even when my eyes started rolling.

The harsh onslaught of graphic sexual encounters within the immediate first few pages is a bit hard to digest, even being aware of Nell’s lifestyle. This sort of introduction to those readers who may not familiar with Nell can cause distance
Mrs Giggles
Gillain Bagwell's debut effort The Darling Strumpet was first published in trade paperback format back in 2011. Hilariously enough - or maybe not, depending on how much you value your $7.99 - the mass market paperback that I have in my hands declares this story as "historical romance" on the spine. There is even a tagline on the gorgeous cover - "A novel of Nell Gwynn, who captured the heart of England and King Charles II" - to make it sound like this is the literary upgrade of an average romanc ...more


In 1660, thirty year-old Charles II is restored as King. Nell Gwynn is the second daughter of Eleanor, a downtrodden and sometimes drunken and violent widow. With Nell's sister Rose already a prostitute at Madam Ross's since the age of thirteen, Nell joins the establishment at the tender age of ten to escape the drudgery of life as an oyster-collector and seller, and her unhappy and abusive mother.

With the Restoration comes the return of the theatres, and at age twelve Nell and Rose leave
How have I not heard of Nell Gwynn before this? I recognized the names of most of her contemporaries, but somehow she has skated under my radar until now. Luckily I was able to snag the copy offered to Fiction Vixen and immerse myself in Nell’s life during the era of King Charles II.

The book opens in 1660 and a young Nell has finally tired of her life as an oyster girl. She’s decided to follow in her sister Rose’s footsteps and go to work at Madam Ross’s. I’m not clear on how old she is exactly,
The Darling Strumpet opens in May 1660. As the restored King Charles II makes his official entry into London, the young Nell Gwynn is taking the first steps in a career which will take her from oyster seller, to prostitute, orange girl, actress, courtesan and finally to royal mistress. At this stage in her life, sex is a means to an end for Nell, but Gillian Bagwell conveys her sensual nature by describing her pleasure in eating a hot pie she buys after selling her virginity for sixpence.

Mar 13, 2011 Misfit marked it as abandoned
Recommended to Misfit by: Moppet
This is not for me. Prostitute or no, I do not need that much detail to grasp what she had to do. Less is more.
I cannot praise this book enough. Bagwell took on quite a challenge. It is very difficult, in my estimation, to write a novel that covers an entire lifetime, albeit a short one like Nell Gwynn's. It's strange because I didn't perceive that I was becoming attached to the characters within the story until something happened to them and there I was, blubbering hysterically as if I knew them myself. I highly recommend this novel to not only lovers of historical novels but to anyone and everyone who ...more
Gillian Bagwell
Dec 12, 2010 Gillian Bagwell rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Since I wrote it, I must give it a good review! But in all fairness, others who have read it agree with me!
Stephanie Dray
From the lovely cover to the vibrant characters inside, this book was delightful. I've read other books about Nell Gwynn, but this one was more personal and charming in every way. Bagwell creates (or recreates) a girl of enormous spirit who isn't sentimental about using her assets to get ahead in a world where the deck is stacked against her. I appreciated Nell's matter-of-factness about many of the deeds she performs and, really, about who she was. Well-written, imaginative and fun! This was a ...more
Nell Gwynn was a poverty-stricken seventeenth century Londoner who began her whirlwind of a life as first a prostitute, then as an orange-girl-turned-comedic-actress, before becoming the mistress of King Charles II of England. She became well-known throughout her acting career by the common people and the nobility. It was her more affluent contacts that led her to the king’s bed. She was witty, charming, and pretty. Nell was well-loved by the common people because she was one of them and her dis ...more
Kate L
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Nell Gwynn, so basically any book with her at the center is alright by me. I think that Nell is such a rich and fascinating historical figure and The Darling Strumpet definitely did her justice. The most important thing for me, when I read a book focusing on Nell, is if the author properly catches the sense of humor, generosity and caring personality she was famous for. I think Ms. Bagwell has done so in spades. This book was just all around solid. The charact ...more
I kept putting off reading this book for awhile because I had heard some mixed reviews about it and I wanted to make sure I was in the right mindset to read this one as I knew it had some scandalous scenes. Let me say, if you are one easily turned off by sex scenes in novels, you may not want to read this one – as they are aplenty.

The sex scenes are basically the first thing that you encounter in this book – from about page 4 right through the first half of the book – and they can be pretty desc
Emery Lee
Just a few brief thoughts.

The book is very well written and I think the author did an excellent job of portraying Nell's life in a very vivid and readable fashion. The Restoration theatre world was fascinating and the secondary characters, particularly libertines Rochester and Buckingham were colorful and realistic.

The ending chapters perhaps left me a bit cold - likely I found all the death depressing. I also wished for a bit more character development on Charles' part as I didn't feel Nell's
I won this book on Goodreads, which is always a good thing. :) I signed up to win this book because the book description attracted me -- after all, what could be better than a historical fiction rags-to-riches story? When I received the book, the cover itself even made me want to delve right in.

