Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Desperate Fortune

A Desperate Fortune has something for everyone: historical politics and intrigue, deciphering an encrypted diary, romance, and finding one's place in the world (both past and modern).

This novel served as my introduction to Susanna Kearsley. I must say her research in to historical eras, politics, and scandals is thorough! Written in chapters alternating between the modern-day life and work of Sara Thomas (who's task is to decipher the decades-old diary of Mary Dundas) and Mary's world as captured in her diary, readers are introduced to issues of the Jacobite exile and its fallout in Scotland, England, France and beyond.

Kearsley does an amazing job of illuminating the details of what life was like in Mary's day. Male and female roles, court life, the difficulties of travel, issues of class and slavery, these are just a few of the things Mary encounters and must sort through when she is asked to play her part in her family's belief system.

So too does she show what modern life is like in Paris of today through Sara's stay there. Because of Sara's learning style, she ventures out in the Parisian neighborhoods where the heroine of the diary she is decoding spent her days. It was easy to imagine the streets of Paris, the old architecture mixed side-by-side with the new, the narrow streets, the quaint cafes, the smell of espresso and warm croissants, the lovely gardens . . .

I enjoyed the fact that Mary was discovering who she was as a person alongside Sara despite the fact their lives were set in such different times. That each found a place to call home and a sense of purpose and meaning was satisfying. The hook for me into the story was Sara's need to decipher the code in Mary's diary. Thus I was a bit disappointed when that aspect of the story fell by the wayside fairly early on in the novel (which is quite lengthy at about 500 pages!)

If you enjoy novels that bring together modern times with historical situations, which involve the complexities of evolving relationships and characters, with added touches of intrigue and drama, you will definitely want to pick up Kearsley's newest offering, A Desperate Fortune.

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC in exchange for this review.

From the Publisher . . .

Beloved New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley delivers a riveting novel that deftly intertwines the tales of two women, divided by centuries and forever changed by a clash of love and fate.

For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.

Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing-for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.

As Mary's gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew-about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.

About the Author . . .

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and RITA award winner, Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers' Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers' Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

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