Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.
Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand Nationaluntil he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that jeopardizes the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and threatens all of their futures.
The Fortune Hunter, a brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin, is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
DAISY GOODWIN is a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University. She is also a book reviewer for London's The Times and was chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. The Fortune Hunter is Daisy's second novel, following the New York Times bestseller The American Heiress.
Read an Excerpt
THE SPENCER BALL
THE BALL WAS AT ITS HEIGHT. IT WAS AT THE POINT where the women were rosy from the dancing, but before the moment when coiffures began to slip – carefully curled fringes flattening in the heat. The guests, who had been delaying their arrival so that it would appear that they had been dining at one of the more fashionable houses before the ball, had finally dared to make their appearance. The parliamentary lobbies on the Suez bill had closed and the ballroom was spotted with MPs and ministers. It was the last event of the season before people disappeared to the country for the summer, so there was an energy to the occasion as the guests tried to make the most of this last opportunity to squeeze what they wanted from the world: a promotion, a liaison, a husband, a mistress, a loan, or simply a piece of delicious gossip. No one wanted to miss this party; it was the final opportunity to acquire the baubles of hope and intrigue that would make the arid summer months bearable before the fashionable world reassembled in the autumn.
As Bay Middleton made his way up the double staircase, he saw that Earl Spencer, the Red Earl as he was known, was still standing by the door to welcome his guests. The last time Bay had seen Earl Spencer in evening dress had been in Dublin at the Vice Regal lodge. There he had been the Queen’s representative, and with his great height and golden red beard he had looked the part. But now
the political wind had changed, the Whigs had been ousted by the Tories under Disraeli, and Spencer looked a little less burnished. His kingdom was on the hunting field, not here under the chandeliers. But he had daughters to bring out and a Party anxious to manoeuvre itself back into power, so there was no help for it. Still, he hovered on the edge of the festivities as if ready to follow more promising sport at any moment.
Spencer caught sight of Bay at the bottom of the stairs and called to him before the footman could announce him.
‘Middleton, my dear fellow. I am uncommon glad to see you here.’ He squeezed Bay’s hand in his great freckled paw.
‘It’s not the same as Dublin, eh?’ Spencer’s pale blue eyes clouded. ‘Still, we have royalty tonight. The Queen of Naples, no less, or should I say the former Queen. Very grand, like all these deposed monarchs, but lively enough.’ He pointed a stubby finger at Bay. ‘I shall rely on you to entertain her. She speaks perfect English but she has a way of sighing that is altogether foreign. I believe the King is not altogether to her taste. No doubt you could bring a smile to those handsome lips.’
Bay smiled. ‘I don’t think a queen would have much time for a mere cavalry captain, My Lord. But I am at your service as always.’
Spencer laughed and put his arm around his shoulders.
‘They were high times in Ireland, eh Middleton? Best hunting in the world. Still, who knows? Disraeli can’t last for ever and then we will be back with a vengeance.’
He propelled Bay into the ballroom where the orchestra was playing a polka.
‘There she is, Queen Maria, the heroine of Gaeta. They say she took command of the garrison and fought against Garibaldi and the Risorgimento while her husband the little king locked himself in his bedroom.’ Spencer pointed to a tall dark woman dressed in white who stood surrounded by a group of men in uniform.
‘It appears that she is still in command of her troops.’ Bay thought that the Queen looked as if she was posing for a portrait, her arms positioned in a perfect oval and her head turned slightly so that everyone could admire her clear profile and the long curve of her neck. She wore a small tiara that sparkled against her dark hair.
‘At least she looks the part,’ said Spencer. ‘Not like the Widow of Windsor. And a horsewoman too. She came out with the Pytchley last year, led the pack all the way. I suppose a day out with the Pytchley is compensation for losing a kingdom, eh?’ But Bay was no longer looking at the Queen in her frame of courtiers. He had seen Blanche’s blond head and he could not help following it as it tacked across the dance floor. Spencer followed his gaze and made a small tutting noise.
