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 . . .
Raves for Magnate
“Original and captivating . . . Complex and layered.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
“An engaging romance.” — Library Journal, Starred
“A sexually charged, intense, poignant and powerfully written love story.” —RT Book Reviews
“A beautiful romance . . . Sexy and clever.” —The Washington Post
About the Author
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. Please visit Joanna at www.joannashupe.com or on Twitter @joannashupe.
Read an Excerpt
The Knickerbocker Club
By Joanna Shupe
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Joanna Shupe
All rights reserved.
There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin': "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."
— George Washington Plunkitt, Gilded Age New York state senator, member of the Tammany Hall political machine
Atlantic Theater, New York City
William Sloane did not believe in the ability to commune with the spirit world. Hell, he didn't even believe there was a spirit world.
Yet here he sat, inside a ramshackle theater in the Tenderloin district, watching this audacious spectacle. Madam Zolikoff, she called herself. The mystifying medium who could commune with spirits and perform extraordinary feats. The woman was the worst actress he'd ever seen — and Will had seen plenty.
Eyes closed, she swayed and waved her hands, all while chanting. The man across from her, one she'd pulled up onstage, stared, enthralled, as Madam attempted to speak to his dead mother. The electric lights overhead flickered, and the audience tittered.
"Ah! I think we are close!" she announced loudly in an appalling Russian accent.
Will nearly rolled his eyes. Was anyone really buying this charade?
Shifting in his uncomfortable seat, he took in the meager audience. About twenty men and women, all average-looking, a far cry from the extravagant crowd he usually associated with. No diamond tiaras or ostrich feathers here, just derby hats and plain bonnets. But every pair of eyes was trained on the young woman working the stage.
She was attractive, he supposed, if one preferred liars and cheats, which he most definitely did not. Still, her pale blond hair showed off her striking light brown eyes. Straight, delicate nose. High cheekbones. Arching brows. Full lips painted a scandalous red.
He liked those lips. Quite a lot, in fact. If he were dead, those lips alone might bring him back.
"I hear her!" A steady rapping reverberated around the room. An accomplice, no doubt, yet the audience gasped.
"Mr. Fox, your mother is here with us now. What would you like to ask her?"
The man onstage asked simple questions for the next fifteen minutes, with Madam Zolikoff "interpreting" the dead mother's answers. Will absently rubbed his stomach, anger burning over this performance, that she would take advantage of someone's grief in such a profoundly fraudulent way. When Will's own mother had died, he'd fervently wished for something — anything — to bring her back. Nothing had, however, and he'd been left in a cold house with an even colder man.
Madam Zolikoff prattled on, regaining his attention. Had this woman no shame? No empathy for the heartbreak that went along with losing a loved one? For the first time since he sat down, he looked forward to the confrontation with her.
He planned to shut the medium down. Run her out of Manhattan, if necessary, because she was standing in the way of something greater, a different sort of power than he possessed now, but one of greater import. A power he would not fall short of achieving.
John Bennett, a former New York State senator and current gubernatorial candidate, had asked Will to partner on the ticket as lieutenant governor. It was something Will's father had always wanted, to wield political influence, yet he'd died before his political career could take wing. Now Will would be the Sloane achieving that goal — and dancing on his father's grave after he and Bennett won.
But John Bennett had a weakness, one by the name of Madam Zolikoff. Seemed the madam had dug her hooks into Bennett, and the candidate would not listen to reason regarding the dangers this presented. But Will wasn't about to allow her to jeopardize Bennett's political career — or his own. They could not afford a scandal six months before the election.
When the performance finally ended, Will didn't bother clapping or stamping his feet like the other patrons. He rose, turned on his heel, and headed straight for the door he'd learned would take him backstage.
No one stopped him. More than a few curious glances were thrown his way and he tugged his derby lower to obscure his face. He'd run Northeast Railroad for the last thirteen years and came from one of the most prominent families in New York. The name Sloane was as well known as Astor, Stuyvesant, and Van Rensselaer. Consequently, Will had never shied from public attention, but he'd rather not be recognized here.
For several minutes, he cut through the long hallways in the bowels of the theater. Now at the door to her dressing room, he knocked. A slide of a lock and then the door opened to reveal a brunette woman in a black shirtwaist and skirt, the same costume she'd worn on stage. Her lips were still painted a deep red. He inclined his head ever so slightly. "Madam Zolikoff."
