Blog Book Tour | “The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary Sharratt

Posted Wednesday, 24 August, 2016 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Dark Lady’s Mask” direct from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Why I wanted to read this novel about William Shakespeare:

Ahead of sharing my love of Shakespeare, I am celebrating the return of being able to read a novel of Mary Sharratt for review on Jorie Loves A Story! Whilst I was a 1st Year Book Blogger (observed my 3rd blog birthday earlier this month on the 6th of August), I had the pleasure of joy reading Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen} as my debut review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in November, 2013! The novel introduced me to an enriched version of reading biographies – an introduction that would carry me forward into the wonderful world of what I refer to as ‘Biographical Historical Fiction’; a mainstay of my reading queues! As routed through this category of interest!

From that foundation, I started to seek out traditional biographies and memoirs, under the new vein of interest called ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ where the stories are threaded through an emotional contextual core of narrative. For you see, if I hadn’t first read Illuminations all the lovelies I’ve been discovering since might not have alighted in my hands to read. Mary Sharratt truly opened my mind and eyes to how a story could be told whilst peering back into the historical past through a living history of a person who once lived. Her style of the craft is quite acutely realistic for the time periods she’s exploring; she has a conviction of setting with a lifeblood of drawing characters out of the wells of history to give us a resounding portrait of ‘who once lived’ can live once again in our own imaginations.

You see, I fell in love with reading Shakespeare when I was fourteen; prior to that year, (as a freshman in high school) I knew of the Bard far more than I had read his works. I was smitten by the idea of what a Shakespearean play would contain but I had not started reading his works until it became required reading. Ironic, no? Of those readings (Romeo & Juliet & Julius Caesar), it was my readings of Caesar that staid with me the most! I liked the tenacity of the piece and the guttingly humanistic emotional tides ebbing in and out of the realisation of how the conspirators befell a leader. There was such a lot of dramatic eclipse in that back-story, I daresay, right then and there, I should have realised how much I would come to appreciate reading Historical Fiction! If only hindsight were available,..

I was gifted a portable collection of Shakespeare’s works for my four and twenty birthday, a fact that isn’t lost on me now that I’m in the latter years of my twentytens; of which selections of plausible readings are listed on my own Classics Club List where they lie in wait for me to soak inside their stories. It isn’t that I have balked at reading more Shakespeare, it’s the mere fact I simply haven’t felt in ‘the mood’ to re-enter his works. There are moments where I distinctively feel literature is based on our moods; this clearly is one of them! Another example would be my distance from the ghost stories of Heather Graham; for me, those require a certain atmosphere to enjoy (i.e. thunderstorms).

As so much has become disputed and/or proved in regards to Shakespeare’s legacy and identity, I felt it was proper time to delve into a portion of the history surrounding him I haven’t yet learnt of first-hand. This is where reading Biographical HistFic is especially fun for me! I get to tuck inside the research and the visionary plausibilities of where known fact and supposition reside to paint an image of ‘what could have been’ and very much could honestly be the living testament of a person who lived so very long ago!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Blog Book Tour | “The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary SharrattThe Dark Lady's Mask

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.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9780544300767

on 19th April, 2016

Pages: 416

Published ByHoughton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHCo)

Converse via: #TheDarkLadysMask, #Shakespeare + #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback & Ebook

Read about Aemilia Bassano Lanier via Poetry Foundation

Read Ms Sharratt’s blog post about The Dark Lady’s Mask via Feminism & Religion

About Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

MARY 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.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

My Review of The Dark Lady’s Mask:

The stage is set as so it should be with more mystery than mirth of disclosure; where the Lady beseeches our attention at the behest of interest to know more about her is what gives the folly to follow her story! I nearly smirked through the Prelude, as she was portrayed as a woman who knew how her peers were viewing her and yet, she did not let it sway her independence nor what she considered right for her to entertain in her life. Her maid I think felt otherwise, as reflected so plainly, but here, we see an interesting side of her character; years after her tale apparently concludes where all is not quite masked outside of our view.

Aemilia was her father’s daughter in every sense of the word; she idolised him and looked to him for teaching her about the world whilst hoping he’d grant her a note towards his private thoughts as well. She loved the way in which the Italian language honeyed through his stories and how his words soothed her as if love itself was wrapping round her heart with each breath he took. Her entire world was spent in a loving home environment, a bit naive about the world outside but full of the light and joy of a happy home life to grant her aptitude to dream about her future. She might have been a young child, but the language of poets had found her before she could conceive of a way to barter a livelihood out of the poetry she was predestined to create.

Although a lot was kept from her knowledge in childhood, Aemilia and her sister Angela were no worse for wear; even though her sister understood far more than she and even attempted to try to soften the harsher bits of life from her innocent heart. Their father (adopted into their life; as Angela’s paternity belonged to another) only wanted what was best for them without a smirch against their character or their person. He believed in the goodness in people and of living a life both honourable and of respect. Their age of time was casting a few stones against propriety but as far as their father was concerned, these were not the affairs in which his daughters would succumb. Unfortunately for him, not all dangers are easily able to be ferreted out on sight alone.

The sisters were separated by individual fates and the death of their beloved father; an event that marked a fixture in young Aemilia’s mind as the point in which she was given freedom to observe life amongst the well travelled intellectuals of a class above her own station. Her own life was now transitioning into something else entirely new and undreamt of previously. She could not realise then what she would understand later, of how uniquely what you wish for can sometimes overstep your intentions lateron.

