dark aemelia book coverReviewed by Meg Massey

Aemelia Bassano is a woman ahead of her time. In the age of Queen Elizabeth, Aemelia knows her own mind and has dreams of becoming a poet. But in Elizabethan England, no man takes Aemelia seriously as a writer. As the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, she commands a certain amount of respect at court. But when Aemelia meets the handsome and intelligent William Shakespeare, she risks everything to begin an affair with the playwright.

In Dark Aemilia, Sally O’Reilly casts Aemelia as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Many have speculated that Aemelia truly was the woman described in his sonnets about the Dark Lady. O’Reilly creates a convincing tale in which Aemelia falls in love with the playwright, becomes pregnant, and must be married to a foolish musician, Alfonso Lanyer, to preserve her reputation. But who is the father of her child?

Taking readers through ten years of Lanyer’s life, O’Reilly’s description of England and the people there is often graphic, though reflective of difficult times. When the plague returns to England, claiming many lives, Aemelia fears the worst. Will she and her son survive? Will she ever be reunited with her one true love? When Aemelia loses faith, she begins to dabble with the old religion, a practice taught to her many years ago. But will this practice help her or hurt those she loves even more?

If you are interested in historical fiction, the supernatural and the Elizabethan period, you will enjoy this story of Shakespeare and the lady that inspired him. Though I found some of the supernatural elements and graphic content disturbing, I did enjoy this author’s interpretation of the identity of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.

This novel contains graphic content, including language, sexuality and violence. It also contains supernatural content.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.