If ever a book was written that required a sequel, it was this one.
Sixteen year old Amber St. Clare, ward of a yeoman farmer and his wife, falls instantly in love with a handsome cavalier who happened to stop by her tiny village for refreshment. Almost immediately, she surrenders her virtue to him and begs him to take her to London. "I won't ever marry you, Amber," he states and he keeps his word in spite of fathering three of her children over a ten year period. During his numerous absences, she manages to land in Newgate Prison for indebtedness, be rescued by a notorious highwayman, marry several men for their money or titles, take up a tarnished career as an actress and become one of King Charles IV's favourite mistresses.
Throughout it all, she maintains her love for the devastatingly handsome, Bruce Carlton. To my mind, Lord Carlton is the real villain of the piece. His vacillating between his obsession with her beauty and his desire to marry "quality" is annoying and unfortunately the "undoing" of Amber. It is a sad commentary of what a woman alone in that period had to do to get along in the world. She may have become hardened and scheming due to her circumstances, but she more than proved her mettle during the terrible London plague.
For all it was banned in Boston in the 1940s because of Amber's immoral life style, there is nothing explicit or graphic in this book. I could have liked it immensely, simply for the wonderful research the author did with regard to the 17th century Stuart Restoration period. One experiences that time and place as in no other book I have read about the era. As it is, like many other readers, I hated the ending which left me with an overriding feeling of aggravation.