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
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“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.

four-half-stars

Review: Mogul

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: MogulMogul (The Knickerbocker Club, #3) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #3
Published by Zebra on January 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  The weakest of the series, this book is about two people getting a second chance at love.  I liked the story overall, but I didn’t enjoy the romance as much because the characters seemed to have too many convoluted reasons to be apart.

THE STORY: Calvin Cabot has risen from a reporter to owning a number of large newspapers.  His only regret is the woman he had to leave behind.  Lillian Davies is the daughter of a self-made man but her father has greater aspirations for her. Calvin and Lillian had married in a whirlwind courtship until Lillian’s father stepped in.  After an annulment, the two have been apart.  Now Lily needs Calvin’s help when her brother disappears and the two find that their attraction to one another has not diminished with time.

OPINION:  I liked so much of this book, but the romance was a weak point.  So while I loved the time period, loved the motivating story about Lily’s brother’s disappearance. There was a little too much drama with Lily and Calvin and too many things working to keep them apart that the drama exhausted me and my patience in the book. So while I liked the book, it’s not one I would return to again.

Lily is a woman who has taken the reins of her family’s business, Lily is strong and independent but still hurts from what she believes was Calvin’s betrayal years ago. I liked her and liked her journey, but I couldn’t help but think that she was annoyingly naive for believing the explanation for the annulment in the beginning.

Calvin was a character that I had expected to like a great deal, but once again, I got too annoyed and caught up in his continued lies and half-truths to Lily. I understand his loyalty and his feeling that he could not reveal the truth, but it got tiring that he kept being placed in the position to self-destruct his relationship with Lily. I was inclined to like him, but I got tired of his drama by the end.

It might sound that I didn’t like this book.  Actually, I liked it well enough, but it didn’t live up to the promise of the other books in the series. I suppose I was more disappointed because while I loved the premise of the book and I found the history explored in it fascinating, I just got too annoyed by the misunderstandings between the characters to want a re-read.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book explores the history of discrimination against the Chinese in the United States and the consequences of the exclusionary policies of the government.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  Mogul is the third book in the Knickerbocker Club series. It is not necessary to have read any of the previous book in the series although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

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

three-stars

Review: Baron

Review: BaronBaron (The Knickerbocker Club, #2) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #2
Published by Zebra on October 25th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 311
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I liked the quirky heroine who is strong willed-independent and a survivor. She completely upends the ordered life of the hero who is a bit of a difficult character to like at first. Ultimately, I liked their romance but it was a bit of a trial for me to get there.

THE STORY:  The heir to old money William Sloane is a railroad baron who has decided to run for state government.  In order to protect his running mate, however, he has to cut the tie his running mate has with a medium Madam Zolikoff who William knows is a fraud. When William approaches Madam Zolikoff, he finds Ava Jones (who works under the pseudonym).  Ava is working as a medium in order to support her orphaned siblings. William is reluctantly intrigued by the spirited Ava even as he knows that he has to marry a woman of his own class; Ava is wary of William after having been burned by a man before.

OPINION:  I thought this novel had a new story to tell because of its setting and time.  The characters and situation felt fresh even as the cross-class story of a rich aristocratic man and lower class woman is familiar.  These characters and their situation was new.

Ava was my favorite in the book.  She is so strong and determined.  A woman who has carried a heavy burden of caring for her family, she has done well for herself. She knows she is skirting the edge of wrongdoing with her medium act, but she tries to be the most honest she can. I loved her relationship with her siblings and her fears and desperation when it comes for being responsible for them. I felt for her after her abandonment by her lover and understood her stances as she tries to balance her desires with her fears and her responsibilities.

Will was a more difficult character for me to like.  He was a jerk in the last book and he doesn’t start out much better here (actually, he might be worse).  Self-righteous, entitled, self-indulgent, he looks down on Ava from the start. As the story continues, I began to have, if not sympathy, then understanding of his actions.  By the end of the book, I felt he had changed enough to be worthy of Ava, but the time it took to get there diminished my interest in the book somewhat.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book has some fascinating history about the prevalence of spiritual mediums at the time and takes place amidst the corruption of Tammany Hall.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BARON is the second book in the Knickerbocker Club series.  It can be read as a standalone although I recommend reading book 1 first just to learn more about the characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Magnate

Review: MagnateMagnate (The Knickerbocker Club, #1) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #1
Published by Zebra on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 325
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A romance between the birth rich heroine and a self-made man, this story is animated by the heroine’s own ambitions.  The characters are rich and interesting and I loved how these two slowly overcome their own inclinations.

