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The Women of Nell Gwynne's
Kage Baker
Subterranean Press, 128 pages

Kage Baker
Kage Baker was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. She grew up there and in Pismo Beach, where she now resides. She has worked as a graphic artist, mural painter and assorted roles in the theatre. Many years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods has left her with a working knowledge of period speech and details evident in her writing.

Kage Baker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Empress of Mars
SF Site Review: Rude Mechanicals
SF Site Review: The Children of the Company
SF Site Review: The Angel in the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Anvil of the World
SF Site Review: Black Projects, White Knights
SF Site Review: The Graveyard Game
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: Mendoza in Hollywood
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: In the Garden of Iden

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The Women of Nell Gwynne's Kage Baker's new novella is a steampunk romp -- one doesn't think of the clanking machinery of steampunk as light but this story certainly is. The title refers to a certain establishment of a particular nature -- exactly what you would think. The kicker is that the ladies involved have another job -- spies. They use their rather privileged access to men of power to gather information, under the direction of their blind proprietress, Mrs. Corvey.

That's the setup. Then we are introduced to one particular whore, Lady Beatrice. She is the beautiful and independent daughter of a military man. Her life changed forever in Afghanistan, where her father was killed and she was raped by local tribesmen. On her return to England she was rejected by her family so took up the only profession available. And then Mrs. Corvey recruited her... recognizing, of course, skills beyond the merely horizontal.

The main action of the story concerns a mission to the estate of a certain Lord Basmond. He appears to have made a remarkable invention, but the dastard is marketing it to all comers, including enemies of the British. And a representative of the Gentleman's Society, allied with Mrs. Corvey's organization, has disappeared trying to investigate.

The steampunk nature of the story is revealed by the amusing devices available to the spies -- very much James Bond in the 19th Century -- including a covert set of eyes for supposedly blind Mrs. Corvey. The actual plot is a bit rudimentary, but enjoyably relayed, as Lady Beatrice and friends entertain Lord Basmond's various guests, witness a murder, and unravel the curious facts behind Lord Basmond's invention. I was never surprised, but I was entertained throughout.

Copyright © 2009 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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