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Forever Amber

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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 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.

972 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1944

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About the author

Kathleen Winsor

24 books141 followers
Winsor was raised in Berkeley, California. At the age of 18, Winsor made a list of her goals for life. Among those was her hope to write a best-selling novel. Winsor graduated in 1938 from the University of California, Berkeley. During her school years, she married a fellow student, All-American college football player Robert Herwig. In 1937, she began writing a thrice-weekly sports column for the Oakland Tribune. Although that job only lasted a year, Winsor later returned to the newspaper to work as a receptionist. She was fired in 1938 when the newspaper chose to trim their workforce.
Winsor became interested in the Restoration period through her husband. Herwig was writing a paper for school on Charles II, and, out of boredom, Winsor read one of his research books

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,235 reviews
Profile Image for Robyn.
10 reviews16 followers
September 28, 2008
A little known trivia about this book. Artie Shaw wanted his beautiful young wife Ava Gardner to be well read, and so he encouraged her to read many intellectual books. He was very annoyed when he found her reading Forever Amber. He called it a 'trashy romance novel.' Years later Artie Shaw would wed the author, Kathleen Winsor.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,328 reviews7,102 followers
April 20, 2017
If you're looking for a rollicking romp through 17th century Restoration England then this is it! 16 year old Amber St Clare finds herself homeless and penniless on the streets of London, and to make matters much worse she's also pregnant. However, Amber is an enticing young girl, both in terms of her beauty and her personality and wit. She's particularly well versed in the use of feminine wiles and eventually becomes the mistress of Charles II.

Gosh, this story is a whirlwind of bawdiness, taking us into the Royal Courts, ( and its many bedrooms! ) The historical events of The Plague and The Great Fire of London add interest, but it's the characters that stand out, and not always for the right reasons.

Amber is definitely a flawed amoral individual, and she's not the only one. The circles that she moves in have more than their share of characters who take whatever they want at the expense of others.

It was difficult to find an affinity with many of the characters. Amber herself was likeable at times, and positively frustrating at others ( she never seemed to learn from her mistakes ) but it was a fun read, taking readers through the Royal Court, and the taverns and theatres of the day and overall it was really enjoyable.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,168 reviews126 followers
January 24, 2016
I know some of you just love this book...and I'm happy for you...you are the good kind people who are able to go out into the world and make friends easily because you see the good in everyone regardless of how horrible and shallow and rotten they are.

I am not like you...I'm fussy, I'm particular, I'm very judgmental...and I could only stand to read 323 pages of this awful book!

I too am one of those people who thinks you should finish the book if you start it. I have never left a review about a book that I didn't complete, I'm making an exception here because 323 pages IS a book for most authors and certainly plenty long enough for me to know I wasn't going to like it any better by reading 650 more.

If you are particular like I am and you like what I like (take a look at my other reviews to get an idea) you will probably think this book is horrid drivel too. But if you liked Slammerkin you might just love this.

I did not like any of the characters, they were rotten, especially Amber. I have to like someone in the story in order to read 975 pages about them, I'm funny like that.

The character development was seriously lacking, the dialogue was horrid, the story line was barely if at all believable...And I will admit I am happy to suffer all of those things if I love the protagonist. Here, I couldn't even like her.

Save your money and borrow this from the library if you have to read it!
The two nice things I can say are the cover is pretty and it's heavy enough to use as a doorstop.
Profile Image for ``Laurie.
195 reviews
December 3, 2018
Meet Amber, the Scarlett O'Hara of the English Civil War and Restoration era.

Nothing could stop this teenage country girl, from a small English village as she rises to the top in the court of King Charles II, becoming one of his MANY mistresses.

Amber's tale borders on the trashy but my goodness, she was so much fun.

Like Scarlett, Amber wants the man she can not have, whilst moving heaven and earth to obtain his love.

Poor Scarlett was so besotted with Ashley that she barely noticed the south being invaded and the town of Atlanta set on fire - while the feckless Amber, in much the same manner, successfully conquers the bubonic plague - with both considering their travails a minor inconvenience.

As long as Amber shares the sick-bed with her lover Bruce she barely has time to notice her, no doubt, painful experience. BRUCE MUST LIVE! or Amber will die.

This is one of those rare romantic stories that's impossible to forget. The author's description of the Plague is absolutely brilliant with no gory detail omitted as she conveys the hellish experience of life during the plague.

Does Amber's machinations finally win the love of Bruce? You'll have a lot of fun reading this book if you want to find the answer to this question.

If Amber lived in our modern time she would probably be the successful CEO of a major conglomerate instead of vainly chasing her romantic interest.
Profile Image for Veronica Bailey.
93 reviews20 followers
November 3, 2021
Ugh! I thought I'd never finish this book. I have never before read so many pages about a protagonist I hated this much.
At the beginning of the book, Amber is a childish, selfish, spoiled little brat who uses her natural beauty and sexuality to get what she wants. But I thought, it's a book about a journey! Life will Happen, Amber will learn and grow and become a better person, and by the end of the book, I'll be happy when good things happen to her.
Well. Life did happen, but Amber didn't change one bit. Throughout the entire book she stayed the same childish, selfish person she was at the beginning, and I hated her. It was about halfway through the book that I realized she was never going to change, because this was not, in fact, a book about Amber. It was a book about Amber's Obsession With Bruce And How She Let It Ruin Her Life and The Lives of Everybody She Touched, and if she ever grew up, she'd stop being such a selfish, obsessed twat. Her self-absorption lead to the DEATHS of no fewer than four people, only one of whom deserved it. Even the ending was only about her obsession, and the only good thing about it was that it was open ended enough that it lets me imagine the many horrible things that ought to happen to her after the events in the book have ended.
The story itself might have been good (hence my two-star rating, and not one) if only the protagonist had been in the least likable. But she wasn't, and so I am only relieved that I'm done reading this book, and can move on to something different.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
April 22, 2021
Forever Amber, Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber (1944) is a historical romance novel by Kathleen Winsor set in 17th-century England. It was made into a film in 1947 by 20th Century Fox.

