This is a fun, fictionalized epic taking place in the court of King Charles II. It follows the life of Amber St. Clare for a period of a dozen years, beginning when she is 16 and falls for a handsome Cavalier who passes through her little village. She follows him to London, although he tells her up front that he will never marry her. He impregnates her and then sails for America, leaving her to fend for herself in the city. He returns several times, where their relationship picks up (even if they are married to others) just long enough to get her pregnant…then he’s off again. He’s the one person she thinks she truly loves, but she is so immature it is hard to be convinced she even knows the real definition of that word.
We watch her get swindled, end up in Newgate prison’s poor house, until she learns to use her beauty and willingness to do anything to claw her way to the top, eventually becoming a stage actress and a mistress to the king himself.
Her audacity and ruthlessness is painful to watch, and she makes it impossible to like her or wish her well. She is like a toxic poison to nearly everyone she meets, using them unabashedly to increase her fortune and her place in society. She is shallow, selfish, and foolish.
This has the same upsetting feel to it you get when you read Gone With the Wind, which this book is often compared to, in that Amber’s cold-hearted ruthlessness is similar to Scarlett O’Hara’s, but you can’t help but hope that she will eventually learn from her mistakes, grow up, and grow a heart.
This book is definitely long, and her story is probably drawn out too much, but there are a lot of interesting facts about the era, the court lifestyle and the romantic entanglements of King Charles himself, fashion, political changes, the Great Fire of London, the bubonic plague of 1665, etc., which make it a very interesting read.
The lack of morals by nearly everyone in this book and all the backbiting, conniving, plotting that goes on is fun to read, although upsetting when you think of how self serving everyone is. It’s hard to really admire anyone when they are all cheating on each other with no regard whatsoever for anyone but themselves. I finished the book not really wishing anyone well! haha (But I liked it!)