I picked this book up at the library when I saw that it was the first pick for one of the book clubs I've joined on Goodreads, and was happy to see that it fight right into my reading preferences! Royalty? Check. Scandal? Check. Historical details? Check. Everything I look for in a book was there, and I was surprised that I hadn't yet picked it up on my own. The Fortune Hunter chronicles the scandalous love triangle that occurred between Bay Middleton, a captain in the British Army and notorious ladies-man, Empress Sisi of Austria, and heiress to the Lennox fortune, Charlotte Baird. It takes place in the late 1800's and is steeped in rich historical detail (without feeling suffocated by it).
The story begins when Sisi comes to England to participate in the hunting season. She's unhappy -- bored and unfulfilled after a lifetime of strict and stuff social interactions -- and wants to experience freedom on the back of her horse. She's notorious for being a bit "wild," meaning that she could ride as well as the men and wasn't afraid to prove it. She was known for being the most beautiful woman of her time, with dark hair that cascaded to the floor and a 19" waist (if you don't know, that's insanely tiny) but she constantly feared that the natural process of aging would take her fame away from her. It reminded me of the queen in Snow White, always in fear of someone else taking away her title of fairest of them all.
The love triangle comes to pass when Bay is hired to be Sisi's pilot, to ride with her throughout the hunting season. His job is to be by her side, but his heart lies with Charlotte, whom he wishes to marry. Charlotte is a young heiress, living under her brother's supervision and longing for the day when she can make her own decisions. She's eccentric -- rather than fretting over dress frills or society gossip, she likes to spend her time experimenting with photography. Charlotte falls head over heels for Bay and can't wait until the day that they can announce their engagement. But her happiness is put in peril when Bay also falls for Sisi, who is eager to have him by her side in more ways than one.
I brought The Fortune Hunter home with me for February break, as it's over 470 pages long, but I have to be honest, I didn't get into it until almost the 300 page mark. My main complaint was that it just wasn't moving quickly enough, but I also had some qualms with the characters. First, Sisi was the only person that I felt any interest in. I wanted to know more about her history, how she came to be so unhappy in her marriage, etc. Bay I found to be insufferable in most parts -- I mean, you've just proposed to this intelligent, talented, wealthy girl, and then you go and ruin it by sleeping with an Empress? I just had to roll my eyes at some of his choices. Charlotte, however, ended up surprising me. I won't ruin the ending for you, but I will say that I was proud of her one moment and then equally disappointed the next. So, in the end, I liked the book but didn't love it, and after closing it I realized why I probably hadn't picked it up in the first place -- there's just too much romance for me, and I don't like to indulge in historical fiction where romance is the very center of the plot. However, if you do like romance and heartbreak and scandal all wrapped in a historical setting, I'd highly recommend this for you!
Bottom Line Rating: 3/5
Title: The Fortune Hunter
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2014
Source: Public Library