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Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt

The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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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.

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Advance Praise for Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt

“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, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.”— LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.”— KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!”— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.”—KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.”—MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.”—KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.”— STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt’s latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY’S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let’s her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse.”— PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

Dark Lady's Mask by Mary SharrattAbout Dark Lady’s Mask by 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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway of Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt

This giveaway is for one print copy open to the U.S. only.  It ends on May 20, 2016 at midnight pacific time.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.
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Tour Schedule for Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt

Tuesday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 21
Review at A Book Drunkard
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 22
Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 25
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, April 26
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, April 28
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, May 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 4
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 6
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Tuesday, May 10
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 13
Review at First Impressions Reviews
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, May 19
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee

Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt

Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

The Sons of Godwine: Part Two of The Last Great Saxon Earls by Mercedes Rochelle

Publication Date: March 7, 2016
Sergeant Press
eBook & Print; 306 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King’s most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor’s death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn’t particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.

This is a story of Godwine’s family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.

This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor’s reign. Unfortunately, Godwine’s misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha’s disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold’s career was just beginning as his father’s journey was coming to an end.

Harold’s siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig’s case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.

Harold was his mother’s favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig’s vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig’s love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.

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Read Excerpt of Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle


I used to wonder why Harold and I didn’t get along when we were young; in fact, I wasted a lot of time worrying about it. After all, we had a common enemy in our brother Swegn. Swegn came first with our father, no matter what we did to gain his attention. Swegn, Swegn, Swegn. I got so tired of hearing his name all the time, I wanted to scream. It felt like I was always biting back on my anger, and there were times I didn’t know where to turn. 

Swegn knew he was protected, and you can be sure he took advantage of us. He’d steal my things, though in a clever way so I couldn’t prove it. Sometimes I would fight back when he insulted me, though he’d always run to father. “Don’t peck on Swegn” father would shout at me. “Stop bothering him.” And if I didn’t, I knew what would happen. A backhanded slap would follow, even if I was right and Swegn was wrong. 

And it seemed that Harold was always a witness, snickering behind his hand. That made it even worse. I was so mad at him for not standing behind me. It was as though he didn’t care how much I got scolded, just as long as it wasn’t him getting into trouble.

Oh, yes. Swegn was the favorite with our father—not Harold. But it never bothered Harold that father didn’t love him best, because he had mother to turn to. She showered him with attention, and ignored Swegn instead. Although I could tell that Harold was not quite satisfied with his place, he was a lot better off than the rest of us. It seems my parents were both alike in that way: they each favored one son, and one son only. So I naturally turned to Harold, and I can truly say I worshipped him—when I was young, that is. I followed him everywhere, trying to walk like him, talk like him, be like him. And where did it get me? Nowhere.

I think he saw my behavior as competition, which it wasn’t, really, at all. I was just imitating him; I thought he was godlike. His physical perfection was as natural as his easy manner. He had splendid arms and shoulders, sinewy legs, and not an ounce of fat anywhere on his body. He was never nervous, never at a loss for words. But what I remember most was that Harold was so clever with his hands…so strong. He could do anything he wanted, anything at all. Everything came easy to Harold, not like me. I had to struggle to keep up with him. I was always having trouble expressing myself, and I’d just get frustrated and angry, especially when he laughed at me. 

So when he should have appreciated my efforts, instead he did his best to defeat me. He laughed at my clumsy attempts at writing; I was no good at it, and I knew it. He made fun of my speech, my eating habits, my poor archery skills. And when I lashed out at him in anger, Harold beat me into the ground, just for fun. 

Ah, yes. Harold taught me not to admire him. So instead, I decided to best him. I trained in secret, learning how to use my fists, then my sword. Afterwards, when he least expected it, I would attack him, trying to get on top. But I could never win with Harold; he would use some trick or other to get under my defenses, then straddle me on the floor, leering down at me with those perfectly straight teeth. I hated him. I think I wanted to kill him.

So instead of joining together and teaching Swegn a lesson, we spent most of our time fighting with each other. It became a challenge, even a pleasure, to see how I could sting him. Oh, he was quick, all right, but now and then I managed to sneak something past him, catch him making a mistake. Then I would exploit my advantage for all it was worth. I never felt guilty about it, because he deserved everything he got.

It was Harold’s vanity that usually brought him trouble. Mother made him so full of himself, he thought he could do no wrong. So he usually opened his big mouth, interrupting our parents when he wasn’t spoken to, or saying something clay-brained just to hear himself talk. This usually got an unpleasant reaction out of father, who I don’t think really liked him very much.