Judith Marsh has been engaged since birth to her neighbor, John Mainwaring, heir to the Earl of Rosswood. In 1644, she has her engagement broken off when her family and the Mainwarings find themselves on opposing sides of the English Civil War. During a break in the fighting, John visits Judith and the two consummate their relationship. Pregnant, Judith abandons her family and goes to Parliamentarian territory on John's instructions, introducing herself as Judith St. Clare.

There, she ends up staying with farmer Matthew Goodegroome and his wife Sarah. Judith dies in childbirth after naming her daughter Amber. In 1660, Amber, now a flirtatious teenager, is being raised by the Goodegroomes in ignorance of her origins. She meets a band of Royalists who inform her that Charles II of England is returning. Amber is particularly attracted to Lord Bruce Carlton.

During a fair, she lures him into the woods and loses her virginity to him. After she persuades him, Carlton reluctantly takes her to London, but tells Amber he will not marry her and she will come to regret her choice.

In London, Carlton makes Amber his mistress. She quickly grows accustomed to their luxurious lifestyle. She longs to marry Carlton and believes becoming pregnant will make him marry her. However, when she does become pregnant, Carlton announces plans to become a privateer.

He leaves Amber a significant amount of money and tells her if she is clever she can legitimize herself and her child by marrying well.

Left alone, Amber is befriended by a woman named Sally Goodman and passes herself off as a rich country heiress. Sally introduces Amber to her nephew Luke Channell, who Amber quickly marries out of fear that her pregnancy will soon be visible.

She soon discovers Sally and Luke are not who they appear. When they realize she is not as wealthy as she claimed they abandon her, leaving her penniless.

Amber is pursued by creditors and taken to a debtors' prison. Salvation comes when she catches the eye of Black Jack Mallard, a highwayman who takes Amber with him when he escapes.

Black Jack takes Amber to Whitefriars, where she is introduced to the ways of criminals and gives birth to a son who she gives to a countrywoman to raise properly.

Black Jack hires a student of noble birth, Michael Godfrey, to educate Amber, and begins to use her as bait in schemes where she lures handsome, rich men to quiet corners before Black Jack robs them. ...

‏‫‬‭Forever Amber‏‫‬‭ by Kathleen Winsor. ‏‫‬‭‬‭New York‏‫‬‭: The Macmillan Company‏‫‬‭, 1945‏‫‬‭ = 1324. 652 Pages.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1969 میلادی

عنوان: امبر برای همیشه (عنبر، شاهکار کاتلین وینسور)؛ نویسنده: کاتلین وینسور؛ مترجم: مجید مسعودی؛ تهران، کانون معرفت؛ چاپ اول 1333؛ چاپ دوم 1335؛ در 432ص؛ فروست: (صد کتاب از از صد نویسنده بزرگ دنیا)؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آمریکایی سده 20م

آمبر (عنبر) برای همیشه؛ رمان عاشقانه ای است، که توسط خانم «کاتلین وینسور»، نویسندهٔ اهل «ایالات متحده آمریکا» نگاشته شده ‌است؛ این کتاب با عنوان «عنبر» توسط روانشاد جناب «مجید مسعودی» در سالهای دهه ی سی سده چهاردهم خورشیدی به فارسی برگردان شده است؛

دختری شانزده ساله به نام «آمبر سنت کلار»، خویشتن خویش را در خیابانهای «لندن» بیخانمان و بیپول مییابد، و بدتر از همه اینکه ایشان، باردار نیز هستند؛ با اینحال، او دختری جوان، و فریبنده، هم از نظر زیبایی ظاهری، و هم از نظر شخصیت، و تیزهوشی، نیز هست؛ «آمبر» به ویژه در استفاده از حیله های زنانه مهارت دارد، و در پایان کار خویش معشوقه ی «چارلز دوم» میشود؛ داستان فرعی رمان، در باره ی «چارلز دوم» است، ایشان پس از درگذشت «کرامول»؛ از تبعیدگاه خود، یعنی از کشور «فرانسه»، برای بدست آوردن اداره امور، به «انگلستان» برمیگردند، مردمان «انگلیس»، که تازه از زیر یوغ حکومت «کرامول»، آزاد شده بودند، درگیر هرج و مرجی پر دامنه بودند، البته که پس از برچیده شدن هر دیکتاتوری، هرج و مرج، در همه ی شئون زندگی مردمان هر دیاری، حکمفرما میگردد؛ و سیاست، و طاعون، و آتش سوزی بزرگ لندن، و ماجراهای خواندنی دیگر ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews276 followers
August 26, 2016
"Never again, she had promised herself a dozen times will I be such a fool." Yeah right, like we all know that's never going to happen don't we?

Amber St. Clare never felt she belonged with the poor family who raised her, and when one day a troop of cavaliers ride into her village she's swept away by Lord Bruce Carlton. Well, actually it's more like the other way around - Amber won't say no and begs Bruce to take her to London and against his better judgment he agrees - although lust for the beauteous Amber might have something to do with it. Nah. Bruce makes it perfectly clear he'll never marry her and when his privateering ships are ready to sail she's on her own. Amber accepts Bruce's terms and they're off to London as Charles II is crowned and his bawdy court and courtiers are in full swing. As he warned, Bruce soon has to leave and it doesn't take long for a pregnant Amber to get herself royally swindled (what a fool) out of every farthing Bruce left her and thrown into Newgate prison for debt. Not one to be down and out for long, Amber soon hooks up with a notorious highway man and he breaks them out and the game is on......

