A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley #Review

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley #ReviewA Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on April 7, 2015
Pages: 524
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      two-flames

This was the To Be or Not to Be…Read winner and I’m particularly glad to have gotten the opportunity.  Highlanders, Jacobite intrigue, spies, light romance…need I say more?

I read another book from this author and after enjoying her old-style romantic suspense tone I wanted to read more of her work.  I spotted this one which promised a split story with two heroines a few centuries apart with a diary at the center of matters for them and settled in for an engaging set of stories.

This is a standalone story, but fans of the Author’s earlier Jacobite-centered stories like The Winter Sea and The Firebird will recognize a few crossover characters doing cameo scenes.

The book opens with contemporary heroine, Sara Thomas, being offered the task of deciphering a 300 year old diary for an author’s research project.  Sara joins the household of the diary’s current owner and slowly settles in to the French household and beginning her own little romantic adventure.  While reading about the intrepid Mary Dundas, the girl’s story captivates Sara and challenges her for the first time to take a chance and reach for what she really wants even if the negative voice in her head tells her she can never have a normal life.

Born in exile to a Jacobite sympathizer and his French wife, Mary Dundas is sent to live with her aunt’s family when she was just a little girl until the time comes that her brother comes for her.  Mary discovers that all is not what it seems and she is now caught up in intrigue, espionage and danger.  The people around her are keeping secrets and these are the people she must trust for her welfare.  She wished to travel and for adventure.  Now if she can only survive to appreciate it.

Split stories between contemporary and historical times are an iffy venture for me.  I usually end up preferring one story line over the other.  And I did in this case, as well.  Mary Dundas’ story from the past held me attention much more over Sara’s.  However, that is not to say that I disliked Sara’s story.

Mary lives in dangerous, changing times with the English spying and keeping track of the Jacobites in exile and the Jacobites are constantly scheming to put their king back on the throne and gain Scottish.  She is an ordinary young lady who only dreams of life outside her uncle’s quiet home until she finds herself in the midst of a desperate adventure and a man she isn’t sure she trusts holds her life in his hands.

Sara has Asperger’s syndrome and it controls her life to a certain extent.  I loved seeing her work with it and figure out how to put things in place to work with it.  She has kept quietly to herself preferring isolated jobs and assumes she can never have a long-term relationship until a handsome and lively Frenchman teaches her differently.

While I didn’t mind Sara’s story, I did find the repetition that occurred a bit between Mary’s narration and then Sara reading it again in the diary slowed things up somewhat and was a distraction more than anything.  I also liked the romance she had, but it was fast and underdeveloped because the focus was more on Mary and the diary.

Now Mary’s story was the gem.  I never wanted to leave off and go back to the present.  She’s surrounded by secretive and desperate characters.  The reluctant adventure she is on hones her and shows her to be much more than she knew.  She is surrounded by people who have seen tough and hard times and her opinion alters as she grows to understand how the world works.`

So in the end, this was a solid two for one story with well-drawn characters and a particularly compelling historical story full of suspense and a surprising romance.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #270 HR
Mt. TBR #98
Blogger Shame #37

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • dholcomb1

    such a beautiful cover, too

    denise

    • I agree, Denise! All the updated Sourcebooks’ covers are beautiful, but this one with it’s yellow golden tones is one of my favorites.

  • I like the idea of the story. I don’t think I knew about the author but I think I could like it

    • I just discovered her books last year, Melliane, but I’ve read two now and definitely enjoyed both. Hope you get the chance.

  • I’ve been really meaning to read this, the plot fascinates me and it’s promising to be really well written. How is the pace in this?

    • You sound like me over so many books. 😉

      The pace is slow and steady with a few suspense moments in the historical plot thread.

  • I actually have this for Nook, my son has aspergers so I will be curious to see how it affects her,

    • I thought she handled the Asperger’s side well, but I’ve not had close contact with adults with Asperger’s- only a few of my former students when I taught.

  • A Historical romantic suspense, that sounds like a fun blend of genres. It sounds interesting how you have a contemporary characters who reads about a historical one. I remember a book with such a plot line that I once read years ago, but can’t remember the title sadly.
    I do agree that with such a set-up it can be easy to get more invested in one of the two plot lines. Glad to hear you did enjoy both storylines even though you preferred the one from the past. Too bad there was a bit of repetition with Sara reading the diary. Great review!

    • The blend of the historical romantic suspense and the two time lines seems to be a niche for this author. I looked over her backlist of books and saw several like that. I definitely want to try them.
      Yes, I did tend to want to find out what happened next with Mary’s adventure more so than being with Sara while she broke the code on the journal, but the contemporary was still good. Having the story from Mary and then having Sara read it again in the journal was not very interesting to me.

      Thanks, Lola!