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The Women of Nell Gwynne's by Kage Baker
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The Women of Nell Gwynne's (2009)

by Kage Baker

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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
One last romp with Kage Baker. This novella follows a new hero - the Lady Beatrice from her traumatic youth to a steampunk adventure with her co-workers from Nell Gwynne's. It's short but fun. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
The women of Nell Gwynne's is an adventure/espionage novella with steampunk aesthetic. It failed to entertain me.

The plot sounds appealing enough, though: a young Victorian Lady lives through war, gang rape and a siege in India, which is why she is then shunned by her family and her former social circles. She takes up the profession of higher-class prostitute and is recruited by a secret espionage organisation (the titular women of Nell Gwynne's) who train spy prostitutes; their James Bond gadgets are advanced steampunk technology. That's a great setup for a spy series!

Unfortunately, this novella did not really appeal to me. The writing was terrible, for one: too much telling and not enough showing; it was as if Baker was trying to describing a film to me. That is partly due to the novella being burdened with too much plot: it has to set up the main character's back story, take us through her recruitment, and give us her first real mission, which comes with a number of red herrings and a useless whodunit subplot (which requires the introduction of too many temporary characters).

This should either have been an entire novel, where Baker would have the space to deal with all of this appropriately, or the main character's first mission should have been much more straightforward. Either way, large portions of this novella could do with a rewrite and some expanding. The ideas are there, it's just that Baker positively rushes past a great many of them, and so there is no time to build up proper tension. ( )
  Petroglyph | May 13, 2019 |
Courageous and attractive, Lady Beatrice is the much-admired daughter of her soldier papa. She impetuously follows him to his latest post--only to realize that he, and everyone else at the encampment, will shortly be killed. She manages to rescue herself from the carnage, but at the expense of her innocence. Too damaged to be considered genteel any longer, too practical to die tragically in the gutter, Lady Beatrice decides to turn her disgrace into an asset. She becomes an excellent prostitute--but at Nell Gwynne's, she becomes an even better spy.

This tale is set in the Company series, but it's enjoyable even without all that backstory. Lady Beatrice is a wonderful, believeable character, and her fellow whores are interesting without being caricatures. The plot itself is too rushed, and there wasn't any resolution--this feels like the opening to a novel, rather than a novella. Sadly, Kage Baker's untimely death this year means we'll never see what further adventures Lady Beatrice might have had. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
The prostitutes at Nell Gwynne’s house are carefully selected women of many talents. Few know that their clients include not just the upper crust of London society, but The Gentlemen’s Speculative Society, who pay mainly, not for pleasures of the flesh, but for secrets and spycraft. Their payments to the madam seem to include technology which really seems to have no place in 19th-century Britain. When the Society arranges a job where the women are hired as entertainers at a very private auction, a (literal) bedroom farce ensues.
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  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Lady Beatrice had a bad luck of losing her father, being kidnapped and raped, becoming a killer and being denied any connection to her mother and sisters. She did the only thing she could. She started streetwalking, but her father's friend sent Mrs. Corvey to offer her a job and a different way of using her assets."You and I both know how little it takes to ruin a girl, when a man can make the same mistakes and the world smiles indulgently at him. Wouldn't you like to make the world more just?"She accepted, of course. Then comes a part of the book where the importance of their spying is explained and the last part of the book is about five of them going to a party and trying to find a missing agent.
My problem with this story is that I couldn't connect with the main character at all. She is like a robot. It's like reading a list of what she did: this happened to her, then she did this, then this happened and she did that and so on. The first sentence I wrote is a good example how it all looked to me. I loved the idea of spy-prostitutes cooperating with a society of engineers though.
( )
  Morana.Mora | Sep 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Despite the fantastic elements and twists The Women of Nell Gwynne's feels faithful to the Victorian Period. One of Kage Baker's great strengths is her brilliance in presenting other time periods. As a writer, educator, and actress she lives and breathes history. She captures not just the little details and mannerisms of daily life but the deeply held attitudes of her characters whether from 1844, 1604, or the 24th Century. [...] It's a witty steampunk thriller as if written by Ian Fleming's crazy libertine aunt. I am hopeful we will see more of Lady Beatrice and her sisters in espionage.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Chris Hsiang (May 13, 2009)
 
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Lady Beatrice was the proper British daughter of a proper British soldier, until tragedy struck and sent her home to walk the streets of early-Victorian London. But Lady Beatrice is no ordinary whore, and is soon recruited to join an underground establishment known as Nell Gwynne's.… (more)

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