I remember the time my father came home after King Canute died. His face was so changed I hardly recognized him. We always knew father loved the king, but I never realized how much until then. It was as if he had lost a brother. Well, a brother he loved. For a couple of days we tiptoed around the house, trying not to make too much noise; but Harold, outspoken as ever, thought he had the right to intrude on our father’s grief.

“I don’t understand, father,” he said. “You always said that the Saxons should have a say in their own government. Now that the king is dead, isn’t this our chance to take what is due us?” 

My father raised his head from his hands, looking at Harold so angrily even my brother stepped back a pace. “Get away from me,” he warned. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

Even then, Harold didn’t have the sense to stop. “But Canute was an invader; he imposed Danish rule on the Saxons.”

Father leaped to his feet, eyes flashing. He even knocked the bench over, so violent was his reaction. “He is more Saxon than most of us,” he almost shouted, but his voice broke instead. “In his heart. He loved our country! Why do you think he spent all his time here? Now get out, both of you, and leave me alone!” 

There you are. Once again, I got into trouble because of Harold’s insolence. But this was the first time our father ever told us to go away. I was so angry I took extra revenge, goading Harold until he burst into tears. This shocked me into silence; never had I seen my brother cry. He didn’t have the strength to strike back; he just sat down on the floor and bawled like a baby. We were just boys then, remember. 

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I felt sorry for him, almost as if it was a shame to see him lose his confidence. But when I apologized and put my arms around him, he shrugged me off like I was his worst enemy. That was it. That was the last time I ever felt any concern about his feelings. 

About Mercedes Rochelle

Sons of Godwine by Mercedes RochelleBorn in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

For more information visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway of Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

This giveaway is for one paperback and is open to the U.S. only.  It ends on May 20, 2016 midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Tour Schedule for Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

Monday, April 18
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 20
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 22
Excerpt & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads

Sunday, April 24
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, April 25
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 4
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Thursday, May 5
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, May 13
Interview at Passages to the Past

Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

Michelle Dim-St. PierreThanks to Della Bercovitch of Book Marketing Services, I am giving away five print copies of Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre.

Description of Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre

In a Tel-Aviv hospital during Operation Desert Storm, Sharon Lapidot, a beautiful young nurse, is having an affair with a married doctor.

Sharon’s colorful and exciting life is ultimately destroyed by powerful and eroding mistakes. But her courage and wisdom lead her to an unregretful commitment.

Vividly told, this compelling journey of love and lust, honor and betrayal, loss and redemption, will move you — and perhaps even change you.

Excerpt of Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre

I looked up and saw Dr. Sloan. He was leaning on the counter at the nurses’ station. There was less than two feet of laminated wood between us. His eyes locked on mine. We were so close I could see my reflection in his green-brown eyes. And beyond that I saw and sensed only temptation. I pulled my gaze away and placed the receiver back in its place. It took me a moment to remember that he’d asked me a question.

“That’s what some people say.” I didn’t want to lie, but couldn’t unveil the whole truth either. Let him think what he wished.

I collected my paperwork and was ready to continue my work, leaving the other nurses there to circle like sharks—they wouldn’t let it go. 

“Are you kidding?” one of the nurses said.

“Being in her shoes—it’s impossible not to be in love,” a different nurse said in a malicious voice.

“If you only knew who she’s dating, you would understand,” added another nurse, while passing Dr. Sloan.

I wanted to tell them a little bit about Joel, their hero—to share with them that he was basically good for nothing, that we’d yet to have sex. But how could I—and why should I? Instead, I made eye contact with Dr. Sloan and looked deep into his eyes—I could see the smile hidden there. Does he sense mine? I wondered.

That herd of horny women amused me. They really didn’t care about me, or my love life—they were busy fighting for their own recognition, trying to seize Dr. Sloan’s attention. I felt their jealousy. Their voices had a poisoned pitch. I was amazed at how important I was in their minds, at how much power they gave me, and the endless wasted energy they spent on me.

I focused on Sloan, debating how much attention, if any, he would offer them. But he didn’t, he just asked who was available to assist him with stitching an episiotomy on a post partum woman. They all volunteered except one—“Why don’t you ask the in-house supervisor,” she suggested.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he said with a smirk and turned to me. “Will you?”

 My physical imbalance was no longer a brief crisis—I was attracted to him. “I guess I can,” I said with a winning smile, as I stood and clipped the pager to my pocket. Sloan guided me to the delivery suite and kept his lips sealed.