Until of course Black Jack Mallard is caught and hanged and finding herself in another pickle she goes for the stage - but she still needs to find man to keep her in the style in which she wants to become accustomed to - and handsome Captain Rex Morgan will fit the bill quite nicely. That is, as soon as she can take him away from his current mistress. Of course, once Bruce is back Amber manages to screw things up nicely (what a fool) and fresh out of likely prospects (young men with money), Amber finds herself an older one to protect her from life's little problems. But then older men don't live forever and when their family doesn't like you well, then she's off on the hunt yet again....

Amber's story takes her through all walks of Restoration England, from prison to theatre to the decadent, conniving court of Charles II (loved Castlemaine and Buckingham's antics), from the plague (A.W.E.S.O.M.E.) to the Great Fire and from man to man and bed to bed. Amber is most definitely one of fiction's most flawed heroines and despite the many lessons life dishes out do you think she ever learns from them? Not on your life, nor does she ever figure out that Bruce is never ever going to marry her - sleep with her, yes. Don't worry though, as busy as Amber is in the bed chamber and despite the fact that when published in the 40's this was so scandalous it was banned in Boston, the sex is pretty tame and left to the reader's imagination (how refreshing). Watching Amber is like watching a train wreck - you can't take your eyes away for fear of missing what's going to happen next. As for the ending? Kathleen Winsor dishes up the most delectable bit of Just Desserts at the end - I can't recall ever seeing better . A grand and glorious romp through the court of Charles II, don't miss it.
Profile Image for SarahKate.
11 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2008
I read this book because of my grandfather. That sounds funny, but my grandpa Duke was in WWII and he was stationed mostly on ships. When this book came out, he the whole crew were given one copy to share. So they tore the book apart and passed the chapters around. You might get the third chapter one night and the tenth another. He read the whole book, but completely out of order. After he told me this story I went to the library and checked out the book. It was a good book especially if you like historical novels. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much was the background my grandpa gave me for it.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book462 followers
July 12, 2017
I am always interested in how my adult self reacts differently to books than my adolescent self did. I first read this book when I was about twelve years old and I am surprised none of the adults around me prohibited it. Probably because of my own innocence, I failed to see how very jaded this character actually was. For me then, there was this marvelous love she had for this man who was always just out of reach (I would mistakenly have said through no fault of her own).

What I took away from it this time was quite different. Amber is not a lovely or likable person, and Bruce Carlton is much more callous, but for much better reason, than I had thought. There is much to be said for he never lies to her. But, like her, he is willing to take whatever he wants and damn the consequences.

Toward the end of the novel, there is a passage which says, “But it was not enough, now she had it, to make her happy.” This, I think is the true theme of this novel. Amber is never happy with anything she gets, no prestige, no material wealth, no amount of admiration, nothing is enough for her. I suspect Bruce Carlton would not be enough for her either, but the fact that she cannot have him makes him seem like the ultimate prize. She does not understand him at all, while I think he has her nailed. He knows she is not evil, but he also knows she is amoral and insatiable.

I’ve done some things I hated, but that’s over now and I’m where I want to be. I’m somebody, Almsbury! If I’d stayed in Marygreen and married some lout of a farmer and bred his brats and cooked his food and spun his linen--what would I be?

Therein lies Amber’s problem. She sees nothing of what makes a person great or even good. She has no respect for any achievement that doesn’t show itself in the form of gold and property, and she does not know what happiness is. Her greatest misfortune is the one she knows nothing of: she was born to an aristocrat. Parents who would have married and raised her in exactly the world she desires never got that opportunity because of the civil war and the rise of Cromwell. She believes herself to be common and to have risen above her beginnings. Little does she know, she has in fact sunk far below her station, even when she is the whore of the King.

Finally, this is a very interesting peek into the court of Charles II, the great fire, the plague, the troubles of the restoration, the constant wars with France and the Dutch, and the rise of English imperialism. It is a period for which I have little frame of reference, so I enjoyed the historical aspects of the novel.

It is a long read, but it has a fast pace and Amber holds your interest navigating between her husbands and her lover. The most interesting character for me is still Bruce Carlton. He is cut from a different cloth than many of the men of his time, and he is the seed that produced America. I also love the character of Almsbury, who might appear to be minor, but reflects a balance that the other characters lack: he is kind, steady and capable of actually loving Amber, had he ever been given a chance.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
June 18, 2022
- Please sit down.

- Thank you Prime Minister.

- Now, as I think you heard from Carrie, we may have a little job for you.

- Yes sir.

- Carrie tells me you like to read.

- Yes sir, I do.

- Good! Then I wonder if you've read Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.

- I have read that book sir.

- And why did you read it?

- Well sir, so many of my American friends, particularly those - ah, to the right of the political spectrum -

- Exactly. If you're an American with conservative values, the book you're most likely to say you've been influenced by is the Bible, and the second most likely is Atlas Shrugged.

- Yes sir.

- Did you think it was a good book?

- Ah -

- Please be frank.

- Well, in that case sir, I didn't. To the British reader, it comes across as rather appallingly, how shall I put it -

- American?

- Ah, yes sir.

- All the same, you agree that it does a fine job of conveying the moral virtues of being as selfish as possible. The very bedrock of conservative philosophy. And it presents female voters with a beautiful, empowered heroine they can identify with.

- Yes sir, it does all that. But -

- Too American.

- Yes sir.

- British conservatives won't read it.

- No sir. Very few of them.

- So, here's my question. Is there any similar book which British conservatives might read? In particular, female ones. I assume you've seen the latest bloody focus group figures.

- Yes sir.

- Well? Please take your time and consider it carefully.

- Ah, sir, in fact I do have a suggestion.

- Yes?

- It's a 1943 novel called Forever Amber. By Kathleen Winsor. Maybe you know it?

