Dark Lady

Elizabeth Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, The Sixteenth Century Leave a Comment

Title: Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer

Author: Charlene Ball

Publisher: She Writes Press

Copyright: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1631522284


Format: Paperback, 300 Pages

Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Biographical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Inspired by Real Historical Figures

Price: $9.49 [Kindle], $9.49 [Nook], $9.99 [Apple Books]


Emilia Bassano has four strikes against her: she is poor, beautiful, female, and intelligent in Elizabethan England. To make matters worse, she comes from a family of secret Jews. When she is raped as a teenager, she knows she probably will not be able to make a good marriage, so she becomes the mistress of a much older nobleman. During this time she falls in love with poet/player William Shakespeare, and they have a brief, passionate relationship—but when the plague comes to England, the nobleman abandons her, leaving her pregnant and without financial security.

In the years that follow, Emilia is forced to make a number of difficult decisions in her efforts to survive, and not all of them turn out well for her. But ultimately, despite the disadvantaged position she was born to, she succeeds in pursuing her dreams of becoming a writer—and even publishes a book of poetry in 1611 that makes a surprisingly modern argument for women’s equality.


It is the height of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, a celebrated golden age. The seven-year-old Emilia Bassano is sent away from her mother to be entrusted to the care of the Countess of Kent, where she will be raised with propriety. Not long after that day, Emilia blossoms into a young woman who is a lover to two men, one of whom is William Shakespeare, the Queen’s playwright and poet. In time, Emilia becomes a poetess herself, something that is unusual in the Elizabethan era. Suffice it to say, Emilia, being of questionable birth, is an oddity in her own time.

Dark Lady is a window through which readers can witness the lost wonders of the Elizabethan world. In the pages of this book, Elizabethan England comes entirely to life, from the intrigue at court to the horror of the plague. Through it all, Emilia proves to be a strong-willed woman who survives even the deception and betrayal of those closest to her. Dark Lady, albeit beautifully told and masterfully written, is also thoroughly dark in tone, and it left me with a heavy feeling at its conclusion. However, if you enjoy the Tudor era, this is most definitely a worthwhile read: engrossing and captivating from start to finish.


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