His Dark Lady
Publisher: Bantam Press
London, 1583. When young, aspiring playwright William Shakespeare encounters Lucy Morgan, one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, the two fall passionately in love. He declares Lucy the inspiration for his work, but what secret is Will hiding from his muse? Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secret - and one that could destroy her world if exposed...
Set in the 1580s when Queen Elizabeth was aging fast, this is an intriguing mix of politics, spy thriller and romance. There are three main storylines that intertwine. Elizabeth is an aging monarch terrified of losing those she loves but still unable to commit. Her throne is being threatened by Catholic plots within England and by Spanish ambition abroad. I loved this portrayal of an older woman who can’t forget the love she has for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and is bitterly jealous of his wife and child but at the same time is utterly unable to give him what he wants. Many books portray the younger Elizabeth and her route to the throne but this picture of a Queen with very human failings and faults.
Working to help secure her throne is one of Walsingham’s spy’s Master Goodluck – who is anything but lucky. He goes undercover as a Catholic priest and comes across betrayal within the spy-ring. His adventure is the most adventurous – in fact he seems to be chased or fighting most of the time. The final thread is Lucy Morgan, the black skinned court singer who captures the eye and lust of a certain Mr Will Shakespeare. I have to admit of all the characters Lucy frustrated me the most. She throws herself into a relationship with Will, with little thought and on very little time spent together. I wanted her to have a little backbone and not act so foolish! Especially as Will does not behave towards her particularly well – despite getting upset when people call her a whore, he does seem to treat her as such. That said, Lucy’s naivety is understandable and most of the blame must be put on the fair-weather player himself, Mr Shakespeare. I just wanted to protect Lucy from him!
The romance may have fallen a little flat for me, but luckily there is plenty else to relish. I loved the politics and emotional tempests of the Queen. I enjoyed the action and spy elements of Master GoodLuck. And the writing was wonderfully atmospheric and places you right in the middle of sixteenth century London. There is a lot of background knowledge of the theatres and London’s Cheapside at that time which helps build a picture of the era without overwhelming.
Recommended for fans of Phillippa Gregory and Anne O’Brien. 8 out of 10
PS come back tomorrow for a chance to read a wonderful guestpost from the author herself, Victoria Lamb plus I have 3 copies of His Dark Lady to giveaway!!