IT specialist and amateur code breaker Sara Thomas, has always been protected by her first cousin Jacqueline who is in the publishing business. When historian Alistair Scott needs a code breaker to decipher a journal written in 1732 by second generation Jacobite exile Mary Dundas, Jacqueline presents Sara with the opportunity, and Sara, who is between jobs, accepts the partnership.
Twenty-one year-old Mary Dundas has had a protected and rather dull life making up fairy tales inspired by the ones written by a famous female author of the age. Little does she know that when her older brother Nicolas comes to claim her, he has in mind to offer her as company for a Jacobite exile who is running from the law due to a financial scandal in Scotland, and that Mary, over the course of five months in 1732, will travel through France and end up meeting aspiring king James Stuart VIII during his stay in Rome. During her voyage, Mary will face persecution and danger from the very people intent on apprehending the man she is accompanying, but she will also find love in the arms of a man from the Scottish Highlands set on protecting her.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors. Counting A Desperate Fortune, her latest effort, I have read six of her novels, namely The Rose Garden, The Winter Sea, The Firebird, Mariana, and Named of the Dragon.
Kearsley never disappoints me; her writing style is effortless, flowy, and as familiar and comforting as apple pie, or a warm summer afternoon. I can't pinpoint where her style secret resides, I just surrender to the experience. As is always the case, her research is impeccable, despite taking creative licenses that she admits to both with characters and situations.
When I started reading A Desperate Fortune I told myself: "the Jacobites again?", but Kearsley took the story in a surprising and entertaining direction. A Desperate Fortune follows in the steps of The Winter Sea and The Firebird, retaking the subject of the Jacobites living in exile due to the failed insurrections to bring aspiring king James Stuart (VIII of Scotland, II of England), to his rightful place as monarch of England. In A Desperate Fortune, James Stuart VIII is living with his court in Rome after the death of his mother, and after his cousin, the French king, has cast him aside. The Jacobites still left in Scotland are looking for new sources to finance the expenses of keeping a court in exile without the benefit of taxes.
I still have a few novels to read by Kearsley before I finish with her entire body of work, and hopefully I can discover new favorite authors after that.