My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Oh my! What an adorable read Lisa Manuel’s historical romance, Fortune’s Kiss, turned out to be! Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into but I can’t express enough just how much I enjoyed this book! It was very well-written with a pair of adorable H and h, and some interesting cast of secondary characters.
I can’t seem to stop saying ‘adorable’, but bear with me please. LOL
Graham Forster left England for Egypt 10 years ago in search of a better life, to built the ruined future that he wanted to leave behind. He was the victim of a conniving Duke and his son. Money bought the help of someone holding an honorable post at his university and Graham was accused of cheating; a deed that was never done by him. When the news broke loose, and he couldn’t prove anything, Graham had to leave England. Though relatives of Baron Monteith, Graham’s own family come from a more humble background with financial problems and debts aplenty. Graham’s father and the rest of the family have never believed in his innocence. It hurt him so much that Graham stayed as far away as possible from them, without any communication whatsoever. He has unearthed, what the British would call, ‘treasures’ from various ancient graves that have given him a name and fame in his country, also a small fortune. He has also been aware of his father’s passing but Graham has been determined never to return to England. Now, after all these years, a message finds him, telling him that he’s needed back in England and pronto. Because you see, Graham has just been found the only heir to Baron Monteith, and apparently, though they don’t care for him, his mother and the remaining siblings, a pair of twin brother and sister, have already moved into his new home, amassing debts along the way. How nice!
Graham returns to England with his close friend, another Englishman living in Egypt for a long time, Shaun Paddington, to take stock of the situation. He knew that the Baron, who didn’t have any children of his own, had another close relative, a young man, Nigel, nominated as the heir. Apparently, sometimes after the Baron’s death, Nigel was thrown from his horse and perished. When Graham steps inside the Monteith Hall, he finds that things have been crazy... Awry. His mother is as distant as she was when he left, and the twins, much younger than him, hate his guts. The sister, Leticia or Letty, who was an adorable little angel with blonde curls, is now a spoiled little shrew. Oh she’s still beautiful (Shaun would vouch for it wholeheartedly) but there’s nothing likable about her manners. She and Freddy, tell him in so many words, show him in their actions just how much they despise their older brother. It’s all because they think he’d abandoned them when they needed him the most; when, after their father’s death, his debt left them in dire financial conditions.
I liked Graham on spot. He was this sun-tanned dark blonde with blue eyes, who loved sporting that dimple sent all the ladies into ga-ga state. But from what I read throughout, Graham was more of a nerd than a Casanova. He has studied the ancient tombs, skated around various dangers in and around these tombs. He has learned and seen things, yet he doesn’t know where he had gone wrong with his family. He’s just so utterly baffled and guilt ridden about everything that all you wanna do is hug him tight. A genuinely good guy who initially tried to give us this impression that he’s some kinda rogue, that he doesn’t care about anything or anyone. But he cared more than what he let on. Then, his world skidded to a halt one day, when he met one Moira Hughes while waiting to see his solicitor and falls head over heels. *sigh*
Moira’s father, a vicar, died when she was still an infant. Everett Foster, Baron Monteith married her mother some years later. He’s the father she’d known, loved as one too; an affection, from all accounts, was returned by Everett. He told her in his death bed about a fortune that’ll set them up nicely come what may. Moira always thought that that fortune belonged to her mother as she was supposed to have been married to Nigel by then and have a secure future. But now, as Everett’s lawyer tells her that there’s no such fortune bequeathed to Lady Monteith, Moira feels as desperate a girl with no hope of a future can feel. They, she and her very ill mother, have already been evicted from the place they’ve always known as home, Monteith Hall, when the new baron’s family moved in. Moira’s mother didn’t need to be move from her home to this shabby, damp cottage when it’s apparent that she’s very fragile both physically and psychologically. She’s delusional as if still living in the past. For all Moira knows, it was the new Baron’s doing, so she is mad at the man for taking away her life, home and security in the blink of an eye. Now she doesn’t even know whom to trust or turn to for help because money is something they need urgently. After this discouraging discovery, while leaving the solicitor’s office, Moira comes face to face with this roguishly handsome man, sitting there, obviously waiting for his turn. Then he looks up and gives this dimpled smile that made Moira a little dizzy, a little shivery. But she didn’t know him, and had no intentions of flirting when her world was crashing down upon her. Moira is resolved to find out the truth one way or the other, so she leaves.
Graham knew, and confesses to Shaun as much, that he’s fallen in love. Madly. It should’ve been cheesy but it absolutely wasn’t. His determination to find out the dark haired and eyed beauty was admirable. I always felt there’s something so inherently good, even innocent, about him that I never doubted his feelings. Graham soon figures out that it’s Everett’s step-daughter, the former inhabitants of his home. His inquiry from the lawyer brings forth some negative information regarding Moira’s current financial situation. He understood why she might’ve been teary-eyed when he saw her. Graham found his family comfortably settle without so much a by-your-leave, as if they’ve forgotten that they actually hate him. Well, his twin siblings hate him alright, though they have no qualms about using his property for their own comfort. He’s very unhappy when he learns that the eviction of Moira and Everett’s widow was done by his mother, without his permission. He does make his displeasure known, though it’s apparent no one listens to him in this house. I have to say that, in the beginning, I found Freddy and Letty simply unbearable as both were rude and spoiled and did everything to show their hatred. I totally adored Graham so yah, I’d slap both to smithereens if I could!