- Restoration bodice-ripper, I believe?

- Sir, with all respect, that's very unfair to Ms Winsor's book. It may formally be a trashy historical romance, but I'm prepared to claim that it's every bit as philosophical as Ayn Rand's novel. And it argues for essentially the same position.

- Namely?

- Well sir, Amber's an ambitious girl, but she's been brought up on a farm. Her only future prospect is to marry another farmer and have a lot of children. She's beautiful, she's smart, she wants more. She meets a dashing nobleman and persuades him to take her away with him to London.

- She wants to level up then?

- Ah yes sir, you could put it that way.

- So what happens when she gets to London?

- Well, unfortunately, the nobleman, Lord Carlton, has to leave soon. He's headed West.

- He's a businessman?

- Not exactly sir -

- An entrepreneur?

- Ah, actually sir he's a privateer.

- A privateer?

- Yes sir. With the government's permission, he attacks foreign merchant ships and steals their cargo.

- These would be European ships?

- Yes sir. Primarily Spanish and Dutch ships.

- So he's strongly Eurosceptic and has a buccaneering business model?

- I, ah, I suppose you could -

- Would the Holland of the time have included Brussels?

- I'm, er, I'm not quite sure sir, I think the Spanish Netherlands -

- But you could say that?

- Well, possibly -

- Let's get back to Amber. What happens to when Lord Carlton leaves on his business trip?

- Initially, things don't go well. She's taken in by some tricksters and ends up in debtor's prison. But she's beautiful and resourceful and she gets out. She soon learns how to use her talents to get what she wants from men.

- Not hampered by old-fashioned ideas about ethics then?

- No sir. She's willing to say anything, do anything, tell any lies if it helps her get ahead. And it works. She ends up as King Charles II's favourite mistress and extremely rich and powerful.

- How is Charles II portrayed?

- Corrupt through and through sir. Only interested in women and partying. Completely incompetent at running the country. But popular. The people adore him.

- I must say that I have underestimated this book.

- Thank you sir.

- One last question. What is Amber's hair colour?

- She's a natural blonde sir.

- Sold.

- Sir?

- We're printing fifty thousand copies and distributing them free at the conference. Can we arrange a BBC series?

- I'll contact them right away sir.

- I'm counting on you to make this happen.

- I won't let you down sir.

- Good man. Move!
Profile Image for Anna.
430 reviews46 followers
January 10, 2015
Like Amber’s frilly drawers, my thoughts on this book regularly went up and down.

It’s a lusty romp through Restoration England taking in Newgate prison, bawdy taverns and theatres, the plague, the great fire of London, royal courts, various bedrooms and general day to day life of the 1660s.

Amber was one hell of a character, an anti-heroine in the mould of Scarlett O’Hara. She fought hard for what she wanted at the expense of anyone who got in her way, and as with Scarlett, sometimes I was cheering her on and other times I wanted to slap her.

I loved her long and complex relationship with Bruce Carlton; whenever he turned up you knew there would be fireworks. I also really enjoyed her escapades with Luke, Black Jack, Rex and the Dangerfields, although my favourite parts were the plague which was gruesome, heroic and moving, and the ending which was classic!

There were two areas that didn’t quite work for me though. I tired of Amber’s constant cycle of crisis, rescue, crisis, rescue which gave the book a stop and start feel. I realise this was a plot device to move from one historical event to the next, but would have preferred smoother transitions to give a more continuous flow to the story.

I also tired of the increasingly lengthy visits to the court of Charles II as he (along with the other Stuarts) is a monarch I’ve never been able to get into, and I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for the intrigues of his ministers and mistresses.

But as an overall book it was great fun, and I’ll never forget that ending, priceless!

Thanks for the buddy read, Jemidar :-)
Profile Image for Tara.
15 reviews68 followers
February 3, 2023
Amber takes you through one of the most interesting periods in the English history. A feisty, brave and independent heroine who is not afraid to go after what she wants.

