Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady” as Want to Read:
Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  527 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews

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 b
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Picador (first published 2014)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 24, 2016 Barb rated it did not like it
Aemilia Bassono, enjoyed the advantages of being mistress to Lord Hunsdon for years, he was an excellent protector and provider. During their relationship she had an affair with William Shakespeare. Later she marries her cousin Alfonso Lanyer, a poor life partner, and raises her son far from the glitter and prosperity of court.

I’m trying to figure out why this novel didn’t work for me. I love fiction set during the Elizabethan period especially if it includes the plague, which this novel does.
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Sally O'Reilly's Dark Aemilia is unlike any Shakespeare inspired piece I've ever encountered. Offering a unique twist on the Bard's Dark Lady, I found the tale bold and imaginative. It is rough in several places and ultimately fell into the 'not for me' category, but that does not mean it was entirely without merit.

Though they share remarkably few scenes, the tortured relationship O'Reilly crafted between Will and Aemilia h
Apr 14, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
Aemilia Bassano was born in 1569, the illegitimate child of a musician in the court of Queen Elizabeth. She was raised - and educated – in the household of the Countess of Kent. When she grew up she became part of the Queen’s household, and the mistress of Henry Carey, the Lord Chamberlain. Aemila kept those positions for many years, but she lost them when she fell pregnant; she was cast off and married off – to the lowliest of court musicians. He – Alfonso Lanyer- was quick to spend the dowry t ...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Little does she know it, but author Sally O'Reilly wrote this book just for me. Set in London during the late 1500s and the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dark Aemilia has it all: Shakespeare, plague, sorcery, witchcraft, witty dialogue, great writing and hot sex scenes. I mean come on! Sally O'Reilly, I love you!

And the cover, oh the cover, simply stunning.

Based on a real person, Aemilia is an inspirational woman born before her time, thought to be Shakespeare's dark muse, struggling with the role
J. Else
Apr 25, 2014 J. Else rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
Overview – “Dark Aemilia” is a story about a strong and passionate woman, is extremely well researched, and proposes that perhaps Aemilia Bassano was the woman behind Shakespeare’s musings. However, I found few good character moments in the storyline and felt that more detail should have been given to the process of Aemilia’s writing craft. I was so excited to read this story but was sadly let down.

Part 1: Passion – There is no depth or emotion. The characters continually jump into bed together
The Lit Bitch
May 27, 2014 The Lit Bitch rated it it was ok
I was expecting something entirely different with this novel than what I actually read. I thought this was going to be a novel about love and magic in Queen Elizabeth’s court.

Yes it was that….sort of, but it seemed more like an erotic historic novel. Aemilia could have been interesting if she wasn’t so crass. I normally don’t shy away from graphic erotica or colorful language when it adds something to the story or character, but in this novel I just didn’t think it was necessary and didn’t reall
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Jul 20, 2014 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Aemilia Bassano was a published poet, a major feat for a woman of her time (this story takes place during the height of the Elizabethan era). She also may have been one of the muses for the one and only William Shakespeare. The operative phrase here is "may have been." In this book, O'Reilly explores who Aemilia was and makes a conjecture as to what her relationship may be have been with Shakespeare. It is a fascinating look, which will interest my fellow historical fiction readers.

May 29, 2014 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A well researched Shakespearean era tale that has as much tragedy, revenge, love and lust as can be found in any play by the Bard himself. Wonderful descriptive passages made the scenes come alive to the point that you could almost smell the festering bile that filled the streets. Sadly, for me, this was a story that had so much potential but felt too choppy and underdeveloped in many places. Story arcs would be initiated and then abandoned for chapters at a time only to be taken up again briefl ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Helen rated it liked it
Dark Aemilia is a fictional account of the life of Aemilia Lanyer, one of several women whose names have been suggested as possible candidates for the 'Dark Lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets. She was also one of the first women in England to have a book of poetry published.

