Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it can’t be her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet, the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
Communing with Amanda’s spirit as he wrestles with the mystery, Peter follows a trail of clues across the centuries—from a raucous London tavern where the unscrupulous bookseller Barthlomew Habottle plots against the “upstart crow” William Shakespeare, to the unfinished ramparts of an Oxfordshire mansion where a frustrated Victorian painter mourns his lost love and takes revenge on his book-collecting rival. Along the way Peter discovers his Holy Grail: a priceless literary artifact that could prove the truth about Shakespeare’s identity. Fearing the book may be a forgery, Peter races against time to prove its authenticity, evading the clutches of a murderer, meeting a woman who may hold the key to the mystery of the portrait, and finally discovering the truth about his own past and his precious Amanda.
The Bookman’s Tale is a former antiquarian bookseller’s sparkling novel that is at once a deeply moving love story as well as a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries.
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