‘I believe you are not listening to me, Middleton. Still, I shall leave you to your own pursuits, even if no good can come of them. It’s high time you got married. The right sort of wife would make all the difference.’ The Earl moved off towards the supper room, leaving Bay watching Blanche as she danced around the room. He was dismayed to see how very gracefully she was dancing tonight. She was coming around again and he knew that if she were to turn her head she would see him. He stood there, unable to move, and then just as they were about to come face to face, he saw a flash of white to his left and turned his head. It was Charlotte Baird – still small and dun-coloured but just then a most welcome sight.
He pulled himself around to face her. She was standing beside her aunt and another lady, whom Bay recognised as Augusta Crewe, Fred’s fiancée. Charlotte looked very small standing beside the other women. Middleton bowed to the group and moved next to her.
‘I hope you can hear the music now, Miss Baird.’
She nodded. He thought she looked less sure of herself here in the glittering expanse of the ballroom than she had in the enclosed space of the box at Covent Garden.
‘Yes, but this music is not intended to be listened to.’ She smiled her crooked smile and Bay could see that her fingers were tapping her fan.
He bowed and asked her to dance. But before Charlotte could answer, Augusta said, ‘Oh, but you are too late, Captain Middleton, Miss Baird’s dance card is quite full. Isn’t that right, Charlotte?’ Augusta blinked her sandy eyelashes at Bay.
Charlotte laughed. ‘Oh, but Augusta, I must make room for Captain Middleton. Haven’t you noticed how magnificent Fred is looking tonight? It is all the work of Captain Middleton here who sent him to his tailor. I think I should express our gratitude, don’t you?’
Augusta sniffed. ‘I can’t say that I have noticed anything in particular. Fred is always well turned out.’
‘Oh, you are just being loyal. You may have the next dance, Captain Middleton, and Augusta, perhaps you would make my excuses to Captain Hartopp.’
The band struck up a waltz. Bay held out his hand to Charlotte. He was surprised at how small and how light she was. She barely came up to his shoulder, unlike Blanche, who had always been on a level with him. She was concentrating too hard on the steps to look at him at first. He could see her biting her lip with effort. He tightened his grip on her waist and finally she raised her eyes to his and said, ‘You are a very good dancer.’
‘I have had lots of practice. In Ireland there was nothing to do except hunt and go to parties.’
‘But Captain Hartopp was in Ireland with you, was he not? He doesn’t dance as well as you.’
Bay smiled. ‘It’s true, no one could call Chicken a dancer. He can ride, though.’
‘Why do you call him Chicken, Captain Middleton? I’ve asked Fred but he won’t tell me.’
‘If your brother won’t tell you, then you can hardly expect me to, Miss Baird.’ He saw her frown and continued, ‘Don’t be cross. It is rather a sad little story and I am too fond of Chicken to repeat it.’
‘But you don’t mind taking his dancing partner away?’
Bay looked down at her, surprised. He hadn’t expected Fred’s sister to be so lively.
‘Oh, but that was your decision, not mine. Once you had accepted my invitation I could hardly turn you down.’
‘How chivalrous you are, Captain Middleton.’ She looked up at him through her lashes and Bay decided that her eyes were grey, almost the colour of the blue roan he had ridden in Ireland last summer. She was not beautiful but he found he liked looking at her face.
‘Well, I guessed that you didn’t want to dance with Chicken all night.’
‘Are you a mind reader then, Captain Middleton, as well as being the best dressed officer in the Guards?’
Bay laughed. ‘And on what basis do you call me that? Are you an expert in Guards uniforms, Miss Baird?’
‘Not at all, but my brother is. Fred doesn’t praise people very often, so I am inclined to believe him. I am only sorry you are not wearing your uniform tonight so I can see what perfection looks like.’
‘Oh, I think there are quite enough uniforms here tonight.’ Bay’s voice was dismissive. He felt there was something ostentatious about wearing uniform to every social occasion.
