I had the happy coincidence of recently reading two entirely different books based on the history and writings of that rascally bard, Shakespeare.
The first, The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare by Arliss Ryan, is based on the theory that Shakespeare didn’t actually write his own material. Nor did Sir Francis Bacon. Nor did Shakespeare love his wife, remain faithful to her or act like a nice guy. Nay, there was true genius behind randy William’s work, and her name was Anne Hathaway Shakespeare.
If you saw Shakespeare In Love with Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, you might remember that Shakespeare was quite a man about town in London. This particular story led us to believe that Shakespeare left his wife and children, never to return to his matrimonial bed again, but sharing his own with quite a few others including the lovely Viola.
In this book, however, we see Anne Hathaway as an unfortunate woman whose shotgun wedding to William Shakespeare, eight years her junior, was a miserable failure from day one. She gave birth to three children in four years (ouch) lived under the humiliation of her in-laws in their unwelcoming home and was finally abandoned by her husband, who ran off with a troupe of actors to London. The injustice of it all.
However, Arliss Ryan’s Anne Hathaway Shakespeare is no shrinking violet. Rather, she is an intelligent woman who decides to leave her children in the care of her nasty in-laws to find her husband and live with him in London. (To be totally honest, I didn’t get this part. Why would you want to leave your three young children with your horrid in-laws to follow around a two-timing, immature idiot who you had to marry because you were knocked up? I digress…)
However, when she does finally find William, he decides that she should pretend to be his sister so that he can continue to be accepted in the troupe and continue his successful career. Instead of high-tailing it back to Stratford, Anne plays along with his shenanigans and begins her own successful career as his ghost-writer. Not only that, but Anne find true love and happiness on her own. Huzzah!
The next book, Juliet by Anne Fortier is another interesting take on Shakespeare, specifically his famous play, Romeo and Juliet.
When Julie Jacobs learns that her great Aunt Rose, who had raised her and her twin sister, Janice, since they were orphaned at three, had died suddenly, she returns to her Virginia home for the funeral. However, Julie is shocked to find that Aunt Rose left everything to snippy Janice, who gloats at Julie’s loss.
Dealing with her physical and emotional losses, Julie is told by Aunt Rose’s butler (can you ever trust butlers?) that her real treasure is in Siena, Italy, where her parents had lived before they tragically died many years back. Julie also discovers that she is actually Giuliette Tolomei and a descendant of the real Juliet who inspired Shakespeare centuries later.
Traveling to Siena to find the truth of her parents deaths and the treasure that her mother hid, Giulietta (Julie) meets Eva Maria Salimbeni, who fills her in on the story of the feuding Tolomeis and Salimbenis and also introduces her to her hot godson, Alessandro (I know you want more details about what makes Alessandro hot but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Read the book – you won’t be disappointed).
Giulietta then embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with her sister Janice (who realizes that Aunt Rose was actually broke and they’ve both been duped), crawling through ancient burial chambers, sneaking into archives, unpuzzling riddles, racing through crypts and running away from bad guys who want the treasure too. In between all that, she falls in love with Alessandro, who isn’t who he pretends to be.
How do you say, “I loved this book” in Italian? Well, whatever. Let’s have wine, cheese and bread and discuss it sometime. You may just agree that it is bellissima too.