A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Desperate Fortune A Desperate Fortune. Finished 7-6-20, 3.75/5 stars, romance, 528 pages, pub. 2015

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread-its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher.

But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects. As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take… to find the road that will lead her safely home.      from Goodreads

Sara, as explained early on, has Asperger syndrome.  Her best friend is her cousin, who is offering her a chance at a code breaking job in Paris.  A famous writer wants her to decipher an almost 300 year old diary and she accepts since she is between jobs.  She gets put up at a nice home with a cook and with a good looking man who catches her eye as a neighbor.  She begins to uncover Mary’s story, one that could easily be called a thriller, and it’s there that this book finds its heart.

I liked Sara and enjoyed the honest portrayal of a character on the autism spectrum, but it was Mary that had me turning the pages, hoping that she would get her happily ever after.  For a girl abandoned by her family and then used to curry favor, she was easy to love.  In the 1700s a trek from Paris to Italy was fraught with danger, especially when you were caught with a man who recognized the bounty on the head of her travel companions.  I won’t spoil Mary’s end, but I will say that it was fitting.

Kearsley is a master at the dual storylines set in different time periods.  Usually the storylines match up a bit better than they do in this one and there is most often more of a mystical aspect, but I was still happy to be reading.  Her books are most definitely comfort read for me…and very much needed at this time.