As I stepped into the room, I saw an exhausted young woman in a gynecological position. Her lower extremities were stretched into cold stirrups—one to the right and one to the left. Her thighs shivered as her muscles grew weak. A green, sterile towel lay over her pubic area down to her perineum, like someone had made an effort to cover her privacy. It was hard to tell if the one who covered her intended to protect the patient from infection or embarrassment. My blood pressure went through the roof.

I was offended by the way the patient had been left. I felt humiliated for her. I assumed that Dr. Sloan was ultimately responsible for that crime and for that I was willing to strangle him. In exchange, I was willing to place him nude in the same position and let him live to tell the tale.

I looked at Dr. Sloan for a split second and started gathering the supplies he needed for the stitching. By the time I passed by him I managed to work up enough anger to almost forget how gorgeous he was. Still, I had to avoid inhaling deeply so that I would not get dizzy from his inviting scent.

“How would you feel to be in her shoes?” I whispered loud enough so he could recognize the mean tone in my voice. I did not pause nor did I wait on his response. I didn’t look at him again until I passed him the second time. “It’s no wonder men cannot understand women and their feelings.” And while passing him for the third time, I did my job and counseled him. “Next time, you should reposition the patient, not leave them in stirrups. I’m sure you know better.”

He walked to the mayo stand, gowned and gloved himself. I tied his gown at the back and then carefully pulled the edge of the sterile cardboard that was attached to the waistline sterile string. While I was holding the cardboard, he circled around, letting the string wrap around his waist. He reached to the far end of the sterile string and pulled it back toward him, leaving me with the cardboard. He was well trained and in seconds tied himself without compromising the sterile field.

He stepped toward the patient and stopped in front of her pelvic area, waiting on me to bring the stool and immobilize it with my foot so that he wouldn’t fall. It was not a gesture—it was part of my job. Finally, he sat, looking like a reprimanded child and didn’t say a word—not to me nor to the patient. He had good skills and completed the stitching quickly. I couldn’t fault him for that part.

After the last stitch, he stood up, stripped his gown and gloves, thanked me, and was ready to leave the room. I looked between him and the patient, hoping he would get the hint. When he didn’t I asked, “Are you deaf or blind?”

He stepped back toward the bed and helped me remove the patient’s legs from the stirrups and extended the bed, allowing her to rest her legs. Then he looked at the patient, reassured her with a smile, and left the room. 

“Here is the call button,” I said to the patient. “If you need anything, push it.” I tied the cord to the bedside rail. “Try to get some rest.”

I finished up my work, dimmed the lights, and exited the room.

Dr. Sloan was at the nurses’ station, chatting with some of the nurses. My feet directed me to the lounge, but my ears were listening to their conversation. Clearly he had shared our incident with the nurses.

“She is tough,” one of them said.

“But she’s good,” another nurse interrupted.

“And fair,” someone chimed in.

Dr. Sloan did not argue. He didn’t say much, though his eyes followed my steps. Disappointment fought relief. Obviously I wouldn’t become one of his favorites. And maybe that was for the best.

About Michelle Dim-St. PierreMichelle Dim-St. Pierre

Michelle Dim-St. Pierre was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, where she spent more than half of her life before relocating to the United States.

 She lived through four wars and served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. Unlike her first year of service in an armored division in the Golan Heights, she spent her second year serving in the medical corps where she interacted directly with the injured soldiers of the Peace of Galilee war and their families. This interaction, along with the exposure to the hospital atmosphere, fascinated Michelle and further touched her heart.

After graduating from nursing school with a BS in Nursing in Tel-Aviv, she practiced internationally for 32 years in various positions in the surgical field and quickly advanced into health care administration. During her career she worked in the Operating Room, Recovery Room, and CCU – along with many other duties.

 Writing was Michelle’s outlet at first, but it soon became her passion. Recently she left nursing and became a full-time writer. Her international background, along with her military and nursing experience is always at the tip of her pen. Her first novel, Pinnacle Lust, starts the Pinnacle trilogy.

 Michelle is a world traveler who enjoys cooking epicurean food and creating original recipes.

Webpage:           http://www.michelledimstpierre.com/

Blog:                   http://www.michelledimstpierre.com/blog

Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/MichelleDimStPierre

Twitter:               https://twitter.com/pinnaclelust

Buy Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre

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Giveaway Pinnacle Lust by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre

This giveaway is worldwide  and ends on February 5, 2016 12 AM pacific.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Michelle Dim-St. Pierre