I enjoyed the book, it was well-researched, and had a good plot line. The events seemed very realistic for that time period, and there were lots of good characters. What I found missing though was depth.
Jan 06, 2011 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!!!!!
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
Well, this one was definitely different from most of the other historical-english time-piece fiction books I've read.....
The HOW so, you ask?!?!?!?!?

Nell was not raised in court or raised to be a mistress, she literally grew up on the streets selling oysters.
She landed in the prostitution business to get out of her home life, and the King still willingly bedded her.
She was not whiney or mean, not the Anne Boelyn type.
She did, in fact, become a mistress, but had no aspirations to become the Kings
Two and a half stars.

I love this cover, I think it's gorgeous, the title is perfect and Gillian Bagwell is obviously well versed in the history of this period.

But I have to be honest, I wanted to love Nell and see the way all of England loved her. But I didn't feel England's love or anyone else's love.

The novel starts out strong enough when Nell, a poor oyster monger, decides to leave the home of her bitter and unloving mother for the whorehouse where her sister sells herself. Nell is a clever
Kate Forsyth
I’ve always loved books about Charles II, and have often wondered why that period of history is not as well-thumbed as the preceding Tudor period. The Stuart era was just as bloody, turbulent, passionate and packed with fascinating characters, if not more so.

One character I always liked the sound of was Nell Gwyn, one of Charles II’s mistresses, and so I was eager to read this novelisation of her life by Gillian Bagwell, an American author who has a background in acting, theatre directing, and
I have rediscovered historical novels since I have been reviewing books here, so I was delighted when a blogging friend of mine Southhams Darling offered to send me a novel she had just finished reading and thought I would enjoy.

Considering this was a first novel I thought it was very ambitious of the author to not only pick Nell Gwynn as her protagonist but rather than just cover a particular period of her life she chose to tell her complete life story. By her own admission in the notes at the
Patricia Bracewell
This book accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: introduce Nell Gwynn and her times to people like me who know her by name only. We're in the capable hands here of a writer who has studied the period, an actress who can bring her readers into the theater and backstage with the authority of someone who has spent a great deal of time there.
Julie Rose
Bagwell's facility with the language and slang of the time was quite wonderful, and the view of the theater scene was so interesting. Very entertaining!
Dec 05, 2012 Ridley added it
I'm not really a big fan of historical fiction anyway.
In historical fiction everyone has their top favorites; favorite heroines, favorite time periods, and especially favorite locations. Hands down my favorite rag to riches heroine naturally goes hand in hand with my favorite king of England the legendary Charles II and witty Nell Gwynn. Nelly always has held a special place in my heart and she will stay there indefinitely. You can only imagine how elated I was when I got wind that “The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Hear ...more
I've always pictured Nell Gwynne as a vivacious, lovable woman who won over King Charles and the public with her quirkiness, but in this book, I pitied her and felt sorry for her. Nell's sparkling side was talked about, but it wasn't really shown often. Instead I felt her inner sadness for most of the book. I'm sure this book is historically accurate, but it just didn't fit the image that I already had about Nell.

The tone of the book is really dark and gritty, which isn't really my style. For th
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
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 stag
Carol W
I had been eagerly waiting for this novel to come to the UK and I was not disappointed.

The story begins with young Nell, a vulnerable young girl who wants to escape her drunken and violent mother and be like her sister Rose.

She is taken in by Madam Ross and soon becomes aware that she can change her own luck entertaining the men of London. Nell admires the actors on stage at The King's Playhouse and takes a job as an orange seller, and quickly rising to star of the stage. She captures the atten
Having just visited Hampton Court Palace where an exhibit called “The Wild, the Beautiful and the Dammed” included a portrait of Nell Gynn and having always been fascinated by her story, Gillian Bagwell’s book coincidentally reached my hands at the London Historical Novel Society 2012 conference.
I made the mistake of reading it when I could not sleep one night and instead of putting me to sleep it really grabbed me and kept me awake. I usually prefer the kind of historical fiction written by Phi
Carl Brush
Gillian Bagwell. I knew her when. When she was a student at Berkeley High where I taught English and drama. Effervescent, talented. Lost track of her, reconnected via Facebook (where else?) discovered she’d spent her years successfully writing, directing, performing and has now become an international author of some note with her debut novel, The Darling Strumpet.

Even before opening it, I gave her book a couple of nominations for Writer Working 2011 awards--Cover--can’t imagine anyone’s going to
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 11, 2015 04:37PM  
Thank you! 3 40 Nov 18, 2013 05:17PM  
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Gillian Bagwell's richly detailed historical novels bring to vivid life England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

"Venus in Winter" based on the first forty years of the life of the formidable four-times widowed dynast Bess of Hardwick, begins with Bess's introduction to the court of Henry VIII just as the king weds Anne of Cleves. Bess quickly learns to navigate the treacherous waters,
More about Gillian Bagwell...
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