‘Well, I am sure your tails are the epitome of understated good taste, Captain Middleton.’
Bay could not help but glance at his impeccable tail coat with its four jet buttons on the cuff. Charlotte smiled and he checked himself. ‘You are mocking me, but I am not ashamed of taking the trouble to ensure my clothes fit properly.’
‘I envy your attention to detail. Fred is always berating me for my lack of interest in clothes. He would like me to be a fashion plate like Augusta. But I find the rigmarole of dressmaking so tedious. Standing perfectly still while people stick pins into you is not my idea of an occupation.’
‘So what would you rather be doing, Miss Baird?’ She didn’t answer immediately and they did a turn around the dance floor before she said rather hesitantly, ‘I like to take photographs.’
Bay did not conceal his surprise. How could this curious girl be related to stuffy old Fred? ‘Really? What sort of things do you photograph?’
‘Oh, a variety of things, landscapes, portraits, animals, whatever I think will make a good composition.’
‘Have you ever taken a picture of a horse?’
‘Not yet. Did you have one in mind?’
‘I would like very much to have a likeness of Tipsy, my hunter. She is a thing of beauty.’
‘Horse and rider would be interesting. Have you have ever had your photograph taken, Captain Middleton?’
‘Has no one ever asked you for a picture? I am surprised.’
Bay was about to answer when he saw Blanche’s golden head and white face inches away from him. He lost his balance for a second and stepped out wildly, then heard a gasp and a faint tearing noise.
‘Miss Baird, I am so sorry, what have I done?’ Bay looked down and saw that he had put his foot through the flounce of her skirt, leaving a grubby rent in the white silk.
He thought for a moment that Charlotte was going to cry but she shook her head and said, ‘It doesn’t matter, but I think I should get it sewn up.’
They retreated to some seats in the corner and Middleton told a footman to fetch a maid with needle and thread.
‘Unless of course you would rather go somewhere more private like the cloakroom.’
She gave him a sideways look. ‘Oh no, I would much rather stay here and try to figure out why such an excellent dancer should lose his balance.’
He made a little flourish with his hands. ‘You could make anyone unsteady, Miss Baird.’
She did not reply for a moment, considering his remark, and then said, ‘I don’t think that was the reason, Captain Middleton.’
Bay was about to protest when the maid arrived and started to sew up the gash in her dress. Bay stood in front of Charlotte, shielding her from the room. When the girl had finished and the dress was whole again he said, ‘I daresay you won’t dance with me again, but can I take you into supper?’
Charlotte shook her head. ‘I am promised to Captain Hartopp. I can’t abandon him again.’
‘How very irritating. Let me, at least, take you back to Lady Lisle.’
He put out his arm, but she hesitated and then took a flower from the corsage at her wrist. It was a small white rosebud whose tightly furled petals were tinged with pink.
‘You’ve lost your buttonhole, Captain Middleton. Won’t you take this instead?’
He picked up the flower from her outstretched palm and put it into his lapel. It was smaller than the gardenia and there was no scent that he could detect.
‘You are very kind, Miss Baird.’
‘Hardly that. It’s just that I notice things.’
‘Even without a camera?’
She smiled. ‘Once you learn to look at things properly, you never stop.’
‘Now I feel thoroughly nervous of having my likeness taken.’
‘But I only see what is there, Captain Middleton.’
He was about to ask what she saw, but noticed Chicken Hartopp making towards them across the dance floor.
‘There you are, Miss Baird. I have come to rescue you from Middleton. I hope you haven’t forgotten that you promised to let me take you into supper.’
‘Of course not, Captain Hartopp. I was just on my way.’
‘My fault entirely, Chicken. Miss Baird here was furnishing me with a new buttonhole.’
Hartopp looked at the white rosebud on Bay’s lapel and flushed. Bay realised that somehow he had offended him. Charlotte looked embarrassed and put her hand on Hartopp’s arm.
