Heather's Reviews > Royal Harlot: A Novel of the Countess Castlemaine and King Charles II

Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott
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May 06, 10

bookshelves: arc, england, historical-fiction, charles-ii, 17th-c
Read from April 14 to 25, 2010

One of the most notorious things about King Charles II of England is his long line of famous mistresses. Author Susan Holloway Scott has found a gold mine to write about in Barbara Palmer, Nell Gwyn, and Renee de Kerouelle. In Royal Harlot, Scott takes a spin around the court with Barbara Palmer, the Countess of Castlemaine.

This book was not my first outing with Charles II. I have previously read a Jean Plaidy book called The Merry Monarch’s Wife about Catherine of Braganza (you can check out my review here) – with all those mistresses, who can imagine he had time for a wife! Obviously as that book was from the perspective of the wife, Barbara was not portrayed in the most flattering of lights. I have to say, that I very much enjoyed Barbara in Royal Harlot. Yes she was “bad” and most mothers would wish for their daughters to not turn out the way Barbara did – but she was a woman who knew how to get what she wanted, hold onto that power, and yet also know how to bow out on her own terms.

To quote the author in an email conversation we had, “Bad Barb was a LOT of fun to write about. She was every bit the libertine as any man of her time, and completely unrepentant. While I can understand why most writers (both historians and novelists) choose to paint her in an unflattering way, I enjoyed getting to "know" her. I imagine she would have been pretty entertaining company, and it's easy to see why Charles was so beguiled.” I could not agree more! Even though Barbara had loose morals, I enjoyed getting wrapped up in her escapades. Scott definitely knows how to tell a story.

Barbara was the mistress of Charles II for quite awhile – she was there before his wife, during Nell Gwyn and Renee de Kerouelle, and even with those other women she still managed to hold his attention. They had several children, 3 of which were definitely the king’s children – but she had many affairs and flings along the way too.

One of the things that I like about this novel is there is a thread that connects this book with Scott’s 3 other historical fiction novels. Renee and Nell were obvious (his other mistresses), but I had to take a second look to realize that a passing character in the novel would become Sarah Churchill, the lead character of her book Duchess. This was just an interesting side note. Also, as easy as it was to get wrapped up in Barbara’s life, it was refreshing to see that she was conscious of the way she was viewed by the people – she didn’t live in a bubble.

This was a wonderful, quick read. I raced through the pages caught up in the escapades of the court. There are many sexual references, but not overly graphic – it was well done and appropriate for the type of person that Barbara was. I felt that it was very important to understanding the character and her motives. I hope to proceed with another one of her books soon as I really enjoyed this one.

This book was received for review from the author - I was not compensated for my opinions and the above is my honest review.
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Reading Progress

04/18/2010 page 73
19.01%
04/20/2010 page 166
43.23% "Wow - Barbara Palmer is fresh - take it as you like."
04/21/2010 page 234
60.94% "I'm racing through this one!"
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Christy English This one I loved...


message 2: by Moppet (new) - added it

Moppet This has been on my TBR pile for a bit. Glad you're enjoying it, Heather. I loved Barbara Castlemaine in Forever Amber.


Heather Moppet wrote: "This has been on my TBR pile for a bit. Glad you're enjoying it, Heather. I loved Barbara Castlemaine in Forever Amber."

I have never read Forever Amber - is it good?


Jemidar I really enjoyed this one too! Have you read any of her other Charles' mistress books? I really like them all :-).


Heather Jemidar wrote: "I really enjoyed this one too! Have you read any of her other Charles' mistress books? I really like them all :-)."

Nope this is my first one, although I own them all!


Jemidar Then you've got something to look forward to :-). I thought the Nell Gwyn one was the best!


message 7: by Moppet (new) - added it

Moppet Heather wrote: "Moppet wrote: "This has been on my TBR pile for a bit. Glad you're enjoying it, Heather. I loved Barbara Castlemaine in Forever Amber."

I have never read Forever Amber - is it good?"


People seem to either love it or hate it - I love it! If you're enjoying this I'd say definitely give it a try. It's also about one of Charles's mistress, but a fictional one - Amber St Clare, who basically sleeps her way to the top. It's a big book with pretty much everything - marriages, men, clothes, shopping, and the Plague & Fire of London too. It's great fun!


Jemidar Got it on my TBR pile. Sounds great :-).


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