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

The Fortune Hunter

by Daisy Goodwin

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin X
The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
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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.

Published in hardcover in 2014. In paperback March 2015.

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You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Fortune Hunter:

Daisy Goodwin has said Sisi reminds her of Princess Diana. Do you see parallels?
I agree with Bettyt and I think the author did a wonderful job developing Sisi. - Lindsay

I find it interesting that advice columns are still printed in newspapers to answer the public's queries about how to handle situations. Some are very good - there is even a Miss Manners column in some papers. Maybe everyone should be given a copy of... - andreab

How do Queen Victoria and Sisi reflect the privileges and/or burdens of royalty? Do you think today's "royalty" (i.e., celebrities) have similar privileges and/or burdens?
Most of today's royalty appear to be tourist attractions, emblems of a long-ago empire without being "the ruling classes". They have tremendous privileges and trappings of wealth paired with obligations to make stirring, inspiring public appearances ... - lindah

How do you feel about the ending?
I suppose I did hope that Charlotte would end up with Bay. She wanted him, and he seemed to really want her back. As for long term happiness? I doubt it. But, who knows? Some of the most promising relationships seem to go bad, and some of the "least... - jeann

In what ways do you see Sisi's position as enviable or otherwise?
I cannot imagine being scrutinized and criticized like Sisi was. But it seemed like she was her own worst critic. She so feared the loss of her beauty that she felt compelled to go to the extreme lengths that she did to try to hold onto her looks. ... - jeann

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Media Reviews

"I want to highly recommend that you settle in for a whopping good time... especially if you are one of the thousands of English-speaking fanatics and fans of Downton Abbey, those who love reading about the royals, who were once the be-all and end-all of British 'civilization.' I should add that Goodwin can really write and write about that subject most others fail – romantic love, betrayal, jealousy and manners under the reign of Queen Victoria. This author has been compared by experts to Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen – with a dash of People magazine. So you won't be bored. The emphasis on the Victorian rules for female behavior have seldom been delineated better.

This is a triangle story of the woman who at 16 became the Empress of Austria, Sisi, termed the most beautiful person in Europe – and of an all-too-dashing cavalry captain who is poor but appealing. And, a unique British heiress bent on bending the rules. I just loved it. The backdrop of true history is there, certifying all the enlightened romance, confusion and drama of an English period of "manners" and change into a modern world."
- New York Social Diary, Liz Smith (Full review including photos)

"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

This information about The Fortune Hunter was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review


Great Historical Fiction
Loved this historical fiction book about a Victorian-era love triangle between a wealthy, aristocratic young woman, a not-so-aristocratic young horseman and the beautiful but older Empress of Austria. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill romance but in Daisy Goodwin's capable hands it's so much more. The writing is excellent and feels somewhat Jane Austen-ish. The English settings are realistic and fascinating and the characters are well-written, interesting and sometimes amusing. I can't wait to read another by this author.


Fortune Hunter
Loved this book and its characters. It was a good example of historical fiction. The setting in 19th century England was realistic as was the relationship between the characters. The author took some freedom in describing the relationship between Bay and the Austrian Princess but that fit within the parameters of the book. I look forward to reading her earlier book.

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.

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.

Amy G. (Bowie, MD)

Royalty, Etiquette, Society & Hunting
What more could you ask for? 'The Fortune Hunter' has it all. A sumptuous blend of all this British during the late 19th century, this book does not fail in its ability to weave the intricacies of royalty with the lives of British aristocrats.

The Empress of Austria is not to be trifled with. She has traveled to Britain, with her extensive entourage, to enjoy hunting season. When she falls in love with a "commoner," among the British hunting elite, her actions (and his) are deemed scandalous! The fact that the Empress is married and Captain Middleton is all but engaged makes the situation more shocking.

Enter Charlotte Baird, the heiress to the Lennox fortune. She is romantically linked to Captain Middleton, and her naivete about love and relationships is revealed when she mistakenly believes that the Captain is in pursuit of her heart, and not her fortune. Her devotion to the new art of photographer is a refreshing diversion for the reader, as the intrigue regarding the Empress and her Lothario swirl around as the center of the story.

If you are looking for is a rollicking ride through the countryside of Britain, replete with colorful characters, brilliant scenery and dubious shenanigans, The Fortune Hunter will not disappoint.

Shirley D. (Amherst, MA)

Daisy Goodwin serves up a slice of history presented by characters so alive they can neither be overlooked nor forgotten. The mind-set of the 19th century, its customs and levels of society, the clothing, food, manner of speech, vocabulary are so skillfully combined, the 21st century can seamlessly slip away and the reader falls easily into that earlier age where royalty and its observations flourish, where behavior and occupation are often by royal commend and personal desires are conflicted. It is hard to avoid empathy for Elizabeth, the Empress and Captain Middleton, a suspected fortune hunter, assigned to her for her safety, as each struggles with the sacrifices that must be made.

...26 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Daisy Goodwin Author Biography

Photo: Mike Hogan

Daisy Goodwin is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Fortune Hunter The American Heiress. She is a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University and was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the screenwriter and executive producer of the PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria. She lives in London.

Author Interview
Link to Daisy Goodwin's Website

Other books by Daisy Goodwin at BookBrowse
  • Victoria jacket
  • The American Heiress jacket
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