Previously on Inkwell, we considered the question of whether you should pack your bag for beach reading with books that advance a multicultural point of view. We decided against this.

But if you’d like to read about powerful women while baking yourself, Jonathan Yardley recently reviewed one that looks promising in Washington Post.

The book is “Sex with Kings,” a book about royal mistresses, by Eleanor Herman. A few tidbits from Yardley’s review:

“In the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the position of royal mistress was almost as official as that of prime minister. The mistress was expected to perform certain duties — sexual and otherwise — in return for titles, pensions, honors, and an influential place at court. She encouraged the arts — theater, literature, music, architecture, and philosophy. She wielded her charm as a weapon against foreign ambassadors. She calmed the king when he was angry, buoyed him up when he was despondent, encouraged him to greatness when he was weak. She attended religious services daily, gave alms to the poor, and turned in her jewels to the treasury in times of war….

“What is truly peculiar about kings and their mistresses is that many a king tolerated a mistress who was every bit as much a harridan as his queen. Charles II of England ’put up with his beautiful virago, Barbara, Lady Castlemaine, for nearly a dozen years.’ She ’badgered, threatened and intimidated Charles into submission with her unending stream of demands for money, titles and honors for herself and her children and sometimes, in a burst of selfishness, for her friends.’

“[T]he legendary Lola Montez, mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria, was no day at the beach: ’whorish, selfish deceitful Lola who had broken old King Ludwig’s heart and lost him his kingdom.’ By 1848, he finally had had enough and banished her; she went to the United States and made a new life for herself in the Wild West.”

Ah, that sounds more like it than some tome on how Western civilization is the pits–a good book for Inky’s summer pleasures, if not for Betty Friedan, who probably believes that Madame de Pompadour was an Oppressed Person.