Hal Stanton owns the clothes on his back and not much else. His war was a hard one and when he came home he found the jobs were few, especially for an orphan without much to recommend him. But Hal knows how to act the part of a gentleman and has a found a wonderful woman to marry. And if it isn’t love, then at least Hal promises himself he can be a good husband.
Julian Needham doesn’t trust the man his cousin has suddenly decided to marry. Margaret claims love, but Julian knows her dowry is a temptation for men of less wealth. He doesn’t think much of Hal at first, but when a introductory weekend at Julian’s childhood estate stretches on, Julian is forced to admit that Hal is no monster, but a man he could very well love. When the truth is finally revealed, will Julian be able to accept Hal for who he is, or will he cast aside his hopes of future happiness?
The Fortune Hunter is a fine return to form for author Bonnie Dee and an excellent addition to her repertoire of historical fiction. Set just after World War 1 and the Spanish flu epidemic, The Fortune Hunter captures the harsh realities of life amidst the chaos of change. The landed class is struggling to keep up with times and Julian’s family has turned to offering tours of their dusty old home to stay afloat. Julian hasn’t been home since the death of his brother, but to protect his cousin, he agrees to meet and visit her fiancé. Hal has nothing, not even his name. He came back from the war hoping to find a clerk position, but things haven’t panned out. Marrying Margaret for her money seems like a way out of his situation. And he cares for her and enjoys her company so that assuages his guilt. Julian and Hal are men from different sides of life, but there’s an easy companionship between them, as well as romance. Julian wants the truth about Hal, but finds himself reluctant to actually accept it.
The plot is quickly paced and doesn’t falter in the least. The writing is strong and crisp and the author does a good job of setting the time and place. The secondary cast feels like an important extension of the book despite their background status. There a lot of deeper themes to The Fortune Hunter, not the least of which are PTSD and the fates of orphaned children. Nothing is brushed over, but there isn’t a lot of time given to any particular topic, which is a shame. While the novel didn’t suffer from a lack of depth, a deeper focus would have helped to flesh out the details readers are provided. This is not a surface work by any means, but delving a bit more into issues of returning war veterans, etc. could have given it a bit more scaffolding.
On the whole, The Fortune Hunter was a wonderful historical read. It has enough romance and drama for most readers without falling prey to theatrics. For anyone who enjoys a good historical or books with wounded warrior themes, consider The Fortune Hunter recommended.