Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady by Sally O’Reilly not only has a gorgeous cover but it is also a beautifully written novel that vividly transports you back in time to 16th century England. The novel brings to life the story of England’s first female poet Aemilia Lanyer who may also have been muse and lover of William Shakespeare and that thread is woven throughout the novel. This tale is rich in historical detail with the added elements of sorcery making it ever the more intriguing.
Aemilia starts out as Aemilia Bassano and was the daughter of a musician. Growing up in the time of Queen Elizabeth’s court Aemilia has a yearning to learn and develops a love for poetry and in fact wants to write poetry in a time when it was unheard of for women to do any such thing. After losing her family Aemilia is taken in by Lord Hundson and later becomes his mistress. For years her life revolves around Lord Hundson but she wants so much more for herself and then comes the day that William Shakespeare walks into her life and she thinks that she’s finally found what shes looking for. They embark on a passionate love affair but when it becomes apparent to Lord Hundson that something has been going on behind his back he sends Aemilia off to be married to another man thus ending all the hopes and dreams that she’s built around Shakespeare and her poetry. Aemilia finds herself married to a man she doesn’t love and this leaves her unhappy and unsatisfied. Nobody wants to publish the poetry she works so hard on and her only joy in life is her son. Into the turmoil of the plague and sickness of loved ones Aemilia turns to sorcery and the witches and encounters a darkness that she should never have fooled with.
I really enjoyed this novel and while I’ve read mixed reviews on Aemilia and her outspoken, often crass manner of speaking I liked her. Aemilia lived in a time when women had no rights and certainly no hopes of becoming more than a wife, mother, or mistress. Yet Aemilia strived for more and with her intelligence and feisty nature got it. There is a bluntness in language and sexual content that many readers may find too much and while at times I did too I still appreciated its place in the novel. To fully enjoy and experience this book the reader needs to open their mind to all aspects of it and in doing that I truly enjoyed it.
Recommended for readers of historical fiction who enjoy added elements of a more explicit nature and the paranormal.
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Author links: Website, Dark Aemilia Facebook Page
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