A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

DesperateTitle: A Desperate Fortune
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Series: Standalone (although some character crossover with other novels)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Published: April 7, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5)

The summary of A Desperate Fortune from Goodreads:

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher.

But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects. As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take… to find the road that will lead her safely home.

I’m a little torn on this book. I loved Mary’s story, but Sara’s felt a little slow to me. I would be completely entwined in Mary’s story, and then been shaken free from my fog once Sara’s story popped up. I liked the book overall, but I felt like there was a disconnect at times.

The Good:

Mary’s story. I loved it. She’s not an average girl who watches time pass her by. She’s thrown right into circumstances that force her to think on her feet. She goes from living a sheltered life to being part of the Jacobite exiles. Her story is nothing like what I expected and I loved it. I wanted more.

I also liked Sara. She has aspergers, but that gives her an advantage in cracking Mary’s cipher. She’s able to break codes fantastically, and I liked that she had this aspect to her. She views herself as different when compared to the average population, and in a way she is. But throughout the novel, she learns that different is bad and that different doesn’t mean she can’t experience life the way she wants. She comes to realize that although her mind works in a different way, she’s still an amazing person.

I did like how the two stories were twisted together. Sara decodes Mary’s cipher and visits the places Mary talks about when she can. Even though these women are centuries apart, the streets of Paris bring them together. Sara gets to see and envision what Mary’s life was like because she can bring together the physical places with Mary’s writings. That aspect was wonderful.

The Bad:

Sara’s story, at times, felt slow when compared to Mary’s. Granted, Mary’s was full of mystery and danger, but it still felt a little disconnected. I would get so wrapped up in Mary’s story, and then it would pause to talk about Sara, and the lack of drama just felt somewhat dull. I don’t really think adding a ton of drama into Sara’s portion would have fixed this, as that would have likely felt contrived, but it needed something. A little suspense. Just something that would have kept the tension up.

The Recommendation:

Kearsley fans will enjoy this book. I’ve read several of her novels and each one has been a good read. If you don’t mind a little fast-paced action followed by some slower action, then you’ll probably find the pacing of the novel enjoyable. I just like to be kept on my toes a little bit more.

Purchasing Links:

Barnes and Noble

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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