A well-known TV producer in England, a collector of poetry, creatively brilliant, novelist Daisy Goodwin seems a woman at the top of her game. Using a history degree from Cambrige and a study of film, Goodwin successfully weaves a compelling and touching tale of historical fiction in The Fortune Hunter.
England during the Victorian Era is a romanticized time when, at least among the upper echelons, certain behavior was expected of both well-bred women and gentlemen and gossip was the favorite pastime, with the gentleman’s sport of fox hunting a close second.
This is the setting where The Fortune Hunter feeds fiction into the much talked about relationship between the beautiful Empress Elizabeth of Austria and her guide during the fox hunts, Captain Bay Middleton. Middleton was respected and rumored to be a ladies’ man even though his station in high society was rather low.
Before the Empress comes to England with her charms and influence, Middleton meets the obscure Charlotte Baird. She is a young girl with a large inheritance. (So as not to blur lines between the fiction and history I will refer to the fiction from here on.)
Charlotte is not the belle of the ball; she is plain-looking and devotes her time to photography (an up and coming hobby for women with money but not at all popular at the time). She meets Bay Middleton and is lost to his charisma, looks, and surprising vulnerability.
The relationship might have been straightforward and appropriate, but Middleton, although sincere, was weak to the charms of beautiful, strong women and people will always talk when a young lady’s money, not to mention her virtue, are in question.
I feel the novel is well written, intertwining historical facts and traditions of the day with emotionally rich fiction. The story has its ups and downs as any story does. Romantic fiction is not always the most compelling style of story for me, and I rarely found myself eager to listen for long periods on end.
However even in disinterest, I talked about what was happening in the story with friends because the fact stands: it is a good story. Fourteen hours is a long time, and I at times fought not to finish but I’m glad I did. Characters come along that allow creative listeners to guess at what is coming, creating a hook. After you’re hooked, (even if it is well into the book) you have to finish.
Clare Corbett reads The Fortune Hunter as you’d expect from a talented English woman. Outside of the outlandish caricatured voices of a few of the more comic characters (an American included), Corbett, amazingly brings to life the novel’s cast of characters from a handful of accented locations.
After The Fortune Hunter (only Goodwin’s second novel), I expect the same level of brilliance in her novels to come. She puts a modernized spin on Victorian romance that is sure to capture a great audience. If the era or the style is your cup of tea, I highly recommend The Fortune Hunter. If not, and you find yourself listening to it by someone else’s choice (as happens), do yourself a favor and enjoy it, even if you keep it to yourself.