Genre: YA Historical Romance
Title: Ingenious Daughter
Word Count: 50,000.
35-Word pitch: Ben Franklin dared to say it. Jane’s a better scientist than her father. Dad fights back, curtailing research and multiplying chores. Hungry for knowledge, she’s too wily for him. It’s time to marry her off.
JANE COLDEN (17) lives on the edge of civilization--pre-Revolutionary upstate New York, where natives still roam the lands. She’s hungry for knowledge, but her fate is domesticity. If her father didn’t need her to manage the household and bring in cash through her cheese business, he’d have already married her off to local widower. Since CADWALLADER COLDEN is eager to make his name as a botanist, he insists his daughter gather specimens in her “idle time.” With so many chores, she’s reluctant at first, but comes to love the work until it threatens her safety.
BURKE (19), the nephew of a local landowner, saves her from a thief and begins to woo her. After having had a series of respectfully dull middle-aged suitors, Jane gets her first kiss from the man her father dismisses as “the landless scoundrel.” Jane, however, is more concerned by Burke’s belief that scientific work damages female minds. He makes it clear, were they ever to marry, such nonsense would be forbidden. Jane will need all her intelligence to change these two stubborn men’s minds.
The curd begins to bubble. I sing three verses of “Milk and Butter,” and pull it off the fire. I’ll trade this batch for a tempering hook, and Poppa will never know.
Cheese fascinates me. There’s a universe to discover in texture, color, smell, and taste. And the profits from sales save me from household work.
I leave the curd and move to my test batch.
9 April 1742. The Thornton cheese has ripened three days.
I unfold a tea towel, set out my tools – a ladle, three knives, and two pike probes -- and tear the cheesecloth off the tun. I sniff.
The sour smell has sweeter notes. Accents of lilac.
I scoop up some of the soft cheese, and pour it onto a dish.
Kate clatters a pile of plates. “Miss Jane. Mr. Lewis? He told me to double the order.”
I hate interruptions, but I stop, look up, and force a smile. Kate means well.
“Did he give you a note of payment?”
Scoundrel. “I’ll speak to him when I’m in town.”
I select the smallest knife. As I slice the cheese, Kate places a tray next to me.
“Have you had any breakfast?” She is forever reminding me to eat. I’m not a baby. I’m almost seventeen.
“Later,” I say. Inside the cheese, a surprise. Tiny air bubbles. I pull my reading lens from my pocket to get a better look.
“And, Miss? Your father says he wants to see you. He says now.”