"Come in, please." Her voice was deep and husky, a sultry tone more suited to a bedroom than a stage. Thankfully, there was no trace of that ludicrous Russian accent she'd used in front of the crowd. Perhaps this conversation would not be as difficult as he'd feared.
She stepped aside. "I've been expecting you, Mr. Sloane."
No surprise she knew his face, but had she noticed him in the audience? Three steps brought him inside her dressing room, if one could call a space no bigger than a cupboard a "room." Not enough square footage existed here to allow for more than the small table and chair already in place. A mirror hung on the wall above the table, and a blond wig rested on a stand atop said table. With nowhere to go, he folded his hands behind his back.
She glided around him and lowered into the sole chair, facing away from him, and reached for a cloth. He watched in the mirror as she slowly swiped the cloth over her mouth to remove the lip color. She didn't rush and Will had plenty of time to study her mouth. He highly suspected the display another type of performance, one designed to throw him off balance.
"Is there another name I may call you, other than your stage name?"
"I feel ridiculous calling you Madam Zolikoff."
"That is your problem, not mine." Finished with her cloth, she dropped the scrap to the table and caught his gaze in the mirror. "We are not friends, Mr. Sloane, so let's not pretend otherwise. I know why you are here."
"Is that so?" He hadn't expected her to be so forthright. In his mind, she'd been meek and frightened, concerned over the unpleasantness a man in his position could bring down on a woman in her position. But this woman seemed neither meek nor frightened. "And why am I here?"
"You want to scare me away from John. Get him away from my evil clutches." She wriggled her fingers menacingly on this last sentence. "How's that?"
"Good. This saves us both time. Now you may agree to never see Bennett again, stop bilking him out of hundreds of dollars, and stay out of his life forever."
"Bilking him?" Her lip curled, drawing Will's attention back to her mouth, damn it. "I've got news for you, mugwump, I've earned every dollar providing services to your friend — and not those kind of services, either. John and I are strictly business."
Will smirked. He'd never met an unmarried man and woman who spent hours together with money exchanged who were "strictly business." "Miss whomever you are, I don't care what kind of lies you're shoveling out there to audiences, but I'm not some rube fresh off the farm. I know what you're about, and all of it stinks."
"Oh, indeed? So what am I about, then?"
"Blackmail. And if he doesn't pay, you'll take whatever personal details you've learned about him to the papers and turn him into a laughingstock. I will not let that happen."
She rose, and, because of the tight space, this put her close enough to where he could see the hazel flecks in her brown eyes. Were those freckles on her nose? "I don't care who you are or what you think of me. If you think I'm going to let some stuffed, pompous railroad man scare me away from my best client, you are dead wrong."
* * *
Ava Jones struggled to contain her smile while the handsome man across from her worked to understand her last sentence.
Yeah, you're catching on, railroad man. I'm not afraid of you.
Everyone in New York knew William Sloane. Obscenely wealthy and from one of the snobbish, high-society families, he was mentioned frequently in the papers, both in the financial and the social pages. No doubt men and women bowed to his demands all day, every day. Not Ava. She owed him nothing and did not care about his demands. If not for her desire to get rid of him for good, she would've completely ignored him.
At least she would have tried to ignore him. Unfortunately, Mr. Sloane was a man one noticed. She'd spotted him in the audience immediately. Strong, angular jaw. Pronounced cheekbones that highlighted an aristocratic nose. Sandy blond hair, oiled with precision, was swept off his forehead, and a sharp, unsmiling mouth that challenged a woman to see what it would take to loosen him up.
Up close, the view improved markedly. Piercing eyes that had seemed blue in the theater but were actually gunmetal gray. He was tall, with an air of confidence suitable for a prince and a near-palpable energy radiating from his frame. Wide shoulders filled out the cut of his fancy coat quite nicely. She'd always been drawn to sturdy, capable shoulders. Something about Atlas bearing the weight of the world ...
But she'd learned long ago there was no one to bear the weight of her burdens. Those were hers alone.
"Client?" he scoffed. "Wouldn't 'mark' be a more accurate term?"
Goodness, she was growing to dislike this man. "You assume I am swindling him when I am providing a service."
"By communing with John's dead relatives? Come now, Madam Zolikoff. We both know that's impossible."
She tapped her foot in annoyance. Did he have any idea how lonely John Bennett was? Whether her clients believed in her powers or not, most needed someone to care about them. A friend with whom to talk. A person to give them hope that there was something beyond this drudgery called life. That was what Madam Zolikoff provided — for a nominal fee, of course.
