cover image A Rose by Any Other Name

A Rose by Any Other Name

Mary McMyne. Redhook, $19.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-39351-5

McMyne (The Book of Gothel) brings rich creativity, feminist sensibility, and a meticulous grounding in history to her captivating imagining of the life of the Dark Lady, the illusive inspiration for Shakespeare’s later sonnets. Hedonist Rose Rushe is more interested in becoming a court musician than preparing for marriage. Rose’s astrologer father’s unexpected death and an accusation of witchcraft by a powerful noble leads her to flee with her mother and her dearest friend, Cecely, to the household of an old friend of her father, whom they discover has also just died. His heir, Richard Underhill, becomes obsessed with Rose, and her mother hopes to encourage a proposal. Meanwhile, Rose attempts to secure independence by finding her mother’s estranged family in London’s brothels. This quest leads her into a tempestuous erotic connection with the young poet Will Shakespeare, an introduction to his friend Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, and, eventually, a secret career as a witch. Rose’s secret romantic devotion to Cecely forms the central love story, but her sensual enthusiasm for and emotional resonance with Will also shines. Rose is a delightfully impish heroine, steeped in music, magic, and a deep urge toward self-determination. McMyne centers Rose’s challenges and successes while weaving her seamlessly into a satisfying alternate history that fits the facts without being limited by them. This is an impressive feat. (July)