The Painted Lady
Frances Stuart arrives at the court of Charles II. A young and vibrant beauty, she quickly finds herself the cynosure of everybody’s eyes. These eyes include those of the king himself, who before long has fallen deeply in love and taken to calling her ‘La Belle Stuart’. Frances is flattered by the kingly attention and attracted to the man, but she has a secret that is known only to her own heart. She loves Charles Stuart, the Duke of Richmond. The duke returns her love but is himself married and cannot betray his honour or his wife. Frances is determined to be with the man she loves and will have no other in his stead. And so she refuses to be the king’s mistress. Thus all three are trapped in a terrible triangle of romance. The story then follows Frances as she attempts to resist the king’s amorous and obsessive clutches, aided and abetted by his devious mistress, the Countess of Castlemaine. Can she be with the man she truly loves or are Frances and her beloved destined to remain apart?
The Painted Lady attempts to answer the question the Restoration court was fascinated with. Did Frances, the model for Britannia on the British coinage, ever surrender herself to Charles? Set amongst the decadent court of Charles II and against the dramatic backdrop of the Great Plague and the Fire of London, this book is perhaps too long, however the language is expertly handled, the period dialogue a particular strength and the other female characters are sketched with enough brio to ensure the story’s momentum. And of course the story itself has more than enough twists and turns to keep the most demanding reader satisfied.