Review: A Scandalous Deal

Review: A Scandalous DealA Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred, #2) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #2
Published by Avon on April 24, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: Felt more like historical women’s fiction than romance. I enjoyed the story of Eva’s fight to be recognized for her architectural talents, but I really didn’t think the romance was exciting or interesting.

THE STORY: Lady Eva Hyde has three dead fiances and a father who no longer can do his work. When Eva gets the opportunity to pretend to be her father in order to be an architect on a project in New York, Eva leaps on the opportunity. On the trip across the Atlantic, Eva succumbs to passion with a stranger and then flees. She is horrified when he arrives in New York and realizes that her stranger is Phillip Mansfield, who happens to be her employer. Eva continues to pretend that her father is in charge of the project and she is there to execute his will. The antagonism from others about her working on the project, threaten Eva’s desire to establish herself as a professional.

OPINION: I’ve really enjoyed Shupes Guilded Age books, but this one was a big miss for me. While I was really interested in Eva’s professional journey, I didn’t like the romance at all. In fact, I sympathized with Phillip through the entire book and really thought he should dump Eva to find a better woman.

This book felt like a historical woman’s fiction book focused on Eva remaking her life. But she felt selfish and self-centered to me. She lies about who is the architect and then has the nerve to be annoyed at Phillip when he is almost destroyed by her deception. While there is a pro forma “making up” on her part, I never felt that she put her relationship with Phillip over her own ambitions. She lies to him, keeps him at a distance, and basically treats him as beneath her dreams.

I didn’t like her treatment of him, couldn’t understand his willingness to deal with her unless he has no self-respect himself. I want my romances to be about the relationship over all and this book doesn’t come close to meeting that standard.

The book is well written for what it is and I am sure that readers looking for a woman’s journey to fight prejudice to be a trailblazer will find something good in this story, but I prefer my romances to be about romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place during the Gilded Age.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SCANDALOUS DEAL is the second book in the Four Hundred series. While there are small appearances by characters from the prior book, this book is a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: A Daring Arrangement

Review: A Daring ArrangementA Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred, #1) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #1
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Do we have a deal?”

FINAL DECISION: Big and brash and exciting, A DARING ARRANGEMENT is a great start to a new series set in America’s Guilded Age with characters who are navigating a new world with new rules and fall in love despite all their good intentions.

THE STORY: Lady Nora Parker, the daughter of an earl is sent in disgrace to America to find a husband, but Nora has no intention of conceding to her father’s wishes. Instead, Nora intends to find a thoroughly scandalous fiance that will make her father bring her back to London where she will be reunited with the man she loves. Nora finds the “perfect” candidate for fiance in Julius Hatcher, a rich self-made financial wizard who gets a lot of press for his notorious actions. Julius finds himself agreeing to Nora’s scheme because she can gain him entry into the social elite in New York, where Julius intends to discover the identity of the men who ruined his father. But instead of being the scandal that Nora wanted, she finds that Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiance and perhaps a man that Nora herself finds irresistible.

OPINION: I have become a great fan of Shupe’s Guilded Age books. In an era not often explored in historical romance, these books and characters feel fresh and innovative rather than relying on the same scenarios. The Guilded Age is a time of great change and disruption which is something that Shupe explores to great effect in A DARING ARRANGEMENT.

The collision in this book of the self-made man and the aristocratic woman brings a lot of energy to this story. Nora especially is asking herself who she is. She is a new woman in a time where the roles of women and especially aristocratic women are changing. She has strength and determination and wants to control her own life beyond expectations and social norms. Sexuality, social mores, gender roles and self-determination are all deftly explored here are Nora begins to remake herself in America. She finds support for her organized, bold and even wicked personality. She is brighter and stronger and different.

In the same way, the relationship between Julius and Nora also is involved in remaking norms. Their relationship feels more contemporary in many ways as the Guilded Age begins to move towards the modern world. Julius is just adorable in this story as he struggles with his feelings towards Nora while being determined to avoid marriage and entanglements. He is protective and caring and really sexy.

I found this story very compelling because it feels different. The stakes are murkier and so are the standards. The rules are being remade and worked out and it makes the relationship between Nora and Julius more unpredictable. These two have to work to figure out what their relationship will be as rules are being subverted all around them.

I really enjoyed this one and can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Even though this series takes place in the same world as Shupe’s Knickerbocker series, there is no overlap since she moved to a new publisher.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DARING ARRANGEMENT is the first book in the Four Hundred series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.