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A Desperate Fortune

(Mary & Hugh #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  16,237 ratings  ·  1,822 reviews
The highly anticipated, brand-new timeslip romance from New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley

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, Sar
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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Susanna Kearsley Hi Maya. This isn't a sequel to any of the books, but Anna from The Firebird does make a brief guest appearance in an early chapter, and if you've rea…moreHi Maya. This isn't a sequel to any of the books, but Anna from The Firebird does make a brief guest appearance in an early chapter, and if you've read others of my novels you may glimpse a few familiar faces in the contemporary section. This happens sometimes in my books, as characters wander from one story into another, since in my brain they're all inhabiting the same imagined world, but there's no need for you to have read any of the other books in order to understand this one, if that helps at all?(less)
K Elizabeth There is an adult romance here but no sex is written. I read it first and felt it was ok for my 11 year old who is well above her class reading level.…moreThere is an adult romance here but no sex is written. I read it first and felt it was ok for my 11 year old who is well above her class reading level. It was a great story, well written and not inappropriate for a young girl at all. (I'm pretty strict, I won't let my daughter read anything with blatant sex in it, she's in 5th grade). However, I do use topics that come up in books as discussion points and in this one it was great to observe the different perspectives and religious affiliation during this time period. Hind sight is 20/20 and I explained this as well. I made sure to give both sides of the story and went from the 15th century to current day as briefly as possible. This sparked a lot of discussion and interest so if you are asking this question for this purpose I hope this answer helped. (less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it

A computer programmer and amateur encryption specialist, Sara Thomas is offered a job breaking the code of a handwritten diary from the eighteenth century. The diary was owned by Mary Dundas, the daughter of a Jacobite exile.

After her mother died, Mary was sent by her father to live with her aunt and uncle in France. At twenty-one, her brother comes for her, ostensibly to take her to his home. Instead, he involves Mary in a Jacobite intrigue, where she is asked to pose as another man's sister. T
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Susanna Kearsley does another of her patented dual timeline novels, this one with computer programmer and amateur cipher-breaker Sara, a British woman with Asperger's, staying in France while trying to crack the cipher that Mary Dundas wrote her journal in, during 1732. The story alternates between Sara's first-person POV and Mary's unexpected adventures during the Jacobite Rebellion, told in third-person. Both of them find romance in unexpected places.

There were some nice parts to it, like the
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
*3.5 stars*

I love Susanna Kearsley, and I have really enjoyed almost everything she has written. This book feels strongly like a Susanna Kearsley book, but it is a little different than most. While it has the duel storyline, the Scottish themes that she so often uses, and the romance, this book, unlike others, had no time-travel/time-slip elements. Though I usually enjoy those light paranormal elements in her stories, I think that this book worked well without them.

I wish I could give this book
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites

Once again I am sad to leave this people behind... Miss Kearsley has created people I will not forget and that have stolen their way into my heart, never to leave.

Bit dramatic? Maybe, but the truth still :) <3

(view spoiler)

I will return to visit you again soon, my friends...

Original review:

This one takes a littl
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
It's quite difficult where I live to access English books as English speakers are very much a minority in a majority French language province. I rely very much on my e-readers and friends and family and local libraries that might have at least a shelf of books I haven't read. So how lucky I am that I recently discovered that a local French bookstore does carry some English titles and ons happened to be A Desperate Fortune.

A dual narrative that alternates between contemporary France and a Franc
When the newly unemployed Sara Thomas accepts a temporary job decoding a mysterious old journal from 1732, she unravels an unexpected story of adventure and romance while experiencing a surprising Paris interlude of her own. Although a little slow going, thought the added perspective from Sara's Asperger Syndrome was well presented.

Good story, but needed a little more spice for my taste. The Rose Garden still my favorite!

Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a hard time figuring out how to rate this book. I have read several of Kearsley's novels and loved them. This one, unfortunately, didn't live up to my expectations. It was really slow. I enjoyed the characters but the story was just not very strong. I must confess that the ARC copy I read had huge 'SOURCEBOOK' logos on every other page which was distracting and is probably weighing into my review. I still love SK and will jump at the chance to read her next novel. 3.5. ...more
Diane Lynn
I really enjoyed this book and that puts me in the minority amongst my GR friends. I figure that’s what keeps things exciting here at GR. You just never know what will strike a chord with one person and not with the next.

