Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Was Shakespeare A Love-Rat?

Was Shakespeare a 'love-rat' or just an over-imaginative poet?
My new historical novel, His Dark Lady, is set at the court of Elizabeth I, and amongst other storylines traces the relationship between William Shakespeare and his "Dark Lady of the Sonnets". In my account, Lucy Morgan takes on that role, a young African singer and court lady. Her character was introduced in The Queen's Secret, where she met William at the age of eleven, and her story will conclude in book three.

When writing His Dark Lady, I was very aware of my own attitude towards this relationship between Shakespeare and Lucy Morgan. Shakespeare married very young, before coming to London to make his way as an actor. By the time he meets Lucy again, he already has a child. His wife, Anne Hathaway, is back in his home town of Stratford, living with his parents, and probably never joined her husband in London. Indeed, she may only ever have seen him during his theatrical touring visits to Warwickshire.

Some might consider that his love sonnets are wholly imaginary constructs, with no reference to the poet's life whatsoever. That Shakespeare 'made it all up', in other words, in a spirit of sensationalism or possibly harking back to the medieval traditions of courtly love. But if you reject that as unlikely - and certainly a fictionalised account of his life must address the torrid love affairs mentioned in his sonnets at some point - it only leaves us with the hard cold truth of adultery.

Given the above, it became impossible for me to portray Shakespeare in His Dark Lady as anything but what the tabloids call a 'love-rat'.

His Dark Lady is set in Stratford and at the court of Elizabeth I.
Yet despite his adultery, I do feel some sympathy for Shakespeare. He married at eighteen - very young indeed by Tudor standards - probably because he had made his older bride Anne Hathaway pregnant; the two of them were then welded together for life by this reckless act. It must have been a very common problem, the Tudor equivalent of a shotgun marriage. And men in this position - who led freer lives than their wives - may well have been tempted to conduct affairs outside their marriages, knowing they were safe enough from most social censure.

While we must strive, as historical novelists, to look at our characters through the eyes of their age, it is in some cases very difficult not to pass a more twenty-first century judgement on certain behaviours, as we do when we look at Henry VIII's barbaric and unjust treatment of his wives. So Shakespeare's infidelity becomes a terrible weight on his love for Lucy Morgan, a weight which even he must feel in this story, as a sensitive man, and which colours their love from the start.

As for Lucy herself, she goes into this affair blinded by love, refusing to suspect that William may already be married. For Lucy to have been aware of his married state from the beginning - and still have entered into an adulterous affair with him - would have gone against her very nature, which is honest above all else.

Lucy's faults are innocence and sexual inexperience. But Shakespeare's faults are those of the love-rat, the married man who lies to the woman he desires in his desperation to seize a little happiness.

Unfortunately for Lucy, the 'other woman' usually comes out the loser in these extramarital affairs. Especially when the woman in question is one of Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, whose punishments for the unchaste maid at court were notoriously harsh ...

Read more about HIS DARK LADY.

Monday, 18 March 2013

"The Lady" Literary Lunch in Piccadilly

His Dark Lady, out Feb 2013
I'm delighted to be talking tomorrow at The Lady Literary Lunch in Piccadilly with fellow authors Deborah Moggach and Henry Hitchings.

There's a champagne reception before lunch, then each literary guest does a short talk between each course.

For my talk, which is after the main meal, I'll be discussing how I researched and wrote my new Tudor novel, His Dark Lady, which is set in Elizabethan London and Stratford. My book follows the ongoing story of Lucy Morgan, the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets, which began in The Queen's Secret, and also explores the intricacies of the Babington plot which sought to put the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne in place of Elizabeth.

Before and after lunch, I'll be delighted to chat with any readers who have further questions. If you're coming to the lunch - which has now sold out - and have a copy of The Queen's Secret or Witchstruck to bring along, I'd be happy to sign those too!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Vote for Witchfall on Goodreads!

Witchfall on Amazon
If you're a Goodreads member, and looking forward to the publication of my paranormal romance Witchfall this summer, I'd be hugely grateful if you could vote for Witchfall on this Goodreads list of new and forthcoming UK YA for 2013.

Witchfall is within the Top Ten at the moment, but to get any higher or stay there, it needs a constant stream of votes.

Thanks for your help!

Victoria x

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Signing Books at The Edge of the World!

Next Saturday 16th March, I'll be signing books at the Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance from 2pm onwards.