‘I hope you don’t mind. Captain Middleton needed a new buttonhole and there are so many flowers in the beautiful corsage you gave me that I could spare one . . .’
‘Of course I don’t mind,’ said Hartopp, who clearly did. ‘We should get to the supper room before the ices are all gone.’
Bay knew that it was ignoble of him to enjoy Hartopp’s annoyance, but he could not help himself. Hartopp and Fred Baird had never concealed their amazement that despite Middleton’s inferior social position and fortune, he was not only a better rider than either of them but was also much more popular with women.
But satisfying though Chicken’s chagrin had been, Bay took even more pleasure in the fact that little Charlotte Baird had had no qualms about giving him the flower. She liked him, and though Bay was used to being liked by women, he was pleased that this particular girl had decided to favour him. She was not a girl, he guessed, who was easily pleased.
The band started playing a tune that Bay recognised as one that he had danced to with Blanche. They had not danced together very often, as Blanche was careful of her public reputation, so Bay was able to remember each dance quite distinctly. This particular polka had been playing the night of the Londonderry Ball. They had just become lovers and there had been something intoxicating about being able to hold her in his arms in public. She had hardly looked at him, but he had seen the pulse beating in her neck. He found himself looking across the ballroom for her, wondering if she too remembered that other night, but there was no blond head among the swirling dancers. She must be at supper or perhaps she had gone home. Bay was surprised that she could have left without his noticing. He looked at his pocket watch; it was almost midnight. It was much later than he thought. He had been distracted.
There was a cough behind him. He turned to see a man wearing a dress uniform he didn’t recognise.
‘Captain Middleton?’ The man spoke with an accent, French or Italian.
‘My name is Count Cagliari. I am equerry to her Majesty, the Queen of Naples.’ Cagliari looked over to where the Queen was sitting. Bay bowed. Cagliari was tall and blond, his chest extensively be-medalled.
‘At your service.’
‘I believe you may know that Her Majesty will be hunting with the Pytchley this winter.’
Bay nodded. ‘I hear that she is an excellent horsewoman.’
‘Yes, that is the case. Her Majesty is quite without fear. But she is a queen and there is a feeling that she should have some assistance. She is after all riding with the public.’
Bay smiled. ‘I don’t think the members of the Pytchley would call themselves the public.’
Cagliari made an apologetic wave of his arm.
‘Forgive me, sir, I am aware that the Pytchley is a very superior gathering. But that is perhaps, as you say here, the point moot. The Queen, as you know, is cruelly parted from the land whose name she bears. She has not the opportunity to lead, to shine, that should be hers by birth and upbringing. So it has become very important to her that she should be distinguished, to make her mark.’ Cagliari paused, looking for the right words, then he continued.
‘The Queen wishes to make her mark on the Pytchley, Captain Middleton. And to that end she needs a guide, someone to help her to take her rightful place.’
‘The hunting field is not a court, Count.’
‘No indeed, how clumsy of me to have given that impression. It is a place of excellence, of course, but as we know, Her Majesty already is a Diana. All she needs is some direction, from someone like yourself, so that she can be the Queen of the hunting field.’
‘Direction? Are you asking me to be her pilot? To open gates and that sort of thing, tell her which way the wind is blowing, help her on her horse if she falls off?’
Cagliari beamed, not picking up on the irony in Bay’s voice.
‘Yes, precisely, Captain Middleton. A pilot. That is the mot juste.’ Bay paused.
The Count did not understand the absurdity of his request.
‘Please tell Her Majesty that, while I am aware of the honour she does me, I am sorry to say that I cannot oblige her.’
‘Oh, but Captain Middleton, you do not appreciate the situation. The Queen would be extremely grateful . . .’ He rolled his eyes as if to convey the extent of her gratitude.
‘Really, your mistress would be better off with someone who enjoys making royalty grateful. Why don’t you ask Captain Hartopp? You see him over there by the orchestra, tall chap with the whiskers? He is an excellent rider, quite as accomplished as I am and he would like nothing better than to ride out with the Queen of Naples.’
