on October 3rd 2017
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For centuries, the volumes of a priceless Renaissance manuscript, The Duke's Book of Knowledge, have been the subject of legend and rumor. Three members of London's Bibliomania Club have promised a beloved professor they'll find the manuscripts before the professor retires. They are determined to vindicate his faith in the Duke's existence while rescuing a great literary work from obscurity. The problem? The book must be found in ten days. Matters of the heart intrude as each book hunter realizes that locating an ancient manuscript might just lead to happiness ever after.
The Will to Love by Grace Burrowes, a novella from How To Find A Duke in Ten Days.
Novellas are a pleasure to write, having all of the happily ever after, but less of the complexity of a full length story, and The Will to Love was no exception. I’m a lawyer, and thus curious wills and bequests have always caught my eye. Some of the odd bequests I’ve come across include a birthday, as in, “My friend didn’t like being born on Christmas Day, so I leave her my birthday of November 13.”
Many bequests have been made to cats and dogs, and one wealthy Englishman left a bequest of a million Holland bulbs to a town in Devonshire. The German poet Heinrich Heine left his entire fortune to his wife, on condition that she remarry, “so there will be at least one man to regret my death.” Yikes!
Combining a lengthy, eccentric will with a hunt for a long-lost book was simply fun, and let me closet the Earl of Ramsdale with Miss Philomena Peebles for nearly all of the requisite ten days. Philomena can handily translate medieval law Latin, but she is less adept at making sense of the imperious Earl of Ramsdale. Ramsdale has all but chosen the lady he’d like to have for his countess, then Philomena comes barreling along, tart opinions in one hand, linguistic brilliance in the other, and Ramsdale’s almighty plans are reduced to nonsense.
Below, you’ll find an excerpt from The Will to Love. Philomena and Ramsdale are looking for the same long-lost document, a treatise on potions and elixirs to affect the sentiments, though Ramsdale realizes they aren’t looking for the same reasons. His motivation is purely academic, but Miss Peebles has a different agenda…
They’d reached the little alley running behind her father’s modest dwelling. Venerable oaks arched above, and the racket and clatter of the street faded.
“You were saying, Miss Peebles?”
She looked around as if surprised to find herself a half-dozen streets away from where the conversation had started.
“The Duke’s Book of Knowledge is of interest on a scientific basis, my lord. The ancients grasped the movement of the heavens more clearly than did our nearer ancestors. The same might well be true regarding scents and potions that stir the emotions or plants that aid the cause of medicine.”
In the quiet of the alley, Ramsdale realized that the damned manuscript had inspired foolish hopes in an otherwise sensible young woman. Miss Peebles expected wisdom to flow from The Duke’s Book of Knowledge, valuable insights, genuine science.
“You are daft,” he muttered, setting the rose on the nearest stone wall. “Men and women have no need of magic elixirs or exotic scents when it comes to taking notice of each other.”
“Beautiful women,” she retorted. “Handsome, wealthy men, perhaps. What of the rest of us? What of the plain, the soft-spoken, the shy, the obscure? Do you begrudge them the benefit of science when their loneliness overwhelms them?”
Good God Almighty. She sought the Duke for herself.
“Madam, it is often the case that a woman attracts a man’s notice, and because that man is a decent fellow and would not press his attentions uninvited, she remains unaware of his interest. She doesn’t need the dratted, perishing Duke, she needs only a small demonstration of the fellow’s interest.”
Another demonstration. Miss Peebles regarded the rose resting on the stone wall a few feet away, the stem wrapped in Ramsdale’s damp white handkerchief. She seemed puzzled, as if she’d forgotten the flower, and possibly the man who’d carried it halfway across London for her.
“Miss Peebles—Philomena—you will attend me, please.”
Ramsdale took her by the shoulders. Her expression was wary and bewildered, and thus he schooled himself to subtlety. No one would see them in this quiet, shadowed alley, but by the throne of heaven and in the name of every imponderable, Miss Peebles would take notice of him.
He framed her face in his hands and kissed her.
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