Born Aemilia Bassano, the illegitimate daughter of a Venetian musician at the court of Elizabeth I, Aemilia becomes the mistress of the much older nobleman Lord Hunsdon. When she discovers that she is pregnant, she is forced to l
Mar 24, 2014 Lucinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
A boldly imaginative romp through Shakespearian past that’s richly evocative

An exquisitely sumptuous story that’s as acutely imagined as Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth. Seeped in authenticity and delicious detail, this spellbinding novel of Witchcraft and poetry takes you on an unforgettable journey. The intensely passionate and compelling saga of Aemilia Lanyer {the ‘dark lady’ of Shakespeare’s Sonnets} is a romantic tragedy, underpinned by extensive historical research and depth.
This stor
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This bawdy, dramatic, and atmospheric historical novel brings to life Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, a nearly forgotten Elizabethan poet -- the first woman in England to be published -- who, in O'Reilly's hands, becomes a lover and muse to William Shakespeare -- the inspiration of his Dark Lady sonnets.

Set between 1592 and 1616 in London, the novel is narrated by Aemilia. The young mistress of an older courtier, Aemilia is renown at court for her wit and beauty, and she catches the attentions of playwr
Sep 10, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
In language that has the feel of Elizabethan times, O'Reilly portrays Aemilia as a whore that has a short time period with Shakespeare and the effects this has on her life. Effects? She has his child Henry to raise, she pines for him and hates what he lets happen to her. Aemilia is not only a whore but aspires to be a poet and writer. Her life is miserable because during the time of the book, 1592-1616, women don't count. She is a feminist before they were acknowledged. She thinks and knows that ...more
It’s very rare that I come across a book in which there was nothing about it that I can speak kindly of and prevent it from getting a one star rating. I wish there was something positive that I can say about Dark Aemilia but when the main emotion you feel when you finished reading the book is relief, it pretty much sums up what you thought about the book.

From the beginning, the book failed to capture and retain my attention. Which is disappointing considering it was a story involving real histo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2014 Albert rated it really liked it
Title - Dark Aemilia

Author - Sally O'Reilly

Summary -

It is England, 1592, and there is turmoil in the land. The church divided. Politics, lies and treachery fills the court of the Queen Elizabeth; so that even her favorite, the beautiful Aemilia Bassano, mistress and whore to the aged Lord Hunsdon finds herself in peril. Into this time and into the life of Aemilia, comes the young and gifted playwright, William Shakespeare.

But there is far more to Aemilia than there is to most of the women of th
Another book that did not work for me. Dark Aemilia is a fictional portrait of Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, woman poet and it speculates that she was Shakespeare's dark lady. Among other things, it also supposes that she birthed his child, saved it from the plague by calling upon a demon and that she wrote Macbeth and later cursed it with the same demon.

I don't know. It had the makings of a good book - I mean, Shakespeare, the lady poet and the plague. Even the demon would have been good, had I not
Jul 02, 2016 Christine rated it it was amazing
Historians have long speculated about Aemelia Bassano. Courtier, Marrano-Jew, half breed, bastard and mistress to Queen Elizabeth's cousin Henry Carey, she may or may not be the 'Dark Lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets. This book takes the position that not only was Aemila the Dark Lady, but she had many dealings with Will (some good, some very diabolical...) and was a major influence in his life and work.

Author Sally O'Reilly says: "I wanted to write about Shakespeare's London as if I was there. I
Blodeuedd Finland
The book takes place during different important years during her life.

Aemilia is first the mistress of a powerful man and she had everything. She is happy with her lot in life. But the title already says is and the passion she and Shakespeare share drives them mad for each other. That is the first part of her life. Meeting Shakespeare, and losing it all.

The second part takes place when she is married to a gambler and her old life is long gone. She has a son. She still wants to write. But this wa
Jun 30, 2014 Bekka rated it did not like it
Shelves: uk, historical, romance
Thanks to Edelweiss and Picador for early access to this title.

Meh. Well, one good thing about the book is the cover is kind of cool. This is not a well-written book. I got really tired of the main character telling us how well-educated and intelligent she was, only to have her actions show her to be a complete idiot. I started to dislike her shortly after starting the book, and she never redeemed herself in my eyes. The love affair at the beginning was completely contrived, and very unconvincin
Kirstian Semprevivo
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady is a beautifully written historical fiction novel. I have always loved things related to Shakespeare so Dark Aemilia captured me from the start. Sally O'Reilly brought to life a dark & magical story of Aemilia Bassano & William Shakespeare. This story has romance, passion, dark magic, & a little poetry (of course).

