The Fortune Hunter
At first when I saw the “old school” prompt, I immediately thought of my stash of 20+ year old historicals that I’ve picked up at various used bookstores. Even though some of these older historicals can contain some problematic plot points at times, I can deal with problematic reads as long as they’re written well. Sadly, the ones I picked up just weren’t. One had a way too sunny approach to enslaved people, while another gave the heroine a delightful (ahem) choice between a sullen rapist and an alpha hero who lived for putting her down. Hard pass.
After these false starts, I decided to switch gears to “old school” Regency, and I picked up one of Jo Beverley’s trads from the early 90s. While The Fortune Hunter lacks the polish and depth of some of her later historicals, it’s still an enjoyable read. The heroine drove me batty at times, but there’s a sweetness to this tale that made me very happy to see the couple in question get their HEA.
In this novel, Amy de Lacy’s father has died, and upon his death, she and her siblings learn that they have been left in poverty. This is a plot point I remember coming across in many Regency trads, but it’s been a while since I read one and I’d forgotten how often Regency dads in 90s novels had a bad head for finances.
At any rate, the eldest daughter of the house, Beryl, is acknowledged by all to be both shy and retiring, as well as possessed of only average looks. Just as a sidenote, I have to say that all the mention of Beryl’s perceived difficulty on the marriage market started to get to me after a while. She’s plainly a sweet person, and without throwing in spoilers, let’s just say I’m happy that she got her own subplot that led her to happiness.
The next sibling down, Amy (don’t you dare call her Amethyst), is quite the opposite. She is so good-looking that pretty much any man who sees her all but swoons at her feet. She is also far from being shy and retiring, feeling free to jump into any given situation with both feet. Amy has been the self-appointed head of economization in the de Lacy household, and now she is determined to be the one who will land a rich husband and save the family.
The family has gotten word of a wealthy Cit having moved into the neighborhood, so Amy comes up with a scheme to attract his notice by having her carriage break down outside his gate. Unfortunately, she is better at planning marital martyrdom than checking weather reports, so she instead ends up trapped in a rainstorm with handsome, charming, eligible but not-nearly-rich-enough Harry Crisp.
The romance is quite sweet. It’s obvious that Harry is smitten with Amy. However, her dogged insistence on marrying money makes her much slower to come around. I honestly got rather fed up with Amy (as did some of her nearest and dearest in the story) because she almost seemed to be creating her own obstacles to happiness. On the one hand, Amy is far more blatant about her desire to marry rich than most heroines, but on the other hand, her family’s predicament is very real and the de Lacys have no easy answers.
Even though Amy starts off stubborn and a bit immature at times, her heart is in the right place and she truly loves her family. As the story moves along, she starts to cast off her blinders and grow up. And of course, things do end happily. This book isn’t as rich as some of Beverley’s later works would be, but it’s still an enjoyable read and you can see her strong prose throughout the book as well as glimpses of the characterizations she would become known for in later years.