“But dear, sweet, innocent Mitten, here is a man who has displayed a fondness for a married woman. Why then would he be attracted by a young girl with no experience or sophistication, if it were not for the fact that you are a considerable heiress? I am afraid that Captain Middleton, who comes, I understand, from a very modest background, is a fortune hunter.” – The Fortune Hunter, Daisy Goodwin
The Fortune Hunter is a historical fiction novel set in the 1800’s centered around a love triangle between Empress Elisabeth of Austria (who goes by “Sisi”), Miss Charlotte Baird – heiress to the Lennox fortune and Captain Bay Middleton – while an excellent horsemen, he seems most known for his particular way of charming any female with a pulse.
Miss Charlotte Baird is described as a plain looking girl, with little interest in social convention and proper manners. When Middleton’s interest in her is piqued, it is the general assumption that her fortune is the reason. Never mind the fact that she is passionate about photography, has a good sense of wit/sass and would appear to be smarter than most women in their social circle. Just forget those qualities- she’s not the most gorgeous woman in the room- so CLEARLY she has nothing to offer anyone.
Sisi on the other hand comes to England to hunt. While she is predominately allusive, her reputation insists that her beauty is of the highest caliber- long magnificent hair, wrinkles noticeably absent from her face (she is a Grandmother so this is clearly some act of God, but during this period grannies are generally in their late 30’s soooo perhaps not….) and her impeccable style. Middleton seems to be enthralled by her charms and this doesn’t go unnoticed by Charlotte. This becomes the crux of the novel, and the start of a very passive fight between the ladies to win the affections of Bay Middleton. Beyond the respective stories of each member of the love triangle, there is not much else going on in this book.
So getting down to it, I have to say that I have high expectations for any historical fiction novels. I won’t be so bold as to say it’s my favorite genre- but I undoubtedly gravitate towards them as a whole. On top of this, this novel centers around the Hapsburgs in Austria (Sisi), which was one of the main reasons I picked up this book. I studied the economic ramifications of the Hapsburgs in college and I found it to be incredibly interesting. That being said, with all these expectations, The Fortune Hunter fell completely flat for me. Perhaps had I not been expecting so much, I wouldn’t have had such a negative reaction to it, but I did. To me, Goodwin didn’t come close to capturing the essence of the Hapsburgs, and beyond that, the general plot itself was unimpressive. The most interesting part of the book for me, was Charlotte’s love of photography and her disinterest in the commonalities of a proper society woman. Unfortunately, this is explored only briefly throughout the book. Everything else was simply -bleh- (especially the ending). I’d have to give a resounding “skip it” in my recommendation for this book.