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104 Reviews
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63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mistress of all she surveys
Okay, the title is going to make people giggle or cringe. But "Sex With Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry and Revenge" is a genuinely engrossing book, full of funny and tragic stories about royal mistresses through history. From Madame de Pompadour to Camilla Parker-Bowles, Eleanor Hermann studies these controversial -- sometimes fascinating -- women...
Published on August 18, 2004 by E. A Solinas

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Sex with the Queen" is Better...
I was rather disappointed in this book. It was not well organized at all. Too much time is given to the same kings (Louis XIV and Charles II) and mistresses and the book jumps all over the place in general, which is a major distraction. I can't believe she spent so little time on Edward VII, arguably one of the most randy kings in history. The barest mention is made...
Published on May 30, 2006 by Ponette


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let's get organized., September 26, 2005
I found the subject matter very interesting, but it was way too repetitive. I wish the author would have organized the material in more of a chronological order. I would have loved to read the entire story of one mistress, one at a time. Reading 20+ references of Madame Pompadour made it difficult to get a cohesive picture of her life with the king.

I recommend the book, but be prepared to be frustrated with the read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more organization, please, May 8, 2005
By 
S. Myles (New England, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I have to agree with R. Murphy - although fairly interesting, the book seemed to focus on a handful of women and recycled them throughout the chapters, including new information each time. How many times did we need to be introduced to Madame de Pompadour's real name as we learned a new tidbit about her? That and unfortunately the author used even less kings than mistresses (Augustus of Saxony, Charles II, Henri IV)

and the author pounded in the notion of the viper's nest of Versailles a bit too often with Louis XIV and Louis XV. Maybe I'm more of a linear reader, but I much prefer when the information is concise in a chapter rather than slopped all over the place. I also would prefer the inclusion of non-European mistresses or concubines, but that was probably outside the sphere of the author's interest. But it's a gossipy read and if you don't mind seeing the same people mentioned over and over, you'll probably enjoy it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Borrow, Don't Buy, December 30, 2004
By 
This was certainly a fun book, and a quick read, but the author was her own worst enemy. She had certainly done a fantastic amount of research, but it was put together in a fairly sloppy manner and read more like a gossip column than a coherent account of the changing status and position of royal mistresses.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting, Sometimes Frustrating Overview, February 20, 2008
It is nigh on impossible to cover 500 years of history in 300 pages, as Eleanor Herman proves. There are so many characters here, so many "Madames" and "Countesses" that they all begin to look the same. Only Nell Gwynn and Madame de Pompadour stand out in any discernible way. The redundancy of the text (I thought at one point that if Miss Herman said "one can imagine" one more time, I might just scream) was ridiculous - the book needed a good editor. I give this three stars because it has inspired me to seek out more information about Nell Gwynn and Madame de Pompadour, and for that I'm grateful. Other than that it's a rather disjointed, slap-dash affair (if you'll pardon that word), and I don't think I need to read anything further from this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the content, loved the organization., February 1, 2006
This is a really good look at some of the things that REALLY drove European history after the middle ages. Seeing how Madame Pompadour lost The 7 Years War for France puts a great perspective on that time period. Seeing how Gabrielle d' Estrees helped end the religious civil war in France by negotiating with the pope as The Good Catholic Mistress Who Converted The King was awesome.

A lot of people here don't like the way the book is organized, but I do: it provides parallel information about each aspect of each mistress' career instead of "This is the life and times of Gabrielle d Estrees. Now this is the life and times of Nelly Green. Now this is the Life and Times of Whore Number 3" it looks at "This is how each mistress handled staying beautiful for her King, and the differences they faced across the centuries (since one mistress was in France in the 1400s and another was in Austria-Hungary in the 1800s and so on.) This is how each mistress secured (or failed to secure) her financial freedom and the differences they faced across the centuries." That format is a LOT more enjoyable and interesting to me.

