Review by Ann McDonald
‘The Fortune Hunter’, the new novel by Daisy Goodwin, is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures.
This is a period piece and it is very well researched in regards to locale and characters. Author Daisy Goodwin takes you right into the heart of the English aristocracy with all of its Victorian tenets, especially where women’s rights and situations were concerned. If you haven’t ventured into the world of 1870s double standards, you are in for a rude awakening. There are many colorful characters in this book and they are based on real people, which is probably why you get drawn into the story that Goodwin creates. Where the story stands, we have Charlotte Baird, an unmarried heiress to the Lennox Fortune.
Her older brother Fred is responsible for her fortune until she reaches legal age and he is engaged to Lady Augusta and a more unpleasant woman you wouldn’t meet in a month of Sundays. There are Lords, Ladies, Aunts and Uncles everywhere and men with an eye on Charlotte’s fortune. Enter Bat Masterson, an amoral man whose reputation with women precedes him wherever he goes. His entry into the story has him being informed that his mistress is with child and she must go to the country at once to be with her husband. Bat is very unhappy with his dismissal and inquires, “Is it mine?” Exit Bat.
He is then introduced to Charlotte and is very taken with her. She is very independent and plainspoken and has fallen for Captain Masterson. We then meet the Empress of Austria, Elizabeth, who comes to England to enjoy the hunt. She is a beautiful, amazing woman and a great rider who along with her entourage, settles in for the duration. She needs a pilot to guide her around the different hunting sites and her safety is of the utmost importance and Bat ends up as her guide and pilot. So the stage is set and the shenanigans begin. It’s predictable but quite delicious and along the way, you meet Queen Victoria, her son, the Prince of Wales and an assortment of various characters.
The Grand National, a National Hunt horse race with horses jumping 30 fences over two circuits, is very well drawn out. The book is long and for the most part, very enjoyable but I have to take umbrage at the end. The finale was very abrupt and felt unfinished, it switched from an immensely entertaining historical romance to a pseudo fairy tale ending but that one irritation aside and all things considered, it was a very satisfying read.
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