Impoverished bookseller/biographer Margaret Lea is shipwrecked on Lake Windermere, en route to visit reclusive author Viola Winter, and washes up on the shores of Illyria, the Duke Orsino’s Yorkshire estate. The Duke, his brain and vision addled by absinthe, is convinced Margaret is his long-lost son, Cesario. Viola Winter, addled by senility, is equally convinced Margaret is her estranged daughter, Olivia.
With visions of inheritances dancing in her head, Margaret attempts to play both parts for both potential benefactors. The pot is sweetened even more when the Daily Mail offers her a tidy sum for revealing the secrets of her rich and famous would-be parents, but the payoff is dependent on her meeting a deadline that is just twelve days – and thirteen nights –away.
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