Desert Isle Keeper
Fortune Favors the Wicked
After a run of blah (and some outright bad) historicals recently, I hesitated to start Fortune Favors the Wicked. I was not looking forward to another “redeem the fallen heroine” type of story, and didn’t like the sound of a “silver-tongued libertine”. The blurb on the back just dripped with a morality I don’t really want in my romance. But I had picked it to review, and so I started it. And then I couldn’t put it down. The story is full of fabulous characters with a remarkable freedom in terms of sex and morality, and the writing and plot are first class.
A theft from the Royal Mint! £50,000 of solid gold sovereigns! Reward offered! Needless to say, the adventure (and the reward) has summoned people from all over the country to a small town in Derbyshire, the home, in fact, of one Charlotte Perry. Or Mrs. Smith. Or Charlotte Pearl. Charlotte has used more than one pseudonym in her life, and now she’s trying to keep her London notoriety under wraps. Charlotte has spent the past ten years in London where she was the most sought-after courtesan in the city. But her lifestyle has come with caveats and strings and now she just wants out. The reward money from the Royal Mint is the only way she can see to do it.
On the other hand, we have Benedict Frost, former Navy man, respected, incredibly poor, and recently blinded. He has spent the past four years in darkness, and has written about his adventures at sea, but no one believes him. More importantly, no one will publish his travelog. In order to get the book out there, earn enough money to live on, and provide a dowry for his younger sister, he needs to pay a publisher to put out his work. The Royal Mint reward is the only solution he can find.
Of course the and Charlotte end up working together, because it’s a romance, but the chemistry between the two of them is off the charts. Their dialogue is fun and feisty, and the tension between the two? Hot! There’s a fair hand of family drama on both sides, as Charlotte has kept her London life completely separate from her family; and while Benedict has been trying to earn a living, he’s basically neglected his sister (with the best of intentions, but still). I definitely have some opinions on this book, and really, they are basically all good.
Item the first: thank you, Ms. Romain, for featuring a hero with a physical disability. Double points for the disability in a historical setting. It’s actually a pretty amazing depiction, though, I myself am not blind, and so I can only imagine the difficulties involved in functioning in the modern world, not to mention a historical one. The narrative flows fairly seamlessly between Benedict and Charlotte, and as a result, it took me a minute to realize that Benedict is blind.
The sections told from his PoV are fully described using all his other senses in a way that feels completely natural. He doesn’t repeatedly bemoan his loss of sight, though he does mention it. He treats it in a way that feels… graceful. He is a solid gentleman, and I absolutely adored him.
Item the second: Charlotte is completely fabulous. She may be a small town girl (feel free to continue singing the Journey song – I know I am!), but she has seen London, been a part of the glitz and glamor, even if from the sidelines. After her lover painted her as different characters, mostly naked, there wasn’t much else she could really do other than become a courtesan. I can’t fault her at all for her life choices – she did what she could with what she had at hand. And she is now making a strong effort to remove herself from that lifestyle, which just recently started failing her. She is a strong, independent woman in a period where that did not work in her favor, who makes her own decisions about her life. She is just fabulous.
Item the third: I could stand to read about five more books of Charlotte and Benedict sniping at each other. I love every single conversation the two share. All of them. Without fail. Is there any chance we could get a series just of the two of them? Talking with each other? I would buy it, read it, and probably re-read it multiple times.
And finally, item the fourth: I love how the plot weaves multiple pieces together into one story. The adventure is thrilling, the danger feels real, and there are some wonderfully heart-breaking moments, specifically for Charlotte and young Maggie, her daughter (who thinks she is Charlotte’s niece. Long story), and everything is really well done. I don’t think I can stress that enough.
If I have a complaint, it would be that the “bad guy” is just… bad. He’s pretty one-dimensional. But that really didn’t bug me at all until I was done with the book. There’s enough going on that it works pretty well. Oh, and there was a surprising amount of time setting up future stories. Or at least, I’m guessing that the bits with Benedict’s sister, Georgette, are leading to a sequel.
Regardless, I can easily recommend this book, whether or not you are a fan of historicals. The characters are wonderfully complete, the story is fascinating, the turns in the plot are fun and not entirely expected. It’s well-written, it’s heart-warming, and just lovely – and I loved it.