Great book. Dirty AND funny AND smart. How can you beat that?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Women from a Woman's Viewpoint, December 8, 2004
This book is about history from a woman's viewpoint. And it is mostly about a time when marriages were arranged in order to accomplish affairs of state. Knowing that this is what was going to happen to you, and with the public and rest of the court also knowing, there is little surprise that royal mistresses were an accepted fact of life.

One of the many surprising points brought up in the book is how difficult it was for a mistress to keep her position. It was not an easy job as the competition was severe and numerous. Also, it appears that the relationship between King and mistress was more like a true marriage than an affair of state. Conversation, companionship are repeatedly mentioned as the important parts of the relationship, sex yes, otherwise there would not have been a chapter on Royal [...].

This book is Europe centric. There is no mention of Jack Kennedy/Marilyn Monroe, or of Bill/Monica. I'm reminded of Henry Kissenger's comment that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Perhaps Ms. Herman will follow this with "Sex with Presidents."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, August 18, 2004
By 
"Sex With Kings" is a funny and sexy read, with all sorts of details about royal mistresses all through history. All those mistresses are different, since some were just mistresses for money and some were really in love with the men they were with. The kings are kind of obnoxious in general, but some of their mistresses were very cool. And it's very funny in places, like the story of one king who urinated on his mistress's boyfriend, who was hiding from him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, but..., April 24, 2008
By 
Mary Mills "RVM" (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I couldn't wait to read this book, but when I saw the photo of the author in a costume, I started to worry. Very interesting subject material, but the organization made me crazy - people kept jumping back and forth in time, I felt as if I were reading the same story over and over again. And yes, some of the stories were fascinating, but the book seemed like an overlong magazine article. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Royal Slap and Tickle, May 3, 2006
By 
DRob (Arlington, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman is an eminently readable and enjoyable book detailing the stories and influences of mistresses upon royalty throughout the ages. For all the furor over Bill Clinton's escapades and Charles and Camilla, we find that we are actually more prudish now than they were in the "good old days" when royalty openly consorted with mistresses, while queens often were relegated to a lonely existence sequestered with their attendants and delivering the obligatory baby every year or so.

Seems that being the King's mistress wasn't all about sex; that in a few cases there was no sexual relationship at all. It was more about friendship and companionship-- whomever said "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" certainly knew what s/he was talking about. With arranged marriages to women often from distant countries who barely spoke the same language as the king, much less shared the same customs and interests, kings sought out mistresses with whom they could converse and who understood their needs and wants. Mistresses were also often privy to court gossip that was very valuable to the kings and mistresses often took part in political machinations-- sometimes for good, sometimes not.

The mistress, herself, was often in a shaky position-- she had to continuously maintain her position of favor with the king or otherwise she, and any of the children the king might have fathered, could be summarily cast aside for someone else. It was much easier to get rid of a pesky mistress than to get rid of a pesky wife, as Henry the VIII can attest.

This book could so easily have been a dull recitation of the affairs of court, but Herman brings out the human side of the mistresses, their constant struggle to maintain their position, the wiles they used to maintain their positions, and the love they often felt for the kings they served. Humorous in parts, the book is a quick, fun read. My only complaint about it is that it could have been better organized; Herman jumps back and forth from mistress to mistress so that it is hard to keep them straight. Other than that, however, this is an enjoyable book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turning historical fun!, July 4, 2004
By A Customer
Who knew history could be so amusing! Eleanor Herman has intrically crafted a page turning saga of royal mistresses throughout time. This is a very funny, easy to read book with lavish illustrations and well documented research. Never dull, Ms. Herman entertains the reader with laugh out loud stories about hidden lovers, sumptiously decorated suites, set aside wives, ugly woman who captivated kings and great beauties who fought rivals to win the premier post at court. An eye-opening account of the power and intrigue in the daily life of some of history's most famous (and lesser known) women. A summer must read!
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Sex with Kings
Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman
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