In Shakespeare's Lady, Emilia Bassano is one of the most dazzling ladies at court when she meets the little-known playwright William Shakespeare. Shakespeare sees the world like no one ever has before, and despite everything -- his wife in Stratford-Avon, Emilia's husband and young son, and the will of the fiery and unpredictable queen -- they fall in love. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and the Virgin Queen does not take lightly to her ladies straying. These star-crossed lovers must fight for their love -- and, eventually, their lives. Meanwhile, William, courting the queen's favor for his new theater, pens some of the most memorable stories ever written, and encourages Emilia to write; he helps her compose, and eventually steals, a little bedtime story she calls A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In the tradition of Jane Austen Ruined My Life and The Other Boleyn Girl, this is a breathtaking, emotionally rich story spun out of historical fact. From the plague-ridden streets of London to the throne room of Greenwich Court to the stage of The Globe Theater, this is a meticulously researched and gorgeously written story about grace, forgiveness, and the forbidden love between the greatest poet the world has ever known and the woman who inspired him.
Alexa Schnee won the Mount Hermon Writers Conference "Most Promising New Writer" at the age of 18 and debuts with this novel. The strength of the writing and character development, the extensive research that is well used to captivate the reader rather than bore them, and the mystery surrounding William Shakespeare's Dark Lady sonnets, all come together for a novel that rivals that of well-established authors in the industry. I really enjoyed this book and this is undoubtedly a stellar beginning to what looks to be a bright future ahead for this young author.
I am only marginally knowledgeable about the Elizabethan Era and was quite captivated by the wealth of history I gleaned from the pages of this book. Delving into The Royal Court during the reign of Elizabeth I, with all its mystery and behind the scenes machinations, was fascinating and I found it both compelling and appalling. How lives were changed for better or worse at the whim of the Queen is almost beyond what I can fathom, and makes me more than thankful that I live in the 21st century and miles away from any monarch.
While the subject of adultery was prevalent throughout the book and central to the story line, and there are scenes which we "know" things are going on, they are written with a very light touch and are done in good taste. That being said, I don't in any way condone adultery, but I don't think the focus of the novel is just the issue of adultery itself, but with the internal anguish that Emilia struggles with as she is involved in two adulterous relationships - one out of duty to the Queen and one of her own choosing - and the regrets that those choices caused. I wouldn't necessarily call this "Christian Fiction" because while Emilia did have those regrets, unfortunately it didn't seem like she was very sorry for the choices she made.
If you're looking for an historical novel that is light on romance and a Christian message, but strong on the history behind the Elizabethan Court and its link to William Shakespeare, then look no further than this intriguing debut novel by Alexa Schnee.
Side note: Be aware that there were two mild profanities in the uncorrected proof...which may or may not be in the final published copy.
An uncorrected proof was provided by Guideposts/Summerside Press in exchange for my honest review.
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