The title "Royal Harlot" should have tipped me off.
I picked up Susan Holloway Scott's novel about Barbara Villiers Palmer, notorious mistress of England's Charles II, expecting a certain amount of titillation, but also hoping for an enlightening glimpse into merry Restoration London.
I got smut.
A third of the way into "Royal Harlot," I already felt bludgeoned by the sex scenes. Reading this novel was a bit like watching "Showgirls."
I finished the book totally unenlightened about Charles' Dutch wars or his divisive religious policies. Scott spent just a few pages on the Great Plague and Great Fire of London. (I learned more by quickly skimming Wikipedia entries than I did from this book.)
But I did discover Charles II and Barbara Villiers liked sex. A lot.
Very interesting account one of the Royal Mistress' to King Charles II, Barbara Villiers Palmer or as she later became (through royal favor) Countess of Castlemaine, Duchess of Cleveland. This is a fast moving and entertaining read about a woman who is generally reviled in history as she was in her own time period (late 1600's). An interesting and well written account of the world of King Charles II and the "bawdy Restoration court". According to "The Historical Novels Review", "Wonderful...whisks the reader into a period rife with intrigue, love, sex, war and religous strife.". I enjoyed this book. It does have some sexual content but not in the extreme (at least in my view).
I will open this review by saying that Charles II of England is perhaps one of my least favorite Monarchs of England. Not that he did anything particularly bad to my tastes but he just does not fit into my Gem pile. That said I could barely put down this book. The story of Charles II and Barbra Villiers is pretty well known among historians, and she is always vilified. Always called any score of names that in my opinion could be laid at any royal mistresss feet, but she always gets the worst of it.
Susan Holloway Scott did not gloss over any of the things that Barbra Villiers was, she was vain, and wonton and even calculating. However she brought to light a side that is most often over looked by the usual rabble, she was loving and tender and generous to her family and friends. Lets face it to have remained in the Kings favor as long as she did she had to have more to her than just a nice body.
So if you like historical fiction and you dont mind a lot of the sexual innuendo and some not innuendo in your book I recommend this one for you. It was a good read and one that thoroughly held my attention to welcome me back into the grips of my book obsession and reviewing. My only regret about this one is going to be selecting one to follow it.
A total raunch-fest. I was bored with 'sex with the king' early on in the book. It could have been so much better than it was.
Jean Plaidy's "The Loves of Charles II" is a better portrait of Barbara Villiers Palmer (and Charles' other mistresses) than this novel is.
I asked for this book because I have always been interested in the period of the Stuarts; Charles II, the "Merry Monarch", in particular. Now I know why he was so "merry"; he did little but play cards, gamble, and hop from bed to bed with his stable of mistresses.
This book shines the light on Barbara Villiers Palmer; a girl who realy enjoyed her work and deserved to be called the royal harlot. Every situation in this book calls for explicit sex and the author concentrated more on these acts than giving us any historical insight into the reign of Charles.
A quick read, I'm a fan of historical fiction that's actually based on real people, I love going to wikipedia after finishing the book to find out the rest of the story. \
As for those who called it smutty and raunchy, she was a MISTRESS. Wiki: "A mistress is a man's long-term female lover and companion who is not married to him, especially used when the man is married to another woman." They had sex with each other and with others. So did the rest of the royal court, hello, everyone was related in some way or another. You get more raunch watching an episode of Sex and the City on TBS.
I was pleasantly surprised with this book. It was not at all slow or dull and certainly not as smut-filled as purported. I will read other books by Susan Holloway Scott as her writing was intriguing.
Though not exactly brilliantly done, this book balances its sex, witticisms and small amount of history ably. Barbara's character is contradictory, at times both petty and spoiled, then accepting and forgiving. The ending could have been much more developed- it was a letdown.
I seem to be a serial reader. When I find an author I like - especially one that writes of a time period that I am exceedingly fond of - I seem to try to read every book written by them! This same propensity holds true for Susan Holloway Scott - whose novels never cease to please me. Her books transport me and I am always sad when I come to the end of one of her books. That's high praise from mew and is, perhaps, why I go on the hunt for the next title right away.
Since I generally read so much about the Tudors I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the reign of King Charles II, the "merry" king. "Royal Harlot" follows the life of Mistress Barbara Villiers, later Lady Castlemaine, as she becomes Charles' II maitress-en-titre - better know as Charles' "head honcha" mistress. Barbara Villier's family, the second Earl and Countess of Anglesea had been staunch Royalists during the reign of Charles' father, Charles I, but after the government was overthrown ,and Charles I beheaded, the family fortunes had turned. Necessity brought the young and beautiful Barbara to an an arranged marriage to Roger Palmer, the Earl of Castlemaine. Barbara become Charles' mistress while she still married to her Palmer, but ultimately he was, it is believed, paid off in one manner or another leaving free Barbara to devote her energies to Charles alone.
The story chronicles the many flirtations and mistresses that Charles had during his relationship with Barbara. She gave the King five children that he acknowledged as well as a sixth girl who Charles adopted as his own but who most likely was a product of Barbara's own affair with the dashing military officer John Churchill (who ultimately married Sarah Jennings - the topic of the book I am currently reading be Ms. Holloway).
What I enjoyed the most about this book is that it effectively takes you the the Court of Charles II. One can so easily 'feel' the pique and jealousy of Barbara as Charles wends his way through affair after affair. One glimpses the life of Charles' wife as well - the tolerant and lonely Catherine of Braganza who, it seems, was unable to provide the King and England with an heir.
In the end, Barbara leaves the English Court and Charles. By this time Charles has taken Louise de Kerouelle, Duchess of Portsmouth, as his maitress-en-titre. Barbara moved to France in 1676 and returned to England only in 1679 to attend the marriage of heir son, Henry to Lady Isabella Bennett. Surprisingly, while she lived in France she became reconciled with her former husband, Roger Palmer and they maintained a friendly relationship hereafter. Charles died at an early age, 55, of a presumed stroke. Barbara lived to a relatively ripe old age of 68, dying of edema (dropsy) in 1704.
Susan Holloway's books about the many mistresses of Charles II are all, in my opinion, exceeding well done, highly entertaining and well worth reading. I am currently reading another of her "mistress" books, "Duchess, A Novel of Sarah Churchill" which is also a terrific read! I have already read her two other "mistress" books - "The King's Favorite : A novel of Nell Gwynn (a must read I think!) as well as "The French Mistress" (about Louise de Kerouelle). I don't think any of the excellent titles would disappoint in any way !
I borrowed this book from the library, and I'm glad I did't buy it. It is a good read. It did't take me long to read it from start to finish. But that't about it. I am in no hurry to read it again- ever.