Amanda is dead, but her husband, Peter Byerly, hasn’t quite come to grips with that even after two years. Peter is a book collector and antiquarian, Amanda was heir to a fortune and a scholar of Victorian paintings. One day as Peter is looking through an old tome dealing with document forgeries a painting of his wife falls out. This watercolor painting sets him off on a hunt for its origin.
Peter’s hunt involves the signatures (forged and authentic) of William Shakespeare and the origin of his play, The Winter’s Tale. There has been much speculation about the inspiration (if not actual authorship) of that drama. See:
Lovett’s tale involves three plot threads. First there’s Peter as a grieving widower in the present day. He starts out seeking information about a painting, but finds himself caught up in a very suspenseful story of possible/probable forgery and murder. The second plot thread goes back to 1985 and outlines the romance of Peter and Amanda. The third thread traces the history of certain documents and a book from Shakespeare’s time. The second plot line is rather fluffy and boring, but being book-ended by two very active stories, it lends a kind of aesthetic balance as well as fleshing out the character, with all its idiosyncrasies, of Peter.