The Lost Manuscript

Sep 12, 2023 | Book Reviews

Who doesn’t love a castle setting for a novel? Especially in the British countryside. 

Reading The Lost Manuscript by Mollie Rushmeyer gave me the opportunity for a little armchair travel to a spectacular castle in Northumberland in northeastern England. It’s called Alnwick Castle (pronounced a-nik, A as in apple, emphasis on the A). It borders Scotland and the North Sea.

A few fun facts about Alnwick Castle:

  • It was built in the 11th century during Norman times
  • It has been connected to the Percy family since 1309
  • The Percy family (the 12th duke and duchess) still lives there—going on 700 years now
  • It’s the second largest inhabited castle in the UK
  • It has been a military outpost, a teaching college, and a refuge for evacuees
  • It encompasses 100,000 acres of land
  • It’s the setting for numerous films: the Harry Potter series (as Hogwarts!), Downton Abbey; Transformers: The Last Knight; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Elizabeth, and more

Mollie writes “Contemporary Fiction with a Heart for History,” as exemplified in her first novel, The Bookshop of Secrets, which I featured in May. It was a finalist in the 2023 Carol Awards for contemporary fiction. That perfect blend of old and new enchants readers in The Lost Manuscript, too. 

Join me for some armchair travel to Alnwick Castle. 

Love Inspired Trade (August 29, 2023)


In the vein of The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick, a priceless manuscript could be one woman’s key to finding her missing grandmother–and to her own second chance.

It’s not just Ellora Lockwood’s home that’s being emptied as she prepares to sell–her heart seems to be empty too. Since the mysterious disappearance of her beloved Grandma June and separating from her husband, Alex, Ellora has felt adrift. Then comes an invitation from Alex to teach history at a summer program at Alnwick Castle in England. He’s even found information about the location of a medieval manuscript that was her grandmother’s obsession before she vanished.

Warily, Ellora accepts Alex’s offer. Surrounded by lush English countryside and captivating history, she pieces together clues about the manuscript’s whereabouts–and uncovers new questions. Could someone have been sabotaging her grandmother’s work? Anonymous threats lead Ellora to suspect she too may be in danger, but as she and Alex work together, she’s finding strength, new purpose and the courage to see this quest through, wherever it may lead.

My Thoughts

Romantic suspense isn’t my go-to genre but I enjoy it occasionally. Reading this second book by Mollie Rushmeyer leaves no regrets. This is a compelling blend of adventure, mystery, and romance in a castle setting.

The story grabbed me from the first page as I vicariously stepped into Ellora Lockwood’s shoes and felt the pain of her rejection and impending divorce from Alex. He’d suddenly moved to England from Minnesota after only four years of marriage. Besides  that, she’s still grieving the mysterious disappearance of her grandmother who was on the trail of a missing medieval manuscript. When Alex persuades Ellora to join him at Alnwick Castle in England to teach for the summer term, she concedes, hoping to find out what happened to her grandmother and the manuscript. 

The vivid setting of Alnwick Castle was brought to life with well-chosen sensory detail. It proved to be an effective backdrop—not only for the ensuing mystery but for the tension between Alex and Ellora. They each had valid, believable reasons for withdrawing from each other over the past year, holding tightly to their secrets. I was rooting for them to communicate honestly so they could draw closer. Their issues made them more complex. I didn’t want them to just easily forgive and dismiss the hurts without first fostering communication and empathy.  

With his wit, humor, charisma, and Britishisms, Alex is charming—a two-edged sword at times. While he’s stealing the show, getting all the glory, Ellora feels like his shadow, adding to her reservations about him. Despite the ongoing dynamics, Alex and Ellora have to work together to find the manuscript, a search which might provide the closure that Ellora desperately needs regarding her grandma’s disappearance.

Thank goodness Alex calls her Ellie versus Ellora, because I never knew how to pronounce Ellora. Is the first or second syllable accented?

Searching for the manuscript becomes a race against time when it becomes apparent others are after it, too, and Ellora receives threats. Sometimes I was a bit lost in the mystery, the connections between clues, and medieval historical details, but I went along for the ride through the compelling, three-dimensional characters.