10 stars

Profile Image for Stephen Smarr.
20 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2010
Okay, Okay, I've read all the bad reviews on here, and I have to admit that this was NOT the book I would choose if I wanted a pick-me-up, light-hearted, fun read. But I would always reach for this book before picking up Gone with the Wind, and that's saying something since most of the reviewers on this site have commented about how much they like that book!
It really is along the same lines, and I don't know how you can like Scarlet O'hara without falling in love with Amber St Claire. Now, I have to admit, if I met her or someone like her in real life, I would hate her. The wonderful thing about this book, though, is you get an insider view on what's going on in her mind, the struggles she went thru, and the difficulty of being Amber St Claire. It shows you a side of her personality that I would never care to see in a real person I knew. I would automatically be obligated to hate someone like this, yet I sympathize with her, feel her pain, and understand that the one thing she really wanted, the one thing she dreamed of more than anything else in the world (Bruce), is the ONLY thing in life permanently denied to her.
I think people are being way too harsh on Amber though. No, she wasn't a MORAL character. There is NO redeeming moral to this story; but I challenge a reviewer to write a story about THEIR OWN life that is any better than this book--I doubt they will come up with any dribble worth reading, and the point of this story is not a divine moral or some reason for living that's universal--it's the personal life and struggle of a young girl thrust into society and forced to make something of her life or die trying. Amber is an entity that will live on long after her author is dead. She's like a force of nature--really--you can't stop her, and she dares you to try! Her life wasn't easy, and in a time when life for women in general wasn't easy, her courage and force of life is admirable! If anyone had a reason to just sit down and cry about how life was treating them, it would be Amber--but she's much too strong a person to do that. I doubt you could say the same if you were in her place, and I know that not many would go anywhere near as far as she did, even if she was a fictional character.
It amazes me that in a modern-day culture where women are supposed to be equal with men, and understand how far we've come from the primitive days where men could kill their wives and move on to the next pretty unsuspecting farm girl, wear her out, then kill her too,(which is not the plot of this story, but they do discuss just how bad things were for women back then and not one of these reviewers can honestly say they understand what life for them would have been like back then) a girl like Amber, who refuses to be used, and uses the only resources left to her to climb to a social and power status far beyond that which any mere man could have done in that day is worthy of respect.
Profile Image for Lisa.
44 reviews
November 14, 2008
This book had everything you could ask for in historical fiction - court intrigue, infidelites, Newgate prison, smallpox, the plague, fire in London...It kept me going for 992 pages, yet I hated every character - there was no one with any redeeming qualities!! It was a very interesting read!
Profile Image for Lisa.
281 reviews7 followers
February 16, 2008
Absolutely the best chick-lit classic of all time. This historical romance is poorly written worthless junk, and I loved every second of it! I have never read a Harlequin Romance, anything by Barbara Cartland or Danielle Steele, or anything with Fabio on the cover. The only reason I bothered was the person who sent it to me. Not just recommended it, took the trouble to send it. This is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of fluff, entertaining in ways I can't begin to understand or describe. Heartily recommended for a long plane flight.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,697 reviews1,478 followers
April 26, 2013
No, this is not a book I enjoy. I have read 267 of 972 pages and have decided to quit. I know the historical facts are correct so I have been forcing myself to continue to learn about the Restoration period in England, the plague, London’s Fire, clothing, food, customs and manners. Yes, all that is here. Still, I did not enjoy it. The beginning was fun because Amber felt like a young, spunky girl determined to get what she wanted from life… and Bruce did blow her over! That was all fine and dandy, and they went off to London together. Then he disappears, and he had told her he would be leaving so he is no rotten schmuck. Don’t worry; this is all so soon in the book it is not a spoiler. It is just that I don’t like Amber at all anymore. Prison and thievery and marrying for personal gain, well, I just don’t like her anymore. OK, I could follow her footsteps to learn about the events at the end of the 1600s. It is just that I don’t care for any of the characters; in fact I dislike all of them. I would only recommend this book to those who particularly enjoy plot oriented novels because the characters just do not draw you in. Maybe I am too picky, but I want more than just plot. I want characters that feel real, some bad, some good, at least one for whom I can feel empathy. Nope, this is not my thing. I am going to stop here. I tried.

Remember, my one star doesn’t at all mean this is a bad book. It just means it was not for me. You have to decide for yourself what you are looking for in a book.

Profile Image for Vintage.
2,369 reviews421 followers
March 31, 2017
Amber is without a doubt one of the most vile and despicable characters I have ever read. Kudos to Kathleen Winsor for creating such an unrepentant monster in a piece of popular model fiction for her time. No surprise given the antics of the h that Popes banned this baby.

Forever Amber  by Kathleen Winsor lays the groundwork for historical fiction and bodice rippers. Yes, it's epic, not in terms of a generational HF as the story take Amberonly through approximately nine years in Charles II Restoration England. No spoiler here in that Amber is the ultimate sleep your way to the top to become one in Charles II rotation of mistresses.

Amber is the product of an affair between two young aristocrats. Her mother dies in birth, and I suppose the father never heard of her or claimed her so she's brought up by her mother's midwife. She's a handful. At 16 she meets the so-called love of her life, Bruce, who takes her to London. No, he doesn't debauch the young virgin, she throws herself into his life willingly. He tells her he will never marry her, and he means it. After he leaves, she finds she is pregnant and the saga really begins.

In a nutshell, Amber does anything and everything to get ahead without conscience, without remorse. She relishes every head she steps on and every back she breaks. Skipping over minor skirmishes of spite and envy for any competition like Barbara Villiers, real life mistress to Charles II, let's concentrate on her bigger infractions.

I knew FA was whitewashed when it went from book to movie, I just didn't know quite how much.

The book is well done, and will be a good read for fans of Historical Fiction as well as bodice ripper fans. Not for me.

The one bright spot for me was BIG SPOILER

She makes Scarlet O'Hara look like Mother Teresa.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,830 reviews358 followers
July 29, 2015
Actual rating: 3.5 stars. I did like this book and was pulled into it against my better judgement.

Wow, this is a door-stop of a book and apparently when the publisher accepted it for publication, they cut it down to one fifth of its original size. I can’t imagine having to wade through even more pages to get to the conclusion, so I thank the editors profusely!

It’s difficult, from our 21st century perspective, to see what the fuss was about in the 1940s. This is one of the novels that began the path that led us to 50 Shades of Grey. It caused a stir for all the sex (which is not graphic at all) and for the sexual manoeuvring of the main character, Amber St. Claire. I suspect some of the fury was about the depiction of a woman who (gasp) enjoyed sex and had some ambition to rise in her society. Maybe the female ambition was even more objectionable than the frank discussion of sex, who knows?

I was reminded of some other novels that I enjoyed in the past, namely the Angelique series by Anne Golon (under the pseudonym Sergeanne Golon in the 1950s). Angelique is a French adventuress, in much the same vein as Amber. Instead of one huge novel, Golon published about 10 books, each detailing its own swatch of history. I blush to confess that I learned a lot of French history from these books--when other university students complimented me on my knowledge, I did not admit that I learned it from somewhat erotic novels!

Also brought to mind was Victoria Holt’s book My Enemy the Queen, published in 1978 and set in the court of Elizabeth I of England. It was the sexual rivalry of its main character Lettice with Queen Elizabeth that reminded me strongly of Forever Amber.

I was frustrated by several personal beliefs of Amber’s, namely that sexuality was the be-all and end-all of life, that conspicuous consumption was THE way to go, and that everyone thought about life the way she did (and if they didn’t, then they should).

I think that we 21st century women can view Amber, et al., as markers of how far we have come—to a place where women are actually considered to be persons, i.e. we can vote, we can choose who we marry or if we marry, we can support ourselves—at least here in the Western world, we are no longer completely dependent on men to defend and support us and we have more autonomy than ever before. I think my biggest annoyances in reading Forever Amber were the limitations that Amber put on herself. She keeps saying that she won’t remarry—until a man shows up who is richer or of higher station than herself, and then she just can’t seem to resist the urge to jump into matrimony again. Plus, being an introvert myself, I couldn’t empathize with the constant drive to be at court, to be involved in all the back stabbing and plotting that went on there.

Incidentally, I believe I have added a new word to my vocabulary—I can hardly wait until I encounter someone who I can call a “varlet.” I think it will be highly satisfying.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,691 reviews292 followers
December 7, 2017
Delightful book, with a fast-paced plot with plenty of twists and turns, culminating in a funny ending you'll not expect.

The prose isn't particular, but the plotting and the historical detailing do make up for that. And if some may feel the heroine isn't likable, that's true, yet in my case it worked because I knew she wasn't meant to be lovable, and once that's accepted, you can sit and enjoy the ride. Also, I may be the odd fish here, but I liked the hero less than her.

The plague chapters are the best part, and I lament the author didn't exploit them better to have either the hero or the heroine grow up a bit, instead of just going on as usual, each with their own ambitions to achieve. But overall, my major complaint is that there wasn't a second part; there was stillmuch plot left open-ended.
Profile Image for Negin.
596 reviews151 followers
June 9, 2019
I loved this book, even though much of it felt like waiting for a storm that’s about to happen. I felt sorry for Amber who loved a man far more than he loved her. She made one bad decision after another, leading to mayhem and self-destructiveness. Although Amber is not the most likeable of characters, I found myself caring for her, and even rooting for her at times.

I gave this four stars, because I thought that the ending was abrupt, but overall it was a fabulous story. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will probably like this. The book is set in 1600s England and is well-researched. Major events such as the Black Death/Great Plague and the Great Fire of London take place.

Finally, a bit of trivia about this book. I would not have known all this if it wasn’t for a review that I saw on Good Reads. When the musician/actor/writer Artie Shaw was married to a young and beautiful Ava Gardner, he was disappointed that instead of reading an intellectual book, she was reading “Forever Amber” which he considered to be trashy and romance. Lo and behold, just one year later, he left Ava Gardner and married the author of this book, Kathleen Winsor! Actually, he ended up being married eight times. His wives included Lana Turner. Both Lana Turner and Ava Gardner described him as being controlling and emotionally abusive. Sounds like it.

My favorite quote:

“’Oh,’ she breathed unhappily. ‘They look like gods!’ ‘Even gods, my dear, use a chamber-pot,’ said Charles Hart.’”
Profile Image for Orsolya.
604 reviews287 followers
September 28, 2015
Restoration England and the reign of King Charles II was certainly the time of pleasure, gluttony, and sin. Perhaps this was recompense for the harsh Civil Wars. The life of women during this period was also oftentimes filled with this lust for life. Kathleen Winsor highlights this real-life soap opera in, “Forever Amber”.

“Forever Amber” is a raunchy novel (but not really a bodice ripper and not that raunchy in terms of today’s standards) following the life of fictional Amber St. Clare during Restoration England. “Forever Amber” can be described as having a slow beginning as it feels somewhat like Winsor doesn’t have a firm grasp on her footing but this certainly strengthens as the novel progresses. The prose and language follows suit being somewhat disconnected and overly literary and descriptive at one point, bland the next, and back to flowery; but this too settles into its own.

Elaborating on this, “Forever Amber” is a highly visual novel. The extent of Winsor’s research is stupendous and England truly comes to life feeling very ‘real’ to the reader. The only issue is that sometimes Winsor is too descriptive which slows the pace and leads the reader to think, “Just move on, already!”.

“Forever Amber” incorporates a heady amount of characters which come in-and-out and also varies the storytelling points of view (it isn’t always told by Amber’s point of view). Winsor successfully uses this device to create a rounded view of the time period and the large number of characters are not overwhelming, at all. In fact, “Forever Amber” is very easy-to-read, accessible, and move quickly despite its length.

Amber herself seems like a composite character encompassing bits and pieces of real figures rolled into one which creatively educates on the history of the period. However, Amber’s characterization is flat, shallow, and superficial. She carelessly views life and acts such as pregnancy with an indifferent air as through they are as simple as choosing what clothes to wear for the day. The parts of “Forever Amber” told from the view points of other characters are far better than Amber’s which are very ‘prissy’. If this was Winsor’s intent, though, then she was heartily successful.

A highlight of “Forever Amber” are the ‘Easter Eggs’ hidden by Winsor. For example, a young girl singing in a tavern early in the story happens to be Nell Gwynne and wouldn’t even be of notice for those readers unfamiliar with her story but certainly induces a chuckle from those who are.

Winsor’s portrayal of the plague definitely turns “Forever Amber” around. Her descriptions are raw and vivid; exciting reader emotion. Amber finally shows genuine depth and the entire story becomes henceforth better including the telling of the Great Fire. Winsor truly allows the reader to grasp how catastrophic these events were and the strength of the English people to persevere. If only all of “Forever Amber” would be so strong…

After this heightened climax, “Forever Amber” returns to a shallower state. Amber is as annoyingly frivolous as ever and the story feels pointless and extremely dragged out. Saying that the pace is weakened once again is an understatement. The final conclusion, however, is surprising, creative, and although somewhat contrived; it results in a smile.

