A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: April 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781492602026
Paperback 480 pages

My source: Netgalley

Author’s website

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects.
It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take…to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Another wonderful time-slip historical novel from Susanna Kearsley! I have yet to read a book by her that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. In this book we have 2 protagonist, Sara in present day France and Mary in 1732 France.

We meet Mary Dundas, Scottish on her father’s side and French on her mother’s, through her diary written in 1732. Mary is recruited by her brother she hasn’t seen in many years to aid the Jacobite’s in getting a man safely to King James in exile in Rome. Mary’s Scottish father and brother’s had gone to help the Jacobite cause. She was left with an aunt and uncle in France for safety. She doesn’t remember anything of her Scottish heritage. After all these years her brother comes to get her to live with him and his family and asks her to do to this one thing. This begins her dangerous adventure. Her traveling companions include MacPherson, a mysterious, hard, Highlander who’s job it is to protect the small entourage. Is he foe or friend to Mary? A Scottish woman who is traveling as their maid and the man Mr. Thomson they are all protecting and taking to Rome to meet with Scottish King James. There is a bounty on his head and danger is everywhere. Through these difficult weeks that turn into months Mary learns much of the Scottish people and their fierce determination to restore King James to the throne, thus learning much about herself and her ancestors. I loved Mary and her bravery.

Thomson was a real person who was thought to have aided in a major financial deception of the time. And although Ms. Kearsley took liberties with the life of Mary Dundas she too was a real person of the time. Mary’s character was an example of the displaced second generation of Jacobites, born in exile and with no homeland of their own and MacPherson represented the Highlanders who left their homes to fight for King James. We learn a lot about how the King was sustained financially while he was a King with no land or subjects to support his kingship. Also the fierce pride and devotion of the Scottish people.

Quite different in this book is our other protagonist, Sara, she has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through the story of Sara’s efforts to decipher Mary’s journal we get a look into the world of someone with this syndrome and it is very enlightening! I loved watching Sara deal with the new relationships brought into her life by this job and maybe a new love! How she goes about breaking the cipher is interesting too. We get to visit many places in France through beautiful descriptions.

Lots of intrigue, suspicion, history, and romance. At the back of the book Ms. Kearsley included a short chapter on the history behind the tale and her resources. Excellent book, read it!

You can read the first two chapters here.

Purchase the book here

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book in advance!

*Although this book took place in France and is written by a Canadian, I am counting it toward Read Scotland 2015 as the story is centered on Scottish history and Scottish people.

Peggy Ann


The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley


Archaeologist Verity Grey has been drawn to the dark legends of the Scottish Borderlands in search of the truth buried in a rocky field by the sea.
Her eccentric boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it—not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has “seen” a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.

“Brooding and atmospheric. .. lovers of all things Scottish are going to adore this work.” —RT BOOK REVIEWS

“Ms. Kearsley has woven archaeology, history, mystery, the paranormal, and love together, to create a wonderful story.” —RENDEZVOUS

Little Robbie has the second sight. He says he sees a Roman sentinel walking the grounds of Rosehill. Verity hears horses galloping in the night. Kip the dog seems to run out to greet someone who isn’t there. Could there be such a thing as second sight? Or is it their imagination?

I really enjoyed this novel! The archaeology aspect and the history of the Roman legion were very interesting. The ‘eccentric’ boss was a wonderful character. There is a past romantic relationship going on and a new romantic relationship warming up. There’s a beautiful estate, lots of whiskey drinking and smuggling going on. A long kept secret, will the truth come out? Someone keeps sabotaging the computers. Is it a real person or the ghost?

On top of all this there’s the history of the town of Eyemouth, Scotland. Verity goes to a museum in town and learns the history of a terrible disaster that devastated the town in 1881. There is a beautiful woven tapestry in the museum to commemorate the disaster, the Eyemouth Tapestry. I looked up Eyemouth on my trusty map of Scotland and it is a real town! So I looked up the disaster and low and behold it really happened too and there really is an Eyemouth Museum and the tapestry! It has nearly 1,000,000 stitches in it and was done by 24 local women. There is a house in the story too that smugglers used in the old days, Gungreen House. It’s real too and you can rent it out now for a vacation rental. At one time it was the hot bed of tea smuggling in Scotland. All this just adds to the story for me.

I loved the characters and the plot was well done. I had a hard time putting the book down and was sorry when I finished it. This is my second book by Susanna Kearsley and I loved them both. Check her out!

If your interested in the Eyemouth Museum and the great disaster of 1881 check it out here. This is on my list of places to see for sure!

To read up on the disappearance of the Ninth Roman Legion go here and here

Susanna is also a Canadian so this book counts toward my Canadian Book challenge!

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

  ‘It wasn’t chance. There wasn’t any part of it that happened just by chance.
  I learned this later; though the realization, when it came, was hard for me to grasp because I’d always had a firm belief in self-determination. My life so far had seemed to bear this out-I’d chosen certain paths and they had led to certain ends, all good, and any minor bumps that I had met along the way I could accept as not bad luck, but simply products of my own imperfect judgment. If I’d had to choose a creed, it would have been the poet William Henley’s bravely ringing lines: I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.
   So on that winter morning when it all began, when I first took my rental car and headed north from Aberdeen, it never once occurred to me that someone else’s hand was at the helm.’  

Those are the first lines in ‘The Winter Sea’. This was a really good read. Especially if you like Scotland, historical fiction and danger and romance. This book had it all. Alternating between the contemporary setting and the past, The Winter Sea takes us at every turn into little known worlds; a history of Scotland and the Jacobite rebellion of 1708 and the possibility of genetic memory.

I liked the characters. Present day Carrie McClelland, sets out to write a historical novel and ends up on a journey into her family’s history. She is strong and likable. Her landlord, Jimmy Keith and his two sons, Stuart and Graham, both interested in Carrie romantically. Which one wins her heart? Dr. Weir who helps her with the historical facts and leads the effort to save Slains Castle. Then there are the characters from the 1700’s – Sophia, the sweet girl caught up in the Jacobite uprising and her hero, John Moray and their secret relationship.

I am not much for romance novels but with the history, the mystery, the ancient castle and the cottage on the sea, warm visits in a book filled room with a whiskey in your hand, it was irresistible. And the romance turned out to be very enjoyable as well!

I highly recommend this book, especially if you like Scotland! I give it 5 out of 5 stars!