Genre: historical, fiction
Source: bookbridgr / NetGalley
Fiction RBC 2014: A book based on a true story
Charlotte Lennox, debuntante and amateur photographer is one of the Town’s biggest catches, known colloquially as the ‘Lennox heiress’. Her reckless mother and the original Lennox heiress died in a hunting accident when Charlotte was a child and her fortune is currently managed by her half-brother, Fred, until she marries with his approval. Despite being the most eligible girl on the market, Charlotte isn’t known for her striking looks or scintillating conversational skills; rather, Charlotte has a passion for photography and a mere mention of her hobby is usually enough to frighten off any potential suitors, much to Fred’s dismay.
Captain Bay Middleton is smitten. A friend of Fred’s, he’s well known for his superior riding and dancing abilities, as well as being a known womaniser – especially of married women. Bay is thrown by the fact that Charlotte isn’t like any woman he has ever met before and he’s determined to win her over. Charlotte is equally infatuated: Bay is genuinely interested in her photography and hearing her opinion. Despite Fred’s reservations, the pair are well on their path to engagement … And then the most beautiful woman in the world comes along …
Sisi, Empress of Austria, is the (un)lucky woman known by that moniker. Wife of the Emperor of Austria, Sisi is deeply unhappy in her marriage and has come to England to ride and hunt. Since the age of thirty-two, she has refused to sit for portraits and photographs, so that her public image can remain forever young. Appointed her pilot to guide her through the unfamiliar land, Bay Middleton quickly finds himself dazzled by the Empress and embarking on a relationship that every man desires …
I loved this. I’ve never been a big reader of historical fiction, however much I love historical romance, but I definitely need to start reading more. I’d heard good things about Daisy Goodwin’s debut, The American Heiress, but have never got around to reading it. When I get the chance, it’s next on my list. There’s just a refreshing simplicity and almost bareness to her writing – raw and straightforward and it reads really well.
I was fascinated to learn that this is based on the true story of Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ Empress of Austria. Daisy Goodwin provides a detailed account on her website here and much of this comes through in the novel. Very little in non-fiction interests me, but this is definitely an area that I’m willing to delve deeper into.
The Fortune Hunter switches between the three POVs and this was similarly done well. I was momentarily surprised when I first started reading a chapter from Bay’s perspective as opposed to Charlotte’s, but this perhaps made me even more enamoured of the book and Ms Goodwin has a gift for making her characters believable and loveable – as well as hated. Since the book started with Charlotte, I was definitely more predisposed to like her and champion for her corner as the story unfolded. I found myself a great enemy of Sisi and there were times when I was tempted to hurl the book at the wall – it’s no easy feat to get me that broiled.
Charlotte as a character is really polished. She’s in charge of her life, however unconventional that is for girls in those times, and the people around her (grudgingly) come to accept her decisions. Bay is the first man who gained her respect and so it is utterly heartbreaking when she learns of his relationship with Sisi.
The Fortune Hunter is a deceptive book: I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as engaging, exciting or entertaining as it was. Daisy Goodwin has a fantastic writing style that was different to anything else I’ve read and I’m looking forward to reading more from her.
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.