The Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt | Review

The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.


HFVBTBook Details:
  The Dark Lady’s Mask

Author: Mary Sharratt
Genre: Historical Fiction | Series
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published: April 19, 2016
Format: Kindle, 416 pages
Source: Publisher



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FTC Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.


My Take

Drawn to historical fiction for a variety of reasons, Mary Sharratt has touched on one topic I continue to applaud authors for bringing into the light: the voice that women lacked in periods such as the Renaissance.

In The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse, we meet Aemilia Bassano Lanier, a woman of strong opinion and fearless in the face of doing what she is forbidden because she is a woman. As a girl, Aemilia often dressed as a boy to get to do things girls weren’t allowed to do. She definitely was plucky! I like Sharratt’s development of Aemilia’s role and character.

However, I was not so fond of the Shakespeare Sharratt painted for us. I get that he might have been ragged in dress. Writers have never been among the wealthy. Yet, the portrayal of him as a somewhat whiny, child-like man who appeared to use Aemilia disappointed me. Perhaps my love of Shakespeare interfered with my understanding his role in this particular book.

Sharratt’s depiction of the times and place were well written and descriptive. Her characters were life-like and embodied the characteristics of the time. All in all, Sharratt is an excellent writer.

Fans of historical fiction set in the 1500s and/or of the tale of Shakespeare’s muse and who she might be will definitely enjoy The Dark Lady’s Mask. There are several other books which have been written on the same subject which might give contrast and an interesting look at the varying opinions on just who Mr. Shakespeare’s muse was.



Author Bio n Links



Mary Sharratt, Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Connect with Mary here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Follow the rest of Mary’s tour by clicking here.



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