May 9, 2016

The Dark Lady's Mask Blog Tour: Review

04_The Dark Lady's Mask_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL
 Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE DARK LADY'S MASK! Today I'll be sharing my review of the book with you - and don't forget to follow the rest of the tour by checking out the schedule at the end of the post!

The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse
Author: Mary Sharratt
Genre: Historical Fiction
02_The Dark Lady's Mask Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book
416 Pages


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.

Advance Praise:

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.” — MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I 

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.” — LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End 

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.” — KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter 

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!” — M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows 

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.” —KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles 

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.” —MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water 

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.” —KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love 

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.” — STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet 

"Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt's latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY'S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let's her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse." — PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

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The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse is a fascinating historical fiction novel that tells the story of Aemilia Bassano Lanier - the little known collaborator and lover of William Shakespeare. Not only does the book talk about Aemilia's writing, her love and then rejection by Shakespeare - it draws a vivid portrait of all women during the Renaissance era. 

I'm not a regular reader of historical fiction, but I do read some especially if the subjects are some of my favorites - Shakespeare being one of them. Being an English major throughout both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I took several courses focused solely on Shakespeare and his works. When I read the description for this novel, I was immediately intrigued because I had never heard of Aemilia Bassano Lanier or her relationship with Shakespeare - business or romantic. I was mesmerized from the opening words of the novel and didn't come out of my bubble until I had completely finished the book. The author's writing is nothing short of amazing - the vivid imagery and detailed descriptions brought the sixteenth century to life right before my eyes in a way I didn't think was possible. I felt as if I was transported back in time and got to experience everything right alongside Aemilia herself. This type of experience doesn't happen very often when I'm reading something I don't know much about - and it rarely occurs when the book isn't written in the first person. Surprisingly, the author's masterful storytelling skills allowed me to really connect with Aemilia and the rest of her world - despite being written in the third person point of view. Everything about the writing and the novel seemed to glide effortlessly together and flowed along so easily and naturally that I didn't get distracted once (another unusual occurrence). The plot itself was intriguing - I loved learning everything I could about Aemilia, her life, her dreams, writing, inspirations, and especially her connections to Shakespeare. I'm not sure if my English degree background or love for the Bard and his works had much impact on my reading experience - but I'm sure it did on some level. I can't think of anything negative to say about the book - every single aspect was incredibly well done and nearly perfect. I don't come across many novels that meet those criteria, so when I do - I know that I've stumbled across an amazingly talented author. That's definitely the case here and I fully intend to read all of the author's other books. I recommend this novel very highly to fans of the genre, along with readers who enjoy stories about famous historical figures, the Renaissance era, or those looking for an amazing book to get lost inside of for a while.

03_Mary SharrattMARY 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.

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Blog Tour Schedule:

Tuesday, April 19 
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish 
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! 

Wednesday, April 20 
Review at A Bookish Affair 
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! 
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation 

Thursday, April 21 
Review at A Book Drunkard 
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair 
Interview at Books and Benches 

Friday, April 22 
Review & Giveaway at History Undressed 

Monday, April 25 
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review 

Tuesday, April 26 
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book 
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books 

Wednesday, April 27 
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews 

Thursday, April 28 
Review at Just One More Chapter 

Friday, April 29 
Review at A Chick Who Reads 

Saturday, April 30 
Review at Queen of All She Reads 

Monday, May 2 
Review at Flashlight Commentary 
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer 

Tuesday, May 3 
Interview at Flashlight Commentary 

Wednesday, May 4 
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5 
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More 

Friday, May 6 
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9 
Review at A Dream within a Dream 

Tuesday, May 10 
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11 
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12 
Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse 

Friday, May 13 
Review at First Impressions Reviews 
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16 
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17 
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18 
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, May 19 
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf 

Friday, May 20 
Review at Broken Teepee  

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