Cagliari looked over to where Hartopp was standing with Charlotte and shook his head. ‘I am sure he is an excellent fellow, but Her Majesty has asked for you in particular, Captain Middleton. She has heard so many things about your particular talents.’
‘I am flattered, of course, but I must still refuse. Even if my own Queen were to command my services as a pilot, I would decline. I love to hunt and I have no intention of spoiling one of the great pleasures in life by acting as a glorified royal nursemaid.’
Count Cagliari looked shocked, and Bay felt that perhaps he had gone too far.
‘I have offended you, Count, with my frankness. Forgive me, but you see, I am not one of life’s courtiers.’
The Count bowed. ‘Her Majesty will be disappointed. Poor lady, she has so many crosses to bear.’
Bay patted the Count on the shoulder. ‘Tell her I am rude and uncouth and quite unfit for royal company. I am sure that a man like you can make it seem like a lucky escape.’
The Count smiled wanly. ‘Well, I shall do my best, Captain Middleton.’
Bay watched him thread his way back through the dancers towards the ex-Queen. It was time to leave. As he began to walk down the great staircase he looked up and saw Charlotte Baird, closely followed by Hartopp, coming down from the supper room on the mezzanine. He wondered if she would look down and see him. He stood there for a moment until he saw her spot him. She gave him a tiny smile, and Bay touched the rose in his buttonhole. And then Hartopp took her arm and hurried her back into the ballroom.
Table of Contents
The Royal Menagerie,
A Night at the Opera,
The Spencer Ball,
The Group Photograph,
The Orchid House,
All the Trimmings,
A Flawless Complexion,
The Lennox Diamonds,
The Left Foreleg,
The Leather Fan,
On the Chocolate Side,
The Empress's Correspondence,
The Ex-King's Bedroom,
In the Dark Room,
The Widow of Windsor,
The Royal Mail,
The Monkey's Paw,
The Crown Prince,
Pictures at the Exhibition,
Mother and Son,
Baron Nopsca's Mission,
St George's, Hanover Square,
The Wedding Breakfast,
The Grand National,
A Royal Wager,
Also by Daisy Goodwin,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Readable Guilty Pleasure But Disappointing. With the pre-publication hype and the author's reputation, I was surprised to find this really just a beach read wrapped up with a very high pedigree. While based on historical events surrounding the early lives of the Austrian Empress and Victorian socialites Charlotte Baird and Bay Middleton, I found much of this flat--and the Empress a largely one dimensional character. For supposedly being a major third of an overwrought love triangle, she ended up striking me as little more than a convenient obstacle to the Bay-Charlotte affair, to prove that rulers are often lonely as well as manipulative and to show Bay's womanizing manners are not entirely unlike the Empress' sometimes underhanded tactics. I left the book with no more feeling or understanding of her than I did at the start. Charlotte shows signs of spunk in her love of photography, feeling the burden of her inheritance and being under the thumb of her boorish brother plus the smothering expectations of Victorian England; her attraction to unsuitable Bay plays into that rebellion, but ultimately, Charlotte falls into the typical romantic heroine trap of being dumb in the wake of a handsome man. Bay is a cad I never warmed to; a lot of readers will argue that, and I can see where it's debatable, but for me, his character was clear early on; his later behavior solidified that conclusion for me, and I spent the rest of the novel hoping he'd get a comeuppance. Whether he does or not is also up for debate. I found the ending rushed, rather silly, and myself shrugging with the thought, "of course." Animal lovers--beware--while the fox hunting scenes are not horribly graphic, (but I found way too long), they are present and if, like me, you find blood sports repugnant--your mind won't be changed. The steeple-chasing sequence also reconfirmed my loathing of such 'sport.' Lovely cover, generally well written, but ultimately, I think I was looking for something more than the now horribly familiar 'Downton Abbey' (the cover actually looks a bit like Lady Mary come to think of it) re-imagining.
