Saturday, September 19, 2015

Susanna Kearsley - A Desperate Fortune

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.

Comment: I'm a fan of this author so it was no hardship to pre order this book months before its release date. I was very curious about it and even more so when I've read some reviews stating how interesting the main character was and how different. This month I had to read it.
As always this is a double timeline story, part of it set in contemporary times and the other in the 18th century, featuring Jacobites again, one of the author's trademark themes.
Sara Thomas is the contemporary heroine who's been hired to decipher the diary of a young woman, Mary Dundas, to help an author writing a new book. Sara has Asperger's which offered an unique POV on things.
Mary Dundas, the historical heroine, is living with her aunt and cousins until the day her older brother asks her to meet him and she fully expects to live with him and his family after years of not even a letter. On purpose or not, her presence has a secondary goal and Mary sees herself as part of a scheme to hide a man from dangerous people.
The two stories mix while Sara tries to uncover Mary's secrets and both their fates seem to be connected to special men that they meet on their new journeys...
Once again I was marveled by the author's writing style and the evocative feeling I get when I'm reading. I think she makes it possible for the readers to be part of the scenes we're seeing in out heads and at the same time it's almost like there's nothing better than to sit for a while and immerse ourselves in her story.
Ms Kearsley does write beautifully.
Personally, when it comes to these stories where the action takes place in dual times, I seem to always prefer the contemporary story and characters. At least I've noticed that of all the stories with this scheme, I tend to be more interested in how the contemporary characters act and I what they do, rather than the historical ones. I don't know, both are equally well written, but somehow the contemporary details captivate me more.
With this book, the same happened, although the historical part did catch my attention and I was very curious to see when certain things happened, namely the romance.
In terms of plot, both were interesting, although all situations are presented in very subtle ways. This is good on one hand because we can judge for ourselves, but at the same time I wish some things were more obvious in happening because certain things, I think, could be better understood with some more clarity. In the historical setting the mystery is done on purpose of course, there's where the biggest plot issues have to be found, but sometimes subtlety made the story drag and I did think for a couple of times that a bit more decisiveness would be appreciated.
When it comes to the contemporary setting, I liked it and was so very curious but it seemed that nothing was really explained, only talked about and speculated...maybe if the romance had a bit more focus...
The romances are one of the most important aspect of the books.
The historical romance was very subtle and with hidden meanings here and there. Sweet and brave but not obvious. The contemporary one seemed fast for the author's style, but one has to read between the lines to grasp the meaning of many scenes and how important certain things are. Nothing is explicit but it's beautiful.
The characters were ok, not my favorites of all her books, but I did enjoy spending time knowing and reading about them. Of course the heroines are the figures that standout...
Mary Dundas was brave and practical and I liked that she didn't rely on tears or false emotions to get her goals. I really liked how she took things into her heart, she might suffer but she never used that as a means to an end. She deserved her HEA in the end. Her hero isn't easy to like but we learn things that make us realize how suited they are.
Sara Thomas I was very curious about, especially because of her Asperger's and how would that affect her life. I liked knowing more about that and how she grew up with that syndrome, how that affected her allowed me to learn more which is good. Her romance with Luc seemed fast and in the end there's something that seems too easy to be believable but that's fiction for you.
Nevertheless, I think I'd have liked to see more about her and her situation, how others around her deal with her, I think what we see compared to things we learn happened to them is too small an amount to have a precise idea.
All in all, I enjoyed the novel, the subjects the author introduced and developed. I also liked she mentioned characters from other novels - although I didn't recognize all - and that we have a very glimpse of her intents when writing. She writes polished, well structured and fascinating books. Will await for more, without a doubt.
Grade: 8/10

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