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Misty Urban | Conversations in Character with Amaranthe Illingworth


Character Name: Amaranthe Illingworth


Amaranthe, the heroine of THE FORGER AND THE DUKE, is being interviewed by Derwa, the young child of her maid, Eyde. Eyde and Amaranthe left Cornwall six years before this conversation taking place in Amaranthe’s home in George Court, London, 1776.


So we begin. How would you describe your childhood?

Idyllic, though I didn’t know it at the time. My father was the vicar of St. Cleer, a small, ancient village in Cornwall. I never heard him raise his voice, not even in the heights of a sermon. My mother was the daughter of a lens maker, a respectable trade. Her family came from Portugal; they were conversos, Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition in order to keep their home and their lives. You’ve met Joseph, who is older than I by four years. He tormented me but lightly, as I helped him with his studies, and he would not have been accepted into Oxford without me. The only time my mother scolded us was that winter Joseph dared me to walk out on the ice over the pond near our home, and I did. My parents were lovely people, kind and steady. How I miss them.


What is your greatest talent?

Telling entertaining stories to you, child, while I copy manuscripts to earn our bread and butter. I’m told I have a fine hand.


Who are your friends?

Hmm. Eyde, you, and Mrs. Blackthorn, now. I suppose I oughtn’t forget Davey, as he makes a fine husband to Eyde and a father to you, as well as a grand butler, footman, and errand boy.


Why don’t you have a gentleman caller, Miss Amaranthe?

That would require meeting a gentleman who is not a self-important blockhead. Nay, do not laugh at me. I’ve no time for courting anyway, not with Joseph to look after and my commissions to complete. A man would come in and make demands and tell us all how to go on, and I quite like our snug little household here in George Court. This room with its window will be perfect for an antiquarian bookshop, someday.


Do you have enemies?

I am not on good terms with my cousin Reuben. He is a baronet, the son of my uncle, and he is not a kind man. Your mother and I left Cornwall to escape him—but of that I will say no more.


Don’t you want children someday?

Why should I require my own, when I have you, cheel? I’ve only the two hands, you know, one for the pen to write the words and one for the knife to scrape away my errors. I’ll be happy to look after any children you have when you’re grown and married. laughs at the face Derwa makes here


What is your greatest lament in life?

When I lived in Cornwall, I made copies for the bookseller, Mr. Finney, of documents and manuscripts he could sell in his shop. In return he gifted me with a medieval Book of Hours, made for a grand lady. They wrote their names in it, the ladies who owned it; a knight’s wife, two baronesses, and one Margeurite, Lady Vernay. I’d like to know more about her. Reuben took my book, and I’ll never forgive him. One day I’ll go Cornwall and demand it back. It was to be the cornerstone of my collection.


What is your greatest source of joy?

When I open a manuscript centuries old and find the words as clear as if the scribe just wrote them. I love seeing the ruled lines the scribe made to keep his text even or the catchwords he chooses to help the binder order the quires correctly. Beautiful illustrations delight me, but bits of naughtiness or strange elements in the marginalia delight me more, like when—no, I won’t go on. Let me simply say, I am pleased by a well-made manuscript, and the more elegant the hand, the better. My other great joy in life, besides you, my dear Derwa, is Mrs. Blackthorn’s seedcakes.


What do you do to have fun?

Fun is for the grand and for children. Though one day soon I’ll scrape together the shillings and we will all step over to Leicester Square and the Holophusikon. They say Sir Ashton Lever’s collection is quite the marvel, with several items brought back from the voyages of Captain Cook.


What is the most pressing problem you have at the moment?

Finishing the gilding of my latest commission before my gold leaf gets too hard to apply. Hoping the commission from this manuscript will see us through the next month or two, since we cannot eat vellum and ink. Praying Mr. Karim will sell the copies I have made for him, and hoping he can arrange for more work for me. I’ve a ways to go before I can open my bookshop, and—hold, who’s that at the door? Joseph is at the coffee shop, and we’re not expecting callers. What is that great coach doing blocking our narrow Court? I do believe those are the arms of Hunsdon blazoned on the door. But what could the Duke of Hunsdon want with us?


Ladies Least Likely #2

The Forger and the Duke

In 1776 London, orphaned vicar’s daughter Amaranthe Illingworth supports her small household with her skills as a copyist, but her quiet routine is shattered the day three children show up at her door seeking aid from her brother, their tutor. Behind them storms in Malden Grey, would-be barrister and their erstwhile guardian, who accuses Amaranthe of kidnapping the young Duke of Hunsdon and his siblings.

The former duke’s illegitimate son, Malden Grey has learned to live by his wits, and he’s told he’ll advance to the bar if he takes a proper wife. As she helps him restore order at Hunsdon House, Amaranthe seems a likely candidate—if only Mal can unearth the truth behind the rumors that she’s been forging, and selling, priceless medieval manuscripts. Amaranthe, in the meantime, needs to stay on her guard lest the charming Malden Grey steal her heart at the same time she’s hoping to borrow from his library a priceless book that could make her fortune.

But when Mal’s foray into Amaranthe’s past yields a discovery that will change both of their destinies, they’ll have to fight together to clear their names and stake out a future together—if either has a future at all.


Romance Historical [Oliver-Heber Books, On Sale: March 5, 2024, e-Book, / ]

Buy THE FORGER AND THE DUKEKindle | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Misty Urban

Misty Urban

Misty Urban is a medieval scholar, freelance editor, and college professor who likes to write stories about misbehaving women who find adventure and romance. She holds an MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University and lives in the Midwest in a little town on a big river.

Ladies Least Likely




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