I won’t be writing a recap as the book blurb does a great job of that. I really appreciated the way both storylines flowed. There was no silly gimmick to get from one time period to the other. (That mind reading in The Firebird always took me right out of the story and I had a
Aug 14, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
I yield at 61%, every time I pick this up it's still the same - nothing happening here, move along feeling. I may try another day, but too many books are calling me at the moment and too many library patrons are in line behind me. ...more
Ava ☕
Opening up the first chapter of this book, or any book by Susanna Kearsley, is like front row tickets to your favorite band, world peace, finding the perfect jeans, Disneyland, and losing 10lbs in December all rolled into one.

In Kearsley fashion, a present and historical timeline make the backdrop of the story.

The present day involves a young woman named Sara Thomas, a computer programer with an ability to solve number games, codes, and cyphers. Sara is hired, through a friend, by a Parisian au
3.5 stars.

If you read Ms. Kearsley book before, you probably know already she always have two parallel stories in her book. And I need to be honest with you, I was cheating here. The rating only for the contemporary/present story.

I couldn’t get into the historical part, only read selective chapters.
It wasn’t like The Winter Sea which I love very much. For me the history part here is overpowering the romance. At some point I just gave up and only read the present setting story which I found more
Carole (Carole's Random Life)
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about this book. I liked it well enough but I didn't fall in love with it as I had expected to do. This is a story that is told in two timelines and I found that I really enjoyed one timeline much more than the other which usually makes it a little harder to completely enjoy a novel. I am glad that I decided to finally pick this one up and did enjoy the overall experience.

As I mentioned, this book is
Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink*
Susanna Kearsley has done it again. And it's beautiful and wonderful and all the good things about a book that makes you keep coming back to it over and over.

Susanna Kearsley is an auto-buy author for me. When a new book of hers comes out, I try to pick it up as quickly as possible and usually devour it in an afternoon. All of her books blend the past and the present in such a way that you feel like you are stepping into the shoes of the characters and experiencing everything that they do.

A Des
Susanna Kearsley has rapidly become one of my favorite historical fiction writers. There is always an element of romance in her books, and I confess to enjoying that element, but there is also solid background research, realistic settings within that history, and strong fictional character who are surrounded by people and events that actually occurred.

In A Desperate Fortune, she follows the dual timelines of Sara and Mary. Sara is a young lady with Asperger's who is good at solving encryptions;
Molly O'keefe
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Am I super lucky to have gotten my hands on an early copy of A Desperate Fortune? Yes! Yes I am. If you love Kearsley - it's got everything you love, plus, I thought an extra dose of adventure. Two time-lines, tons of romance, tons of adventure and for money you don't get a better hero than Hugh MacPearson. You just don't. Very great book!

Susanna is my September author for THE AUTHOR IS... so if you'd like to read a great interview with her sign up for my newsletter at
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can’t believe I‘ve not read this author before. Thanks to my GRs friend Linda for her review which helped me to discover this gifted author.
The story is actually two stories in one set in different times but connected through a diary of a young woman, Mary Dundas. The diary was written in 1732 during turbulent times of Jacobitism. It survived centuries but Mary’s story was not known as the diary was written in a cryptic code. That is where the second story comes in. Set in present times, it fe
Originally reviewed here @ Angieville

I discovered Susanna Kearsley's books a few years ago through the utterly wonderful The Winter Sea. It was love from start to finish with that book, and I eagerly checked out a few more of her backlist. I never fell quite as hard with the others as I did with The Winter Sea though, and so when I heard about A Desperate Fortune it didn't automatically zip to the top of my TBR. But then my friend Beth read and loved it and did that thing where she smiles enig
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-review, netgalley
What a fantastic premise! I’m intrigue with stories that involve code breaking and to blend in a time slip theme gives a story more depth and compelling insight of the people in the story who break codes. Their process in doing so-if you will. The way their mind works is truly extraordinary and the author shows that in this story. Sara Thomas a women who was hired by an historian once famous is asked to cipher a journal from a women who lived in the past…300 hundred years ago in fact. She is enc ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
While I love many of Susanna Kearsley's books, I found A Desperate Fortune to be very similar to The Firebird -- very slow moving with very little plot twists and turns to keep the story moving forward. I was rewarded for sticking with the book around the 37th chapter (out of 42 chapters!) as at this point the pace picked up and it was a bit of Kearsley magic, but alas, too little, too late to give more than 2 or 3 stars. ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 5000-books, dec-18
A Desperate Fortune, by Susanna Kearsley, is my 2nd novel by this author.
I really wanted to enjoy this novel more than I actually did.
This is a story that is told in two timelines. I found that I enjoyed one timeline much more than the other. I could connect with the characters in the present day but found the historical timeline very slow.
I will try this author again as I have heard so many wonderful things about her other novels.
I read another book from this author and after enjoying her old-style romantic suspense tone I wanted to read more of her work. I spotted this one which promised a split story with two heroines a few centuries apart with a diary at the center of matters for them and settled in for an engaging set of stories.