While Graham is trying to figure out how to help Moira without rousing her suspicion, she’s looking for a way to search Monteith Hall for clues without the new Baron finding out. It’d be difficult no doubt. Moira though had no idea that Graham had already identified her. When they met at a masked ball of sort and Graham zooms in on her in a throng of people in an instant, then starts sporting his dimples with his charm, Moira knew she’s in trouble. Oh my God, she can actually fall for this guy, whom she has come to hate with passion, to think in terms of a cold, heartless man! But he looks nothing like it, acts even less so. Moira is in a bigger dilemma this time.
After that, as planned, Moira enters Monteith Hall as a servant. She needed to know if her step-father betrayed them or if their inheritance was stolen, which is what it increasingly seemed like. She needs to see if there’s any document left here that the new Baron is hiding. The old housekeeper is helpful in giving her access but Moira’s stay isn’t all too successful. She tries her best to search in various places but she might’ve misjudged Miss Foster’s tenacity. God help the soul that garnered her displeasure, or distrust in this matter. Moira would soon learn as Letty catches her ‘snooping about’ in the library.
At that time, Graham was drowning in a pool of guilt. If it wasn’t his family, then it was Moira’s state of being. Even though he wasn’t directly guilty for Moira’s plight, he still felt like it. He was also puzzled by the fact that Everett hadn’t left anything to them! Why would he do such a thing? But at the moment, he was dealing with his incorrigible younger brother, the troublemaker, Freddy while trying to extricate his drunk-as-a-skunk aSS from a seedy inn and the seedier barmaid that currently occupied his lap. Another notch in his guilt meter, poor Graham, as Freddy even in that state, doesn’t forget to remind Graham of his hatred. And that, that probably big brother was the reason why he’d been there in the first place. *sigh* Returning home, Graham finds it in uproar, with his younger sister’s nasal whine in the air (at least that’s how I imagined it LOL). Apparently she’d found a thief in the library, the new maid, who has been (according to her) skulking around and stealing things. Lord help him! Then, suddenly things become very interesting as Graham finds Miss Hughes in the garb of a housemaid! Hmm, very interesting indeed. What’s she’s up to now? Graham would find out, even if it means flashing his dimples a bit more than he likes to. And no wonder, that rogue has already found out Moira’s weakness from their prior brief meetings. :p
When they’re alone, Graham asks Moira what he can do for her and is instantly stunned when she throws the accusation of their eviction on his face. Poor chap had no clue of the depth of her dislike of him and set about telling her it wasn’t his doing. Moira begins weakening after this confession. After his offer of help, she finally tells Graham everything that her family had gone through since Everett’s demise. Graham had already had some inclinations, but now he knew that it looked much more serious than he initially thought. He instantly offers his help in unraveling this mystery. He also invites Moira and her mother back to the Monteith Hall as his guests, for as long as they want to live here. Moira is stunned, humbled by his generosity, and have to say, has the first change of heart where Graham was concerned. Maybe he’s not as bad as she’d made him out to be. She also begins having glimpses of hope regarding their financial situation.
Their initial investigation doesn’t bring forth much information, but it was very apparent that the lawyer was definitely hiding something. A bit more digging reveals a name, Michael Oliphant, who seems to be holding most of Everett’s fortune. But why? Who is this man? Moira couldn’t tell since she doesn’t recall meeting this man. A dejected Moira returns to their shabby dwellings, only this time Graham insists on accompanying her. At home, she finds her mother a bit better, though she kept mixing Graham up with Nigel no matter what they did. Moira was touched by the gentle way Graham handled her mother, sensing another chink in her armor. When their old housekeeper brings in more food that they can afford at this time, she becomes angry, thinking over-expenditure. But therein lay another eye-opener. Moira is surprised to find that their pantry has been restocked to the brim, thanks to none other than Graham. I think this was the time when Moira fell for him a little, though she was still trying to hold onto her independent streak. But since this reminded her of her inadequacies in taking care of her mother, she vents a little on Graham. I was quite surprised that she did. This is something Moira does quite a few times throughout the book, wanting me to shake her to see reason; that what a generous and compassionate guy Graham was, and just how much he wanted her to see him.
After that, Moira insists returning with Graham to help with the investigation. Shaun also begins digging around on his request. There are some funny scenes regarding him, Letty, for whom he’d fallen like a log already (man, I laughed every time the tips of his ear would blush at the mention of that hellion LOOOOL) and Isis. Oh I didn’t mention Isis, did I? It’s... er, She’s Graham’s pet spider. No one but Graham could stand the creature. People’s reaction towards the spider was so hilarious, yet Graham treated it like a gentlewoman, which spoke volumes of his personality. Isis becomes a big part of the initiation of Moira-Graham’s relationship when they began to grow close. Graham wanted Moira to accept Isis just as she was, as he wanted her to accept him. It leads to some touching and kissing, with both Graham and Moira knowing that they can’t deny their attraction any longer.
