web site hit counter Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge

Availability: Ready to download

Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering tale of passion and politics chronicles five hundred years of scintillating women and the kings who loved them. Curiously, the main function of a royal mistress was not to provide the king with sex but with companionship. Forced to marry repulsive foreign princesses, kings sought solace with women of their own choice. And what women they were! From Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV, who kept her position for nineteen years despite her frigidity, to modern-day Camilla Parker-Bowles, who usurped none other than the glamorous Diana, Princess of Wales. The successful royal mistress made herself irreplaceable. She was ready to converse gaily with him when she was tired, make love until all hours when she was ill, and cater to his every whim. Wearing a mask of beaming delight over any and all discomforts, she was never to be exhausted, complaining, or grief-stricken. True, financial rewards for services rendered were of royal proportions -- some royal mistresses earned up to $200 million in titles, pensions, jewels, and palaces. Some kings allowed their mistresses to exercise unlimited political power. But for all its grandeur, a royal court was a scorpion's nest of insatiable greed, unquenchable lust, and vicious ambition. Hundreds of beautiful women vied to unseat the royal mistress. Many would suffer the slings and arrows of negative public opinion, some met with tragic ends and were pensioned off to make room for younger women. But the royal mistress often had the last laugh, as she lived well and richly off the fruits of her "sins." From the dawn of time, power has been a mighty aphrodisiac. With diaries, personal letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Eleanor Herman's trailblazing research reveals the dynamics of sex and power, rivalry and revenge, at the most brilliant courts of Europe. Wickedly witty and endlessly entertaining, Sex with Kings is a chapter of women's history that has remained unwritten -- until now.


Compare

Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering tale of passion and politics chronicles five hundred years of scintillating women and the kings who loved them. Curiously, the main function of a royal mistress was not to provide the king with sex but with companionship. Forced to marry repulsive foreign princesses, kings sought solace with women of their own choice. And what women they were! From Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV, who kept her position for nineteen years despite her frigidity, to modern-day Camilla Parker-Bowles, who usurped none other than the glamorous Diana, Princess of Wales. The successful royal mistress made herself irreplaceable. She was ready to converse gaily with him when she was tired, make love until all hours when she was ill, and cater to his every whim. Wearing a mask of beaming delight over any and all discomforts, she was never to be exhausted, complaining, or grief-stricken. True, financial rewards for services rendered were of royal proportions -- some royal mistresses earned up to $200 million in titles, pensions, jewels, and palaces. Some kings allowed their mistresses to exercise unlimited political power. But for all its grandeur, a royal court was a scorpion's nest of insatiable greed, unquenchable lust, and vicious ambition. Hundreds of beautiful women vied to unseat the royal mistress. Many would suffer the slings and arrows of negative public opinion, some met with tragic ends and were pensioned off to make room for younger women. But the royal mistress often had the last laugh, as she lived well and richly off the fruits of her "sins." From the dawn of time, power has been a mighty aphrodisiac. With diaries, personal letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Eleanor Herman's trailblazing research reveals the dynamics of sex and power, rivalry and revenge, at the most brilliant courts of Europe. Wickedly witty and endlessly entertaining, Sex with Kings is a chapter of women's history that has remained unwritten -- until now.

30 review for Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge

  1. 5 out of 5

    Homa

    What I learned was that, back in the day, the fundamental order of operations, in terms of position went a little something like this: pope king mistress at her peak ... bastard son of king legit son of king ... sack of shit ... mistress at all other times queen sack of shit on fire

