Five Women Forgotten by History by Sally O'Reilly + 5 Copy Giveaway of Dark Aemilia #HFVBTBlogTour

Please welcome author Sally O'Reilly to the blog today! Sally is currently on tour with HF Virtual Book Tours and today I have a fabulous guest post to share with you, plus five chances to win your own copy of Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady!

Five Women Forgotten by History

by Sally O’Reilly

How much do you know about the lives of women in the past? Possibly less than you think. Until I began work on a novel about Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’, I had never heard of the poet Aemilia Lanyer. She is just one of the many extraordinary women whose names have been almost forgotten by history – and one of the five examples listed below.

1. Trota of Salerno was a 12th century Italian medical practitioner. Her essay ‘On Treatments for Women’ was included in the Trotula, a famous early medical treatise, and for some time ‘Trotula’ was thought to be her name. There are few surviving examples of her work but we do know that she wrote about a wide variety of medical subjects, including infertility, menstrual disorders, make-up and snake bites. Her medical writing was lost until the 1980s, when it was rediscovered by the medieval history scholar John F. Benton.

2. Aemilia Bassano Lanyer was the first woman to be published professionally as a poet in England. She was born to a family of Venetian musicians who played at the court of Henry VIII. At 17, she became the mistress of the Lord Chamberlain, and was married off to a cousin when she became pregnant. In 1611, she published her proto feminist poetry collection: ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’, which includes a poem suggesting that Eve should not have taken the blame for the Fall of Man. She could also be the ‘Dark Lady’ to whom Shakespeare dedicated his later sonnets.

3. Maria Anna Mozart was the elder sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. When she was seven, her father Leopold started teaching her the harpsichord, and she excelled as a child musician. Leopold took both her and Wolfgang around 18th century Europe, displaying their talents to the great and good. But when Maria grew older, it was Wolfgang who took centre stage. There is evidence that she also wrote musical compositions: letters from her brother mention these. Sadly, none have survived.

4. Mary Elizabeth Bowser was a freed slave who worked as a Union spy during the American Civil War in the 19th century. Bowser was highly intelligent and had a photographic memory. Working with the abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew, she posed as Ellen Bond, a dim-witted servant, and was employed in the household of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. Black slaves and servants were treated as if they were invisible, and she was able to report back on conversations as well as paperwork she had memorised. When she was finally caught, she attempted to burn down the Confederate White House.

5. Irena Sendler was the head of the Polish resistance organisation Zegota in World War II. She helped smuggle around 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with fake documentation. She was eventually caught by the Nazis, tortured and sentenced to death, but she managed to evade execution and survived the war. She has been recognised as one of the Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel, and honoured by the Polish government.

02_Dark Aemilia 

Publication Date: May 27, 2014 | Picador/Macmillan | Formats: eBook, Hardcover

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The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. The Queen’s favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.

In rich, vivid detail, Sally O’Reilly breathes life into England’s first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history. Full of passion and devilish schemes, Dark Aemilia is a tale worthy of the Bard.

Selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of 17 Books You Won't Be Able To Put Down!

Praise for Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

"A gripping novel that gives feisty feminist voice to the unknown woman who inspired Shakespeare’s sonnets… O’Reilly brings her star-crossed lovers together and drives them apart through plot twists that are, for once, credible outgrowths of the characters’ personalities and beliefs, finally giving them a tender, heartbreaking parting. First-rate historical fiction: marvelously atmospheric and emotionally engaging."—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"[Dark Aemilia] mesmerizes with its descriptions of the Bard’s London…O’Reilly casts her story with witches, doomed royals, evil courtiers, and star-crossed lovers, as if it were a Jacobean play. But her finest accomplishment is not the tribute she pays to these historical figures, but the bold imagination she displays in bringing them together."—Publishers Weekly

"With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O’Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures. With Shakespeare’s 450th birthday approaching this April, fans of historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Anne Easter Smith, and Tracy Chevalier won’t want to miss this one." —Library Journal

