**Named One of the Best Books of the Year by the St. Paul Pioneer Press
“An absorbing bildungsroman that grapples with strikingly contemporary issues of gender and religious identification”—New York Times Book Review
“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may—or may not—be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.”—Margaret George, best-selling author of Elizabeth I
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—and then a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.
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. 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 idea of a smart, beautiful, artistic woman telling Shakespeare, ‘We shall write comedies, you and I’ is as heady as the elderflower wine Aemilia’s household staff brews.”—Washington Post
“Atmospheric, well-researched, carefully plotted…and, like Shakespeare’s plays, chock-full of equal parts mirth and pith to please all.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune