A Desperate Fortune
It seems to me that in the last year I’ve come across an unusually high number of books with dual storylines in the present and past, generally involving a woman in the present reading about another’s life in a given historical era. I must confess that this is not my favorite design, but that has never stopped me from appreciating a good book, such as A Desperate Fortune.
The book opens with Sara Thomas at a family wedding, discussing her unemployed state with her cousin Jacqui. Sara has Asperger’s and consequently does not enjoy working in a team the way many other computer programmers do. As she’s currently between jobs, Jacqui suggests Sara try working temporarily for a friend of hers. Historian Alistair Scott needs someone to decode a journal for him, and as puzzles and codes are one of Sara’s passions, she agrees to pack her bags and work in Paris for a few months.
While in France Sara stays with Claudine Pelletier, the owner of the journal, and meets Luc Sabran. The two hit it off, although Sara is uncertain of his interest at first. At the same time, she’s diving into the history of Mary Dundas, keeper of the mysterious journal. Mary, far from living and recording the life of an average French citizen in 1732, found herself traveling to Rome with a group of Jacobites, becoming quite close to one Mr. MacPherson along the way.
My first reaction to this book, in all honesty, was surprise that the heroine had Asperger’s. I have not encountered many books where main characters are dealing with this personally, so it definitely felt different for me. As I do not have much personal experience with Asperger’s, I don’t quite feel qualified to judge its representation here, other than to say that from what I saw it was handled frankly and respectfully. Sara clearly has moments when she feels she cannot relate to others around her, moments when she is aware that there is a piece of the conversation she simply cannot understand. Luc deals with these moments very well, a fact that is explained by his brother’s having Asperger’s.
Both of the romance stories included in A Desperate Fortune are charming and straightforward. There is a connection between each couple that grows over the course of the book, something that was well-written, as is common in Susanna Kearsley books. However, as is common with books where the plot is split between two couples, I found myself left with the sense that I had come to know each pair only on the surface. I definitely do not mean that there was no character depth, but rather that these relationships were kept simple and light. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl live happily ever after. A Desperate Fortune tells of a more everyday sort of romance, as opposed to the epic tearjerker you might find elsewhere.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this romance. While I don’t think I will seek it out to read again, I was fully satisfied and captivated while immersed in it. Fans of Susanna Kearsley will likely eat this right up, as it is in the same style as her earlier works, and to my mind equally as well-written.