Doesn’t this title just interest you, The Royal Harlot? This historical romance is based on the life of King Charles II and his mistress, Countess Castlemaine written by Susan Holloway Scott. I’ve read Duchess: A Novel of Susan Churchill by Scott and enjoyed it even though I felt it had a little too much detail and the story got bogged down. This book doesn’t suffer the same affliction.
This book is written about England about 200 years after all the Tudor drama of the other historical fiction I’m so fond of. It was interesting to hear how the court, the religious issues, and the country had changed, and NOT changed, in that time. Of course, there was still lots of drama and women did not make too much progress since Henry was chopping off his wives’ heads. There was still tension between the Catholics and the Church of England. But, the elegance and decadence of the court was minimal compared to the past.
The story is told from the point of view of the Duchess of Castlemaine. She seems to be a female Don Juan and she doesn’t apologize for it once. On one level I found this disturbing, on another, I was proud of her. I found the Duchess to be a complex character, even though she appears shallow on the surface. Her plotting is impressive and she knows when to retreat (if at least, temporarily).
The relationships drive this novel even more than the history. I think this is why I enjoyed this one so much. Relationship and character books are my favorite kind. I don’t always need an exciting plot (not to say nothing happens in this book. It does cover several years of English history. However, it’s told from the perspective of how it affected these relationships).
Of course, there were tons of auxillary characters that I had trouble keeping straight. But, once I decided not to worry too much about who’s who among them, I was able to follow the main story better. I have always found the naming of the English noblemen confusing, with their names changing with their new appointments. Finally, I just gave up and focused on the main characters (whose names changed enough).
There is a lot of talk about romance and sex. I felt like I was reading a female version of the book The Lost Diary of Don Juan(if you haven’t read this one, I would reccommend it!) I was shocked by some of the sexual escapades from the 1600s court, but it did add to this story (at least for me :>)
So, if historical fiction is for you and you also enjoy romance, definitely check this one out.