[Please note, this is a CHANGE OF TIME. I got the time wrong earlier and am really sorry for any inconvenience.]

The bookshop is located at 23 Market Jew Street, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 2HR.

You can also follow them on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 11 March 2013

His Dark Lady: Giveaway Winners

Many thanks to all who entered my recent Giveaway contest for His Dark Lady.

The three winners are:

Maria Perry Mohan

and an extra one for good luck!

Elizabeth Harper

Please email me at victoria.lamb44 AT with your address details, and a gorgeous hardback copy of His Dark Lady will be heading your way soon.

For those who didn't win this time, my commiserations - and I hope you will consider buying the book instead!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

How I wrote His Dark Lady

His Dark Lady
His Dark Lady, the sequel to The Queen's Secret, came out a few weeks ago in hardback and ebook, a Tudor novel about Shakespeare and his "Dark Lady". It's always strange, after spending months - sometimes years - writing a story like this, to see it suddenly take shape and become a book. This post will be a little exploration of how and where I worked on this particular novel.

Oddly, I wrote His Dark Lady in a number of different places: at home, in an office, and on solitary writing retreats. I even wrote some of it on holiday in Northern France, in the damp surroundings of a renovated mill in the middle of rambling countryside. Our only visitors were foxes, owls, frogs. My children made improvised fishing rods and caught fish in the millstream beside the house. During that holiday I wrote eerie two-hander scenes aboard a barge on the River Thames, with a smoking lantern and constant rain ...

It seems bizarre, but I can look at a scene in a book I've written and usually remember the exact circumstances under which it was written, sometimes even my feelings at the time. I have a suspicion that my surroundings as a writer have an effect on how and what I write. So some scenes were written out of a very mellow place, and some in a somewhat cooler mood, even analytical.

The cottage I rented at Shottery, a few hundred yards from Anne Hathaway's Cottage, near Stratford, for a two week writing retreat during the long hot summer of 2011
Above is the small cottage at Shottery, just outside Stratford, that I rented for a fortnight while finishing His Dark Lady. It's only a stone's throw from Anne Hathaway's Cottage, as it is known, her family farm in the small rural lanes of Warwickshire. It's likely young Shakespeare used to walk out there from his home in Stratford when they were courting, crossing open fields and the local brook alive with ducks and swans, perhaps in defiance of both their parents, for there was a problematic age difference between them ... 

The guest book told me there was a ghost. Thankfully though, if it was in residence, it never made itself known to me. It was a lovely warm summer while I was there, if a trifle damp at times, and the love scenes between Lucy Morgan and William Shakespeare are correspondingly warm and romantic.

My three young research assistants at Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

One scene between Lucy and William, at a London tavern, was written beside the brook at Shottery, outside a lovely cafe with seats beside the water. I took my notebook and wrote longhand, watching the shallow water rush past, listening to the ducks arguing on the banks, and tried to imagine a warm summer evening like that outside a busy London tavern, pipe smoke rising into the air, the smell of ale and roast meat ...

Bankside, just outside the Globe Theatre, near London's Millennium Bridge across the Thames: another place I visited during my research for this novel

Shakespeare's relationship with his wife Anne Hathaway is more fraught in my novel, not surprisingly, given that he was in London much of the year, leaving his older wife to nurse their children alone in his parents' home. I wrote several scenes between them while in the town of Stratford itself, having just come from visiting his birthplace on Henley Street. That was where Anne spent many years cooped up with William's parents and siblings, though granted some privacy by occupying the tiny cottage adjoining John Shakespeare's large town house (in later years, that annex would be occupied by William's widowed sister, Joan Hart). Those scenes have a decidedly more restrained and civic feel, in keeping with their surroundings.

By contrast, many of the court and theatre scenes in my novel were written in a small office I rented for the year in Rugby, Warwickshire, where I was living at the time. They are more far formal scenes, as befits the court of Elizabeth I. The office was in a popular business suite right in the centre of town, so it had a very busy, noisy feel, with people on the phones or passing by, and traffic in the street below, the church spire seen from my window and the sound of bells every hour ...

Although I like to work in isolation, it's also good to keep in touch with the world beyond my novel, and certainly my court and theatre scenes are busier and more populous than those more intimate scenes fitted to being written in a quiet country cottage.

Here's a very short clip from my time at the Shottery cottage, complete with messy writing desk and Diet Coke cans, my addiction of choice.


You can discover more about His Dark Lady from Amazon.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Talk about His Dark Lady at Kenilworth

On Thursday 14th March 7pm at The Methodist Church, Kenilworth

Victoria Lamb will talk about her new book

‘His Dark Lady’

This is a follow up to Victoria’s very successful novel, “The Queen’s Secret” which was set almost entirely in Kenilworth.  It followed the story of Queen Elizabeth’s famous visit to Kenilworth Castle.

Victoria Lamb’s fictionalised character from the first novel, Lucy Morgan – the “Dark Lady” of the new title – grew up under the guardianship of a spy.  This second book follows her from Kenilworth Castle to the Elizabeth’s  Court in London.

His Dark Lady
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.
No longer the chaste maid so valued by the Virgin Queen, she also bore witness to the clandestine wedding of Lettice Knollys and Robert Dudley, a match forbidden by the monarch. England is in peril. Queen Elizabeth’s health is deteriorating, her throne under siege from Catholic plotters and threats of war with Spain.
Faced with deciding the fate of her long-term prisoner, Mary, Queen of Scots, she needs a trusted circle of advisors around her now more than ever. But who can she turn to when those closest to her have proved disloyal? And how secure is Lucy’s position at court, now that she has learned the dangerous art of keeping secrets?
Victoria gave a fascinating talk to a big audience about her last book ‘The Queen’s Secret’ which was very well received. We look forward very much to hearing her again.

Tickets are free and available from Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books. Refreshments will be available.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Queen's Secret Giveaway: launching today in the US!

See this book on The Queen's Secret (Berkley)
I'm utterly thrilled to announce the US publication of my Tudor court novel, The Queen's Secret. Published by Berkley Jove today, I'm hoping this novel will bring me some fantastic new American readers in the US historical marketplace.

Any US bloggers interested in a review copy or interview, please let me or Berkley know! Find us - @VictoriaLamb1 and @BerkleyRomance - on Twitter.

In addition to that invitation, I am running a targeted Giveaway on this book, so anyone in Canada and the USA who would like to win a copy of this very handsome book for their shelves, please comment below before the end of March 2013.

Winners will be announced in early April. There are three copies up for graps, so do get commenting  - and please share this Giveaway on social media if you can!

Many thanks, Victoria x

The Queen's Secret: a novel of the Tudor Court
July, 1575: Elizabeth I, Queen of England, arrives at Kenilworth Castle—home of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Leicester, who has long had ambitions to marry the Queen, knows this may be his very last chance to persuade her to marry him. Toward this end, the hopeful earl has organized a lavish week of music, dancing, and fireworks.

Despite his attachment to the Queen and his driving ambition to be her King, Leicester is unable to resist the seductive wiles of Lettice, wife of the Earl of Essex—and the queen’s own cousin. Soon whispers of their relationship start spreading through the court. Enraged by their growing intimacy, Elizabeth employs Lucy Morgan, a young African singer and court entertainer, to spy on the adulterous lovers.

But Lucy, who was raised by a spy in London, uncovers far more than she bargains for. For someone at Kenilworth is plotting to kill the queen. No longer able to tell friend from foe, it is soon not only the queen who is in mortal danger—but Lucy herself…

Interested in finding out more about this new Tudor title? Browse The Queen's Secret (US edition) now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Penguin USA.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Research and Hubris on the Blog Tour

His Dark Lady in hardback and on Kindle.

The past few days, I've been visiting blogs on my launch tour for His Dark Lady, book two in the Lucy Morgan trilogy set at the court of Elizabeth I. Here are my most recent stops. Take your pick!

To find out my thoughts on historical research methods and hubris in 'writing Shakespeare', see A Fantastical Librarian.

For "Five Things You Didn't Know About Elizabethans" try Mel's Random Reviews.

For a spirited debate on Fiction versus History, visit For Winter Nights.

And for my thoughts on publication - "Books are intended for readers. Books without readers can have no meaningful existence." - see What Shall I Read?

The blog tour for His Dark Lady continues tomorrow. Have a great weekend!

Friday, 1 March 2013

His Dark Lady: Giveaways!

His Dark Lady, the second book in my Lucy Morgan trilogy, launched yesterday in hardback.

So today, there are some Giveaways for you!

To win a hardback copy of His Dark Lady, signed by me - to you personally! - just leave a comment below. Three lucky winners from anywhere in the world will receive a copy.

Giveaway closes on March 10th.

But please be sure to come back and check if you've won, or I won't be able to send you a copy!


There is also another Giveaway being run at What Shall I Read?