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Although the topic was very interesting, the organization of this book completely killed it. Herman jumps around from one royal mistress to the next, and it became very difficult to follow who was who - I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters to see who she was talking about. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I couldn't even finish it. With a good editor and some chronological organization, it has potential to be really interesting stuff. As it is, it's only poorly written, unorga Although the topic was very interesting, the organization of this book completely killed it. Herman jumps around from one royal mistress to the next, and it became very difficult to follow who was who - I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters to see who she was talking about. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I couldn't even finish it. With a good editor and some chronological organization, it has potential to be really interesting stuff. As it is, it's only poorly written, unorganized information.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I had mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side, it's a fascinating read, giving a perspective on history that we don't often get. It's also laugh out loud funny in a lot of places. On the minus side, the author has a couple of quirks that I found slightly irritating. One is that she's constantly beginning sections of the book with passages like, "We imagine that the life of a royal mistress must have been glamorous, full of ..." Maybe it's just that I've read enough history to know bette I had mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side, it's a fascinating read, giving a perspective on history that we don't often get. It's also laugh out loud funny in a lot of places. On the minus side, the author has a couple of quirks that I found slightly irritating. One is that she's constantly beginning sections of the book with passages like, "We imagine that the life of a royal mistress must have been glamorous, full of ..." Maybe it's just that I've read enough history to know better, but I didn't really imagine any such thing, and anyway, I'm reading the book so that the author can tell me about the reality, not lecture me on my own supposed inaccurate imaginings. Her second quirk, which is both a plus and a minus, really, is that the author really doesn't make any kind of pretense of academic objectivity. She clearly thinks of some royal mistresses as raging bitches, and some as heroines, and she isn't at all shy about letting the reader know it. The problem is that since the book doesn't give us really full biographies of any of these women, there's always a suspicion that we're not getting the full picture. Again, maybe it's just that as a reader, I don't want to be told what to think - I want to make up my own mind from the evidence. But despite these flaws, it really has to be admitted that the book is a hoot.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    I could not finish this book; I read up to page 120 and then skipped to the last chapter (p. 237-255). The organization of the book did not work for me; my main issue were the author's point of view, founding assumptions, and 'values', which I found distasteful. I thought the organization of this book was detrimental to its content. Each chapter was on a theme, one aspect of the king-mistress relationship; there were also subchapters for a more granular look at the theme. Because of this, Herman I could not finish this book; I read up to page 120 and then skipped to the last chapter (p. 237-255). The organization of the book did not work for me; my main issue were the author's point of view, founding assumptions, and 'values', which I found distasteful. I thought the organization of this book was detrimental to its content. Each chapter was on a theme, one aspect of the king-mistress relationship; there were also subchapters for a more granular look at the theme. Because of this, Herman revisits the some of the same kings and mistresses for each theme. Louis XIV and Madames de Pompadour and du Barry, Charles II and Barbara Lady Castlemaine, and Ludwig of Bavaria and Lola Montez all come up repeatedly but a complete view never coheres. For me, the way the book was organized made it hard to keep reading and to glean information. Saying that Herman "writes history from a woman's perspective", as her author bio at the front of the book does, is technically true as Herman is a woman and does write history. She is not, as "a woman's perspective" implies, sympathetic to the women (or the men) she writes about. The people in Sex and Kings are one-dimensional. I think this is because of Herman's moralistic approach and mindset, which is really what made me give up. The overall impression I got is that Herman thinks all of the mistresses were greedy sluts. She doesn't consider the position of women in 17th and 18th century societies, or other things that would have pushed them into these choices. In the final chapter, Herman gets nasty. In discussing contemporary royalty, she describes the fiancee of Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon as "tainted" because she was a waitress and strawberry picker who hadn't finished her education and had an "illegitimate son". TAINTED??? That is a dementedly retrograde idea of morality. But then this is the what Herman wrote about the King of Serbia who married his mistress after the queen died, and was later killed by revolutionaries in the royal palace: "We find an almost biblical morality lesson in cases where the monarch made an unseemly marriage. Divine wrath was swift and sure. It was as if the Almighty did not approve of the king transforming fornication into the sanctified sex of marriage. For a worse sin than fornication was ignorance of one's proper place in the scheme of things. When a mere pawn became queen in the chessboard of life, the game was forfeit." (p.241) I just feel dirty reading this nonsense, and I find myself actually disliking the author. In writing this review, it occurred to me that this book is like a tabloid paper because they use provocative subject matter, cover image and, title while at the same time adhere to the same old busted morality.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    New Review Educational gossip! Old Review It is impossible not to like a book that has the line "many men were willing to lay down thier wives for their king". Totally impossible. At times funny, at times surprisingly sad, this is a good book. Herman writes about the mistresses withuot making them saints. She is sympathic to husband, wife, and the other woman and the other woman's husband. While the book focuses mostly on the French, there are some really funny and strange stories. Like the one about New Review Educational gossip! Old Review It is impossible not to like a book that has the line "many men were willing to lay down thier wives for their king". Totally impossible. At times funny, at times surprisingly sad, this is a good book. Herman writes about the mistresses withuot making them saints. She is sympathic to husband, wife, and the other woman and the other woman's husband. While the book focuses mostly on the French, there are some really funny and strange stories. Like the one about the bathroom. Or the one about the Nell (who is my favorite mistress). I really feel sorry for Marie de Medici whose husband left her in a flooded coach, but saved his bastard son. I have to admit, though, I kinda like Camilla. I do have a question for Gabrielle d'Estrees, why would you have a portiat of yourself done, showing you naked from the waist up and pinching your sister's nipple? Inquiring minds want to know.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I picked up this book a few years ago because of an article in the magazine Mental Floss , and enjoyed it as a light and somewhat fluff read. I just reread it and remember that there are some large problems with it. The organization is really awful, the chapters pretend to be about large categories but are conversational and don't seem to be held together much. The author skips from anecdotes about one mistress to anecdotes about a mistress from hundreds of years previously, in fact, all of the I picked up this book a few years ago because of an article in the magazine Mental Floss , and enjoyed it as a light and somewhat fluff read. I just reread it and remember that there are some large problems with it. The organization is really awful, the chapters pretend to be about large categories but are conversational and don't seem to be held together much. The author skips from anecdotes about one mistress to anecdotes about a mistress from hundreds of years previously, in fact, all of the information about one woman can only be found by reading the wholebook. I personally would have prefered to read the whole section about each king at once, and it would have curbed the author's tendancy to call a mistress meek one sentance and describe her temper tantrums in another. The author also has a hard time seperating opinion from facts, of course a difficult problem when dealing with uncertain historical information, yet she deems Madame Pompadour as frigid, Wallis Simpson as a harpy, etc as if it were definite fact. Lack of sex as one gets older and sicker does not necessarily make one frigid. The author paints only one side of many women, not the "woman's point of view" or "feminist retelling" the book flap promised. Still, I enjoyed it because it is the interesting, fun history. I learned quite a bit about history, I just wish it had been presented in such a fashion that I could remember who was who, and that the author left out her bias so I could trust it more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    3 stars - It was good. Mistress Virginie di Castiglione once stated "The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." Reading about the history of men making befuddled fools of themselves in the name of lust makes it incredibly easy to agree with that statement. This made for an entertaining, though also disheartening read about vacuous men and jealous wives throwing tantrums over their unworthy partners. It's amazing how 1000 years later, the more things change the more they stay the same. -------- 3 stars - It was good. Mistress Virginie di Castiglione once stated "The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." Reading about the history of men making befuddled fools of themselves in the name of lust makes it incredibly easy to agree with that statement. This made for an entertaining, though also disheartening read about vacuous men and jealous wives throwing tantrums over their unworthy partners. It's amazing how 1000 years later, the more things change the more they stay the same. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: One grows accustomed to beauty, but not to stupid-ity. First Sentence: If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, then the finer art of being a mistress must be the second oldest.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natasa

    Sex with Kings is an interesting look at history through the love affairs of many Kings and the influence many of their mistresses had over them and sometimes history itself. Highly educational yet fun to read, it’s a good look at how Royalty and Nobility across time and of various countries lived, loved and ruled, and the sometimes surprising women they took to their beds. Entertaining and fun!