While I did enjoy Goodwin's The American Heiress, it was never at the top of my favorites. However, this book was by far better! You really become invested in the characters. I finished it in a day because I just could not put it down! If you enjoyed The American Heiress at all, you will LOVE this book!! I definitely recommend it!
Although this novel is classified as a biographical novel, I believe this is only partially true. Yes, Empress Cisi is one of several main characters, but the book is truly about a romance between the fictionalized characters, Captain Bay Middleton and Charlotte Biard. Cisi's life is only partially, and not thoroughly depicted. Having said this, I truly enjoyed this novel. It was well written, lush in its descriptions of the era as it pertained to surroundings, fashion, and glamour, and poignant enough to capture my interest until the very last page. The author did an excellent job of describing traditional fox hunts and equestrian skills. I especially enjoyed the quippy and comical interactions with Queen Victoria. Although I'm not sure that the story adheres to historical facts, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the novel. The story gains momentum as it nears a very satisfying ending.As long as readers are aware this isn't a true to form biographical novel about Empress Elisabeth, there is much to recommend this wonderful story.
The Fortune Hunter introduced a few historical characters that I was not too familiar with, Sisi (the Empress of Austria) especially. Sisi is known as the most beautiful woman in Europe, but she is miserable and lonely - which leads her to come to England to enjoy the hunting season. Sisi was quite the fascinating figure - at the same time very observant of protocol and traditions, but shunning them at the same time. She was obsessed with her looks and insisted on keeping people close that would ensure she had her way. This may sound like quite an unpleasant person, but when she was happy - the world seemed happy. Everyone around her would share in it. Charlotte and Bay are our other two main characters. Charlotte is the heiress to quite the fortune has several hunters out for her hand in marriage because of it. She is an avid photographer, and from the description and reactions in the book, she was quite skilled in the art as well. She, too, was an interesting contrast in characteristics, being both naive and world-wise at the same time. Her favored suitor Bay causes all sorts of trouble by catching the eye of the Empress. The Empress insists that he attend her at all times, and this drives a significant wedge between him and Charlotte. This wedge was something he would have to work quite hard at pulling out and regaining her trust and affection. I loved how Daisy Goodwin made her characters so life like. The nobles were quite full of themselves and their traditions and rules, while everyone else was tasked with making their lives easier. That was just the way of the world and you could really feel that on every page. There is a very strong romance that flows through the story, but it is not all happy endings for our three main characters. Having said that, the ending was very climatic and beautifully written. I was sure quite a few times that the worst was going to happen, but it realistically (yet miraculously) turned around and did something quite unexpected. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
The audio book was a let down for me. I just didn't care for the reader. I may just stick to books.
This was pretty good! I didn't actually realize that it was based on a true story and real people until I was about halfway through. I enjoy historical fiction and this book was very readable. There were three main characters, the Empress Elisabeth (aka “Sisi”), Bay Middleton, and Charlotte Baird. Sisi was obsessed with her looks, is one of the best female riders in the world, and is bent on having an affair with Bay (despite her Emperor husband Franz back in Hapsburg). Her beauty regimen includes sleeping with raw veal on her face. Surprisingly, she is still somewhat likable. Charlotte is heiress to a very large fortune (hence the title) and is constantly courted by opportunists. She is plain and clever, and is falling in love with Bay. Bay is courting Charlotte, and bedding Sisi at the same time. The story was very interesting, it held my attention well and was a quick read despite the length. Knowing that is based on actual events made me want to read more about the characters. As a horse lover, I especially enjoyed the horse scenes, particularly the Grand National steeplechase at the end, with Bay racing on his 15 hand mare Tipsy. However, none of the main characters were truly likable. Sisi and Bay were sorta likable in spite of their flaws—Sisi is arrogant, conceited, spoiled. Bay is kind of a bad guy for courting an innocent young girl while having an affair (although to be fair it's probably difficult to turn down an Empress no matter what your feelings are), and he seems also sort of spoiled and arrogant. Charlotte unfortunately seems a very simplistic character who has no depth to her and you never know enough about her to like her. There were some other minor characters who were great—Charlotte's friend Caspar from America was wonderful! Also Charlotte's brother Fred and his fiance were not likable but were fun to hate as the “bad guys”. I was intrigued enough to read more about Bay Middleton and about Sisi, so the book did inspire that. However it kind of fizzled out at the end and didn't really resolve everything, and I wasn't sure that I agreed with the decisions that the characters made. Overall a decent read, that made me want to learn more.
