Kearsley employs my favourite style - a past and present narrative that switches between present day Sara, and Mary in 1732.
Sara has been hired to decode a recently discovered diary dating from 1732. But the owner insists she travel to Paris to work on it. Sara is a gifted puzzle solver and she quickly discovers that the diary belonged to Mary Dundas - a Jacobite exile. As she makes more headway, she recognizes that the book has historical significance beyond Mary's personal thoughts.
I just loved the idea of a coded book finally being revealed after almost three centuries. Of the two story lines, I was more caught up in the past, eager to see where Mary's journey took her.
But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the present. Sara was an interesting protagonist - Kearsley has created a lead character with Aspberger's Syndrome. There have many books with male leads with this syndrome, but this is the first female lead I can think of. I thought Kearsley did a good job with her portrayal.
Both storylines contain a romantic element. Again, I thought Kearsley wrote Sara's story with a realistic, sensitive view of this syndrome. But it was Mary's story that captured me completely. I loved her mettle, her hopes, her determination and her 'affair of the heart'. (And I think I'm a little in love with Mr. M. as well) I loved the stories within a story - Mary is a lover and raconteur of fairy tales. And again, Mary's life mirrors some of her beloved tales.
The author has a strong sense of time and place. Kearsley brings to life a time frame I truly did not know much about, in an interesting and engaging fashion. (The author's notes at the end are fascinating - they detail her historical research for the book.)
Turning the last page left me feeling satisfied - but also sad that the book had ended. This definitely won't be my last Susanna Kearsley book. You can connect with Susanna Kearsley on Twitter, on Facebook and on her website. Read an excerpt of A Desperate Fortune.
Canadian readers, you can join Susanna Kearsley and Genevieve Graham on the "Timeless Tour" from May 9 - May 13th. More information can be found here.