  9. 4 out of 5

    kingshearte

    OK, so I have to start by addressing a common complaint that I've heard about this book, which is that it only deals with, like, half a dozen mistresses, which, if that were true, hardly supports the theory that almost all European monarchs had mistresses. This is simply not true. Out of sheer perversity, I kept count, and there were more than seventy mistresses specifically named in this book. Most of them were either in England or France, but there were also some from Russia, Saxony, Austria, OK, so I have to start by addressing a common complaint that I've heard about this book, which is that it only deals with, like, half a dozen mistresses, which, if that were true, hardly supports the theory that almost all European monarchs had mistresses. This is simply not true. Out of sheer perversity, I kept count, and there were more than seventy mistresses specifically named in this book. Most of them were either in England or France, but there were also some from Russia, Saxony, Austria, Tuscany, Belgium, Serbia, Portugal, Sweden, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Denmark, Spain, Bavaria, Prussia, whatever the heck Napoleon's empire was actually called, and even the Bible. And of those seventy or so, I'd say that at least twenty were discussed in a significant way, about thirty mentioned a few times, and maybe twenty mentioned merely in passing. That said, Herman did go back to a few of them quite a lot. Mostly, I didn't really mind that, as they were generally the really famous ones, about which there simply is more information than about some of the others. You work with what you have. My only real complaint with this is that sometimes, certain parts of the same story were repeated too many times. Herman divided the book into segments of a mistress's life, if you will, so obviously, some of them will come up in numerous chapters. But since it seems likely to me that most readers will have read chapters 1-4 before reading chapter 5, for example, I don't think it's necessary to repeat a part of a particular mistress's story that you've already told at least once in those first four chapters. The book also does feel like it lacks a certain structure. Not entirely, since, as I said, it is organized into distinct and sensible sections. I guess I just feel that it lacks a point. At no point did I feel like I really understood why Herman wrote this book, what precisely she wanted to say with it. It was just a collection of stories and factoids. Which were interesting (although I can't think of anything I would classify as outrageously funny), but still kind of directionless. And she wasn't always consistent. As an example, she goes out of her way to point out that mistresses were not always the most beautiful ladies at court, and then proceeds to introduce us to a lengthy stream of stunningly beautiful women who became royal mistresses. Sure. And the other things that weirded me out a little was the credence she seemed to put into the supernatural. She suggests that mistresses who married their kings and died shortly thereafter (from one means or another) were subject to divine retribution, she implies that the disgusting love potions that one mistress used on her king might have actually influenced him, and possibly my favourite, in reference to one mistress being painted as a madonna, the following (emphasis mine): "It is probably no coincidence that shortly after the painting was completed, the powers of heaven sent the Grim Reaper to harvest Agnes." (3) Seriously? I don't know, I guess I just prefer my historians to stick to actual, verifiable facts. I found it interesting to read about Charles and Camilla, too, since that's actually current, and I found myself wondering if subsequent editions of this book might get edited to include the happy ending those two finally managed to get. At the time of this book, things were going in that direction, with the boys having accepted Camilla, and even the rest of the family and country starting to come around, but they weren't yet at the marriage stage. I hadn't realized, either, that the disaster that was the Charles-Diana marriage was actually a pretty historically important event, as very few (if any) royals since that time have gone the marry-a-noble-virgin-regardless-of-personal-feelings route. One modern prince apparently went and married a common woman who not only had an out-of-wedlock child, but the child's father was in jail. That simply wouldn't happen even fifty years ago. Ultimately, the book was entertaining, but, for a non-fiction book, surprisingly light on intellectualism.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The author of this book is much less like a historian than she is like a gossipy old grandma from a bygone stuck-in-its-ways-and-ideas generation, telling you tales by the fireside. She's judgmental, melodramatic, partial (she's got a huge crush on the French) and very silly... but also delightfully vicious, gleefully arch, and has some of the best stories ever. Approach the book with that image in mind, and you'll have a blast. Full of as much sex, intrigue, backstabbing, catcalling, fabulous on The author of this book is much less like a historian than she is like a gossipy old grandma from a bygone stuck-in-its-ways-and-ideas generation, telling you tales by the fireside. She's judgmental, melodramatic, partial (she's got a huge crush on the French) and very silly... but also delightfully vicious, gleefully arch, and has some of the best stories ever. Approach the book with that image in mind, and you'll have a blast. Full of as much sex, intrigue, backstabbing, catcalling, fabulous one-liners, disaster and tragedy as one could possibly wish for, this is a breeze of a book that I blew through in two days. It's the sort of addictive trash that you just can't stop reading. It is organized by theme, around a sort of timeline of life-attracting the king, keeping the king, profiting from the king, royal bastards, what happened to them after the king died, etc. It really focuses on about 10 women or so (with random appearances and vignettes by several others) from the 16th through the 20th century. Some of the stories and anecdotes are very familiar-anyone with a passing interest in European royalty has heard some of these- more were entirely new to me. I definitely laughed out loud on many occasions. It's hard not to give most of these women credit, as awful as some of them were, for their sheer, unmitigated balls in facing down the world and getting through it however they could. Nell Gwyn and Gabrielle d'Estrees emerged as my clear favorites, can't wait to find biographies of those two ladies. Fun, light entertainment for a weekend afternoon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Xysea

    Okay, well this is a saucy book. It certainly details most aspects of the mistress/queen/king dynamic. And being a royal mistress was good while it was good, but it was hardly a life to envy. Yes, it was considered an honor to be chosen. It came with riches, power and a shot at (occasionally) being queen. It also came with venereal disease, bastard children, crushing poverty and a pit of vipers known as the royal court. Mistresses were not always beautiful, or thing. However, they generally offere Okay, well this is a saucy book. It certainly details most aspects of the mistress/queen/king dynamic. And being a royal mistress was good while it was good, but it was hardly a life to envy. Yes, it was considered an honor to be chosen. It came with riches, power and a shot at (occasionally) being queen. It also came with venereal disease, bastard children, crushing poverty and a pit of vipers known as the royal court. Mistresses were not always beautiful, or thing. However, they generally offered something that queens could not: a place for the monarch to escape to, to relieve the pressures of his life. It was not a place where he went to be complained to, or petitioned. No, his mistresses house was a place where he could be soothed, entertained, release his frustrations through games, diversions, food and sex. The best mistresses were masters of this. Whether noble or common born, they would learn quickly how to set the best table, to be witty and more pleasing than other women. They would learn how to respond and, in many cases, anticipate a monarchs needs and desires. The women who could often remained in royal favor long past their looks fading and their waistlines expanding. My only quibble with this book twofold: It does have a bit of the romance novelist about it - The author is clearly of high romantic sensibilities. It kind of affected the writing style in a mildly negative way. The material is pretty sensational, so I didn't see it as needing much sensationalizing. The other was that the same mistresses were profiled over and over in each section of the book. While some of them were highly proficient in many arenas, it gave the sense of the author running out of material and/or examples. And it left the reader wanting a little more. All in all, though, a very enjoyable read for those who like royalty, nobility, intrigues, liaisons, history, scandal and sex.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chrys