Just OK. A novel created around historical figures that falls flat. Was expecting more from this author & felt that there could have been a story of greater depth created than what was written. The initial premise of a rapscallion finally falling for a average-looking heiress for pure reasons draws you in and you wonder if he's genuinely in love with her as he infers, but there is much too little written about their courtship for them to be accepted as an engaged couple. An alternate title for this book could have been MUst Love Horses because those are the only readers that I envision enjoying the tedious descriptions of horse riding and fox hunts that makes up the majority of this book. And speaking of horses, the author beats a dead one in reiterating what a tremendous horsewoman the Empress of Austria is, to the point where you want to scream "She's a great horse rider. We get it already!!" At about page 200, you find yourself reading cheesy porn dialogue between Bay Middleton and the Empress that leaves you nauseated and questioning why you're still reading this book. There are many grammatical errors and typos in the Nook version of this book. The author's character portrayal of Charlotte Baird and Bay Middleton are weak, although the more enjoyable chapters are the ones from Charlotte's perspective. Bay ends up an unlikeable character and hard to believe. On one hand he has a strong moral character, on the other he has no problem cheating with married women, having children out of wedlock, professing love and loyalty to one person because he can see her true character and still sleep with another woman. It required discipline to continue reading this book but I will say that the plot and pace do get better in the last third of the book, which is the only reason I give this book a second star.
It started out good--was quite interesting--but then it started to drag towards the end. I skipped about 3 chapters, right to the last chapter, and didn't feel I'd missed a thing. I also wasn't sad when I had finished it. (Good, I can move on to something more interesting!)
What a fun read! This book really surprised me, even more than the American heiress did. Even though it involves historical people, they were all so vivid and likable in ms. Goodwin's hands. Like a real horse race, I found myself cheering for different riders and horses throughout the story. I can easily give this book a strong recommendation!
I love a good story spun around horses and fox hunting. I had to pace my reading so the story wouldn't end so soon. Even while reading slow, the story was over way too fast. I had the feeling of jumping the hedges and coops when the field was in hot pursuit. The detail was that in depth. If you love horses and love stories, you must read this book.
I enjoyed Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress, so I thought I would go wth this. This was a really good book, and I had no idea I was reading about real people. I flew through this book and immediately had to google the actual people!
I absolutely loved this story! Goodwin did a wonderful job of making you feel happiness, sorrow, and hatred towards the main characters (except for Charlotte, whom you could not help but root for the entire time). I am sad I finished this story so quickly, as I greatly enjoyed every page.
