The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. The Queen’s favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.
A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.
In rich, vivid detail, Sally O’Reilly breathes life into England’s first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history. Full of passion and devilish schemes, Dark Aemilia is a tale worthy of the Bard.
Sally O’Reilly’s “Dark Aemilia” is a gripping tale of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, Aemilia Bassano. A woman ahead of her time, she has a love of poetry and learning and dreams of being published using her own name. She has strong feelings about the roles of men and women – especially when it comes to The Taming of the Shrew and she has NO problems telling Shakespeare what she thinks of his play. Needless to say, they didn’t become lovers straight away.
O’Reilly’s descriptions of Elizabethan England are vivid – from the theatres to the dirty streets – and the reader is taken on a tour from the rooms of Queen Elizabeth’s home to the dark parts of town where magic is secretly performed. Character development is good, although at the end of the book, I felt like Aemilia is the only person I really knew. Which is fine considering she’s the title character, but as William was her lover, I expected more from him. I really could feel the passion between the two of them, though, and I wish there had been more scenes with them together. What I really found myself drawn to was the dark magic aspect of the story. I found it fascinating!
I really enjoyed the entire book. Sally O’Reilly did a wonderful job blending Tudor language into her writing without making it cumbersome or awkward to read. What a promising debut novel this is. I’m already looking forward to reading her next.
I’m very pleased to announce that I have FIVE copies of Dark Aemilia to give away to readers of my blog! Entering is easy – just comment on this post with your email address (So I can contact you if you win) and also give me a favourite line(s) from any Shakespeare sonnet. (Google works if you don’t know any off hand..haha) Contest is open to residents of Canada and the US and winners will be contacted by me on September 15th. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sally O’Reilly has received numerous citations for her fiction, which has been shortlisted for the Ian St James Short Story Prize and the Cosmopolitan Short Story Award. A former Cosmopolitan New Journalist of the Year, her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, and the New Scientist. She teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Portsmouth in England. Dark Aemilia is her U.S. debut.
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