The Fortune Hunter: Book summary and reviews of The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

The Fortune Hunter

By Daisy Goodwin

The Fortune Hunter
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2014,
    480 pages.

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Book Summary

A beautiful empress, a handsome horseman, and a bluestocking heiress form a passionate love triangle in this historical novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The American Heiress

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as "Sisi," is the Princess Diana of nineteenth century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse. Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that threatens the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and all of their futures.

This brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Although readers who enjoyed The American Heiress will be first in line to savor Goodwin's new novel, they will be followed quickly by others who appreciate engaging and thoughtful historical fiction." - Library Journal

"Goodwin manages to take the reader deep inside the characters' longings and flaws in a way that makes the reader root for them. An enchanting, beautifully written page-turner." - Publishers Weekly

"Goodwin's second novel is a luxurious indulgence for romantically inclined readers....Mingling historical fact with imaginative fiction, Goodwin writes with effortless grace, and her dialogue's subtle wit is delightful." - Booklist

"Goodwin has hit on a winning formula - a sophisticated blend of money, class, history, misunderstandings among lovers, spirited women, and unpredictable but irresistible men - and is sticking with it." - Kirkus

"A sumptuous, scrumptious confection, with country houses, Austrian Empresses and Victorian glamour galore." - Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces

"Daisy Goodwin has triumphed again. In The Fortune Hunter she weaves a rich and textured tale of desire and ambition. Sizzling with energy and passion on every page, Goodwin's characters compel the reader to fall in love with them." - Amanda Foreman, author of the New York Times bestsellers Georgiana and A World on Fire

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Melinda
The Fortune Hunter
Goodwin crafts a well written historical fiction love triangle with intriguing characters. The diversity of the characters gives this love triangle a certain amount of added punch.

I found myself playing armchair psychologist to the characters simply because Goodwin provides the reader with enough scant information you want to delve in and explore what makes them tick and explain their choices and actions.

Charlotte Baird is endearing, appealing and a woman ahead of her time. As much as Goodwin built up Charlotte's characterization, I admit I was surprised by her behavior as the story progressed. Let's just say the way Charlotte was presented left me questioning a few of her moves as well as a few unanswered questions I was hoping would be addressed but weren't. Empress Elizabeth wasn't revealed as much as I was hoping for, however Goodwin painted enough of a picture of the woman she was and the burdens she carried. Despite her station and marital status I felt empathy and fondness towards her. Bay Middleton, a gentleman with an affinity towards married women, at least it appears so. His indecisiveness, focus on beauty more than substance was a turn off. He came across too many times searching to be rescued, weak, a 'ladies man' - I wasn't quite sold. Admittedly, despite his many warts there is something about him that pulls at your heart.

Goodwin excels with creating a wonderful setting. She nails the era, social propriety, manners, language masterfully. Her research was complete but the alteration of facts didn't work for me. I understand this is a work of fiction, keep in mind drastically altering major historical facts diminishes the narrative and purpose.

The end caught me by surprise. I was convinced Goodwin would take a different path, her choice left me astonished. I felt the ending didn't fully match the characterization, perhaps this was her intent but I certainly caught me off guard.

Good story, if the historical facts weren't so manipulated the story would have been great. Goodwin demonstrates creativity, solid writing, intriguing characters and I look forward to her future projects.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dorothy T.
Riding, romance, and royalty
I had never heard of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria before I began reading this book (of course, I have since been to see her on the internet), so I was intrigued by this story. Sisi is a woman who apparently has everything, but in reality she is very unhappy, seemingly because, as her lady-in-waiting Countess Festetics notes, she has nothing upon which to focus her talents besides her beauty, and as that begins to fade she becomes lost. She comes to England to participate in the fox hunts, hoping to fill those empty spaces.

As I noted in my title, this work of historical fiction has all the elements to appeal to a wide variety of readers. The fictional story lines and little-known or imagined characters are well-done. Daisy Goodwin has a knack for this genre. I plan to read her first book, The American Heiress, sometime in the future.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Dolores Cozzolino
The Fortune Hunter
Having been in Budapest, I was intrigued by Empress Elizabeth. There is a bridge, several orphanages and a boulevard named for her. All our guide told us was that she loved the climate of Hungary and its people - no mention of Bay Middleton. The book explains her absences. There is good character development, historical accuracy and cutting edge character dialogue - a fictional history of a fascinating character and the people surrounding her.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Elizabeth G. (Cincinnati, OH)
Pleasantly Surprised
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.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kathleen R. (Ogdensburg, NY)
Royal Hunting
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.

...22 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Daisy Goodwin Author Biography

Photo: Mike Hogan

Daisy Goodwin is the daughter of film producer Richard B. Goodwin (A Passage to India, Seven Years in Tibet) and writer/interior designer Jocasta Innes (Paint Magic), and the sister of the Edgar-winning writer Jason Goodwin (The Janissary Tree). She earned a B.A. with honors in history from Trinity College, Cambridge, followed by a Harkness Fellowship to Columbia University Film School; and now runs her own independent television company in the UK.

In addition to publishing eight poetry anthologies, she has presented award-winning television series on poetry and on the enduring appeal of romantic fiction, and is a commentator and columnist for the London Sunday Times. In 2010, she served as chair of the judging panel for the Orange Prize for the best novel written in English by a woman....

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