    This book was a disappointment overall. Herman takes a fascinating topic and reduces it to a gossipy, disorganized read, largely judging the women discussed based on their looks and weight. Though I certainly learned a lot of historical information from this book, it seemed to exaggerate and scandalize many events of history, as if listening to a jealous woman at court discuss these subjects rather than an objective contemporary "historian". At times, the author seemed downright catty in discuss This book was a disappointment overall. Herman takes a fascinating topic and reduces it to a gossipy, disorganized read, largely judging the women discussed based on their looks and weight. Though I certainly learned a lot of historical information from this book, it seemed to exaggerate and scandalize many events of history, as if listening to a jealous woman at court discuss these subjects rather than an objective contemporary "historian". At times, the author seemed downright catty in discussing the merits or lack thereof of women who lived hundreds of years ago. I also found the structure of the book to be confusing as Herman jumps around between women and kings, centuries, and countries, returning to the same few women over an over again, often contradicting herself. It seems as though it would have been far more logical to organize this book in chronological order, as most history is reported, telling the entire story of a mistress and her king at once, rather than bouncing back and forth. I should have anticipated that this book may read like a historical tabloid when I saw Herman's author's picture on the back cover. In it she is dressed like a 16th century princess, complete with a crown. This leads me to believe that Herman's interest in her subject may not stem from a desire to tell the female side of history rather than from a bizarre wish to live in the past.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    This book was very lucky. I read it on the beach in Portugal on my honeymoon. I think under almost any other circumstances I would have lost patience with it much more quickly. As it was, I made it almost all the way through in good spirits, and only got impatient the last couple dozen pages. I have shelved the book "history," but I'm not actually sure about that. It's really more "history lite" or some other nonsensical genre. She did do some research, but she focused on a handful of women, rath This book was very lucky. I read it on the beach in Portugal on my honeymoon. I think under almost any other circumstances I would have lost patience with it much more quickly. As it was, I made it almost all the way through in good spirits, and only got impatient the last couple dozen pages. I have shelved the book "history," but I'm not actually sure about that. It's really more "history lite" or some other nonsensical genre. She did do some research, but she focused on a handful of women, rather than looking broadly as the title implies. The research she did yielded some entertaining anecdotes, but I never felt confident trusting their historical veracity. And many women you wondered about were left out, as well as whole countries that could have been profitably mined. It was pure fluff, not too objectionable, but on the whole not worthy of recommendation either. Best read in a romantic location demanding very little of your academic brain.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)

    3.5/5 Engrossing, but somewhat chaotic execution. Still, this was a really interesting read for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    SEX. Did that get your attention? Ha. I don't know about you, but I consider sex to be very interesting. Combining sex and history sounded like an intriguing read so when I saw Sex with Kings at my local used book store I just had to have it! I was completely engrossed in this book (which hasn't happened for a long time) so I would definitely recommend this book to others. I've noticed that a lot of people dislike Eleanor Herman's organizaton of the book, but it didn't bother me. Rather than maki SEX. Did that get your attention? Ha. I don't know about you, but I consider sex to be very interesting. Combining sex and history sounded like an intriguing read so when I saw Sex with Kings at my local used book store I just had to have it! I was completely engrossed in this book (which hasn't happened for a long time) so I would definitely recommend this book to others. I've noticed that a lot of people dislike Eleanor Herman's organizaton of the book, but it didn't bother me. Rather than making several short biographies, Herman divdies the chapters by theme - which I think is a great approach. If she only had two pages of material on one mistress, but 45 on another it would be way to unbalanced. Sex with Kings is an extremely captivating book, focusing on a very unique part of history that has always been hush hush and not talked about often. Not only is Sex with Kings informative, but it is also quite humorous - which is awesome! It provides a fascinating historical insight of the lives of many of royal mistresses who were both loved and loathed. "Often a royal mistress could not win in the stern court of public opinion no matter what she did. If she bore the king children, she was a harlot bringing expensive bastards into the world. If she did not, she was even worse -- a barren harlot. If she was beautiful, her beauty was a gift from the devil to inflame the hapless monarch. If she was plain, the king deserved better. If she lived opulently, she was selfishly spending the poor people's taxes. If she lived simply, she was detracting from the king's glory." Although there were often many gifts, jewels, property, and riches would be bestowed upon the mistress and her family, life was not easy. Whether she was the lover of the king out of love or greed the royal mistress's duty was to always be at the king's beck and call. No matter what time of day, or if she was tired, or ill. "Unlike the Queen, whose position was cast in stone, the mistress’s was made of far flimsier stuff. There would be no peace for her, no rest. Having obtained the great prize, the new mistress could not sit back and enjoy her rewards. She could not look around her magnificent rooms with satisfaction, or smile contentedly as she toyed with her glittering jewelry -- not if it meant letting her guard down for a moment." Death from childbirth, veneral disease, bastard children, the threat of being replaced, constant gossip, and the threat of the king dying before the mistress were only some of the hardships. Not to say that all of the women experienced hardships though. Many were admired, blessed, and comfortable. I never realized the difficulties that mistresses had to go through in the past, but then again I never realized the strong connection that some mistresses had with their royal lovers either. I highly recommend Sex with Kings - not only for the historical gossip, but also for the moments sprinkled throughout that will touch your heart.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This was so not-annoyingly written in terms of prose and clever selection of stories (more on that later) that I almost gave it four stars. Sadly, one glaring problem stuck out like a sore thumb: the author. Getting real tired of your shit, Eleanor Herman. Again, the prose in "Sex with Kings" is not at all bad. The selection of anecdotes and the manner in which they're presented is witty and most definitely worth a trip to the library. Yes: definitely pick this one up at the library! However, befo This was so not-annoyingly written in terms of prose and clever selection of stories (more on that later) that I almost gave it four stars. Sadly, one glaring problem stuck out like a sore thumb: the author. Getting real tired of your shit, Eleanor Herman. Again, the prose in "Sex with Kings" is not at all bad. The selection of anecdotes and the manner in which they're presented is witty and most definitely worth a trip to the library. Yes: definitely pick this one up at the library! However, before attempting to talk about the book, please do take it with a grain of salt. You see--I won't pretend to know everything there is about history, though women's history does tend to be my stronger suit. I don't know that much about the details of certain women's lives. As long as I didn't know what Herman was talking about, I was okay. Then she started dipping into what I'm familiar with. Ooooookay. A lot of her details rang as apocryphal or poorly-researched, even when I was unfamiliar with the subject. Herman also has this bit wherein she yammers on and on about how royal bastards were worth so much more than legitimate children, and I almost choked on my popcorn. Does she even get that some kings had so many bastards that they didn't see the point of acknowledging the last few? Bastards were a dime a dozen. Legitimate sons--heirs--were worth so much more. Herman was just trying to make up a good story. Then she went on about the Affaire des Poisons as if the details were undisputed facts, when in fact much of it is in dispute. She didn't even bother to raise a questioning eyebrow at Montespan's many enemies, the absurdity of their claims. Yes, I get that she's not a scholar. But hey, her peers at least allow for speculation in books like "Scandalous Women" and "A Treasury of Royal Scandals". Another major issue was Herman's tone. She labeled complex women like Barbara Palmer, Athenais de Montespan, and Lola Montez as "shrews" and referred to them as such for the rest of the book. Knowing that all of these women were very layered, this made me uncomfortable. She also tended towards siding with men like Ludwig I, who, while not a monster, was genuinely creepy. It reeked of slut-shaming. Her favoritism was also extremely present in her presentation of the Diana-Charles-Camilla triangle. Charles was a weepy, victimized young boy. Diana threw "trantrums" and "spat venom"... at the woman who was sleeping with her husband? I don't get how this isn't human nature? It seemed like both Camilla and Diana were at fault--Diana was the worst though--while Charles was a victim of outdated tradition. She also acted as if Camilla was simply eternally devoted to Charles; she never had affairs, never threw "tantrums". Sure, Herman. Sure. I'll read "Sex with the Queen". I won't pay for it, but I'll read it. I'm interested in researching a lot of ladies that Herman featured. But the author herself? Ugh. Don't give her money. She's just a decent writer with a knack for a good story. This book was published eight years ago. Maybe she's just outdated. EDIT: Yeah, never mind, this thing sucked. Two stars it is.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Johnson

