I am delighted and amazed when I encounter a perfect novel. Diane Farr’s The Fortune Hunter is happily such a novel.
The set-up is familiar: George Carstairs, Baron Rival, has managed to eek out an existence in London as a successful card shark. But he has struggled for years in vain to raise the capital to restore his beloved boyhood home, Rye Vale, which was impoverished by his deceased father’s still outstanding gambling debts. Though George is infamous from his façade as a gambler and womanizer of the worst kind, he is actually a deeply honorable person and agonizes as desperate circumstances force him into his only remaining option: he must marry an heiress to save his estate.
At the top of his list is the elusive and mysterious spinster, Lady Olivia Fairfax, whose secret past has made the truth of one fact absolutely certain to her: she will never give up her hard won control over her own life and over her own fabulous wealth by marrying anyone, especially a fortune hunter like the one who broke her heart when she was a girl.
Yet George is not just anyone. When they meet, Olivia sees him immediately as the embodiment of her every fantasy. For his part, George is smitten by the saucy woman he takes to be a maid in his deceased friend’s home. He helps her sort through the items left there to benefit the charity (school for poor but promising women) that Olivia founded. He ends up confessing to this alluring maid his plan to woo and marry Olivia for her money.
His surprise and mortification are complete when at the reading of his friend’s will he again encounters this unforgettable maid who has haunted his dreams—and she turns out to be Olivia! To make matters worse, George receives an inheritance—a modest quarterly income—that the friend stipulates Olivia is to disburse based on whether George is making a useful contribution to Olivia’s school.
Hence, seemingly against their wills, Olivia and George are thrown together in her school, and the fun begins: irresistible force (George) meets immovable object (Olivia) as George seeks to woo Olivia even as he is completely honest with her about being a fortune hunter. The development of their relationship is among the most clever and entertaining I’ve ever encountered.
Farr has a gift for snappy banter that is never gratuitous but grows believably from the characters of these two complex and lovable persons she so vividly brings to life. There is so much cleverness, humor, deep emotion and verisimilitude in The Fortune Hunter that every page is a fabulously entertaining and pleasurable emotional experience. Farr’s great writing skill also produces a very fun plot and lively supporting characters. Do not miss this wonderfully irreverent, wise and deeply emotional novel!