A Desperate Fortune

Book: By Susanna Kearsley.

Inciting Event:

Sara’s POV: The book, like most of Kearsley’s, is split into two stories with a modern-day framing device for the historical section. Here, Sara (an amateur code breaker with Asperger’s) arrives in France to crack the cipher on an 18th-century Jacobite woman’s journal. There, she meets the handsome Frenchman, Luc. As in most romances, the meeting of the leads is the Inciting Event. The Call to Adventure is “refused” when Sara’s cousin Jacqui strongly cautions her against getting involved.

Mary’s POV: Mary Dundas’s brother—whom she barely knows—arrives to take her away from the uncle and aunt with whom she’s always lived. She is eager to go, only to discover all is not as it seems when she encounters an undercover Jacobite courier in the home of the man with whom they are staying.

First Plot Point:

Sara’s POV: Sara finally cracks the cipher so she can begin interpreting the journal—and Luc kisses her out of the blue.

Mary’s POV: Mary is recruited by her brother and their host to travel to Paris where she will act as the sister of a Jacobite fugitive to aid his escape. She fully leaves her Normal World and enters the Adventure World of the main conflict.

First Pinch Point:

Sara’s POV: Sara learns why Luc amicably divorced the mother of his son. It causes her to muse wistfully on her perceived inability to sustain a relationship, thanks to her Asperger’s (which is her primary antagonistic force).

Mary’s POV: The man who Mary has long realized is watching them from across the street finally enters her life by abruptly storming into the house and killing a newcomer who is after the bounty on Thomson, the Jacobite fugitive she is protecting.

The man—a Scot named MacPherson—takes her, Thomson, and their chaperone Effie and acts as their guardian as they go on the run.

This is relatively late for a love interest to be introduced. However, Kearsley’s stories tend to move slowly and are often more focused on the historical plot than the actual romance.


Sara’s POV: Sara and Luc enter a turning point and a new phase in their relationship when they passionately kiss.

Mary’s POV: Believing Thomson to be a criminal and MacPherson a killer, Mary writes a secret letter begging her aunt and uncle to come rescue her in Lyon—but something about MacPherson’s steady presence makes her decide not to send it.

Second Pinch Point:

Sara’s POV: Sara’s cousin Jacqui arrives to offer wary caution about Sara’s burgeoning relationship with Luc. It causes Sara to resist falling in love with him, since she believes she will eventually have to walk away. She is also given the opportunity for a job interview with Luc’s brother, which sets up her fears that her Asperger’s will prevent her from making a good impression.

Mary’s POV: When bounty hunters catch up to them, MacPherson kills them all. This is a nice pinch, since it both emphasizes the exterior antagonistic force (those pursuing them) and the more intimate stakes of the relationship, since MacPherson’s actions only enhance Mary’s fear of him.

Third Plot Point:

Sara’s POV: Believing she and Luc will be late for the interview, Sara has a “meltdown,” revealing the extent of her Asperger’s to Luc and causing her to believe she’s lost him forever—only to have him reveal he knew she had Asperger’s because his brother has it as well.

Mary’s POV: The party is captured by pirate hunters. To protect Thomson, MacPherson assumes the man’s false identity, which includes being Mary’s supposed husband. When they are forced to prove their relationship to the captain of the ship, MacPherson kisses her and prompts to her finally confront her true feelings for him.


Sara’s POV: The story skips directly from the Third Plot Point to Sara’s wedding to Luc. The ending feels very choppy but is obviously being resolved to make way for the true finale in Mary’s story.

Mary’s POV: They arrive in Rome, where King James is in exile. Mary is disappointed in finding her father and brother who have journeyed on, and she fears she will never again see MacPherson, only to begin learning his true history and worth.

Climactic Moment:

Sara’s POV: Sara marries Luc.

Mary’s POV: MacPherson returns to ask her to marry him and she agrees.


Sara’s POV: She muses on her new life and the possibility of pursuing another of Mary’s journals.

Mary’s POV: No Resolution to speak of.

Notes: Both Sara and Mary follow a Positive Change Arc of empowerment.

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