‘The Dane of My Existence’ excerpt introduces Portia as she heads back to her Shakespeare-obsessed hometown

This Dane of My Existence excerpt is a perfect teaser for those who fell in love with Jessica Martin’s For the Love of the Bard, as well as those who have yet to discover her A Bard’s Rest series.

Okay, you don’t have to love Shakespeare to enjoy Jessica Martin’s A Bard’s Rest series, but it certainly helps. You can also love rom-coms, rivals-to-lovers, and those Hallmark movies where the big city girl goes back to her small-town life for a visit that turns into so much more.

Everyone fell in love with Miranda Barnes in For the Love of the Bard, and now Jessica Martin is here to deliver the sequel readers have been waiting for, this time with Portia Barnes at the helm. With a title like The Dane of My Existence, you know this is going be as full of tension as it is laughs.

Check out the full synopsis for the book below, and then read through our exclusive excerpt. At the end, you’ll find links to order the novel, as well as add it to your Goodreads list!

the dane of my existence excerpt

About ‘The Dane of My Existence’

Portia Barnes is the youngest managing partner in her law firm’s history, and she and her stilettos are poised to step into the role of her dreams—leading the firm’s new Boston office. But first she’s taking a summer sabbatical in her hometown of Bard’s Rest, New Hampshire, where she discovers something’s rotten in the midst of the town’s annual Shakespeare festival.

Hotshot commercial developer Benjamin Dane is sniffing around Bard’s, and while Portia isn’t necessarily a Shakespeare fanatic like the rest of her family, she’s not about to let him bulldoze the town’s beloved outdoor theater. Yet to Portia’s dismay, Ben proves as skilled as she is when it comes to outworking, outmaneuvering, and one-upping the competition. While she’s never hesitated to wage war against hyper-successful alpha males, Portia is caught off guard by Ben’s openness and lack of arrogance. As her own long-constructed walls start to come down, Portia begins to wonder if he might be more than an archnemesis.

With her heart on the line and the future of the town hanging in the balance, Portia faces an impossible decision—Ben or Bard’s?—unless she finds a way to broker the merger of her life, and ensures the curtain falls on a happy ending for everyone.

‘The Dane of My Existence’ excerpt

Coming in somewhere north of six feet, Chris loomed tall and lean, with dark skin and amber eyes. These days, he sported a thin mustache, which he insisted he’d grown to look more partner-like, but really, I thought he did it to drive Callie nuts.

He and I had grown up together in the office as freshly minted summer associates and only slighter wiser first-years. We’d both been fast-tracked to senior associates and made partner the same year, two years ahead of our peers. We’d been colleagues and late-night-Thai-in-the-office buddies and occasional rivals. When the opportunity for managing partner in Boston’s satellite office came up, I assumed it would come down to one of us. But to my surprise, Chris had bowed out early in the process. “Boston does not deserve my Black daughters,” he’d told me. “That city has some serious growing up to do.” And though I respected his decision, I would miss him, and that was not something I said of most people. Okay, anyone. I didn’t say that about anyone.

“Do you have a game plan yet?” Chris demanded. “So you don’t go all Annie Wilkes in the backwoods?”

I wrinkled my nose. “I don’t live in the backwoods of New Hampshire.”

“Portia, there are no Orangetheories or Williams Sonomas within a fifty-mile radius. Face it, you’re in the backwoods.”

“Says the guy who grew up eating grits and gators,” I retorted, crossing my arms over my chest. But not too tight. Wrinkles were unseemly.

“Don’t distract me,” Chris said with a grin. “I know all your moves. Now, what is the game plan for your sabbatical? You know Gerald will make you take the full three months.”

“Sit around in my sweatpants and eat ice cream?”

“You don’t own sweatpants and I’ve never seen you eat ice cream.”

“I own yoga pants and have been known to put away my fair share of gelato.”

His eyes widened to comedic proportions. “I am in the presence of a rebel.”

I sighed. “I’ve been a little busy closing matters here and making sure the transition team is on top of everything in Boston. I haven’t really had time to think of a plan.”

“Bullshit. You show up to bagel Fridays with a plan.”

While he wasn’t wrong (thin-sliced pumpernickel bagels or bust), I didn’t think he’d approve much of my paltry plans for the summer, which included little more than brushing up on a couple of management books and TED talks on leadership. I still held out hope that Gerald would drop this whole sabbatical business. This place needed me. He needed me.

“I suppose I’ll let my mother put me to work on the festival,” I hedged. But even as I said it, my throat tightened with that familiar squeeze of anxiety I felt when I thought of my mother. Well, not specifically my mother per se, but her health. A little more than a year ago, she’d found a lump. A lump that had turned out to be stage two breast cancer and had required surgery and ongoing chemotherapy to treat it. I hadn’t told anyone at work about it. Not even Chris. When you shared bad news like this with coworkers, they would go all kid-glove on you, and that could translate to a loss of opportunities. Hard pass.

“Callie and the girls are excited to come to the festival this year,” Chris said, slicing through my thoughts. “Thank you for the invite.”

“I noticed you didn’t include yourself in that list.”

He shrugged. “Shakespeare’s not my bag.”

“Mine either,” I told him with a conspiratorial smile. “But home is home, whether that’s grits and gators or a bunch of ex–English majors running wild in farthingales and codpieces and sporting bad British accents.”

Chris snorted. “So your plan to not succumb to Shakespearean madness is . . .”

“I have hobbies.”

“Name one.”


“That’s not a hobby. That’s masochistic. Name another.”


“Where are you going to swim in the backwoods?” Chris demanded. “You don’t strike me as a skinny-dip-in-the-creek kind of person.”

“The creek has eels in it.” I shuddered. “Ill-advised skinny-dipping aside, I’ll figure something out. On the drive home.”

He didn’t look convinced, but he let me off the hook all the same. I really admired that about Chris. You could tell he saw everything, but he didn’t always feel the need to call you out on it. “Well, I can’t say I’ll miss you,” I said, repeating the exact words we’d exchanged when we’d parted ways after our summer associateship, neither of us knowing at the time whether we’d be invited back to FrancisPearl as first-years.

“I won’t miss you in the slightest either,” he said, falling into our routine. “I certainly won’t be picking up the phone to call or text you.”

“Not at all. I’ve already deleted your number from my contacts. You know how I feel about clutter.”

“I won’t even say take care of yourself.”

“That would be beneath you,” I agreed.

He smiled broadly. “See you in August. But if I show up and you’re running around in a corset with a decidedly unposh accent . . . I’m not even turning the car off. That’s how art house horror flicks start.”

“Fair enough. Give my love to Callie and the girls,” I called with a blithe smile as I walked out of the office of the only person at FrancisPearl I considered a friend.

Excerpted from THE DANE OF MY EXISTENCE by Jessica Martin, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023

‘The Dane of My Existence’ published on June 4, 2023

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