Synopsis: Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.
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.
My Thoughts: I loved this book! There was just something about the opening pages of the story that completely sucked me in to this book. This is the second book I have read by Mary Sharratt and I must say, she is a fabulous writer. Her prose is beautiful and her descriptions of Italy are just so vivid. She created an amazing image of Aemilia's Italian villa so much so that you could almost feel the heat of the sun.
I had never heard of Aemilia Bassano prior to reading this book but I was completely in awe of her character in the book. She dealt with such adversity but no matter what managed to use her wit and intelligence to find a way to survive. She was definitely unconventional for the times but that is what I loved most about the character. I want to read about women like her more often! There were actually a lot of unique female characters in this story and I really like reading about them. It was nice to see Tudor era women portrayed as more than just a pretty face.
I'll be honest though, the character of Shakespeare didn't really do it for me; there was just something about him that rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, I did really enjoy reading about their collaboration on some of his most famous plays. It made me want to go back and re-read many of Shakespeare's plays.
Overall, this was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it! 4 stars.
I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.