New York City’s Gilded Age shines as bright as the power-wielding men of the Knickerbocker Club. And one pragmatic industrialist is about to learn that a man may make his own destiny, but love is a matter of fortune . . .
Born into one of New York’s most respected families, William Sloane is a railroad baron who has all the right friends in all the right places. But no matter how much success he achieves, he always wants more. Having secured his place atop the city’s highest echelons of society, he’s now setting his sights on a political run. Nothing can distract him from his next pursuit—except, perhaps, the enchanting con artist he never saw coming . . .
Ava Jones has eked out a living the only way she knows how. As “Madame Zolikoff,” she hoodwinks gullible audiences into believing she can communicate with the spirit world. But her carefully crafted persona is nearly destroyed when Will Sloane walks into her life—and lays bare her latest scheme. The charlatan is certain she can seduce the handsome millionaire into keeping her secret and using her skills for his campaign—unless he’s the one who’s already put a spell on her . . .
Award-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since
she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every
romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy
historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters
and dashing husband.
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Baron is the second full length novel in Joanna Shupe’s series about a group of business tycoons in Gilded Age, a period that fascinates me. After reading and enjoying “Magnate” and “Tycoon”, I had high expectations for Will Sloane’s story! I had my doubts about him, though. He wasn’t the most engaging character, but rather a pompous and sanctimonious jerk!
William Sloane is New York City’s prince. He is wealthy, influent and runs one of the biggest companies in the country. Will wants to increase his political clout and is candidate for the gubernatorial election. He is worried, though. His partner on the ticket is influenced by Ava Jones, aka Mme Zolikoff, a famous medium. The scandal could cost them the election and his reputation would suffer if she decided to reveal the personal details she has learned about his running mate.
Ava doesn’t accept Will’s accusations of knowingly swindling people. She is not ashamed of her activities. Her aim is to to take care of her siblings and save up enough money to move to the countryside. Ava is a great character, she is stubborn, independent and dedicated to her family. Her honesty can be questioned, but she feels it’s the price to pay to keep her family fed and safe. She is hardened by the realities of her life. She is not impressed by Will’s overbearing and arrogant attitude. Although Will and Ava are at odds all the time, they have great chemistry. Will is attracted to her like a moth to a flame and is flummoxed by her attitude. She mocks him and is insulted by his offer to become his dirty little secret. Behind a façade of aloofness, Will hides his deep insecurities. He is kind and tender, but also demanding and complicated. Is he the prince of an impossible fairy tale or Ava’s partner in life?
This story was an absolute delight and I read it until the wee hours of the morning! I love this series and have become a fan of Joanna Shupe’s storytelling and vibrant, passionate characters. The setting was well-developed, with interesting period details. And frankly, I can’t resist a beautiful story of love triumphing over all obstacles. If you are looking for a swoony, heart melting, sexy and witty historical romance, this book is a great pick. It can be read as a standalone, but I definitely recommend the whole series.
Thanks for visiting and check out the excerpt!
An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher, via NetGalley.
Two more steps brought Will alongside her. “Are you always so difficult?”
She threw her head back and laughed—a genuine, sultry sound that hit him square in the gut. He pushed down the reaction, put it in a place with all the other things he ignored.
“Only with men who try to boss me around.”
“A lot of those in your life?”
“Just one, apparently. Any ideas on how to get rid of him?”
Will’s lips twitched from suppressing a smile. “No, unless you’re ready to give in. I won’t disappear until you leave John alone.”
She stopped in her tracks and put her hands on her hips. Her brown gaze lit up with fire and brimstone, her generous bosom heaving in a distractingly enticing manner. “Why do you care so much? Your money could buy whatever election you wanted, cover up any hint of scandal that might occur. Therefore, you don’t really care about what I’m doing to John. Tell me, why are you following me? ’Cause I need to tell you, I’m not buying it.”
What the hell was she implying? That he was after her? His muscles clenched as he stepped closer, hoping to intimidate her with their difference in height. Surprisingly, she held her ground, merely lifted a brow as if to say, Get on with it. He tried not to be impressed.
“First, I would never use my money to buy an election. I want to win, and I mean to do that fairly. Second, I can cover up just about any scandal I want, but all it takes is one whiff, one hint of impropriety, and my political career will be over before it begins. I’ll be a laughingstock. And there’s no way I’ll allow that to happen.”
“No, John will be a laughingstock. John’s political career will be over. And”—she made a disbelieving sound—“you act as if New York politics are clean and fair. We both know politicians are dirtier than chimney sweeps, and that’s saying something.”
“I wouldn’t throw stones at the legitimacy of other vocations, were I you.”
“Oh!” She threw up her hands and stomped away. “Leave me alone, William Sloane.”
He trailed after her, catching up in a few steps. “You’re wrong. In my world, you’re judged not only on your own actions, but the actions of those around you. The company you keep. If John goes down, I go down as well.”
“Then I can only imagine what your world would think of you keeping company with me in the Tenderloin.”
“They’d think I’d lost my ever-loving mind,” he muttered.
“Then scurry back home to Fifth Avenue. I’m sure your butler has brandy and cigars waiting. No one here is stopping you.”
Her head swung toward him. “Pardon?”
“I live on Washington Square.” It had been a long time since he’d had to tell anyone that. The Sloanes had been in that location since the city covered up the graves and converted the space to a public park.
“Oh, excuse me,” she said with mock sincerity. “Scurry back home to Washington Square.”
“After you promise to stop your shenanigans with John.”
The voice came from behind them, so he spun to see who was there. A few people were out, but no one close enough. No one came forward or even met his eye. Who had called his name?
Facing forward, he instantly noticed something else. He was now alone.
“Ava?” Feet planted, his gaze swept the sidewalk and the street, searching. He peered across to the other side, thinking maybe she had crossed the street. Nothing.
There was no sign of her. She had disappeared into thin air.