These performances were another matter. People wanted a spectacle. A unique experience to share with their friends and neighbors. A bit of the fantastic to distract from the fatigue. Not everyone came from a wealthy family and ran a big company as a lark; most people needed a break from their daily trials.
"You speak of things you do not understand," she told him. "When I hear from John that he no longer requires my gift, then I will respectfully back off. But you act as if he is an opium eater and I am providing him with the drug. I am not forcing him to see me."
"What I understand is that you are preying on a wealthy and soon-to-be influential man."
Her muscles tightened, anger building in every inch of her body. "I would never blackmail him — I'm not trying to make trouble. The governor as my client would only help me." Bigger-named clients meant more clients, which equated to more income. All she needed to do was save up enough money to get her two brothers and sister out of the factories. By her calculations, she had only four more months to go if all held steady. Four more months, after adopting the Madam Zolikoff likeness two years ago, and she'd have enough to keep her family safe.
Out of the city. Away from the filth and toils of life in this city. Away from bitter memories. Instead, they'd have clean air and open spaces on a farm upstate. Freedom.
Mr. Sloane shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers, which caused Ava to roll her eyes. How could someone so wealthy appear this aggrieved? Did this man not know real problems? The tip of her tongue burned with an offer to take him to the match factory to show him cases of phossy jaw. Had he seen the young girls with their rotting faces, jawbones glowing in the dark, all because they'd needed to put food on their table?
Those were hardships. Not the fact that his friend and political partner paid her five dollars a week to read tea leaves and pass on bits of "news" from the great beyond.
"How much will it take?" Sloane asked her. "How much do you need to walk away?"
Oh, so tempting. Ava could throw out a high number and see if railroad man would bite. If he did, her siblings could quit their factory jobs. She would have enough to buy that piece of property and they could all be together. Finally.
But she couldn't. First, pride would not allow her. Taking Sloane's money would be akin to admitting she was robbing people, which she was not. Second, she knew better than most that accepting money never came without strings. If you took what was offered, they felt as if they owned you.
And no one owned Ava Jones. Not any longer.
"You don't have enough money to make me disappear. But if it makes you feel better, I'll give you a discount on a séance."
He made a sound in his throat. "That is the last thing I need."
A knock sounded on the door before Robbie, one of the assistants, called, "Ava, hurry up. I need the room."
Mr. Sloane's brows jumped and Ava cursed inwardly, irritated at the small revelation. "Ava," he drawled, as if testing the sound on his tongue. "Pretty. Also, I like your hair better this way, without the wig."
She turned and began shoving her things into her carpetbag, trying to ignore the fluttering in her belly. The compliments were as unexpected as they were unwelcome. "Save the poetry for your Fifth Avenue debutantes, railroad man. You're wasting your time with me." She carefully lowered her wig and wig stand into the bag. Found her bonnet. Then she began shrugging into her coat.
A large hand caught the coat and held it up. She easily slipped her arms through. "Thank you," she mumbled.
Without waiting for him, she pushed into the hall and strode toward the exit. The heels of her high boots ticked on the hard floor, and she could hear Sloane's fancy evening shoes keeping pace. No doubt he was headed somewhere glamorous, like the opera or a high society ball. Not to a cramped three-room apartment in a West Side boardinghouse that she shared with her siblings.
She opened the door to the lobby. "Everything all right, Ava?" Robbie eyed her carefully, gaze bouncing to the silent man behind her.
"Fine, Robbie. Tell your sister I'll be by tomorrow. See you next week."
He nodded and she continued out the main doors. An early evening rain had fallen during her performance, cooling the air a bit more than one would expect in mid-spring. Gaslight from the street lamps cast a yellow glow over the dark, wet cobblestones. Ava loved the rain. It washed the city clean and provided the residents with a reprieve from the usual odors, those of sweat, trash, rotting food, and horse excrement.
"You've acquired quite a following for these shows."
"You're still here?" She started walking, not caring whether he followed. Unfortunately, his long legs had no problem keeping pace with her. "I'm very good at what I do, Mr. Sloane. Admit it, you were entertained."
His mouth twisted as if he'd sucked a lemon. "I was offended, if you must know."
Now at the corner, she crossed over Twenty-Seventh Street, heading south, and tried to contain her annoyance. "We don't serve champagne and caviar, so I can imagine what a hardship the evening was for you."