"O’Reilly’s American debut is an imaginative take on the life of poet Aemilia Layner, a contemporary of William Shakespeare…. This is a lively, vividly rendered novel about the dramatic life of an extraordinary woman."—Booklist

"Seductive, sharp-witted lady-in-waiting Aemilia Bassano, who later becomes known as England’s first published female poet, falls into a love affair with the Bard himself, loses favor with the court, and resorts to black magic and sorcery to save her child in this textured work of historical fiction."—O, The Oprah Magazine

"I just finished this, and I’m jumping at this opportunity to recommend it to book lovers far and wide… Dark Aemilia is a must-read for all lovers of Shakespeare and old England, and while it is written from the perspective of a woman, I am confident men will enjoy it, too. I am usually careful with my books, but this one quickly became a victim of dog ears and pencil-marks, because O’Reilly touches on so many crucial historical moments and writes with such intelligent elegance." —Anne Fortier, BookPage

"We all know Shakespeare wrote love sonnets. Now, O’Reilly’s new novel brings us the Bard’s sonnet-writing lover and sonnet-inspiring muse."—The New York Post

"Draped in the lure of magic and fantasy that weaved its way through many of Shakespeare’s plays, Dark Aemilia lives and breathes the late 16th century ….O’Reilly’s debut novel is a sweeping success, a tale full of action and intrigue and as deep as any ocean. Live vicariously through the eyes of one of the first proto-feminists to have lived. See as the author steps into her head and creates a world that is more realistic than the one outside your window. Let this book redefine the way you see love."—Bookreporter

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03_Sally O'ReillyAbout the Author

Sally O'Reilly has received numerous citations for her fiction, which has been shortlisted for the Ian St James Short Story Prize and the Cosmopolitan Short Story Award. A former Cosmopolitan New Journalist of the Year, her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard, and the New Scientist. She teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Portsmouth in England. Dark Aemilia is her U.S. debut.

For information and news please visit Sally O'Reilly's website and the Dark Aemilia Facebook Page.

Dark Aemilia Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 18
Review at The Bookworm

Tuesday, August 19
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 20
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please

Thursday, August 21
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli

Monday, August 25
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at Curling Up By the Fire

Tuesday, August 26
Review & Giveaway at Poof Books

Thursday, August 28
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Sunday, August 31
Review at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Drunkard
Giveaway at Carole's Ramblings

Tuesday, September 2
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, September 3
Review & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please

Friday, September 5
Review at Awesome Book Assessment

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, September 10
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 11
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, September 16
Review & Giveaway at Bookish

Wednesday, September 17
Review & Giveaway at Casual Readers

Friday, September 19
Review & Giveaway at Book Nerd

Monday, September 22
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, September 23
Review & Giveaway at Beth's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 24
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, September 26
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Sunday, September 28
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Monday, September 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Book Dilettante


To win a copy of Dark Aemilia please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and ends on September 12.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. A fascinating and captivating giveaway. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. The dark nature of the book appeals to my senses greatly.

  3. Never heard of this woman but I'd love to fill in the blanks of this story, thanks.

  4. Enjoyed this interesting and informative post. I've read about Mary Elizabeth Bowser, would love to find HF about the other women mentioned. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. Loved the post. Now I want to read more about the 5 women that were forgotten by history. Hopefully there will be some historical fiction about them available.

  6. The only one I heard of on this list was Mary Bowser but they all sound fascinating. Can't wait to read this!

  7. I have GOT to win this book on one of these giveaways. I am really really wishing I had signed up for this tour!

  8. The book sounds like an amazing read. I love the cover. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  9. Sounds like an interesting read.

  10. This sounds so good. I have added it to my TBR list.

  11. I've loved the books premise since I first heard of it!
    alto1jr @ hotmail dot com

  12. This one sounds incredibly fascinating and I would LOVE to read it.

    Thank you for the chance to win!


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