Winsor’s “Forever Amber” is a famous sensation portraying life in Restoration England. Unfortunately, I can’t fully agree with the masterpiece claims and thus I have to be the oddball with my level of satisfaction. Although “Forever Amber” is vivid, helps bring history to life, and is certainly better than most of the HF of current day; it is also repetitive, dragged out, and features a one-dimensional (and unlikable) characterization of Amber. Despite this, “Forever Amber” is suggested for those readers interested in Stuart England but it isn’t necessarily the best piece ever written regardless of the hype.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,812 reviews361 followers
November 30, 2016
What a guilty pleasure read! Definitely recommend for those Outlander fans
Amber is born of noble unmarried parents and reared in a country village with people she thinks are her aunt and uncle. As soon as she's of age, she runs from home following a cavalier to London. From there she lands in one adventure or another, men always involved. Slowly her naïveté wanes, and at one point she is even bedded by King Charles II and the Duke of Buckingham.
Beginning during the first days of the Restoration, Amber's life does not seem to directly involve the goings-on of Whitehall beyond this point. Instead, chapters discuss Amber, then chapters discuss the king, or Castlemaine, etc. Amber always seems to come out victorious. She's rash, impulsive, selfish, but romantic and giving. Slowly her life of ascending precedency merges with the royal court, where she flourishes.
I can't help but pity Amber for all of her wealth and prestige. At heart she stays a country filly and never wins, but what a race she runs! My one regret is that there is no sequel.
Profile Image for Alycia.
187 reviews31 followers
August 22, 2010
Charles II is restored to the throne, Cromwell is dead. Monarchy will rein once more in England. Amber St. Claire, a seemingly yeoman farmer's daughter happens across cavaliers one day and begs to be taken away from the country and travel with them into London. Here she believes, an entrancing beauty such as herself can live a larger and more important life. Lord Bruce Carlton is just the means to do it. She believes she can charm him like all the other men in her life.

Amber is a complex character, her story is about her rise and subsequent follies once she is left alone to fend for herself in London. She is vain, rash, immature and yet she is beautiful, resourceful and cunning. You will cheer her schemes and wish she fails. She does not let people, poverty, birthing children, the deadly plague, or the great fire of London stop her. She definitely uses her beauty and man's infatuation to help her rise in status in life. Amber finds that life in London isn't as easy as she thought. She is taken advantage of. Subsequently landing her in jail, the theater, a mistress, a wife a few times.

Her only love, Bruce keeps coming back to Amber's life. Each time he finds her in a better position in life, he secretly suspects that her life hasn't always been so care free each time he leaves her to travel. Carlton is an adventurer, disguised as a privateer for the Crown, Bruce refuses to crawl on his belly in Court to regain what was once his or clamor and scheme for power. He is a very respectable man in most regards, except for his refusal to marry Amber.

Possibly at first it was for her own good, but traveling through this sweeping saga, I cannot help but think that at times Amber channeled her inner Scarlett O'Hara. Bruce definitely is a different character than the other men in Amber's life. He keeps insisting about not marrying Amber, he's smart, and selfish, and I can't help but think channeling his inner Rhett Butler at times too.

I would recommend this book to any lover of great historical fiction, by complaint was that although it was detailed and you get a great representation of Charles' court, this story could have been shorter. I read on Wikipedia that the resulting 972 pages of this book was edited down by 1/5 from its original manuscript. I don't want to give too many spoilers away, if you are thinking of trying this book, I would say go for it!
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
724 reviews1,764 followers
February 10, 2015
I wonder after reading this if Kathleen Winsor based Amber on Scarlette O'hara!!! Scarlett's face was the one I kept seeing throughout this novel... both women were their own worst enemies!!! They were both self centered, spoiled and conniving yet they had an unwavering determination in their fight to survive and to hold on to what they loved!!! Many times I just wanted to reach through the pages and STRANGLE Amber... found myself saying 'Don't Do It' many times!!! I am a huge fan of Gone with the Wind and now I have another novel to put right up there beside it!!! What a ride!!!
Profile Image for Andrea AKA Catsos Person.
792 reviews101 followers
March 5, 2021
Historical Novel is The “OG” of the modern Historical Romance Genre!

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor is a life and times historical (notice the intentional omission of the word “romance”) novel. At the beginning, the h is a bold, forward 15 yo hoe cake, even for today’s “anything goes” sexual culture and there’s a lot of mattress mambo and tester-bed headboard rattling going on (the heroine is like a collection plate at a baptist revival) but there is no on page on page sex because the book was written in the 1940s.

The “Amber,” the protagonist is exasperating, though has a fierce and formidable native wit to use her beauty as a tool for survival and it pays off in a big, big way! Let beautiful women who are virtuous and upstanding starve, live in poverty and find shelter under uncertainty and the leaking roof of morals from the elements!

However, if you’d like to read a book that I believe is the origin of the modern HR (but really isn’t a romance at all) that started in the 70s when the great Kathleen E. Woodiwiss opened the bedroom door in her first book The Flame and the Flower, go for it. Forever Amber a long a$$ book, but I think it’s in Hoopla if your library uses that platform/provider.

Kathleen Winsor had really good detail about life during the time period (Restoration England) and had the most deliciously callous, wholly lacking in sympathy, sensibility and governed by self-interest (I respect that) romance male love interest (as a protagonist) that I have ever seen. Like the bodice ripper, he dips in and out—> long separations. He technically, is not a bad intentioned dude. He just stands back and let’s ppl make their own choices and isn’t into saving individuals from themselves. If you wish to jump off a bridge, he’ll calmly watch you do it, as long as YOUR actions don’t interfere with HIS comfort, HIS pleasure, HIS life or HIS goals. This book could never be a favorite read for me, but Mr. Callous is going on my “favorite” hero shelf! I’m not in love with this dude because He’s not lovable, but he merits commendation because (in my twisted mind) he takes it to a whole different level that I have never seen. He’s even got the bodice ripper/HR “OG” of callous man in Hr beaten to flinders!—I’m takin’ Steve Morgan of Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Stevie looks like mister tender and love-lorn compared to Mr. Callous in this book!