"I was referring to the flimflam you performed on those poor unsuspecting people."
"Flimflam? Those 'poor unsuspecting people' wanted a show, and that's what I gave them. There's a reason I perform in a theater, and I'm damn good at what I do."
"You take their money and pretend their dead relatives are speaking to you."
He spoke to her as if she were a criminal, his tone condescending and cutting, and blood rushed in her ears. "First of all, how are you so certain my talents are not real?" He started to open his mouth, so she stopped on the sidewalk and pointed a finger in his face. "You don't have any idea, Mr. Sloane, so save your judgment. Second, I wasn't aware that your own business practices were always so scrupulous." His eyes dimmed, and she knew she'd landed a blow. "I'm sure while running a big railroad you never skirt the law or buy political favor. So save me your sanctimonious attitude."
"Fine," he snarled, leaning closer. "Run your con anywhere you want, sweetheart, but leave John Bennett alone."
Excerpted from Baron by Joanna Shupe. Copyright © 2016 Joanna Shupe. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wiliam Sloan is a rich, powerful railroad man with his eyes on political office. He’s ruthless in business and financial dealings, and has connections throughout the social who’s who in the city. Not solely a self-centered man, he’s also protective of his friends and those he cares for, and is particularly upset when his friend seems enchanted with and addicted to a Madame Zolikoff, a medium. Confronting Madame Zolikoff, convinced her intentions are nefarious and will result in his friend being conned out of money, Will comes across the very down-to-earth and honest Ava. Determined to support her family in the best way she can, Ava has become the medium, providing comfort and some relief to those who wish to converse with loved ones who have passed on. Sure, it’s not entirely on the up and up, but she is seeking only to provide comfort, and the money she earns is her payment for that moment of happiness. These two are electric: Ava is more than up to the task of standing up to Will: her determination and independence despite her circumstances strike a chord in him, reminiscent of his own difficult relationship with his father. The connection they share is palpable, the conversations and slow sharing of secrets, wishes and desires, as well as some secrets make the relationship feel more real and plausible as well. With some moments of political machinations of the day, wonderful settings that provide a view of the time and its various social restrictions and some serious steam, it’s a book that is hard to put down. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions and expectations are my own responsibility.
I really enjoyed William and Ava story! William has a goal for himself and Ava is standing in his way of achieving that goal, so of course they start their relationship by butting heads. But they also have an instant attraction to each other. William soon learns that Ava is only doing what she needs to make sure her family survives. There is a major class difference between the two, so that also causes conflict between the two. Will they be able to get over their differences to get their HEA? This was a great addition to the Knickerbocker Club series and I can't wait to read the last book in the series!
Set in New York City during the Industrial Age, Baron tells the story of millionaire Will Sloan and Ava Jones. What set this story apart from other historical romances was the setting, the class structure, and the gritty details of New York during this time in history. Will Sloan was a rather arrogant guy at the beginning of this story. He’s running for office and Ava Jones, a medium, could be the one to stand in his way. Will’s attitude towards people in a lesser class definitely needed adjusting, and through his budding relationship with Ava, he begins to see what the lower classes must do to live. It was refreshing to see the man in a romance learn a life lesson and see the changes he makes to his life because of it. It wasn’t a big surprise that Ava had a talent for making people believe she could talk to their dead relatives. After all this was set in the heyday of fake mediums. Seeing why she chose that career, supporting her siblings explained the necessity. This was before child labor laws so her sister worked in a factory and her youngest brother as a newsie. No one in that class had idle time. Ava’s budding relationship and feelings for Will Sloan were the only bright spots in a pretty grim life. The author did a great job of creating a romance in technicolor against that grim, industrial, dirty, New York City of that era. Ava’s unrelenting work ethic and outspoken personality made me root for her immediately, and even though I knew that happily ever after was coming, I was kept in the moment with some unexpected curveballs in the plot. This novel felt more historical fiction than romantic historical. By that I don’t mean that the romance was lacking. It had a ton of passion and emotion! Joanna Shupe did a great job of make the city of NY and the era part of the storyline and I got caught up in some of the small details. It was pretty fascinating! I have not read the first book in the series, but want to! Will’s sister is the female protagonist and we got to know her a bit in this novel. Another plucky heroine, which I love! I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s a fan of historical fiction and historical romance. If you like reading about different times in history, you’ll love this novel.
