Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: "A Desperate Fortune" by 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.
Thank you to Sourcebooks via Netgalley for the free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Did I like this book?

Do you ever read a book and think, "Wow, this book is what that other book wanted to be"?  That's what happened to me with "A Desperate Fortune".  It was fantastic, and just so much better than many others I've read written in the same vein.

At first, I was intrigued by the modern storyline because of my immediate connection with Sara.  She has Asperger's, and it was interesting for me, as the mother of a teenage Aspie boy, to see how she was able to cope with her own difficulties as an adult.  She often has trouble making connections with others, and I'd say that her only real friend is her cousin.  This older female cousin is wonderful, instinctively able to tell when Sara is becoming overwhelmed in social situations and excellent at redirecting her with Sudoku puzzles.  She is also the one who gets Sara her job as a codebreaker, which is a perfect fit for Sara: she can work all day at something that intrigues her and not worry about fitting into the corporate world, which has always been a disaster in the past.

In contrast, the historical storyline was a bit slower to capture my interest, but by the time I'd read about a third of the book, I was hooked!  I could not wait to see what happened with Mary and Hugh, and I honestly wasn't sure how it all would end.  It's definitely a bit of a slow build, but with that comes the satisfaction of reading a book that is truly well-crafted.  I enjoyed every moment!

Will you like this book?

With its two connected storylines in two different time periods, I think this book will appeal to those who liked "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay or fans of Sarah Jio.  Although the time period of the historical storyline is similar to Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, I feel it would be unfair to compare the two - the "Outlander" series, while one of my favourites, is a serious commitment with the length of the series and the length of each individual book.  "A Desperate Fortune", in contrast, is a standalone novel that probably won't take you months to finish.  And while there is a bit of romance and a tall, masculine Highlander in this book, there's no steamy bodice ripping, etc.  In other words, the romance is quite clean.

Will I read more by this author?

I've long been a Susanna Kearsley fan - she's Canadian, don't you know? - and I've read most of her older titles, but for some reason or other, I haven't read any of her newest books.  Let me tell you that I will be remedying that very soon!

My rating:

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