Review

Mistress Shakespeare

by Karen Harper

“The rendering of my thoughts, emotions and
experiences is part comedy and part tragedy as well as history, for
life is such a mingling. And so, I write this report of the woman
born Anne Rosaline Whateley, she who both detested and adored a man
named William Shakespeare.”

Now comes the tale of the great bard of Avon, wonderfully
humanized and told from a woman’s viewpoint. Anne Whateley,
William Shakespeare’s first --- and secret --- wife, pens her
story in five acts. More than a love story, it is a romantic
chronicling of the writer’s career, his greatest love and his
forced, loveless marriage.

As youths in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Anne Whateley and Will
Shakespeare were great friends. She had a talent with words such
that she could inspire the poet even when he was a mere lad. The
two sparred with each other by dueling with couplets, striving to
outdo the other with their cleverness. They spent many happy days
romping around the English countryside as children. Intrigued in
the way of carefree young people, they slaked their curiosity by
experiencing their world to the fullest.

But as they grew, so did their desires, and they found
themselves almost unwittingly becoming lovers. Driven not by lust
but by something much larger, they forever hungered for each other,
feeling wretched in the times they were apart. Some people are
simply meant for each other, and so it was with Anne Whateley and
Will Shakespeare. But their happiness was not to be so simple, for
another Stratford girl, Anne Hathaway, laid claim to Will as the
father of her child. There was nothing to be done but for Will to
marry her.

Heartbroken, Anne Whateley moved from Stratford to London, where
she could try to mend her emotions. Her beloved Shakespeare would
remain in Stratford with his new family, giving her a chance to try
to forget him. With a love as deep-rooted as Anne Whateley’s,
forgetting was not something she could do easily. She was miserable
without him, aching for the next time she would see him, feel his
touch and hear his voice.

In the meantime, she began to test the climate in London for
Will’s writing, for though she cursed him for his attachment
to his Stratford wife --- chosen or not --- she could not rid
herself of wanting him. If London wanted him, too, then she could
once again help him with his writing. And if they became close in
other ways --- well, she would face that if it happened.

History tells us that Shakespeare wrote prolifically while
living in London, but Miss Whateley’s history tells us of him
as a person, in his depressions, anger and passions. Why did he
write “Romeo and Juliet”? For whom were the sonnets
written? Where did his inspiration come for “The Taming of
the Shrew?” Anne Whateley will tell you she saw herself in
many of the plays’ scenes and characters. It may be true. She
had Shakespeare’s ear, and his love. The other Anne had his
children, but never his heart. This pair may be Shakespeare’s
real star-crossed lovers.

MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE could be called “The Tragedy of Anne
Whateley,” for she had beauty, brains and strength, but not
the one thing she truly wanted: to be recognized as Mistress
Shakespeare. In the end, she had to be content to know that she
was. Karen Harper’s beautiful yet sad love story will touch
the hearts of every romantic and thrill Shakespeare fans, if for no
other reason than the period detail and depth of emotion she gives
us with this striking novel. History never pleased so much as this
tale. Absolutely riveting.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 7, 2011

Mistress Shakespeare
by Karen Harper

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399155457
  • ISBN-13: 9780399155451