I had just finished Claire Hajaj's Ishmeal's Oranges and what a refreshing change this was! A stark contrast to the war ridden climes of Isreal, this book transported me to the English countryside, filled with the trappings of royalty and glamour.
Bay middleton is the fortune hunter who cannot resist beautiful women till he has to choose between beauty and love.
Sisi, is the Empress of Austria who is known for her beauty and liberal views and therefore a pain to her husband.
Charlotte Baird, is a woman with fortune but average looks. An unconventional woman, she pursues the unconventional love for photography but cannot resist the charms of a rake.
A lot ensues between the three of them and caught within the confusion between "the norm" and what the heart desires, Daisy Goodwin weaves a tale rich in atmospheric detail and insights which takes this average story to a whole new level.
I was preparing myself to settle down to a story about an adulterous empress out to seduce a English lord and the young naive heroine who tries to win over the man with her innocence, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was more to it than the cover suggested.
- The story is average however, the characters and situations add a new dimension to it. Some situations such as the Empress meeting Queen Victoria is the highlight of the novel. Especially, where it is obvious the queen covets the title of Empress much to the amusement of the Empress, who recognises the the trappings of such a title, was a very enjoyable one.
- Other insights that Goodwin brings to the novel such as the instance where her aunt applauds Charlotte's unconventional hobby believing that an intelligent pursuit is more preferable than her fortune. Charlotte, then, grudgingly confides that it is only her fortune that allows her to indulge in such an expensive hobby.
- The American character of Casper is an interesting portrayal to highlight the difference between America and England. I loved the lines.. "In the West, the landscape is unmarked by man." to show how America was still building its history in comparison to England's rich architectural legacy.
- The rich atmospheric detail is very reminiscent of Downton Abbey. It would be interesting to see this book as a movie.
- The character of Sisi is hyped so much and falls a bit flat in my opinion especially since the back of the cover proclaims Sisi to be this enviable, elusive beauty with brains. Somehow I felt that the character was not as formidable as made out to be.
It was fascinating to read the author's note in the end how she picked these characters from history and breathed life into them. An enjoyable read for those who like their love stories filled with witty banter and some great storytelling.