There have been many fictionalized versions of the tale of the Bard. William Shakespeare’s life has been well disputed among scholars, but there are no definitive records for how he lived…only where and when. Sally O’Reilly’s DARK AEMILIA poses the question: Who was the muse who made Shakespeare’s thoughts flow, the dark lady living behind his sonnets?
Aemilia Bassano was a member of Queen Elizabeth’s court, as well as the mistress to the Queen’s cousin, Lord Hunsdon. She was a favorite of the Queen and known for her sharp wit and ability to make conversation. After a viewing of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Aemilia finds herself confronted by the play’s author. They share a moment of electricity in which their fate is sealed.
Their romance blossoms and eventually reaches an impasse. Aemilia finds herself living a double life, sneaking off to the Bard when her Lord was not calling for her. She eventually becomes pregnant and is unsure of who the father is, though she suspects that it’s William. After being disgraced, Aemilia is sold off like a used piece of meat. She finds her last name changed to Lanyer as she is shipped off to a luxury house to almost disappear. She loses contact with her love and is left only with her poetry.
"O’Reilly’s debut novel is a sweeping success, a tale full of action and intrigue and as deep as any ocean."
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. This first-person narrative, rich with description and detail, makes you feel the air the characters breathe. Emotion bleeds through the pages as you live through the experiences of the lady who is looked upon as the muse of one of the greatest poets in the world. You feel the fear that runs through Aemilia as her world is gradually stripped from her. Will she find any sort of happiness in the life she is forced to live?
It’s a challenging task for any author to work from historical documents, without any context or spoken word from either character. O'Reilly conquers her mountain as she spins the threads of these two characters in a compelling fashion. She brings Aemilia Lanyer to life in this brilliant romance that rivals that of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Two star-crossed lovers are caught in their passion, pleading to be together, though it can never be. History becomes reimagined into gripping fiction.
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. The story of the everlasting bond between Shakespeare and Lanyer speaks volumes of the way people should love. They should burn passionately for each other, as if life could never be any better than the moments you live together.
Reviewed by Robert Doyle on May 30, 2014