**Mature content throughout the story.

I really enjoyed reading Dark Aem
Nov 17, 2015 Josie rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Aemilia is a strong character, and most of the time I enjoyed her narrative, though having some input from Will would have been great. The language is gorgeous and lush, which contrasts sharply with the moments of erotica... it felt a bit crass and lowbrow. I suppose Will would have loved it. I ended up feeling sorry for him, because Aemilia did things that were so irrational. She was stubborn but not always compassionate and struck me as somewhat entitled and a 'taker'. Anne ...more
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
I won this book from GoodReads.

I liked it very much. I wish I liked Aemilia more though. I found myself feeling too often that her stubborn arrogance in her life choices made her circumstances more difficult than they already would be, for a woman in the 1600's.

How different her life might have been, if she had chosen to be kind, a little less obstinate. Maybe she was cursed, maybe she really wanted the outcomes of her choices.

It was well written, and nicely told.

I am glad that I read it.
Katia Barbier-Puente
Nov 22, 2015 Katia Barbier-Puente rated it did not like it
I just could not finished this book.
I love historical novels especially because they teach me so many things I don't know. Being French, i must admit I do not know much about Shakespeare's life and had never heard of Aemilia.
Unfortunately, this book did not meet my expectations : it is full of sex scenes, I did not care about and the language quite disturbed me.
Jun 24, 2014 Alyson rated it really liked it
Descriptions of London in 1660 so vivid that I spend the past few days worried about getting the plague or stepping in the filth of the streets. The smells even seemed real. Yet I read on because I like the feminist slant of the main character.
Sepideh Sahebsara
Mar 16, 2014 Sepideh Sahebsara rated it really liked it
aha coooool
Tanya Pickles ( Motif )
Its soo long.
Amie Bjorklund
Dec 08, 2016 Amie Bjorklund rated it it was ok
I love historical fiction and am an avid Shakespeare reader/scholar as well as in love with all things English History based. I know my way around the 1500s and the books written about those years across the pond.

However, this book was unreadable to me. I didn't care for her pacing or storytelling. I appreciate the author's research and care taken. But I had been waiting to start this book and can't bring myself to finish it.

I wish other readers well and I applaud you at least trying it, but I w
Jan 15, 2017 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sex, Shakespeare, history , magic and even a Carey featured. What's not to like? Thoroughly enjoyable account of the life of what could have been Shakespeare's, 'dark lady'.
Hannah Vincent
Jul 29, 2014 Hannah Vincent rated it it was amazing
This is a book about women and men, about sorcery and religion and about writing. Written in five sections: Passion, Prophecy Pestilence, Philosophy and Poetry, it is five books in one. The erotic first section beautifully introduces the detail and physicality of the age and of O’Reilly’s writing. ‘Will’ is suitably intense in his passion and Aemilia a vibrant heroine, tragically ‘out of her time’. As well as Aemilia’s social and writerly frustrations there are brilliantly truthful accounts of c ...more
Caroline Wilson
For more historical fiction reviews, check out my blog, Caroline Wilson Writes.

I should preface this review by saying that I stopped reading about 1/2 way through. It's not because it wasn't a good book. But I was thoroughly disturbed by a chaotic section of the novel involving black magic. The description of the novel mentioned that the main character would end up dabbling in the dark arts, and so I expected this to some extent. I did not expect how uneasy it would make me. So if you are a sen
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Queen Elizabeth's Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I
  • The Queen's Rivals
  • Mistress of Mourning
  • The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence
  • Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart
  • The Queen's Secret
  • Music for My Soul
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony
  • The Tutor
  • The Harlot's Tale (Midwife Mysteries, #2)
  • The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
  • The Study of Murder (Muirteach MacPhee Mystery #3)
  • Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames (The Puritan Chronicles, #1)
  • An Untitled Lady
  • Unexpected Gifts
  • Revenge and Retribution (The Graham Saga #6)
  • Banquet of Lies (Regency London, #2)
  • Queen's Gambit (The Tudor Trilogy, #1)
Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

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 Sci
More about Sally O'Reilly...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »