The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin (April 24th 2014, Headline Review) thanks to bookbridgr for my review copy!
‘In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies. Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything — except happiness.
Bored with her dutiful Empress life in Vienna she comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton. Then years younger than her, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his, for he is promised to Charlotte. But Bay and the Empress are reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.
THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.’
The blurb is fantastic, don’t you think? If you’re a historical fiction type then you’re gonna be excited by that- I know I was.
But I need to admit here that at first, I was worried. The opening feels like you’re being led down a well-worn path of balls, and mama’s, and making a good match. Jolly good show old chap! She has a massive dowry!
I shouldn’t have worried. After the first few pages, I was hooked.
What did I like?
Charlotte – Such a compelling character. She’s an heiress with a shed-load of money, but couldn’t give rat’s arse about it. Our Charlotte likes to take photographs, and imagine/paint the people into animals. She’s a wonderful kind of weirdo (considering the times here..) And it’s all going so well.. until Captain Middleton turns up.. goddamn! Also, the blurb would have you believe that Charlotte was a side character.. but I felt like she had the strongest presence in the narrative.
Bay Middleton – How can you not like him? I loved him! As much as I wanted to hate him at times, Goodwin plays a clever game with us by telling the story from him perspective too. Switching between makes it harder to hate him because so much gets caught in the crosswires.. but ultimately, it’s what’s in his pants that causes the trouble here..
Tipsy – Is a beautiful horse and I want her. I’m a big horse lover so the addition of so many equines in this story was a real plus.
Tension – I was stressed out. Ha! I knew where this was going where the Empress and Bay were concerned, and I felt like reaching into the pages and shaking them both (Bay by the shoulders.. the Empress by the throat!) All I wanted was a HEA for Charlotte. I needed it!
Casper – Mr Casper Hughes, the visiting American, and keen photographer, was HILARIOUS. He is so vibrant on the page and such a delight to imagine. I wanted him as a friend 🙂
Setting – The grand houses, cities, galleries aside, the historical setting for this story was particularly exciting for me. On the cusp of the 20th century, so much is about to change. Technology will boom.. and the beginnings of it are obvious here in the photography, the trains.. and it mixes with an old, traditional way of being that we know, as readers, will soon come to an end.
What didn’t work for me?
I didn’t like the Empress too much.. but then I was rooting for Charlotte the entire time..
I wasn’t sure I understood the characterisation of Queen Victoria either. Her dialogue was puckered with words in italics. The extra stress on every other word made me chuckle- I ended up giving an exaggerated amount of emphasis to the words making her somewhat ridiculous.
The ending floored me. It’s wonderfully dramatic in a stage-play kind of way- not in an exaggerated way. It was one of those reads I’m happy to call a true ‘page turner’ and it’s always a good sign if at some point my insides squirm at the thought of what might happen next.
A solid read that completely sucked me in. A very happy 5 out of 5!