This is a standalone story, but fans of the Author's earlier Jacobite-centered stories like The Winter Sea and The Firebird will recognize a few crossover characters doing cameo scenes.

The bo
Amy S
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book about patience and broken people.

I finished this book two days ago, but I've been kind of digesting my thoughts and sitting on this review.

A departure from her last few books, this book does not contain any supernatural elements or time slips. It does follow a present day and past timeline. Sara, who has Asperger's, which in many ways makes her the perfect candidate to decode a diary from the 1700's written in cipher, And Mary, our Jacobite heroine who finds herself thrown into
With the kiss of dual timelines, Susanna Kearsley introduced a modern-day woman with Asberger's syndrome to 1730's France. Sara Thomas had been hired to help an author complete the last book in a trilogy. The country gentleman, Alistair Scott, took his research seriously. Determined to make his third story a success, he won Sara over by encouraging her interest. She was to unravel a code used in a diary by a young lady from a bygone era: Mary Dundas. With political intrigue humming in the backgr ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it
While better then The Firebird IMO, this one still fell flat for me in comparison to Mariana and Every Secret Thing. The past storyline never made an emotional connection with me, and the *twist* I've come to expect of Kearsley was missing in this one.

What I did appreciate was that this Kearsley heroine (the modern day one) had Asberger's syndrome. I'm one of those readers who gnash my teeth over book heroines who have nothing to recommend them but pure physical beauty. It was a bold step for Ke
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of early 1700s history and a modern day mystery with romance in both time periods.
Rated 4.5 - This novel is like an archaeological dig of words, with the main character in this century unraveling the clues about the main character in the past. Exciting and intriguing, A DESPERATE FORTUNE surprises with unexpected emotion.

A great mixture of a modern day story following a mystery as it unfolds in history, A DESPERATE FORTUNE combines two time periods in a fictional tale that’s exciting as well as emotional. I was drawn to this novel, not just for the historical aspects but also
Thank you to Sourcebooks via Netgalley for the free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Did I like this book?

Do you ever read a book and think, "Wow, this book is what that other book wanted to be"? That's what happened to me with "A Desperate Fortune". It was fantastic, and just so much better than many others I've read written in the same vein.

At first, I was intrigued by the modern storyline because of my immediate connection with Sara. She has Asperger's, and it was i
Susan (susayq ~)
Well, I've read a couple of books by Susanna Kearsley before and I have to say, this is one talented lady. She writes these dual stories, in two separate time-lines, and makes both of them magical and you feel like you are there, and it's all in the same book!

While I enjoyed Mary and Hugh's story more than Sara and Luc's, I was equally as touched by Sara and Luc and the way he handled her and made her realize she didn't have to change and he wouldn't be scared away. The reason I enjoyed Mary an
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this author! I've read all her books and they are great. I prefer her later books to the earlier ones only because I feel she's become a more talented and competent writer. This particular book is another great one. It had a few slow parts but overall was a good story. If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend starting with The Winter Sea, The Firebird and then this book. ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
As always SK does not disappoint!!

I've read most if not all her books multiple times. She's an auto-buy and the only author I buy the book, kindle and audio of all her releases. She's my comfort read(s). 😊
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-books
While I absolutely loved this, it did feel at times, like it dragged just a bit. Sometimes it was too descriptive, something I don't say often. But, even with that, it was still a fantastic story and one I won't be forgetting soon. Loved all the diversity, secrecy and the two stories that while they didn't exactly connect, they did intersect each other in ways they might not have otherwise.

And I loved Luc and Noah and with as much as I loved them, it didn't even compare to Hugh. Is there anythin
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New York Times, USA Today, and Globe and Mail bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is a former museum curator who loves restoring the lost voices of real people to the page, interweaving romance and historical intrigue with modern adventure.

Her books, published in translation in more than 20 countries, have won the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, a RITA Award, and Nat

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