Exclusive Excerpt from Susanna Kearsley’s A Desperate Fortune
Sourcebooks is running the “Send Susanna to MY Hometown” contest again this year. Fans can nominate/vote for their hometown. First round winners will be announced December 16, with the winning bookstores/libraries announced on February 18th!
Sourcebooks is also offering 10 fans the chance to attend a LIVE online event with Susanna Kearsley. To enter, find the HIDDEN MESSAGE within the excerpt below and use it to crack the SECRET CODE. Email the correct answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be announced on March 20th.
Excerpt from A Desperate Fortune
“Marie, my dear,” her aunt said—using, as she always did, the French form of her niece’s name, “how much do you remember of your life before you came to us?”
The question caught her unprepared. Surprised, she tried to gather up her thoughts and focused harder on the dark mass of the forest, at the farthest edge of which she knew, although she could not see it, stood the great Chateau of Saint-Germain-en-Laye—the royal castle in whose chapel she herself had been baptized.
She said, in honesty, “I have few memories.”
Those she had retained were like a web of lace, connected in a loose way but with gaps and holes and spaces, and so frail and insubstantial she was never sure how safe they were to trust.
It was not her mother’s face that she remembered, but the feel of her—the soft warmth of her arms, the firmer softness of her silken bodice over stays, the ever-present tickle of the ruffled lace that edged her white chemise and brushed on Mary’s cheek and upturned nose when she was snuggling on her mother’s lap.
And there were scents, as well—a whiff of roses, or of lavender. And later still, the scents of sickness, not so pleasant to recall. And that was all the memory of her mother that was left to her. No voice, though she’d been told her mother sang, and she imagined that her mother’s voice had been much like Aunt Magdalene’s, with warm and pleasant tones that seemed to always be prepared to open easily to laughter.
Of her brothers and her father she remembered something more, but even then, their forms and features had long blurred to indistinction, and their words and voices were reduced to whispers in a language she now rarely used herself, despite her uncle’s stoic efforts to make sure she did not lose her English.
He’d bought her English books, and when the local blacksmith had gone off to Amsterdam and come home with an Irish wife, then Uncle Jacques had happily employed her as a tutor. The end result had been that Mary, though she spoke in French, could switch to English when she needed to with hardly any accent. And she could at least put meaning to the words that she recalled her father saying, when he’d brought her here to leave her for the final time.
“Now, Mary,” he had told her, “be a good lass for your uncle and your aunt, and mind the manners you’ve been taught, and use the sense that you’ve been given, and I promise you, you’ll have a better life here than I ever could have given you.”
At least, that’s what she thought he’d said. The years, perhaps, had rearranged his words and phrased them into a more sentimental speech within her memory, the same memory that insisted she’d replied to him, “I want to stay with you.” And that his thumb had brushed a tear from her hot cheek, and he had said, “We do not always get the things we want.”
She did remember, clearly, that she’d cried for him and called him back, and that he had not turned; he’d walked away from her with quick, determined strides, head bent, until her aunt’s broad skirts had rustled round to block her vision as the carriage wheels had rattled down the road.
She looked towards that same road now and squared her shoulders as her father had, and asked her aunt, “Why do you wish to know what I remember?”
She had never known Aunt Magdalene to search for words, and yet it seemed to Mary that her aunt was doing just that, in the moment’s pause. And then her aunt remarked, “We’ve had a letter from your brother.”
Even less expected. The surprise, this time, stopped Mary in midstep, and made her heedless of the fact that she was standing ankle-deep in snow. She had three brothers. “Which of them?”
Aunt Magdalene said, “Nicolas. Do you remember him at all?”
Her eldest brother. Nicolas. Broad shoulders and a pair of boots. Two hands that tossed her in the air and caught her when she came down laughing. In a voice that hurt her throat a little, Mary answered, “Yes.”
“He has returned to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and now he wishes you should join him.”
Mary tried to take this in. Her mind, resisting the attempt, focused instead on her little dog Frisque, who seemed convinced that there was something of great interest hidden underneath the snow that mounded round the rooted base of one staked vine, and had begun to dig in earnest to discover it. A mouse perhaps, thought Mary, sleeping in its winter burrow with its family.
“When,” she asked, “did he return?” She’d thought he was in Italy.
Aunt Magdalene paused longer this time. Then she said, “Two years ago.”
Mary looked from Frisque to her aunt, well aware her feelings would be plainly written on her face. “Two years? He has been here two years? So close, and yet he has not ever…” She could not continue. She looked sharply down, then up again, and out across the river to the darkly distant forest. Just beyond those trees, the brother whom she had not seen for fifteen years was even now attending to the business of his day. Perhaps, like her, he was outdoors. Perhaps his gaze was even turned in this direction…
“I did not expect,” she said, in that tight voice that hurt her still, “that anyone would ever send for me.” And then, because that made her sound too needy, and she was not altogether sure exactly what she needed, she let her forehead crease into a thoughtful frown. “Am I to have a choice?”
“My dear, you always have a choice.”
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
9781492602026 * $16.99/TP * ON-SALE: April 7, 2015
For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has lain unread. Now, amateur code breaker Sara Thomas has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher.
Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.
As Mary’s gripping tale is revealed, Sara is faced with challenges that will require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate.