A reputed ladies’ man, Bay genuinely likes Charlotte for herself and encourages her unfashionable interest in photography. However, as Bay guides the willful, lonely, and deeply private empress on her fox-hunting pursuits on the grounds of vast country estates, they bond over their talent and passion for horsemanship and develop an intense mutual attraction.
Mingling historical fact with imaginative fiction, Goodwin writes with effortless grace, and her dialogue’s subtle wit is delightful. Each of her three protagonists commands attention and sympathy, which heightens the story’s poignancy. Charlotte’s levelheaded personality remains unaffected by her wealth or her relatives’ dependence on it, and Bay is movingly torn between duty and his sense of self-worth. Finally, despite her outlandish regimen for maintaining her complexion and ankle-length chestnut tresses, Elizabeth is never less than beguiling.
The Fortune Hunter was published yesterday in hardcover by St. Martin's Press ($26.99, 480pp). For more information, see the author's website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. This review first appeared in Booklist's May 15th issue.
Some additional thoughts and comments:
- Readers may notice that some name spellings have been anglicized, such as that of Empress Elisabeth (with an "s"), popularly known as "Sisi," and her son, Rudolf.
- The author's note at the end indicates many of the instances where the story deviates from history; the timeline has been condensed, for instance, to maximize its dramatic potential.
- Bay Middleton is, yes, a distant relation of the Duchess of Cambridge.