There was a faith element, though not heavy-handed. Excellent writing made the story flow, conjured the emotions, and invited empathy with the characters—despite an info dump and some unnecessary repetition in chapter one. But don’t let that stop you from reading. 

Join me for some Q & A with author Mollie Rushmeyer. 

Author Mollie Rushmeyer

Questions about The Lost Manuscript:

What was your inspiration for writing The Lost Manuscript? What’s your personal connection to the setting and situation?

My first inspiration for this one was my own study abroad trip to Alnwick, England while in college which is the setting/background for this story. I suppose that’s my personal connection to the setting and situation as well! I fell in love with this little town in the north of England, its history, the castle where we stayed, and the friendly people. I knew for years I wanted to bring my husband and children there someday (Which I finally did in May 2023!) and set a story there once I became a writer.

How did you create your heroine and hero, Ellora and Alexander? How did you decide on their backstories, particular having them be married, headed for divorce, instead of single?

I’ve always wanted to write a marriage rekindling story and, in fact, one of the first books I ever wrote was about a married couple coming back together. That story didn’t see the light of day in the publishing realm, but I never forgot about it and I loved the non-traditional romance element in it. 

I think the struggles Ellora and Alex deal with, while they might be more extreme, at their core are things we’ve all dealt with in relationships. A fear of being truly honest and vulnerable, a conflict within ourselves between self-focus and selflessness, avoiding problems, and true humbleness and forgiveness. 

I wanted to show a real and raw relationship and felt their estrangement at the beginning coupled with the growth they experience throughout the story would be the best way to do that.

You’ve described yourself as a plotter. Was that still the case for this story? What story surprises did you run into along the way? 

I’m still a plotter! By design and by necessity, not necessarily by choice. I think one of the most fun things about the plotting process on this one was brainstorming the first little sparks of an idea with my husband during our long, super hot drive back to Minnesota from our Montana family road trip. I was surprised by the main crux of the story–the medieval manuscript. It’s not something I intended to write about and then it grew into something that held the rest of the story together. 

It was so fun to look back to the medieval history class I took while on my study abroad trip. I remembered visiting Lindisfarne, the birthplace of Christianity in England, and where the beautiful illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels were created.

My writer brain asked, “What if?” What if there had been another hand-scribed/painted medieval manuscript created in Lindisfarne, famed for its brilliant blue lapis lazuli color, but it had been lost for centuries? And then, what if Ellora’s grandmother has gone missing trying to find it? After that, my imagination took off!

What would Ellora and Alexander have to say about you?

Probably that I’m pretty mean. You know what? That would be fair. I do put them through the ringer as they follow the clues searching for the manuscript! But, hopefully, they would say my tough love approach to making them face what has gone wrong in their relationship ultimately pays off.

What historical parameters did you have to work with? What gaps could you fill in with your imagination?

The historical background of the Viking raids on Lindisfarne over many years is true as is the story of the monks escaping further inland with their precious Gospels and relics. So, I needed to keep the dates and the essentials intact to line up with actual history. But I strayed from fact, of course, where my famed lost illuminated manuscript was concerned. I’m not going to fill in any more than that or I’ll give away the story! 🙂

What did you have to research to make this story authentic? What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you had to do or look up to create this story?

I watched lots of YouTube videos on the authentic process of making illuminated manuscripts during medieval times, including stripping animal hides and stretching them into the most common paper used at the time, parchment and vellum. I was fascinated by the different inks and paints they used, made from natural materials. The skill, the artistry, the patience these scribes practiced to bring bound books to life was amazing. 

Many times it was multiple people working on one manuscript and it would often take years to complete. There are even real examples of scribbles, doodles, and written complaints in the margins from the scribes about the drafty scriptorium or crabby amarius (director of the monastic scriptorium where the manuscripts were made), etc. Absolutely captivating stuff!


Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . . 

If you like stories about books and literature, you might enjoy my novel, Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum. This dual timeline novel spotlights L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Set near Holland, Michigan, this pre-published novel alternates between 1980 and the early 1900s. Read more and watch the book trailer here.

If you like small town stories about family dynamics and secrets, you might enjoy my re-launched novel All That Is Hidden. Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968, the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.

