Judith S. (Santa Clarita, CA)
Pleasant and Predictable
Charlotte Baird is accustomed to the attentions of society bachelors. They are interested in her money. It is most unfortunate that the true object of her affections is co-opted by the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Poor Bay Middleton, how is he to choose; the one with the money or the one with the title? Can either woman compete with his affection for his horse?
This is a predictable, but pleasant Victorian society romance. There are lush settings, interesting historical details and a stereotypical set of characters. Charlotte Baird, the underaged heiress, is saddled with an overbearing, greedy brother and a jealous future sister-in-law. She is more interested in photography than in finding a husband, but it will be some years before she will have the control of her own money. Captain Bay Middleton is an impoverished, cavalryman who has an unfortunate reputation with other men's wives. And, then there is the Empress who is truly a fascinating and tragic historical figure.
I enjoyed the details of the Victorian's growing interest in portrait photography. It was interesting to read about the challenges of the English fox hunt. But, it is a bit difficult to believe there could be any real attraction between the bluestocking heiress and the dashing Captain, even if historically, they were eventually married. Goodwin's portrayal of the Empress Elizabeth makes me want to look for a more complete and factual account of her life. It's unfortunate that such a fascinating character should end up in such a pedestrian book.
Elizabeth G. (Cincinnati, OH)
I don't usually like this type of novel--the story or the writing. But I was drawn in from the beginning and couldn't put the book aside for anything else. I liked all the elements of historical fiction, mystery, romance, and a bit of feminism in the main character (I don't know if that much freedom really existed at that time or not). The great thing is that I learned more about that time in history without reading works written during that time. I am a student of literature, but Victorian, actually a lot of early English literature is not my cup of tea. So The Fortune Hunter could use a bit of editing--it drags a bit in the middle--but it is a good read. And I think it would be a good book club offering. And the love of horses in it was very appealing as well. And the way the Queen is depicted--well you'll just have to read it. Like my title says I was pleasantly surprised and congratulate the author on an accomplishment fitting her obsession from childhood with good research filled in with good story-telling.
Kathleen R. (Ogdensburg, NY)
Having seen the Winterhalter portrait of Sisi, as the Empress of Austria and Hungary, it is impossible to ever forget her. Daisy Goodwin has captured the glamour and mystery of the woman and brought us her story during her first year fox hunting with the aristocracy in England. Bay Middleton served as her pilot, guiding her on the hunts and their relationship naturally became the subject of speculation. Goodwin has fleshed out that story in an historical novel that rings true in every way. The heiress Charlotte Baird did become Middleton's wife, but during this first season she formed a fascinating triangle with the married Empress. Each woman obviously attracted Middleton as he hunted for recognition and wealth. Charlotte hunted for meaning in her life and Sisi hunted for happiness. It was interesting to watch the author explore what the women must have thought of one another, what jealousy they must have felt and what hope they had for the future. Knowing how it all would end did not detract from the interest I felt in watching the characters work out their fates. One of the most famous women of the nineteenth century certainly made a marvelous heroine upon which to build this novel. If this is your first chance to meet Sisi or you are seeking more knowledge of her, this novel will more than satisfy you.
Kathy S. (Danbury, CT)
What a wonderful book! I was completely engrossed from the first page and found the characters likable and engaging. I am always struck anew at how class ruled (and continues to rule) in other countries, with those of lesser prospects drawn into situations and relationships based on the inequality of position. Sometimes, the only way to extricate oneself from such a situation is to begin anew elsewhere. The ending of the book felt rushed, as though the author decided to quickly tie up all of the loose ends and be done already. Still, all in all, a good read.
Kate G. (Bronx, NY)
The Aristocrats at Play
Daisy Godwin has written a novel about English aristocracy in the1870s. Charlotte Baird is an orphan who will come into her very healthy inheritance at the age of 25. She has taken up the new form of media, photography as a hobby as she finds parts of her life suffocating, with its expectations of behavior. She has several suitors, but only eyes for Captain Bay Middleton who has served in the regiment with her brother, Fred. The novel encompasses one season of fox hunting and culminates with the wedding of Fred and his well- born fiancée Augusta. The story is based on true characters, although Godwin has taken liberties with them, as little is known about some of them. It is an interesting, romantic story, but it could have been shorter as the second part dragged. It kept my interest, as I was eager to see how it ended.
Barbara L. (Novato, CA)
The Fortune Hunter
I loved American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, and was therefore very excited to read The Fortune Hunter. I must say I was a bit disappointed in it. I found that the plot unfolded very slowly. The characters, although based on real people, seemed a bit unreal. I did not get invested in them,nor did I care what happened to them. This story did not grab me at all.
Joan V. (Miller Place, NY)
The Fortune Hunter
Since I enjoyed "The American Heiress" I had high expectations for this book and was very disappointed. On the positive side Ms. Goodwin did a very good job depicting what life was like for these historical figures. The fact that she was writing about real people added a lot of interest. Her descriptions of the hunts were fast paced Royal protocol was well research and very interesting. However, at times the prose was very melodramatic. The characters were not very likeable and even Charlotte who was the most sympathetic character was a bit boring. I googled the Empress Elizabeth and she was truly beautiful, Ms. Goodwin described her perfectly.