Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley - A Book Review

Susanna Kearsley

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 take... to find the road that will lead her safely home

I love when I come across a novelist who is capable of giving the reader a book that makes them think, that makes them interact with the characters of the book and become involved with the multiple storylines they weave through the pages and chapters of their work. 
A Desperate Fortune did just that.  This work gave the reader a very delicate social and medical plot for the protagonist in the current age that she had to deal with.  Susanna enabled us to live with Aspergers and see the world through the eyes of Sarah.  She did a fantastic job of it.  At the same time, she wove a very gentle love interest plot through as a subplot, but it wasn’t just a romantic love interest, it was about learning to love.  It was beautiful and I found myself also falling in love with both gentlemen of the house, very deeply in love.
The second major plot and storyline took us to another time and place 300 years earlier.  This story and the ebb and flow of the characters were of a totally different feel.  It was almost as if it was two different books.  But this was not a bad thing.  The characters were totally different.  The times and the demands of what was happening within the diary that Sarah was translating dictated what the second storyline followed. 
I loved that Susanna did not leave us, the readers to the strict diary renderings as to what we discovered about what happened 300 years prior, but allowed us to see the world through the eyes of the young lady, Mary, who wrote the diary.  In doing so, we were able to better glimpse the strife and restrictions that living in the court of King James court in France and Rome. 
The time that Susanna took to develop the central characters in both settings brought the stories alive.  From the poignancy of the life of Sarah in modern France as she grew more self-assured and slowly fell in love to the wild and scary times of the 1700s in France, Spain, and Italy as Mary, the 1700’s protagonist discovered her strengths and self-reliance those many years ago in another place and time. 
With each turn of the page, I found myself wanting more and more from the characters and the story itself.  Susanna stepped up to the plate and delivered.  Each time she stepped from one time period to the other, I found myself devastated, I was so immersed into the story and characters of the period I was living and breathing.  I did not want to leave.  It was the same with the next time swap, I did not want to go back.  But as soon as the story picked up, I knew new information would come up, and it did that pulled me right into the timeline of the new time period I was in, along with the storyline that was swirling around the characters that were moving swiftly through the pages. 
This is not my first Susanna Kearsley book, nor will it be my last.  Each of her novels are unique and touch heart strings at their deepest levels.  This novel has earned my highest praises and will be one that I pull out to read and enjoy again.  I would give A Desparate Fortune a Five Star review for the telling of the story and for the story craft in the telling.

Susanna Kearsley Aka Emma Cole.

Susanna Kearsley studied politics and international development at university, and has worked as a museum curator.

Her first novel Mariana won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Literary Prize and launched her writing career. Susanna continued her mix of the historical and paranormal in novels The Splendour Falls, Named of the Dragon, Shadowy Horses and Season of Storms.

Susanna Kearsley also writes classic-style thrillers under the name of 
Emma Cole.
Contact the author at 
Where to buy A Desparate Fortune