Emilia Bassano is known as the first female poet of England. Born to a musician, and raised by a countess, Emilia also moved in the royal circles of England during the reign of Elizabeth I. While there are some known facts about Emilia’s life, there is speculation that Emilia was the “Dark Lady” mentioned in Shakespeare’s sonnets. In Shakespeare’s Lady, Alexa Schnee crafts a believable love story between Emilia and Shakespeare, while holding true to the known facts of Emilia’s life.
Historical novels always interest me, and Shakespeare’s Lady includes fascinating details. I have heard of ladies-in-waiting (most often when singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but I was surprised by some of their expected duties, including their roles as mistresses to the men of the court. For all the talk of Elizabeth being the “Virgin Queen”, there is much evidence to suggest that she had her own relationships and crafted relationships for others. For Emilia Bassano, the queen’s influence on her role as a mistress and wife could have been substantial. As queen, she was viewed as sovereign and appointed by God, and her requests were followed as though they came from God himself. From a 21st century standpoint, this was quite intriguing!
Through the relationship of Emilia and William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Lady explores many details, including Shakespeare’s rise to fame, the role of musicians and actors in the service of the queen, and the building of the Globe theater. Other well known historical characters are included in the story as well, including Sir Frances Drake and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Shakespeare’s Lady is published by Guideposts, so while some of the subject matter is certainly adult in nature, it is handled delicately, without unnecessary intimate details. Although this is a work of fiction, it is a remarkable look at history and an engaging story based on facts. I recommend it!
Lauren is a wife, mother of two, and an avid reader. She blogs at Baseballs and Bows.