‘Royal Mistress’ by Patricia Campbell Horton follows the story of Barbara Villiers from her adolescence, her passionate relationship with her first love, Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, through her marriage to Roger Palmer, her notorious reign as Charles II’s long-term mistress, through Charles’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza, her rivalry with Frances Stuart, up to her becoming Duchess of Cleveland and beginning to lose her power.
I really enjoyed this book, but I had to suspend my disbelief and go along with it for entertainment purposes. That said, a few things niggled me, including a scene in which Barbara goes all “Firefighter Barbara” during the Great Fire of London and her eventual dealings with a sort of black magic (reminiscent of the rumours associating Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Montespan, with black masses).
The general history was good, as was the understanding of the time period. Barbara was not a typical woman of her time and that is made clear throughout. It is definitely what I’d call ‘historical/biographical romance’.
This book was published in 1977, and I was surprised by the amount of sexual content, which is on the tamer side of explicit. It largely fits in with the kind of works being produced now in the genre, and I found myself wondering why it is now so hard to find a copy.
A fun and entertaining historical fiction.
TSCL rating: 4/5