All That Is Hidden awards:

  • Winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award
  • Semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest

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Mollie Rushmeyer Bio

Mollie Rushmeyer writes “Contemporary Fiction with a Heart for History.” A modern girl herself, she wouldn’t want to go a day without modern plumbing and central air! But she’s always felt a special connection to the past. A born and bred Midwestern gal, Mollie makes her home in Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. She is not only a bibliophile (the dustier the better, in her opinion), she’s a true anglophile at heart. Tea and coffee fuel her travels, by Google maps at least, and her passion for the written word. Connect with Mollie through Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for her newsletter (visit for vintage recipe reboots, history mixed with modern living, tea and book pairings, exclusive giveaways, and a FREEBIE pdf download “10 Vintage Hacks for Modern Homes.”


Join me next time for a visit with author Felicia Ferguson. 

Meanwhile, have you read The Lost Manuscript? Have you read any good novels with a castle setting? Answer in the comments below.

Ever reading,


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  1. Anita Klumpers

    As you know, I’m a suspense-romance fan (heavier on suspense than romance) 🙂
    And a lazy anglophile and book lover.
    “The Lost Manuscript” seems to check all my boxes!

    Good for you—going outside your preferred genre to sample a variety of stories!
    It’s something more of us should push ourselves to do.

    Now I am off to look up photos of Alnwick Castle!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      So glad this checks all the boxes for you, Anita! After you read the book, let me know what you think.

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      Alnwick Castle is always worth dreaming over! 🙂 I loved sharing this place with readers.

  2. Elizabeth Daghfal

    Ahhh, a story set in a castle. Love it! Sounds intriguing with the missing manuscript and the 2nd chance for their marriage—especially with the idea that both had an impact in the original split. Yet another book for the TBR pile.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      I know–it’s hard to resist a castle, right?

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      Thank you so much! This second-chance married romance was a really fun angle to explore.

  3. Barbara M. Britton

    I’m a fan of marriage rekindlings, too. I enjoy stories set in England where my grandparents hailed from. This sounds like a great story, Mollie.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      At first I didn’t think I would like a marriage rekindling vs. a brand new romance, but this one was very compelling!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      It was very different for me to write a marriage rekindling story, but I’m so glad I did. It was a growth opportunity for me too as an author. 🙂

  4. Deena Adams

    I haven’t read Mollie’s books yet, but I’m intrigued by The Lost Manuscript’s description. I’m adding it to my want-to-read list!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      If you like romantic suspense, I think you’d enjoy both of Mollie’s books. Glad you have Lost Manuscript on your reading list!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      Thank you so much! Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  5. Ruth Schmeckpeper

    I’m a fan of Mollie Rushmeyer! I loved her first book, The Bookshop of Secrets, and I enjoy “marriage rekindling” stories, but I’d never heard that term for them. This book is on my list of “must-reads!” I grew up in central Minnesota–we might have been neighbors!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      If you loved Mollie’s first one, you’re bound to love the 2nd one! It would be interesting to know if you have people in common, since you”re from the same area.

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      Oh, that’s so cool! Love to meet fellow MN book lovers!

      • Ruth Schmeckpeper


        I grew up on a farm near Wadena. I also lived in the cities for a dozen years. I participated in some of the Minnesota Nice writing group retreats, and Storycrafter retreats. I was a member of the Minnesota Writer’s Guild for 5-6 years.

  6. Nancy R Radosevich

    The Lost Manuscript sounds like just the kind of novel I like. After sneaking a peak at the first few pages, I’m hooked. Another novel on my TBR pile! I am looking forward to reading it!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Glad you took a sneak peak, Nancy! Enjoy the book!

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      Yay! Thank you so much. Hope you enjoy Alex and Ellora’s story!

  7. Mary Larson

    The “what if” about another manuscript having been created and lost in Lindisfarne is fascinating. The marriage needing rekindling, the story being set in England, and the search for something lost all add up to what sounds like a super good read. Out of curiosity I went to Amazon to listen to an audible sample. This book definitely seems worth reading!

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Yes, there are definitely several intriguing pieces of this story that make for a compelling read.

    • Mollie Rushmeyer

      I definitely feel like the description of a Indiana Jones style mystery with romance kind of hits the mark. 🙂 I loved weaving the history and suspense into this marriage rekindling story!


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