The Fortune Hunter
Little Charlotte Baird, sole heiress to the vast Lennox fortune, may look mousy, but her character is strong, forthright, and unusual – she cares little for the fripperies of her Victorian society life, instead choosing to indulge a passion for photography. Bay Middleton is a cavalry officer with an eye for the ladies and a passion of his own – for his horse, Tipsy, with whom he dreams of winning the Grand National. Charlotte and Bay are drawn to each other, but when Bay is appointed as pilot to the contradictory, beautiful Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, his burgeoning relationship with Charlotte is threatened.
Goodwin has written a historical romance which is surprisingly light on sex – romps in the bedroom are eschewed in favor of romping on horseback over hill and dale. Based loosely on Elizabeth’s (known as “Sisi”) trip to England and Ireland in the late 1870s, this romance is full of the fox hunt as well as cutting remarks in English drawing rooms. Rather than focusing entirely on Sisi, the novel is divided almost equally, providing perspectives on all three of the major players. Characterization is sure. The prose, which is highly visual, moves along at a substantial clip, peppered with small insights into human nature. Through Sisi, Goodwin highlights the plight familiar to modern royalty – the constant scrutiny – and the idea that one can have it all and still be miserable. The conclusion struck this reader as rather abrupt, but fans of historical romance will want to pick up Goodwin’s latest tale of a love triangle between a dashing officer, plain Jane, and dazzling but aging Empress.