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History, Mystery and Romance all in one

Book Cover Image - A Desperate Fortune

Okay, I admit it - A Desperate Fortune is the first Susanna Kearsley novel I've read. And for all the people who have recommended her books to me over the years - you were absolutely right - she's a wonderful writer!

Kearsley employs my favourite style - a past and present narrative that switches between present day Sara, and Mary in 1732.

Sara has been hired to decode a recently discovered diary dating from 1732. But the owner insists she travel to Paris to work on it. Sara is a gifted puzzle solver and she quickly discovers that the diary belonged to Mary Dundas - a Jacobite exile. As she makes more headway, she recognizes that the book has historical significance beyond Mary's personal thoughts.

I just loved the idea of a coded book finally being revealed after almost three centuries. Of the two story lines, I was more caught up in the past, eager to see where Mary's journey took her.

But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the present. Sara was an interesting protagonist - Kearsley has created a lead character with Aspberger's Syndrome. There have many books with male leads with this syndrome, but this is the first female lead I can think of. I thought Kearsley did a good job with her portrayal.

Both storylines contain a romantic element. Again, I thought Kearsley wrote Sara's story with a realistic, sensitive view of this syndrome. But it was Mary's story that captured me completely. I loved her mettle, her hopes, her determination and her 'affair of the heart'. (And I think I'm a little in love with Mr. M. as well) I loved the stories within a story - Mary is a lover and raconteur of fairy tales. And again, Mary's life mirrors some of her beloved tales.

The author has a strong sense of time and place. Kearsley brings to life a time frame I truly did not know much about, in an interesting and engaging fashion. (The author's notes at the end are fascinating - they detail her historical research for the book.)

Turning the last page left me feeling satisfied - but also sad that the book had ended. This definitely won't be my last Susanna Kearsley book. ~~Luanne~~