Ppl compare The character “Amber” to Scarlett O’Hara (GWtW is historical fiction and NOT a romance, and neither is this book a romance). The only similarity between the two of them is stubborn dogged devotion, and perhaps missed opportunities due to hard-headed obtuseness to their detriment

🤣I wasn’t going to even review this book bec I started it in 2014 or 15 and finally finished in 2018, though I’m just now in 3/2021 moving it from my “currently reading” shelf. I might have finished sooner if I hadn’t been reading this as a “chunkster”in hard copy and the need to take a break from the exasperating heroine.

Caveat: If you require a heroine and the object of her affection to only have sex with each other, this book is not for you, there isn’t really any rape or violence in this book though.
Profile Image for Ariana.
19 reviews
May 15, 2013
How I felt before I started reading the book: Excited, intrigued, and a little intimidated by its enormity.
When I started reading the book: Still excited, but a little taken aback by how nonchalant the author is in her situation descriptions.
Half way through the book: Begining to feel anguish. I also started hating the main character (which never happened to me before. Typically, you want them to succeed.)
Five sixths through the book: Skimming paragraphs until I get to dialogue. Sick and tired of this girl's bullsh*t.
Last page: You finally have a victory, but it is against the main character, which made all that time wasted worth while.

Conclusion: This book utterly and entirely confused the hell out of me. At first, you think "Oh, poor Amber." As you read on, you realize that she is the one causing everyone (including herself) strife and dismay. Look at some other reviews on this damn epic novel... (clears throat) and I quote " Amber is the heroine of her time and triumphs her situations." Ok, she is not a heroine. She is a walking disaster that carries a bag of bad karma on her shoulder. I actually felt myself in complete despair for the people around her! Everyone she aquatinted herself with died or was part of some arrangement/secret thing she had going on to find out about Bruce. Moving on to the subject of love. I don't care how loose the British supposedly were in 1666, but let me tell you, if I loved a man as much as Amber did, I would not sleep with his friend. I understand that she had to marry to hide her out of wedlock children and for money, but why did she sleep with Almsbury? Because she is a slut. Amber always thought if she made it in the world, and up the ranks, that Lord Carlton would end up marrying her. Well, he was never going to marry her. He made it clear several times, and still she tries and tries and ends up just being his whore. She reminds me of that annoying friend that was broken up with and she is still sleeping with the guy because they "are meant to be" and all you hear is how depressed she is and how her life sucks and blahblahbalah. I wish I had a review like this to read before I bought this book. Out of nine hundred and seventy two pages, approximately six hundred of them were unnecessary, full of useless detail and had way too many "had had's." I was always left wanting more of the juicy details. Instead you get the stupid details about the dreaded drapes. How much detail can you write about the damned drapes, what the footmen were wearing, how the seat cushions looked, and honestly, Bruce was always wearing the same thing so why describe it every time... Ugh! Who cares? I also think it was outright pathetic to have the main character of a novel, chasing after a man that does not want her. Amber left and often endangered her children which was also very irritating to me.

My favorite quote is when Bruce is talking to Corinna, he says that Amber is ok to be someones whore, but not their wife. That was so pleasing to hear.

It was, nevertheless, an easy read, and if anyone has nothing better to read, or a week of time to waste, then read Forever Amber. If you value your time, but are still curious, go on wikipedia and read the synopsis. It is just like reading all the important parts of the book without all the useless detail. You will write and thank me.

Yes, I could have simply stopped reading this book, but my OCD would not allow it.
Profile Image for MAP.
506 reviews145 followers
July 5, 2010
I'm really surprised that this book has been described by so many as a "romance novel" -- to me, it seems the antithesis of one. There's no great passionate love that can overcome all, no soulmates, and most of the people who are married or shacking up can barely stand each other.

Frankly, that's right up my alley. I was totally terrified of this being a romance novel. If you want a sappy 1980s bodice ripper, don't be fooled by the quotes you see on a lot of these new covers. This is NOT a romance novel in the modern sense of the term.

This book, originally written in 1944, follows Amber St. Clare from 16 to 26, and her multitude of lives and loves that follow within those ten years. It is a daunting 900 or so pages, and if you get stuck in a part of Amber's life you don't enjoy, settle in, because you could be there for a while. However, I can certainly see why this is a classic: the detail and historical research is amazing. You feel you learn more about Charles II's era from this book than you ever could through a text book.

4 stars and not 5 for two reasons:
1: I enjoyed the story, but never could warm to Amber. I've heard this described as Winsor's response to "Gone with the Wind" but Scarlett has at least a couple charms that endear her to most readers. Amber it was hard to care for.

2: This was a good book, but not un-put-downable. Part of that is the bulk, but I read 2 or 3 other books while reading this one as well, and kept getting distracted by them. I never felt the pull of this book to keep going, I never found myself literally running to pick up the book after work to find out what happened next, as I do with some books.

As a random side note, when I went to my parents' house for a visit, my mother caught me with this book and instantly struck up a conversation about how she had read it at 16, and then found an old 1944 she had copy with my grandfather's name written on the inside. So that definitely made reading the book a lot more meaningful.
Profile Image for C-shaw.
852 reviews59 followers
March 23, 2017
A Christmas gift from my Mum. I read this when I was a teenager and loved it so much. I am a bit daunted by 972 pages!
* * * * *
Wonderful, exciting, riveting book! I only have ONE complaint about it: The author used "but nevertheless" many times. Bless her heart, I'll forgive that grammatical error because the story was so, so, so GOOD! Read it! Amber is an English Scarlett O'Hara of the late 1600s.
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