I have ambivalent feelings about this book, based on real life historical figures. Daisy Goodwin writes a beautifully complex story in a clear, readable, and austere style that drew me right into the story. Expertly narrated by Clare Corbett, the lives of these three complex individuals are fascinating and engrossing and come alive. Captain Bay Middleton is an expert horseman who also has a weakness for women and forbidden affairs. What begins as a conquest and an exciting and illicit affair with the Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria eventually almost turns into one of captivity as he lives in fear of disobliging her. He covertly sends messages and will always be beneath her station despite their intimacy. Even as he embarks on his affair with Sisi, Bay remains very interested in Charlotte Baird, a young and intelligent heiress. He is attracted to her and seeks her good opinion, and makes efforts to stay in touch with her. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to close off any of his options and desperately wants to be well-liked and well thought of by everyone he meets. He is likeable but weak, a bit like the rakish Henry Crawford in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I really liked Charlotte. Her strength and innocence, yet clever intuition and knowledge keep her head above water even as her heart breaks. Her charming and colorful American friend, Casper Hughes, helps ease her fears and bolsters her confidence as they prepare for the London photographic exhibition with her beloved and dynamic godmother, Lady Dunwoody. Clare Corbett reads Casper and Lady Dunwoody with verve; her reading of Casper, especially, made me smile. Their friendship is lovely and true. Too bad she couldn’t find a passionate happiness with him instead. Charlotte’s stuffy older brother, Fred, and his sniping fiancée, Augusta, are boors and brown nosers, desperate to keep their control over Charlotte and, thus, her fortune. They appear to be the real fortune hunters of this novel. Clare Corbett reads Augusta with a perfect high-pitched, shrill voice that grates on Charlotte’s (and the reader’s) nerves. The vivid descriptions of the sport of fox hunting, the culture of horsemanship, the new art of photography, the atmosphere of an upper class country house party, and the intricacies of diplomacy and etiquette with foreign dignitaries are brought to life. Historic figures of the time also make an appearance: Queen Victoria and her servant and companion, John Brown, and the Earl of Spencer. The question of an affair between Bay and Sisi is just that. Questionable. But history always mentions a “reputed” affair. Bay is a man to both like and dislike. He’s a man with flaws who loves women. Unfortunately, he hurts them as well with his lack of singular devotion. I was on edge the entire novel as I knew what was coming; I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded it. Charlotte is an innocent, but she’s not stupid. I liked that Goodwin conveyed both her curiosity and her sensibility. Bay is the first man to capture her interest but she is determined to find her own happiness within the limits of her class and society. I admire her skill at photography and her loving relationship with her godmother; she has allies and friends. I got the feeling she would be just fine no matter what. Sisi is a tragic figure. Beautiful, lonely, and in a loveless marriage, she seeks happiness wherever she can take it. I felt sorry for her yet I also disliked her because I liked Charlotte more. This is why I am ambivalent about this story. Perhaps it is because I listened to the book read aloud and Sisi’s voice began to grate after awhile and her actions seem desperate. Bay is attracted to Sisi but he still wants Charlotte and this bothers me. I think the ending a little quick, romantic, and fanciful and I don’t think Charlotte could have been happy long-term with Bay. And that is perhaps the saddest thing of all. An exceptionally well written and entertaining novel.
The book is based on some historical facts. The book makes you want to find out more about the actual people who lived this story. Writing is excellent. Recommended to all who enjoy good historical fiction. Another excellent novel on the NOOK is The Partisan by William Jarvis. This historical novel is also based on actual events. It just won an Indie Medalian Award. Both books deserve A+++++++++
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A historical fiction set in England, but the royal monarchs do not take center stage and I liked it! Don't get me wrong, I love the crazy stories of the monarchs, but in this instance, I loved hearing about England with Queen Victoria just making a few appearances and life at court was just visited. Instead a family with a very young heiress who has lost both her parents and is having her older brother controlling her state of affairs and a lowly Captain trying to win her affections while being distracted by the Empress of Austria - it was great. With quite a hefty page count, don't let that fool you with this book. I absolutely whizzed through this story at an alarming pace and was completely engrossed in this story quickly. I loved the young heiress who will eventually have wealth to her name, but at the time she can't access any of it and she watches her brother and soon to be sister-in-law enjoy living off her and this Captain who actually cares for her and not the money that she has coming to her. It was a sweet love story with some fantastic twists and turns.
A little too cheesy love story for me
Interesting, sometimes people moved in and out with seems to be no true purpose. Meant more to me and was eaiser to understand after I had looked up main characters to get their backgrounds.
Daisy Goodwin has only just begun writing books and I can hardly wait for the 3rd!!!