THE STORY:  Emmett Cavanaugh is a self-made man who comes from the slums and has brought himself to the heights of wealth and influence. The one thing he has kept away from is useless society women until he is approached by Elizabeth Sloane.  Elizabeth knows that Emmett and her brother meet together and are friends.  She has taught herself to play the stock market and wants to back her in opening an investing company hoping to fix her family’s finances. Emmett, however, is not friends with Elizabeth’s brother at all.  Indeed, he decides to use Elizabeth to go after her brother and his company.

OPINION:  A book that has life because of its unique setting and characters.  The novelty of a book taking place in this era with characters of a more modern bent make all the situations interesting and new. A woman desiring to open her own business playing the stock market is not an everyday historical.

Elizabeth is a woman struggling against the expectations of history and her own status. Her brother wants her to have “expected” dreams — marriage, family and society events. Elizabeth desperately dreams for independence and self-determination. That desire makes her reckless in approaching Emmett and continuing to meet with him.

Emmett is a man who has made his fortune but resents those with inherited wealth. It leads him to misjudge Elizabeth and continue with his ill-conceived idea of ruining her brother. Yet, he is incredibly forward thinking in his view of what Elizabeth should be allowed to do.

I liked the interaction between these two and I totally fell for their romance.  The only negative for me was that the motivations of the characters became rather convoluted as Emmett and Elizabeth do some assuming about the other’s actions.

WORTH MENTIONING:  MAGNATE takes place during the Gilded Age in New York City.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MAGNATE is the first full book in the Knickerbocker Club series.  There is a prequel novella, but this book can be read without it.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Tycoon

Review: TycoonTycoon (The Knickerbocker Club, #0.5) by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Knickerbocker Club #0.5
Published by Zebra on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 102
Goodreads
four-stars

“Ted Harper never saw it coming. One minute, he was alone on the platform, and the next he’d acquired a wife.”

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable historical set in a period not often written about (America’s Guilded Age), this story kept my interest from the first word to the last.  These are places, people and times I haven’t read about before.

THE STORY:  Ted Harper is a self made man who has risen to own a major bank in New York City.  While on a train platform, he is approached and kissed by a woman who declares herself his wife.  Intrigued, Ted allows the woman to join him on the train. Clara Dobson is a shop girl who is on the run from men who are after during. Danger and mistrust hangs over these two who get to know one another on a train to Missouri.

OPINION:  This novella was an easy and incredibly interesting read. Taking place in a time and place not often depicted in romance novels.  The historical detail is interesting and informative without overwhelming the romance in the story.  Indeed, the characters themselves are truly products of their times, living their lives in the Guilded Age with concerns and problems different from the normal aristocrats.

Ted is a man who worked himself up from a farm to becoming a wealthy bank owner in New York.  He is a good, decent man who knows nothing but work because that is how he managed to change his life. His wealth makes him a target of swindler and cheat and thus trust comes hard to Ted.

Clara is a challenge to Ted’s worldview.  He is immediately suspicious of her and because she refuses to tell him what is threatening her, he doubts again and again her sincerity and yet he is attracted to her joy and fresh attitude toward life.  Clara is a shop girl (she works at the perfume counter at a department store).  A girl from a small town herself, she loves the big town of New York, but her life is now threatened so she is on the run.  Two days — and nights — spent in a private train car with Ted shows her his decency.

Yes, these two travel far in two days (emotionally) but it is a novella.  I thought the story was very well done especially in such a short format.

I loved how these two manage their difficulties and the plot is enough to keep the characters’ story moving.  I definitely will continue to read the other books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella is a breath of fresh air in a genre often too saturated with Regency misses.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TYCOON is prequel novella to the Knickerbocker Club series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars