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The BookBrowse Review

Published May 21, 2014

ISSN: 1930-0018

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In This Edition of
The BookBrowse Review

Highlighting indicates debut books

Editor's Introduction
Hardcovers Paperbacks
First Impressions
Recommended for Book Clubs
Publishing Soon


Historical Fiction

Short Stories/Essays



Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Alternate History


History, Science & Current Affairs

Young Adults



  • Blog:
    Give Your Old Books A New Lease on Life
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    A library is thought in cold storage
Book Jacket

Dark Aemilia
A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady
by Sally O'Reilly
27 May 2014
448 pages
Publisher: Picador
ISBN-13: 9781250048134
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The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth's royal court. The Queen's favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will - or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.

In rich, vivid detail, Sally O'Reilly breathes life into England's first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history. Full of passion and devilish schemes, Dark Aemilia is a tale worthy of the Bard.

"Starred Review. A gripping novel that gives feisty feminist voice to the unknown woman who inspired Shakespeare's sonnets…First-rate historical fiction: marvelously atmospheric and emotionally engaging." - Kirkus

"O'Reilly casts her story with witches, doomed royals, evil courtiers, and star-crossed lovers, as if it were a Jacobean play. But her finest accomplishment is not the tribute she pays to these historical figures, but the bold imagination she displays in bringing them together." - Publisher Weekly

"With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O'Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures." - Library Journal

"I loved this book! Dark Aemilia wears its expert research lightly and is filled with all the passion, drama, and magic of Elizabethan England. Highly recommended." - Paula Brackston, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter and The Midnight Witch

"Dark Aemilia is a magical, ravishing literary masterpiece. Sally O'Reilly is an outstanding storyteller, at once devilish and divine, and her unique, sparkling prose makes every paragraph a delight." - Anne Fortier, author of The Lost Sisterhood and the New York Times bestseller, Juliet

"Sally O'Reilly's novel provides a gorgeous gush of words: earthy, brilliant, succulent. Her scenes give us juicy berries and bloody meat to eat. When did we last savor such a substantial feast? ... Hats off to Sally O'Reilly!" - Sena Jeter Naslund, bestselling author of Ahab's Wife; Adam & Eve; and The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

Sally O'Reilly has received numerous citations for her fiction, which has been shortlisted for the Ian St James Short Story Prize and the Cosmopolitan Short Story Award. A former Cosmopolitan New Journalist of the Year, her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, and the New Scientist. She teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Portsmouth in England. Dark Aemilia is her U.S. debut.

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