Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley  
Series: Standalone
Published: April 21st, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
480 pages (ARC)
Genre: A mix of contemporary and historic fiction
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my review of The Winter Sea || Read my review of The Firebird}

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects.

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise.

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Susanna Kearsley earned a spot on my auto-read list after I read The Winter Sea and The Firebird. I fell in love with the stories, the characters, the settings, and Kearsley’s ability to move seamlessly between the present and the past and weave a story that’s full of romance, intrigue, and excitement. Her latest release, A Desperate Fortune, is no different.

This book started out quite slow. For about the first hundred pages or so it was hard to get interested or invested in either of the dual story lines. But I had faith in Ms Kearsley and was sure A Desperate Fortune would end up wowing me as her other books did. If it had been any other author, I would have set the book aside after that first night of reading, but by the next night when I picked it up again, the story picked up too, and I found it easy to get lost in the pages.

I liked Sara a lot, and found it fascinating how her mind worked. The portrayal of her life and struggles with Asperger’s was done really well. Her relationship with her cousin Jacqui, who was basically her champion, was also quite interesting. Jacqui understood how Sara’s mind worked and what her triggers were, and she wanted Sara to live as ‘normal’ a life as possible. She thought she knew what was best for Sara, and sometimes her idea of helping kept Sara sheltered and stifled, but it was obvious that it came from a place of love. You don’t see many close cousin relationships in books, and I enjoyed the dynamics between the two. I also really enjoyed the relationships Sara developed while she was working in France - Denise, Noah, and Claudine were all great characters and they each had something to teach Sara about life, love, and companionship. Then there was Luc. One of my favourite thing about all of Susanna Kearsley’s books is the romantic element. She sure knows how to write swoonworthy men! I loved how patient and understanding Luc was, and how he quietly made a place for himself in Sara’s life without pushing her. 

As with Ms Kearsley’s other books, it was the historic aspect of the story that grabbed my attention (and heartstrings) the most. Mary wanted more excitement in her life and she got it when she was asked to pose as the sister of someone King James had a special interest in. I loved how the story unravelled slowly, with the reader kept wondering about things as much as Mary was. Mary and her companions made a motley crew, and each of them had secrets to keep, partly for their own protection, partly for Mary’s, and sometimes just because that was their nature. The romance in the historic parts of The Winter Sea and The Firebird were amazing, so I was sure it would be no different in A Desperate Fortune, and I was right. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but once I realized what was happening, I fell in love right alongside Mary. I longed for more scenes with them together, and hoped everything would fall into place for them. As much as I loved Luc, it was Mary's love interest who really stole my heart. And just like with Sara and Luc, Mary's love interest quietly made a place for himself in her life. Their romance was slow and sweet and beautiful, and I could have continued reading about it forever.

Susanna Kearsley has written another incredible book. A Desperate Fortune is compelling, intriguing, romantic, and unique. There are so many little details in her stories that make you smile, touch your heart, and ultimately make her tales unforgettable.

Susanna Kearsley and Genevieve Graham are going on tour together from May 9th to 13th. If you'd like to meet these two fantastic authors, check out the Timeless Tour site for more information.
Have you read A Desperate Fortune? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any of Susanna's other books? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

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