Review by Ann McDonald
A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together.
Our heroine is Katherine de L’Isle, an intelligent well-read widow who is sheltered by her beloved uncle Sir Edward, who teaches her to read and write the classics in literature and she has a great facility for it, most unusual for a woman of that time to be educated. She lives with Sir Edward and his extended family in Lufanwal House in Lancashire. Edward has presented Katherine with presentable suitors, offering the penniless girl a small dowry but she declines.
Katherine lives in a time of great tension in English history as there is war being waged by the Protestant Crown, aka Elizabeth the Virgin Queen, against the Catholic houses, charges being brought against the head of households, charges of treason, with lands and heads taken without compunction. Edward knows his vast holdings are in the eye of the Queen so he takes refuge abroad to protect his fortune and family, a move Katherine in particular takes very hard.
Enter Will Shakespeare, a tutor hired to teach the boys in the family while Kate takes care of the girls. It doesn’t take long for Katherine to fall very hard for Will and he uses her knowledge of the classics to write his poetry and she guides him in many aspects that he is ignorant of. There is undeniable chemistry between the two and at times, I was perplexed trying to figure out Will’s feelings. However, it rolls through the drama like a train and you’re hauled along with them.
Author Andrea Chapin draws her characters well and her background is excellent. The midsummer night party will have you shaking your head, cheeky girl! I had great fun sorting out what Chapin wrote as it could be related to the body of Shakespeare’s work. This was a great first novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s definitely going on my keeper shelf. Well worth a re-read down the line. Highly recommended.
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