Charlene Ball, "Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer" (She Writes Press, 2017)

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Emilia Bassano loves many things: music, poetry, Latin, herbs. Born to a family of Italian musicians living in sixteenth-century London, Emilia benefits from early fostering in the household of a countess, where she acquires a love of books along with a top-flight education. A terrible assault leaves Emilia convinced she can never marry, and she becomes the mistress of a much older nobleman---Lord Hunsdon, the son of Mary Boleyn and King Henry VIII. Lord Hunsdon offers security, comfort, love, and protection from being dubbed a "masterless maid," an illegal status in Elizabethan England. Emilia repays him with affection and respect, but it is when she meets the poet and playwright William Shakespeare that she discovers her passion: not only for the poet but for poetry itself. In Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer (She Writes Press, 2017), Charlene Ball builds on the true story of a remarkable woman, one of Europe's early feminists as well as the possible model for the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets---reimagining and enhancing Emilia's biography with her own copious knowledge of the period and the literature. The result is a fascinating glimpse of a world that at times appears reassuringly past and at others all too jarringly present.
C. P. Lesley is the author of seven novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, and--forthcoming in December 2017--The Vermilion Bird), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at

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C. P. Lesley

C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and four other novels. Her latest book, The Merchant's Tale, co-written with P.K. Adams, appeared in November 2023.

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