Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer

Written by Charlene Ball
Review by Kendall Turchyn

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.