    With a detailed look into the lives of royal mistresses, Eleanor Herman’s book really opens your eyes to the scandalous position. Not all about the sex, the role of royal mistress was demanding physically, sexually and intellectually. Not only did a mistress bear SCADS of royal bastards and have to constantly be ready and willing to please the king, she helped guide his politics, kept the king in control, worked tirelessly, (and often to her own detriment), on her appearance all for the chance t With a detailed look into the lives of royal mistresses, Eleanor Herman’s book really opens your eyes to the scandalous position. Not all about the sex, the role of royal mistress was demanding physically, sexually and intellectually. Not only did a mistress bear SCADS of royal bastards and have to constantly be ready and willing to please the king, she helped guide his politics, kept the king in control, worked tirelessly, (and often to her own detriment), on her appearance all for the chance to be the “chosen” one. The book details the role of mistress in the courts, outlining the different aspects of mistress-hood. I’m a history geek- and I really enjoyed this little glimpse into the lives of many mistresses that graced the courts of Versailles and England as well as even a few comments about more recent courts. Although the book mostly focuses on the courts in France and England, it does also spend time on other nations such as the Austro-Prussian Empire, Spain etc. Not only was it a fascinating read, but it also was an exceptionally easy historical read, (why didn’t they teach THIS in my history classes?), and I was able to retain a fair amount of information. My one complaint about this book is the way its laid out. This book had the potential to be pretty great, (sex, lies, cat fights and royalty--- HELLO SMUT!), but it’s easy to confuse who’s sleeping with whom. Instead of focusing on one king and his lady loves, it chooses to separate chapters by aspects of the mistress-hood, (social conception, bastards, gifts, deaths, etc) and so it’s very easy to get Louis 14th mixed up with Louis 12th and easy to get mixed up which mistress was doing what when. The time line gets quite jumbled and I’ll admit I’d be pretty confused at times. Also, very little mention of Henry the 8th and his Harem of ladies, although I suppose one can devote an entire book to that debacle. Did I have a favorite mistress? Probably Nell Gwyn- who was one of two mistresses at the time. (Although my memory fails me as to whom she belonged to.) Nell was a protestant and the other mistress was a devout catholic. During a revolt when the people started to attack her- she reminded them she was the “Protestant Whore” and that they were angry at the catholic church and therefore should find the “Catholic Whore”. Heee. Protestant Whore has a nice ring to it. Overall I enjoyed this book- and I’d give it a 7/10- recommended to my fellow history geeks and those who get a kick out of Royal scandal of any kind.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rio (Lynne)

    This is an interesting light read about some of the most infamous mistresses in history. From Madame de Montespan's witchery to Lady Castlemaine's historic control over Charles II. The author covers the how and why of how of these ladies came into the King's world, held their positions, fought for pensions, outwitted rivals and queens, birthed bastards and how after their meal tickets either moved on or passed away leaving these ladies to fight their enemies. She doesn't go deep, so if you aren' This is an interesting light read about some of the most infamous mistresses in history. From Madame de Montespan's witchery to Lady Castlemaine's historic control over Charles II. The author covers the how and why of how of these ladies came into the King's world, held their positions, fought for pensions, outwitted rivals and queens, birthed bastards and how after their meal tickets either moved on or passed away leaving these ladies to fight their enemies. She doesn't go deep, so if you aren't familiar with a mistress, you will want to research farther. I liked how the author wrapped this up with the current Royals and showed how much has and hasn't changed. Madame de Montespan Charles II and Lady Castlemaine

  19. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    A collection of all the history that got edited out of classroom textbooks because of adult content. Sex With Kings is combined biography of famous royal mistresses, from Madame de Pompadour to Camilla Parker-Bowles. They may have been sluts, but these women rocked, and they sound like a lot more fun than the monarchs they slept with. My one quibble with this book, and the reason it doesn't get five stars: Anne Boleyn, one of my favorite historical figures EVER, is conspicously absent for almost A collection of all the history that got edited out of classroom textbooks because of adult content. Sex With Kings is combined biography of famous royal mistresses, from Madame de Pompadour to Camilla Parker-Bowles. They may have been sluts, but these women rocked, and they sound like a lot more fun than the monarchs they slept with. My one quibble with this book, and the reason it doesn't get five stars: Anne Boleyn, one of my favorite historical figures EVER, is conspicously absent for almost the entire book. When Herman finally mentions her, it's not even by name - a reference to Henry VIII's most badass wife is just tossed into a paragraph offhandedly and then not mentioned again. Maybe Herman wanted to focus on lesser-known mistresses, or maybe Anne doesn't count because Henry married her, but come on. I felt her story deserved to be included.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aj Sterkel

