Saturday, October 31, 2020

Book and Audio Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Desperate Fortune

Susanna Kearsley
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Publication: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 7, 2015); Audible Release Date: April 7, 2015

Description: Beloved New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley delivers a riveting novel that deftly intertwines the tales of two women, divided by centuries and forever changed by a clash of love and fate.

For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.

Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.

As Mary's gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.

My Thoughts: This was a beautifully written dual-timeline story. Sara Thomas, a modern young woman somewhere on the Asperger's Syndrome, is encouraged by her older cousin to take a job in France decoding the journal that photographer Claudine had purchased. The decoded journal would help one of her cousin's clients with the book he is supposed to be writing. Since Sara has recently left her job, the timing is right and the challenge of figuring out the cipher that Mary Dundas used in 1723 catches her attention.

Mary Dundas is twenty-one when the story begins. She has been raised by her mother's sister and her husband when her father left her there at age six to follow exiled King James as he looked for a new place to set up his court. Mary has always felt abandoned even though she loves her aunt, uncle and cousins and she has always felt like a person without a country since she was both Scottish and French.

When her older brother Nicolas comes to get her, she has hopes that she will finally be able to spend time with her family. But Nicolas has other plans. Mary is drafted to be the cover for a man who has escaped from England after a major financial scandal and who needs to make his way to King James. Mary finds herself installed in Paris as the "sister" of "Jacques" with a maid/chaperone named Madame Roy. She feels that she is being watched by a man across the street. 

When "Jacques" or rather John Thomson is discovered, the watcher from across the street now identified as Highlander Hugh MacPherson gathers them up and they flee while being pursued by bounty hunters. Along their difficult and perilous journey told both by Mary and decoded by Sara, we see Mary gradually fall in love with Hugh. And even though the diary ends with their fate undecided, the author was kind enough to continue Mary's part of the story to its conclusion.

Sara does figure out the cipher with the assistance of Noah Sabran, the almost nine-year-old son of Claudine's housekeeper and her ex-husband Luc Sabran. Sara is learning to fit in with the household in France and falls in love with Luc even though her cousin warns her not to get involved. Sara has always had difficulties with relationships because of Asperger's preferring to end them herself rather than taking a chance. Luc is not willing to be left behind and understands Sara since his own brother also has Asperger's. 

I loved the way the two stories wove together. Each story was strong and had wonderful characters many of them actual historical figures. I enjoyed the author's Afterword which told which of the characters were real and more about the time period when the Jacobites followed their exiled king to France and Italy. I also liked the hints that the stories of some of the characters were told in more detail in some of the author's other books. 

In format, this book reminded me strongly of Lauren Willig's The Secret History of the Pink Carnation which is another favorite book of mine. While I am not a fan of time travel in my reading, this sort of time travel where a modern story is interwoven with a historical one is a kind of book I really enjoy.

Favorite Quote:
Mary, through the fog that had encased her brain, observed that from the tone in which he spoke there always seemed to be a silent threat appended to his words, so that one could, if one were moved to make a game of it, attach the words "or else I'll kill you" to the things he said and have them fit as though he'd spoken them out loud. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I like the sound of this, breaking a secret code sound my cup of tea plus the dual timeline sounds well done.


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