At that point, Everett’s lawyer is murdered in his office, bringing in more ominous cloud over their investigation. Graham and Moira were due to meet the guy when he was found. Wherever she looked, Moira felt lost, defeated not knowing what to do next. She couldn’t take Graham’s charity (as she viewed his help) any longer but how can she survive? She has no future or prospects to speak of. And though they liked flirting, and though he sent shivers down her spine with his kisses and those dimples, Graham had given Moira the impression that he doesn’t wanna settle down. He has had enough of the family drama and has no interest in prolonging that by making one of his own. Besides, he seems to have some unfinished business regarding his excavations so he must return to Egypt as soon as things go back to normal. But Moira didn’t know that Graham was vulnerable and liked hiding his feelings, that whatever he told her was far from his secret wishes. It almost broke my heart to see him go through this. :(
Graham was the type of man who could never ignore his responsibilities, which he thinks he had for the past 10 years where his family is concerned. He thinks he’d failed his siblings who should’ve looked up to him. I already mentioned his guilt issue that seemed to plague him throughout the story, until it was all resolved. So it was, that even if it wasn’t his fault, anything negative happened and he felt it was. There’s even a scene at the end that I found most distressing when he poses the same question to Moira, when he thought she’s not going to accept him. :( Graham thinks he’s no good for her, yet he wanted nothing but Moira’s regard. He loved her, there was no question about that, and it left him completely helpless. As I said, the misunderstanding regarding their mutual feelings was at times pretty frustrating because I SO wanted them to just freakin’ come out and say it out loud and get it over with. Moira didn’t help either. After everything he’d done for, her trust issue was rather glaring, as was the fact that she couldn’t rely on him completely to solve the case, where I felt that she was questioning his intelligence. I didn’t like that she had solidified this rash and roguish impression of him in her mind and was still judging him by that standard. It was one thing about Moira that really irritated me.
But that could never have stopped the shimmering attraction from fueling, when every chance they got, both wanted to be together and take this to the next level. Whatever her problem was, and however much she fought it, already Graham’s help and solid present was weakening Moira. Funny thing is, Moira’s secret wish was to be Graham’s wife, to spend her life with him, even if she had judged him wrongly but she was also scared of being left alone. Moira knew he cared, but love? Did he? Moreover, Graham’s determination about never to marry and returning to Egypt sort of shattered her dreams. But Moira wanted to be with him, even if for once; a memory to savor later while Graham would probably forget and move on. Yah, she was some contradiction! Even though I was irritated, somehow I understood Moira’s vulnerabilities too.
You can only guess Graham’s elation when it was Moira who seduces him at night with her innocent touches, letting him know that she wanted him. Graham was so happy to finally have her in his arms... yet he kept giving her the impression that that’s all she can expect from him. *sigh* Ah! How can two people be so in love, yet so blind, God knows?!
Graham’s dysfunctional family finally begins unraveling when Freddy leaves home. Shaun brings in the news of an opium den and Graham knew he had to take stern action. Moira has already been badgering him to take her to this place, a lead they’ve found where they might find this elusive Michael Oliphant. But after Freddy’s news, Graham emphasizes that Moira stays back and wait for him as he goes to fetch his wayward brother. I didn’t like it that Moira promised that she’d wait, yet the moment Graham left, she manipulates Shaun to accompany her to that place because she couldn’t wait any longer! I DID NOT like it, though I’d give it that she didn’t just traipse off alone, thinking she can ‘take care of herself’. When they finally reach their destination, Moira finds that she’s not at all ready for the information they discover there and the stench of utter betrayal that hit her hard on the face. She now had an idea what might’ve happened and why her stepfather gave his fortune to this infant who was around a year old; a boy. Possibly his only, if illegitimate, biological child.
This only serves to embolden Moira already growing issue with men. She’s shocked at Everett’s betrayal, which is completely understandable, but I wish she wouldn’t punish Graham for it by pushing him away. Though Moira decides to give up her search, not wanting to harm a baby who has nothing to do with any of this, Graham won’t give up. He’s positive that something much more sinister going on. He’s determined to push on to find the truth, whatever that is. But the biggest question remained, how could he convince his Moira that he’s not a man like Everett? That he’d keep his words to her? For that, Graham not only has to prove himself by solving this muddle they’re in, but also, have to reveal his true feelings for her. But if it comes down to that, will he be able to endure her rejection? *sigh*
Trust me, the murder and the inheritance mystery was but one of the enjoyable aspect of this story. The author did an excellent job of keeping me guessing until the end! Even after everything, Fortune’s Kiss was such a marvelous read, my keyword here, again would be ‘adorable’. I missed Graham and Moira the moment I finished it. I missed an epilogue too (there should’ve been one) and felt saddened by the fact that we never get to read Letty and Shaun, even Freddy’s story. I wished that the author would continue on with these characters because they now hold a very special place in my heart.
If you’re looking for a well-written historical romance, I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat! 4.5 stars.