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The Women of Nell Gwynne's Hardcover – June 30, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean; First edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596062509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596062504
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,075,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This steampunk novella, set in 1844 London, follows the exploits of the harlots of the exclusive establishment known as Nell Gwynne's, where they gather intelligence for the shadowy Gentlemen's Speculative Society, a predecessor to the Company featured in several of Baker's novels (most recently 2006's The Machine's Child). Lord Basmond hires the ostensibly blind madam, Mrs. Corvey, and some of her girls to entertain his wealthy foreign guests at an odd party, where it quickly becomes clear that Basmond is selling a mysterious item to the highest bidder. Things heat up when someone goes missing and two people end up dead. The beautifully drawn Victorian era is neatly spiced up with futuristic technology such as mechanical eye implants. Baker's fans will delight in this slight, bawdy and funny confection. Illus. by J.K. Potter not seen by PW. (July)
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Customer Reviews

The characters are quirky and interesting.
Sophia
A must read for Kage Baker fans, and highly recommended for everyone else.
Amazon Customer
Readers bothered by this kind of read should give the story a miss.
Layers of Thought

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Layers of Thought on January 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of this “special organization” help with the fight against evil in their special and socially unaccepted way.

About: “The women of Nell Gwynne’s” is set in an alternative England where steam has a decidedly different technological aspect than the standard historical Victorian era model; this is definitely steam punk. The unique aspect of the story is the women. As high class call girls, each of these special women has been selected by the madam for their strength, feistiness and other special talents - all which help them in their fight against the darker aspects of their time. As you might imagine, their main way of ascertaining secret information is especially intriguing, and revolves around the high-standing men who possess it being in the awkward and vulnerable position of having “their pants around their ankles”.

Thoughts: I completely enjoyed this short novel and was immersed in it. A key to Kage Baker’s talents is that the novella is a page turner that took me on a trip into an alternative Victorian era - it included some fictional technological inventions which combined to create a story that anyone interested in steam punk should read. It was dryly funny too. I understand from my digging around for information on the author and the back story that she had a cutting wit and sense of humor; and it shows. I giggled a lot.

Although done tastefully it’s important to mention that since the story is about “ladies of the night” there are some interesting sexual involvements, so I consider parts of this story to be light erotica. Readers bothered by this kind of read should give the story a miss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The "Women of Nell Gwynne's" is an interesting short novel set in the early-Victorian period of Kage Baker's Company universe, a side-story not really involving any of the series' major characters or plot lines, but nicely filling out some background. Followers of the series will get the most from it, but it stands pretty well as a independent and amusing story. Nell Gwynne is the madame of a very polished and high-class brothel that operates as a front for a Company intelligence operation. To investigate rumours of some anomalously advanced technology, the ladies arrange to be hired as the entertainment for an orgy at a country estate - complications ensue, including a few murders to avoid being framed for, secrets discovered, etc. This particular Subterranean Press first-edition was nicely illustrated by the delightfully named J.K Potter (no doubt related to Harry Rowling :), and (unexpectedly) signed by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wish Kage Baker were still around so she could write more installments of this series. Set in Victorian England, it has strong female characters- especially the protagonist- and nifty Steampunk gadgets. Although it ties in to her excellent Company series, this novel and its sequel also stand alone. A must read for Kage Baker fans, and highly recommended for everyone else.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Baumann VINE VOICE on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Plot Summary: The daughter of a British officer grows up in India, and when tragedy erases her status in society, she returns to London and becomes a high-class streetwalker named Lady Beatrice. She is recruited into an exclusive brothel known as Nell Gwynne's, but her primary function is to spy on the lords and lawmakers who frequent the establishment. It's the collective task of all the girls who work there, and they are sponsored by a secret society of scientists who develop technologies far beyond the time period.

Sadly, I was underwhelmed by this steampunk novella. I think long-time Kage Baker fans will embrace it with open arms, especially for sentimental reasons, but first time readers would be perfectly justified in passing it by. At 122 pages in length, The Women of Nell Gwynne's is not a tight enough story to pull off what it's trying to do. The setting couldn't be better though... a brothel in early Victorian London that caters to the men of state, while funneling information to a secret group called the Gentlemen's Speculative Society. Fans of Baker's Company series know that this group is the forerunner of the Dr. Zeus Company, and it's like a peek into their past.

The steampunk elements were blended in nicely, and there was even a "Q" scene, like in James Bond when the nerdy scientist shows off advanced gadgetry. That was cool. What made it awkward was the heroine, Lady Beatrice, who resembled an emotionless robot more than anything. It was so strange to me that Ms. Baker didn't allow her heroine any expression of emotion, aside from resignation. I would have expected her to show some fear, disgust, or excitement at some point, but she went through the story like a zombie.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Kage Baker's alternate Victorian reality, the women are just as devious, daring, and clever as the men, and this is their story. You'll tear through this novella in no time at all, rooting for the Women of Nell Gwynne (particularly Lady Beatrice, our wronged heroine) in their machinations for the good of the Crown.

The one thing other reviewers haven't spent enough time on is the absolute beauty of these Subterranean Press Deluxe editions. This particular publisher regularly issues short run novellas, as well as reprints of full size novels, in a higher end format. They pull out all the stops, thus the generally higher prices. For example, the artwork on the cover and in several interior illustrations is gorgeous, and so detailed you'll spend time trying to decide if they somehow involve photography. The end papers are quality linen, and in my case, I received a signed issue. (I don't believe that's guaranteed, though, as Subterranean issues a specific number of signed copies and then that's it.)

In summary, with stellar writing, illustrations that could be mounted on the wall, and print quality you don't often see anymore, this book is a keeper. It made me very happy in a kid with a new toy way, as well as a dedicated fan of Subterranean Press. So, if you are in the mood to treat yourself to a collectible book you'll keep forever, the extra bucks are highly worth it.
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