    Have you ever wondered what Game of Thrones would be like in real life? Well, this book might satisfy some of your curiosity. The author, Eleanor Herman, guides the reader through 500 years of European history and tells the stories of Europe’s most powerful royal mistresses. The writing is lively and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. The book includes passages from letters and diaries that were written during the time that the mistresses lived. Royal courtiers were snarky. I didn’t know if I should Have you ever wondered what Game of Thrones would be like in real life? Well, this book might satisfy some of your curiosity. The author, Eleanor Herman, guides the reader through 500 years of European history and tells the stories of Europe’s most powerful royal mistresses. The writing is lively and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. The book includes passages from letters and diaries that were written during the time that the mistresses lived. Royal courtiers were snarky. I didn’t know if I should laugh or be horrified by the things they wrote about each other. I guess a royal court was like a middle school, but with fancier dresses. The structure of the book didn’t work for me. Rather than being organized chronologically, the chapters are each organized around an idea. The chapters bounce randomly through 500 years of history. There are so many names and dates that I couldn’t keep them straight. I backtracked multiple times to remind myself who was screwing who. I would have been less frustrated if the book had been in chronological order and focused only on a few relationships. There was just too much stuff to keep track of. It makes me glad I’m not a historian. If you’re doing academic research, you might want to look elsewhere. Sex with Kings is definitely meant for entertainment. It’s like the offspring of a textbook and a tabloid. The author often passes judgment on her “characters” and only discusses the most scandalous moments of their lives. It’s not a well-rounded look at royalty. It is entertaining, though. In a wonderfully trashy way. Six Fun Facts About Royal Mistresses 1. Marriages between kings and queens were usually arranged for political or financial reasons. Often, the king and queen hated each other and weren’t interested in a relationship. The mistress is who the king really loved. “Boring, religious, and intellectually limited, Marie Leczinska was called one of the two dullest queens in Europe by her own father, the other dull queen being his wife.” – Sex with Kings 2. Mistresses and illegitimate children were not kept a secret. Public opinion of mistresses varied widely. Some mistresses were loved; others were attacked by angry mobs. 3. Becoming a royal mistress was competitive. Imagine The Bachelor, but with murder. To become the “favorite” mistress, women resorted to witchcraft, love potions, poison, spying, psychological warfare, and faking pregnancies. One mistress even purchased a baby from a poor woman and convinced the king that it was his. 4. Mistresses were treated better than queens. They were given bigger apartments in the castle, better clothes, better jewels, more land and titles. Since they were so close to the king, they often influenced the political decisions he made. 5. There was no job security for a mistress. If the king got tired of her, he’d just throw her out on the street. A mistress had to sacrifice everything to keep the king happy. Is she tired, or sick, or pregnant, or mourning the death of a family member? Too bad. If the king wants his mistress, she’d better go to him. There were a hundred women willing to take her place. “'The more I see of men,' [the mistress] grumbled . . . 'the more I love dogs.'” – Sex with Kings 6. If a king could have any woman he wanted, you’d think he’d choose the prettiest girl, right? Many kings valued intelligence and political knowledge over beauty. Royal mistresses were often plain-looking. I learned a lot about European royalty from this book, but the structure makes the chronology difficult to follow.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Kellenberger