Very good from start to finish.
unlike my usual romance reads, baron doesn't take place in nineteenth century england. even though you might think it did from the title. the only baron in the novel is not the aristocratic kind, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. will sloane is a railroad baron rubbing shoulders with carnegie and astor in new york's gilded age. definitely a different time period for me, but it shares a lot of familiar social mores with regency and victorian society. the late nineteenth century also saw an increased interest in spiritualism and the paranormal, . mediums cropped up all over the place, and most of them were charlatans. this sadly includes our heroine, ava jones, also known as madame zolikoff. she has turned to performance as a way to get her family out of the tenements, and her actual goal is to get her siblings out of the city. she dreams of buying a farm somewhere upstate and having room to breathe. but when her professional relationship with a client gets in the way of sloane's political aspirations, ava and will find themselves at odds. of course, since it is a romance novel, they also can't stay away from each other. when they eventually give up the pretense of fighting and begin an illicit relationship, they can't stop themselves from feeling more. from the moment they meet they are well-matched. will has found the one woman who won't just cave to his dictates and ava has found someone who will respect and cherish her the way she deserves. when scandal threatens everything, will and ava have to make a choice. and will's decision to go for broke finally wins her over. a good thing, because clearly the guy could do nothing else to convince her that he loved her and wanted to make their relationship work. and honestly it's always easier for the guy to marry down than the other way around, so there was no need for her to protest that much. **baron published on october 25, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books/zebra in exchange for my honest review.
Another fabulous offering in the Knickerbocker series. Cannot wait for Cabot's story,
Will Sloane is watching a medium, Madam Zolikoff, ply her trade at a theater feeling disgust as he watches her dupe the people. His plan is to shut her down and run her out of town. Will has been asked by John Bennett to partner with him on the ticket for lieutenant governor. Will’s father had always wanted him to be in politics. Both Will and Bennett are the theater together. Bennett is completely enthralled by Madam Zolikoff, believing she can truly talk the dead. This is something which could ruin his political career. Will is from a very prominent New York family and is the owner of the Northeast Railroad. He decides to meet with the madam and see if he can run her off. However, she stands up to him telling him she won’t let him run her off. The woman’s real name is Ava Jones and she does not care who he is. He is not going to intimidate her. She feels if Bennett finds comfort in what she tells him, it’s no one else’s business. Privately, she is doing this to make money to get her siblings out of working in the dirty city. Her dream is to buy a farm where they can all live in fresh air. Now, Will has decided he must look for a bride. At nearly 30, and quite wealthy, the time is right. His search for a bride should help his political campaign too. He has four women on his list of possibilities. Will’s sister, Lizzie, helps run his firm. She is married to Emmett Cavanaugh, owner of East Coast Steel. When Will tells her his plan to marry and the names of the young ladies on his list, she is appalled at his selection saying the girls are all too immature for him. When Ava’s brother, Tom, is arrested for stealing, she has no choice but to ask Will to use his influence and get him out of jail. He is able to do so and offers the boy a job. But Ava, in return, has to agree to attend a political rally. She reluctantly agrees. Will belongs to the exclusive Knickerbocker Club in New York. Most of the wealthy and elite men belong as well. Will is impressed by Ava’s stubbornness and dedication to her family. Soon, Will and Ava give into their attraction to each other. While Will wants more from their relationship, Ava realizes that their backgrounds are too different for them to ever be a couple. Is there any way for Will to convince her otherwise? I have enjoyed the Knickerbocker Club series by this author. The characters are all strong and the stories are fascinating. Don’t miss it. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
“Baron” the second book in the “Knickerbocker Club” series is what romance novel dreams are made of! I’ve just recently started to read Joanna Shupe and have really enjoyed her novels. The first book in the series “Magnate” was so good I have been counting down to Baron. I can honestly say I had so many expectations for this book and Shupe surpassed them all. Set in the Gilded Age in New York City, Shupe really brings the historical time period to life. William Sloane is such an arrogant snob that it was delicious to see him brought to his knees by Ava. William is the stodgy older brother we meet in “ Magnate.” He was born into a rich family, manages a very profitable railroad, all of New York City societies doors are lined with gold for him. His next step is the political life. He is ready to become a politician and has decided to stop at nothing and definitely doesn’t plan to let a little nobody like Madame Zolikoff get in his way. The opening scene was so good! I loved the tension between William and Ava / Madame