The saddest moment for me was watching the choices Aemilia had to make out of necessity and out of survival. She was daring to be bold at a time in her life she barely was of the understanding of what her actions and forwardness would produce, but she thankfully trusted someone who would temper his own regards for her until she was ready to fully embrace what she was doing. This was another transitional period for her, where she knew she had to be more than she felt and better than she could imagine for herself; a time where she learnt to keep her ‘mask’ front and center.

There were small foreshadows etched into the fabric of how the story was told – little hintings towards where you could nearly see how Shakespeare could have been conceived out of the pen of a woman. If this was prescribed this way ahead of time or organically knitted into the tapestry of the narrative itself is unknown but what remains is a bit of a glimpse towards seeing how the stories so very known could have been scripted long before they ever graced a printed page! There was irony in the humour of Aemilia’s will to see her life not as it was lived but how it could be viewed from an outside perspective. She had a particular way of re-seeing her own life through a creative lens to where you could foretell the undercurrent direction of the novel. It was very well executed, as it was subtle to those who are not as familiar with Shakespeare’s tone and creative stroke of thought; but for those of us who are a bit familiar (or justly so) you were treated to seeing how Sharratt was crafting the tale.

The greatest travesty of all is how through love and passion, the poems and stories came to speak to Aemilia’s muse. She created tales out of everything she internalised and felt, creating realistic chapters of real people she wanted others to feel a connection too as they met them. At the same time, she was caught up in the snarl of believing that if you earnest proceeded forward in love and believed in love out-winning all else, true happiness could one day be yours to claim. The sad bit here is that her life was marred and marked by the empty promises fuelled out of love and of the trust she misplaced in the men she kept to close to inflict harm to her soul.

It did not surprise me she was constantly finding herself betrayed and cast out from the hopes she had long since believed would carry her forward through a future she never felt was on solid ground. Her life was lived with one tenuous step after another, always striving to right the sails but never fully understanding how to stand independent without the fault of trusting her heart. Whether or not, this account stands for historical accuracy within the pathos of what is still being debated today, doesn’t discredit this work of fiction. If anything, it strikes to prove how extraordinary a singular life can inspire another creative centuries from it’s own lifespan.

I was caught up in the current of how fluid Ms Sharratt composed this novel and how she worked the story-line through the mind of a poetess. She truly championed the will of a poet and of a creative seeking to find their own way to express their creativity whilst proving that finding one’s way in life isn’t as easily to understand. Ms Sharratt will remain a favourite of mine to read, if only to see how her own mind fashions itself around thought, theory, inspiration and the fragility of where history and time become entwined as one. I will definitely savour the time I spend within The Dark Lady’s Mask the second time I read it, as it is not one you wish to put down in haste!

On why I love reading a novel by Mary Sharratt:

Ahead of expressing my continued enjoyment of reading the novels of Ms Sharratt, I wanted to mention that I cannot quite believe nearly three years has passed between my first reading and my second of her collective works! I felt for sure by now, I would have had the pleasure of reading the Daughters of the Witching Hill which was the second of her works I had aimed to read prior to any others. Truly time can disappear right in front of us and alas, I became caught up in the story ‘behind’ Shakespeare’s muse instead! This was a story I felt I would appreciate reading and am very blessed to have been able to jump on board the blog tour to celebrate it’s find!

I knew I would find the narrative an eloquent historical tome of insight on behalf of what I know of Sharratt’s writings; she fuses so much in such a short expanse of the story, you fully live within their pages. Her narrative has a way of not just transporting you back into the 16th Century but allowing you a bit of grace to flex your mind around what living in the 16th Century would be like from a sensory perception of insight. She taunts what you presume to be true with what is known about the century, giving you much more of a grounded respite than a flowery historical. This felt authentic to the era but also, to how the world would have been viewed during the different stages of Aemilia’s life.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT

Follow the Virtual Road Map by visiting the blog tour route:

The Dark Lady's Mask blog tour via HFVBTs.
 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Follow my bookish journey:

{subscribe in my blog’s footer}

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Dark Lady’s Mask”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Mary Sharratt, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.

Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Ruminations and Impressions Banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.

Comments via Twitter:

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

read more >> | Visit my Story Vault of Book Reviews | Policies & Review Requests | Contact Jorie


Posted Wednesday, 24 August, 2016 by jorielov in 16th Century, Aemilia Bassano Lanier, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, British Literature, Classical Literature, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Historical Mystery, Historical Romance, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, William Shakespeare

All posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary!
I try to visit your blog in return as I believe in ‘Bloggers Commenting Back
(which originated as a community via Readers Wonderland).

Comments are moderated. Once your comment is approved for the first time, your comments thereafter will be recognised and automatically approved. All comments are reviewed and continue to be moderated after automated approval. By using the comment form you are consenting with the storage and handling of your personal data by this website.

Once you use the comment form, if your comment receives a reply (this only applies to those who leave comments by email), there is a courtesy notification set to send you a reply ticket. It is at your discretion if you want to return to re-respond and/or to continue the conversation established. This is a courtesy for commenters to know when their comments have been replied by either the blog's owner or a visitor to the blog who wanted to add to the conversation. Your email address is hidden and never shared. Read my Privacy Policy.

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)