London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. Read more...
London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything. Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country -- and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women. The Dark Lady's Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-22
- Reviewer: Staff
Sharratt’s (Shakespeare’s Muse) latest is a well-constructed historical novel set in Elizabethan England about the Bard of Avon, adopting the premise that Shakespeare relied on a female collaborator. A Jewish orphan whose persecuted family fled Italy and became royal court musicians, Aemilia Bassano Lanier aspires to become a poet (as the historical Lanier actually did). The well-educated Aemilia later becomes a cross-dresser, gets pregnant as a lord’s concubine, and is forced to marry the spineless court musician Alfonse. She meets Will Shakespeare and invites him to accompany her on a family trip to Italy, where she falls in love and cowrites romantic comedies with the poet. The author pulls few punches in her less than flattering portrayal of Shakespeare. After receiving the tragic news of his son’s death, Shakespeare ends their relationship and returns home, where he hopes to stage their plays. Aemilia also returns to England to find Alfonse disease ridden, and her troubles with Shakespeare continue to mount, culminating with his published sonnets vilifying her as the dark lady. Although the plucky Aemilia composes and publishes her own well-received poetry volume, her meager sales fail to improve her finances as Sharratt brings her bold Shakespearean novel to its poignant conclusion. (Apr.)