First Line: My cousin didn't try to catch the bride's bouquet.
Historian Alistair Scott is writing a new book, and he's positive that an almost three hundred-year-old journal contains information that will make his book a bestseller. Problem is, the journal is written in code. Fortunately for Scott, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas is available to go to Paris to crack the cypher.
After much frustration and even more persistence, Sara does break the code, and the story of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas comes to light. Young Mary, longing for adventure and for the family she lost. Young Mary, who steps onto a surprising path that is much more dangerous than she ever expected.
The more Mary's story unfolds, the more Sara has to face events in her own life that will make her question everything she believes to be true. Although separated by centuries, the similarities between these two young women are uncanny.
I have enjoyed every book by Susanna Kearsley that I've read. I slipped into the story of A Desperate Fortune and really didn't come up for air until I'd read the last page. If there are any Diana Gabaldon or Mary Stewart fans out there who haven't read Susanna Kearsley, I urge them to do so.
I found both storylines absorbing. Sara's Asperger's is dealt with objectively, and her work in breaking Mary's code is a treat to watch. Mary's storyline really gives readers a feel for what exiled Jacobites had to endure. I also appreciated the similarities between the two women. As far as the secondary characters go, I like Sara's love interest, Luc, but found his history with his ex almost too good to be true. Sara and Luc's son Noah are definitely my favorite present-day characters. But what about Mary's time? Mary's traveling companions Madame Roy and MacPherson are wonderful, and so is Mary's dog, Frisque. And as far as competing love interests go, Mary's wins, hands down.
Although A Desperate Fortune is a standalone novel, recurring characters from previous books do make brief appearances, which will please Kearsley's fans. While being immersed in Paris and secret codes and exciting escapes and handsome men, I also learned some fascinating details about the fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy and the role she and other women writers of that time played in literature. (The things you don't learn in school....)
Yes, I love this book, and if I can leave you with any advice, it's this: please don't skip reading "About the Characters" at the very end. Kearsley's telling us about the real Mary Dundas brought a smile and a tear to my eye.
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015
Paperback, 528 pages
Romantic Suspense, Standalone
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen