Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott
Ready to throw off a generation of Puritan rule, all England rejoices when Charles Stuart returns to reclaim the throne. Among those welcoming him is young Barbara Villiers Palmer, a breathtaking Royalist beauty whose sensuality and clever wit instantly captivate the handsome, jaded king.
Though each is promised to another, Barbara soon becomes Charles’s mistress and closest friend, and the uncrowned queen of his bawdy Restoration court. Rewarded with titles, land, and jewels, she is the most envied and desired woman in England––and the most powerful.
But the role of royal mistress is a precarious one, and Barbara’s enemies and rivals are everywhere in the palace. Even kings can lose their heads to treason, and swirling political intrigue brings new threats and danger—until not even Charles himself is safe.
In this world where love is no more than a game, and power the ultimate aphrodisiac, only one woman holds the key to it all: Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, Duchess of Cleveland, and the royal harlot."
A delightful and very sensual portrait of the beautiful Barbara Villiers Palmer, mistress of the merry monarch, King Charles II. The world of 17th century England comes alive as Susan Holloway Scott recreates this fascinating period of history when the exiled Charles Stuart returns to the throne.
As a young woman, Barbara learned early on that her beauty and self-assurance were powerful assets, and she was not afraid to be adventurous. Her first encounter with His Majesty occurred when she happily agreed to act as a courier to secretly bring gold to Charles in Flanders; her husband, Roger Palmer, was also eager for her to gain favor with the king by informing him of the Palmer's loyalty and sacrifices made on behalf of the crown. Enchanted by Barbara's beauty and charm, this was the beginning of a long and passionate relationship that lasted many years and produced several (illegitimate) children. Knowing she had a powerful sexual hold on the king, she flaunted her position as royal mistress and accumulated jewelry, titles, and land. Her presence at the palace was a source of pain to the barren Queen, Catherine of Braganza, and there were enemies who plotted to see her removed from royal favor.
Through the great plague, the fire of London, and the decadent world of romance and intrigue at the court, Royal Harlot was a fascinating look at a woman who many vilified as an evil, immoral woman who had too much power with the king; however, Scott's portrayal left me feeling that despite her choices, Barbara, the Countess of Castlemaine, was a strong woman that was not ashamed of the way she lived her life, and was not one to live with regrets. I think she would approve of the way Susan Holloway Scott recreated her.
Title: Royal Harlot
Author: Susan Holloway Scott
New American Library