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Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy by Kage Baker
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Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy (2010)

by Kage Baker

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I actually liked the short story included with this book more than the novella. It was kind of light steampunk with extra-steaminess from the inclusion of the "working women" of Nell Gwynne's. The main character was a bit too cold and inhuman to be likable. ( )
  ragwaine | Dec 29, 2012 |
Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy is actually a novella, "The Women of Nell Gwynne's," and a short story, "The Bohemian Astrobleme," published in 2009 and 2010 respectively by the late Kage Baker. Essentially a variation on steampunk, the stepchild of sf/f that arrived more or less in the 1980s which posited that Victorian times contained various modern/post-modern technologies used by the favoured few. In this variant, the "Scarlet Spy" is Lady Beatrice, a proper British woman, child of a British soldier, who finds she has no place in society after she has been captured and gang-raped by Afghanis during a British incursion there; so, being a self-possessed and practical woman, she turns to prostitution and is soon recruited to the house of Nell Gwynne. But that house is not only a bawdy house; rather, the women of the house take only select customers, Members of Parliament and the like, and in the course of their duties, they gather intelligence, which they provide to the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, a very secret society of men who have a knack for, well, inventing many many marvels. The Gentlemen's Speculative Society is, indeed, the precursor to the Company, Baker's fascinating time-traveling organization that features in many of her works. Here, though, in 1844 and 1845, Lady Beatrice is happy to use her skills to discover the secret of a not-so-wealthy Lord who has been buying up precious metals and other items and has invited several millionaires to his estate in order for them to bid on what he has created; and to find the source of the peculiar gem, red tektite, which is far more deadly than it seems.... Individuals who are aghast at prostitution and whores might be shocked and offended by these stories, but I can't imagine anybody else would be, as Baker writes in a very genteel, very 19th Century manner, with none of today's rather coarse terminology, while at the same time she makes what is happening quite explicit to the reader's mind. I would have enjoyed more of Lady Beatrice and of the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, and it's interesting to get a glimpse into Baker's idea of the origins of the Company, but although I enjoyed them, these are definitely slight additions to the writer's oevre. Recommended for those who know and love Kage Baker's work, and for those curious about steampunk with a bit of titillation thrown in. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Jun 2, 2011 |
More Kage Baker. A novella and a short story about Lady Beatrice, a prostitute in an eighteenth-century brothel which is a cover for a spying operation. ( )
  annesadleir | Jan 14, 2011 |
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