Title: Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady
Author: Sally O'Reilly
Publisher: Picador (Macmillan)
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Acquired Via: Historical Fiction Blog Tours
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.
I have never read anything by Aemilia Lanyer that I can recall, but I was interested in Sally O'Reilly's Dark Aemilia because of the Elizabethan setting. While I enjoyed the setting and Aemilia as a character, I must warn you that the book had some fairly graphic scenes that I found difficult to read.
The Aemilia portrayed in Dark Aemilia is the kind of character that I like to read. She had a lot of depth, and while being a creature of her time period, she strove to rise above her circumstances. There are some questionable things that happened later in the novel, but people were superstitious in that time period. The use of the paranormal made sense in setting the mood for the novel, and Aemilia's usage of it helped develop her character.
I do want to touch on the graphic nature of Dark Aemilia. I like to think that I'm not prudish, but there was a lot of... Well, you get the idea. There is one scene where a character is essentially raped that almost made me put down the book. I did step away from it for a few days. I am aware the sex is used fairly often in historical novels, be they considered "romance" or not, but the sexual atmosphere of Dark Aemilia was not for me.
That being said, I enjoyed the aspects of the novel that did not involve the various characters making the beast with two backs. (See the Shakespearean reference there? *nudges you*) The writing was gorgeous and O'Reilly made it easy for me to imagine myself in the time period. And if I was still in college and obsessed with highbrow writing, I would have been in hog heaven with Dark Aemilia. There was a lot of slang from the turn of the seventeenth century and it kept me on my toes.
If you're looking for a clever historical fiction novel with a touch of supernatural and don't mind a little graphic sex, I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy Dark Aemilia. The writing is beautiful, and Aemilia is a fascinating creature to observe.
Be sure to also check out Sally's guest post featured on Bibliophilia, Please HERE!
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About the Author
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.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing That I received a copy of the novel from the publisher through Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me.