A TALE OF SORCERY AND PASSION IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY LONDON—WHERE WITCHES HAUNT WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND HIS DARK LADY, THE PLAYWRIGHT’S MUSE AND ONE TRUE LOVE.
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.
Selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of 17 Books You Won’t Be Able To Put Down!
Praise for Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady
“A gripping novel that gives feisty feminist voice to the unknown woman who inspired Shakespeare’s sonnets… O’Reilly brings her star-crossed lovers together and drives them apart through plot twists that are, for once, credible outgrowths of the characters’ personalities and beliefs, finally giving them a tender, heartbreaking parting. First-rate historical fiction: marvelously atmospheric and emotionally engaging.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“[Dark Aemilia] mesmerizes with its descriptions of the Bard’s London…O’Reilly casts her story with witches, doomed royals, evil courtiers, and star-crossed lovers, as if it were a Jacobean play. But her finest accomplishment is not the tribute she pays to these historical figures, but the bold imagination she displays in bringing them together.”—Publishers Weekly
“With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O’Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures. With Shakespeare’s 450th birthday approaching this April, fans of historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Anne Easter Smith, and Tracy Chevalier won’t want to miss this one.” —Library Journal
“O’Reilly’s American debut is an imaginative take on the life of poet Aemilia Layner, a contemporary of William Shakespeare…. This is a lively, vividly rendered novel about the dramatic life of an extraordinary woman.”—Booklist
“Seductive, sharp-witted lady-in-waiting Aemilia Bassano, who later becomes known as England’s first published female poet, falls into a love affair with the Bard himself, loses favor with the court, and resorts to black magic and sorcery to save her child in this textured work of historical fiction.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“I just finished this, and I’m jumping at this opportunity to recommend it to book lovers far and wide… Dark Aemilia is a must-read for all lovers of Shakespeare and old England, and while it is written from the perspective of a woman, I am confident men will enjoy it, too. I am usually careful with my books, but this one quickly became a victim of dog ears and pencil-marks, because O’Reilly touches on so many crucial historical moments and writes with such intelligent elegance.” —Anne Fortier, BookPage
“We all know Shakespeare wrote love sonnets. Now, O’Reilly’s new novel brings us the Bard’s sonnet-writing lover and sonnet-inspiring muse.”—The New York Post
“Draped in the lure of magic and fantasy that weaved its way through many of Shakespeare’s plays, Dark Aemilia lives and breathes the late 16th century ….O’Reilly’s debut novel is a sweeping success, a tale full of action and intrigue and as deep as any ocean. Live vicariously through the eyes of one of the first proto-feminists to have lived. See as the author steps into her head and creates a world that is more realistic than the one outside your window. Let this book redefine the way you see love.”—Bookreporter
There are numerous reasons contributing to my strong appeal to Dark Aemilia let me share a few with you without making this the never ending review.
O’Reilly provides diverse content – proto-feminist, mystery, supernatural, magic, so much more, extremely well researched, and one amazing and fascinating female protagonist in Aemilia Bassano Lanyer. A rather sophisticated read not lacking in imagination and originality.
Aemilia is beautiful, seductive, intelligent, survivor, educated and not one to hold her tongue or thoughts. Clearly she demonstrates a woman born in the wrong era, a woman ahead of her time, her proto-feminist thoughts and desires are proof. Fiercely independent, unafraid to love, we watch the spark manifest into the powerful inferno of love and passion when she meets William Shakespeare. Calm, stormy, tranquil, turbulent, the reader rides along with the many ebbs and flows of this passionate and all consuming romance. Distraught over their relationship Shakespeare publishes a collection of sonnets referring to her as his Dark Lady. The trials and tribulations this couple suffered added to the entire story, certainly not saccharine by any means, which I was expecting.
The ferocity of Aemilia’s love is demonstrated when her son falls ill to the plague. Exhausting all means to save her son, her mettle is tested. Reunited with Shakespeare, Aemilia holds her own, showing her true personality and strength. Character development was well done by O’Reilly, both protagonists fully emotionally exposed and mentally explored.
Lastly, the setting transports you to London complete with every site along with the cacophony of a bustling city. Plague, attire, food, and Queen’s court vividly described in a dense sketch.
Between the characters, setting and the narrative this was a novel full of intrigue without pause. Loads of twists and turns, rewards and punishments hook your attention without disappointment. O’Reilly provides historical notes, a timeline of events, glossary, along with mini biographies of actual characters which provides a welcome reward.
An emotional compelling story full of intrigue you will, in all certainty, want to make this an addition to your read list. Highly recommend.
Buy the Book
Thanks to the generous people at Picador I have 5 copies of DARK AEMILIA up for grabs! To enter, please leave a comment below and include your email address. Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only and ends on AUG 29, 2014. Winner will be chosen on AUG 30, 2014 and notified via email. Winner has 72 hours to respond or new winner is chosen.
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.
Dark Aemilia Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, August 18
Review at The Bookworm
Wednesday, August 20
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, August 21
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli
Tuesday, August 26
Review & Giveaway at Poof Books
Thursday, August 28
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Sunday, August 31
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Tuesday, September 2
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, September 3
Review & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Friday, September 5
Review at Awesome Book Assessment
Tuesday, September 9
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, September 10
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, September 11
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, September 16
Review & Giveaway at Bookish
Wednesday, September 17
Review & Giveaway at Casual Readers
Friday, September 19
Review & Giveaway at Book Nerd
Monday, September 22
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, September 23
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 24
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, September 26
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Sunday, September 28
Review at WTF Are You Reading?