    As my friend Jaclynn said when she loaned me this book, there's nothing quite like reading about ancient gossip. She was right. Sex with Kings takes the reader through five hundred years of Europe's most formidable and influential monarchs and their royal mistresses. These were the women that kings sought for themselves, rather than the foreign princesses they were forced to marry for the sake of their nation. In many cases, royal mistresses were treated better and received more money, clothing As my friend Jaclynn said when she loaned me this book, there's nothing quite like reading about ancient gossip. She was right. Sex with Kings takes the reader through five hundred years of Europe's most formidable and influential monarchs and their royal mistresses. These were the women that kings sought for themselves, rather than the foreign princesses they were forced to marry for the sake of their nation. In many cases, royal mistresses were treated better and received more money, clothing and jewels than the King's Queen! But they had to be constantly on their toes for fear of replacement, given that hundreds of beautiful women in and out of court were waiting to usurp them. We read about successful royal mistresses who cater to their king's every wish and demand, regardless of whether they're stricken by grief, ill, or exhausted. We also learn about those unfortunate mistresses who remained loyal to their lovers only to be cast aside like a bag of trash once they no longer proved useful. I enjoyed reading this book, but there are two things that stuck with me in particular. I didn't enjoy how the author kept going back to the same women chapter after chapter. The book was very poorly organized and it was confusing to read overall. The second is not so much a criticism as a personal preference, but I really didn't enjoy reading Herman's description of Princess Diana of Wales. I'm a die-hard Diana fan, and I took exception to the fact that she described Diana suffering from bulimia and vomiting into a toilet, all the while lamenting why Charles didn't love her. Actually, there were several cases throughout the novel where academic objectivity was clearly not in play. Sex with Kings is listed as non-fiction, but in some places, it felt more like a romance novel. It seems well researched, but I wonder how accurate the research is. Overall though, it's a great read and I highly recommend it if you're the sort of person who enjoys learning about ancient royal history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    This was a pretty indulgent read, kind of like if Perez Hilton was a woman and a European historian/academic, and had a dry, British sense of humor (how's that for a recommendation?) Let me start off by saying it doesn't get to graphic with the details, most of the intrigue has to do with the court gossip, the jealous queens, the power plays and the extent to which the royal mistress could influence politics. There are just as many Great Love stories here as there are affairs of a lesser caliber, This was a pretty indulgent read, kind of like if Perez Hilton was a woman and a European historian/academic, and had a dry, British sense of humor (how's that for a recommendation?) Let me start off by saying it doesn't get to graphic with the details, most of the intrigue has to do with the court gossip, the jealous queens, the power plays and the extent to which the royal mistress could influence politics. There are just as many Great Love stories here as there are affairs of a lesser caliber, though I was touched by the mistresses whose genuine love for their king finds them nursing their lovers on their death beds. I only had one issue with this book, but it is a big one - this book is not organized very well. Each chapter addresses certain subject - like mistresses who had rocky relationships with the queen, royal bastards, great beauties, etc. Unfortunately, these woman fell into more than one category, so the result is a disjointed narrative as we meet a different part of a story for one woman in each chapter. I would have like to see each story told in a more cohesive manner, maybe organized by the king, since some kings had a string of mistresses whose lives were intermingled. I'm told that this problem is fixed in her next book, "Sex with the Queen," which I'm planning on reading also. The book jacket mentions Philip/Diana/Camilla, but they are only discussed in the last chapter. It's an interesting one, because she compares the fate of a modern mistress to those in an earlier age bereft of the media, but if you are looking for an expose, you will be disappointed, and that's just as well since I think that chapter is still being written. Definitely a great read for history buffs, but can also be a vacation read for someone looking for a book with more substance.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    If you like history and nonfiction, this is an entertaining read. It's not as graphic as the title might suggest, instead it explores the influence that mistresses have had on kings for centuries. You can read about one mistress at a time, jump to different chapters in the book (it's done by mistress) and not worry about leaving it for long periods of time and returning, since each chapter could stand alone. I think it does a decent job of telling the other side of the story, discussing what a m If you like history and nonfiction, this is an entertaining read. It's not as graphic as the title might suggest, instead it explores the influence that mistresses have had on kings for centuries. You can read about one mistress at a time, jump to different chapters in the book (it's done by mistress) and not worry about leaving it for long periods of time and returning, since each chapter could stand alone. I think it does a decent job of telling the other side of the story, discussing what a mistress needed to do in order to successfully keep a king's attention long enough to secure a place in society and a decent retirement. It's fun, it's accurate, and it's entertaining. That said, I don't think you could read it cover to cover without getting bored, since the overall impression of many of these relationships between mistress and king are the same. So read a chapter here and there, when you need to feel thankful that your most valuable assets are not declining with each day that you age. (It's also great if you're looking for strategies for keeping powerful men entertained... these mistresses were excellent at it. But I'm not sure any of us are up for the task any more. Can you imagine never yelling at your husband?)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Sex with French Kings: 200 years of fighting to stay on top in the court of Versailles would have been a more accurate title, since most of the mistresses documented here are French between 1600 and 1800. There’s a fair amount of English mistresses along with some Polish, German and a few Russian ones, but France dominates. The book is arranged by themes such as jewels, beauty, children, after-the-king, etc. which means Herman keeps covering the same group of mistresses, just at different points Sex with French Kings: 200 years of fighting to stay on top in the court of Versailles would have been a more accurate title, since most of the mistresses documented here are French between 1600 and 1800. There’s a fair amount of English mistresses along with some Polish, German and a few Russian ones, but France dominates. The book is arranged by themes such as jewels, beauty, children, after-the-king, etc. which means Herman keeps covering the same group of mistresses, just at different points in their lives, throughout the book, but all in a jumble, with no sense of timeline. I would have preferred mistresses arranged chronologically, and would have been OK with geographically, but this style suggested padding things out a bit. Also, where was the rest of the world? We get nothing outside of Europe. What of the kingdoms of Northern Africa? The Middle East? Asia? South America? Really? Nothing? However, end of the day you can draw two important life lessons from this book: 1. Beauty doesn’t last. Accept it. 2. Make long term investments. Preferably in foreign banks.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was amusing and well-researched - a good book for the bus, easy to dip in and out of. It was indeed gossipy and accessible. But considering that this book is only 12 years old, it was remarkably dated, especially with regard to sexism. I'm not going act like this book could have been written without a frank discussion of women's beauty and how it affected their fates, but this book was at many points shockingly reductionist. I felt SO BAD for so many of these mostly-long-dead women when the This was amusing and well-researched - a good book for the bus, easy to dip in and out of. It was indeed gossipy and accessible. But considering that this book is only 12 years old, it was remarkably dated, especially with regard to sexism. I'm not going act like this book could have been written without a frank discussion of women's beauty and how it affected their fates, but this book was at many points shockingly reductionist. I felt SO BAD for so many of these mostly-long-dead women when the author made cruel comments about their faces, figures, and how they aged. Beyond that, there was a striking amount of sexist language about their behavior - words like "shrill" and "harpie" were thrown around with no irony whatsoever. In addition, the structure was.... weird. I saw no reason to reserve discussion of 20th century mistresses to the final chapter. I would have loved to know more about Wallis Simpson throughout the book. I also found the pictures to be pretty sparse - had to google image search a bunch of prominent figures in the book (like Louise de La Vallière). I learned some stuff and read it all, but it irritated me. I'm rounding down to 2 stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lize

    This one was a lot of fun. "500 years of adultery, power, rivalry and revenge." From Henry VIII to Prince Charles, it's full of juicy tidbits about the Queens, Kings, their mistresses and life at court. The job of a royal mistress was about much more than beauty and sex--she was a confidant, advisor, and cheerleader. She made sure he was well-fed, comfortable and entertained, and gave him a respite from his responsibilities. From the 1400's to the late 1800's, being a royal mistress was a really This one was a lot of fun. "500 years of adultery, power, rivalry and revenge." From Henry VIII to Prince Charles, it's full of juicy tidbits about the Queens, Kings, their mistresses and life at court. The job of a royal mistress was about much more than beauty and sex--she was a confidant, advisor, and cheerleader. She made sure he was well-fed, comfortable and entertained, and gave him a respite from his responsibilities. From the 1400's to the late 1800's, being a royal mistress was a really good gig for an intelligent, witty, articulate, kind woman, (who didn't even have to be attractive) in times where opportunities of any sort for women were few. The benefits were many, (carriages, houses, jewels, pensions, staff, titles, land) and left many of the mistresses set for life. She was a great contrast to the frequently lonely and isolated Queen, who was often a foreigner given in marriage in exchange for treaties or lands and was chosen for her chastity and bloodline. (This book is a must-read for any girl who has always dreamed of being a princess.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    "The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." --Virginie di Castiglione, a mistress of Napoleon III "Hark the herald angels sing / Mrs. Simpson stole our King!" --naughty British schoolchildren in 1936 Lively and well-researched account of the mistresses and wives of royalty. I thought this passage was especially interesting: "It was generally accepted that bastards were more intelligent and better looking than legitimate children. The belief was that intercourse between a man and his mistress was "The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." --Virginie di Castiglione, a mistress of Napoleon III "Hark the herald angels sing / Mrs. Simpson stole our King!" --naughty British schoolchildren in 1936 Lively and well-researched account of the mistresses and wives of royalty. I thought this passage was especially interesting: "It was generally accepted that bastards were more intelligent and better looking than legitimate children. The belief was that intercourse between a man and his mistress was truly an act of love, or at least genuine desire. And in that moment of conception, the passions of love and desire mingled to form a more impressive child than those wrung from forced copulation." Did you know that in 1935, when Wallis Warfield Simpson was married and also having an affair with Edward VIII, she was also having a torrid affair with a car salesman? I didn't, but the royal family may have.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    It wasn't tawdry enough to be good gossipy fun or academic enough to be educational. It skirted a wholly disappointing line between the two and was simultaneously too long while not giving me enough information. It wasn't tawdry enough to be good gossipy fun or academic enough to be educational. It skirted a wholly disappointing line between the two and was simultaneously too long while not giving me enough information.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emma Wright (A Cup Of Books)

    DNF'd at the 25% mark. This book is a perfect example of how a book written by a member of a marginalised group does not automatically mean it will be sympathetic to said marginalised group. Herman's women in history fall across two distinct dichotomies; dullard good girl/vicious harpie bitch & absolute stunner/dumpy as a potato. There is no nuance to discussing what options were available to women at the time, or why a woman would 'choose' to be a mistress. The kings are all painted as these ha DNF'd at the 25% mark. This book is a perfect example of how a book written by a member of a marginalised group does not automatically mean it will be sympathetic to said marginalised group. Herman's women in history fall across two distinct dichotomies; dullard good girl/vicious harpie bitch & absolute stunner/dumpy as a potato. There is no nuance to discussing what options were available to women at the time, or why a woman would 'choose' to be a mistress. The kings are all painted as these hapless men who are trapped between two rival women or being badgered by two women ganging up on him. Everyone 'sinks their claws' into him. One could make an argument of 'this is how the women were viewed in that time' but Herman didn't explicitly make that argument in any of the chapters I read. And I'm not wading through several 100 pages to find the bit where she suddenly becomes sympathetic to women. On a more general note, the structure of this book was problematic. Each chapter bounces around in time periods and from individuals, and just creates a mess of dates/names. We loop back to the same people in some of the chapters but not in a way that helps to build a coherent picture of anyone.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Naleen

    I should have seen the warning signs. Right from the beginning I found myself making excuses for the author because I wanted to like this book so much. I have been on a Tutor kick lately, and was really excited to read some different history about monarchs and their scandals because it is oh-so-fun. I excused the author for abrasive language, thinking that maybe she was writing this way to be funny. This mistress is just a silly whore and that one is duller than a box of spoons. It's a good thing I should have seen the warning signs. Right from the beginning I found myself making excuses for the author because I wanted to like this book so much. I have been on a Tutor kick lately, and was really excited to read some different history about monarchs and their scandals because it is oh-so-fun. I excused the author for abrasive language, thinking that maybe she was writing this way to be funny. This mistress is just a silly whore and that one is duller than a box of spoons. It's a good thing Mistress X was so pretty or else she would have been on the street. Or Mistress Y is so dumpy looking it must be her intelligence that makes up for that deficit. I felt like Herman had a love hate relationship with these women. It was as if she admired them, but their scandalous lifestyles made her uncomfortable with this adoration. I even excused her choppy writing style, her disorganization and her tendency to leave out dates and repeat stories from previous chapters. I told myself that she was just trying to set this up in unique way to get away from the boring and predictable format of a chronological timeline, focusing instead on different aspects of a mistress's life and trying to draw parallels between a plethora of women all at once. I was willing to concentrate a little harder to keep them all straight, to keep Wikipedia open if I got confused. But soon I started noticing some troubling trends. Herman kept referring to women as being "frigid". This term bothers me more than it should, I admit. But it seems to imply that there is something wrong with women who do not want to have sex all the time just to please their man. In the case of Madame Pompadour, it sounded like she had an actual condition that made sex uncomfortable. I think it is incredibly unfair to label her as "frigid" because of this. The use of this term over and over again made me feel that the author was sexist in her own way, that maybe she views the role of wife or mistress as soley to please the husband. Herman also points out flaws in queens and mistresses but fails to point any fingers at the kings who use and abuse both of them. She seems to argue that if only the queen wasn't so frigid/ugly/nagging/jealous/stupid, maybe her husband the king would love her. And then there are these gems of quotes from the book that made me want to light the book on fire. In regard to Madame Pompadour's role in the Seven Year's War, Herman writes, "The one case of a royal mistress holding true power in her smooth white hands ended disastrously." It sounds as if Herman is arguing that us women should leave all the real decision making to men, because history shows that women are incapable of making these sorts of decisions. Never mind that the French army was made of idiots instead of soldiers, that wars are complicated with countless variables and that were many other players involved. Another quote, this time in reference to kings marrying their mistresses: "We find an almost biblical morality lesson in cases where the monarch made an unseemly marriage. Divine wrath was swift and sure. It was as if the Almighty did not approve of the king transforming fornication into the sanctified sex of marriage. For worse a sin than fornication was ignorance of one's proper place in teh scheme of things. When a mere pawn became queen in the chessboard of life, the game was forfeit." WTF???? God is smiting kings who marry for love now?!?!? It can't be something much simpler, like the social constructs of the time allowed the king's subjects to raise hell for him if he married a woman they didn't like?? Are we really bringing god into this?!?!? And last but not least: "In the past century, we women have gained equal rights, showers, c-sections, and mammograms. As grateful as we are, we have, nevertheless, lost a large part of the beauty of women's lives." Really? For one, I am not "grateful" for these things. I am glad I happened to be born in this time period instead of the past- but I cannot be grateful for things like equality (or striving for equality- I am not so naive as to believe we are completely there yet). These things that she is "grateful" for are things that should be given to everyone- freedom, access to adequate healthcare, and cleanliness. I will not grovel or thank the men of the world for "allowing" me to have them. These things should be unquestionably accessible for every man, woman and child living in our times, and no one should ever be made to feel that they do not deserve them for any reason. I just don't see what beauty we have lost as women. Our fashions are different- we do not have to wear restrictive clothing unless we want to. If Herman wants to wear the pretty gowns and dresses of times past, that is her perogative. There is nothing wrong with that, if that is what she wants to do. But don't lecture me on how ugly our lives have become because we can now wear jeans and t-shirts. It is silly and petty and makes me think that Herman is also. Ok, I am done ranting. Maybe the joke is on me, but I doubt it. I couldn't bring myself to read the last chapter of this book.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.