Zolikoff even before they met! When they did finally meet, sparks flew. Ava was just the right character to ruffle William’s feathers! Ava is the exact opposite of Will. She is struggling to keep a roof over her family’s head. She adopted the Madame Zolikoff persona so that she could move her siblings out of the city. When Will’s running mate starts to consult her for fortune telling Will is concerned that if word gets out their campaign will be ruined. Will tries to buy her off, intimidate her and convincer her to leave John Bennett alone. Ava refuses to be managed or bullied by Will and even when he tries to pay her off, she refuses to budge. Ava has encountered a lot of obstacles in her life and she is not about to let “railroad man” William Sloan get the best of her! She refuses to back down and meets his threats head on! The scenes with William and Ava are always filled with passion and humor. I really loved Ava! She is determined to help her siblings make a better life. Although mere children, they are forced to work in factories and under very bad conditions. Ava is a fraud. She is presenting herself as a fortune teller and is very successful. She is also very exposed because her name is very popular and this leads to many difficult predicaments for her. Shupe really brings the time period to life. It was interesting to read about the notorious corruption at Tammy Hall. There were so many scenes I loved in this book. One of my all-time favorites was when William reads Ava’s fortune. This scene was a perfect mixture of their tension and tenderness. There were so many witty lines and sweet moments, I could re-read this book over and over! Definitely one of my favorite reads for this year. Now the countdown continues to “Mogul.” Calvin’s story sounds intriguing and I can’t wait to see how the author brings together him and Lillian.
I am a huge fan of Mrs. Shupe's books because of how she tells a story. Everything is important and weaves into the romance. This is one of the those books that you hope explodes on the market so you can talk about it with other readers. Because it is that amazing. For me falling for Will happened with his one line retorts "Wrong" "Hilarious". They just fit him and their timing caused me to laugh. Although I'm not a fan of sex scenes I do appreciate when they are used to move the story forward. Another hit in Baron. They are tender, needed, and satisfying. It's a page turner, an escape from everyday life. I'd fall over happy if the history channel or hallmark channel or any channel made it into a tv movie. Now go read it so we can talk about Will, Ava and their siblings.
I have loved every book in the The Knickerbocker Club series, but I was not expecting very much for Will who didn’t sound very interesting to me, and I was wondering how Ms. Shupe would work around his personality without a complete turnaround. Will is so serious, driven, unbending, and totally consumed by his work. He is very wealthy, a prominent and respected member of society, but he wants it all. He is however fascinating, and profoundly infuriating, not because the author tells us so, but because he really is, yet he is compelling, and so very real. Ava is a wonderful character: caring, and loving; she has made decisions she regrets, but keeps on trying for a better life. My heart broke for her more than once, because she loved so much. Although I disagreed with some decisions both Will and Ava made, they were entirely logical with who they are. Their romance is anything but simple, mostly because of Will’s snobbishness, his stubbornness, and obsession with keeping up with appearances, and none of this is fabricated for storyline purposes: he has blinders when it comes to anything that does not have a positive impact on his future. But when Will mans up, it has to be read to be believed; what a fabulous hero he turned out to be! Ms. Shupe paints such a vivid picture of Victorian New York that it seemed like a movie, and the characters, especially Will who is so complex, that BARON feels like a great biography. Ms. Shupe describes the life of the underprivileged in such a way that we understand exactly how miserable their living and working conditions were, without ever making them deliberately sordid. BARON is a multilayered story, absolutely riveting on so many levels: the political machinations, the working class versus the privileged, the plight of women and children. Joanna Shupe has written a book that is just as enlightening as it is entertaining. BARON concludes in spectacular fashion; the ending is absolutely brilliant, not what I expected at all, and so thrilling that I hope we will see more of what happens to Will and Ava in the future, even if only in upcoming books, or better yet a novella, because the possibilities are nearly endless. And I am ecstatic that the next book will be that of Calvin Cabot, a character who totally mesmerised me. BARON is a phenomenal read! I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book
Baron by Joanna Shupe The Knickerbocker Club #2 Another splendid story in the Knickerbocker Club Golden Age historical romance series! This time with a millionaire and a medium! Madame Zolikoff is a medium with a following and provides a good show in private readings as well as on stage. She has three siblings to support and, thinking nobody knows her name is really Ava Jones. She dreams of saving enough money to remove her three siblings from their lives of toil and poverty in New York City. She is strong willed, independent, will not let any man push her around, knows who she is, has goals and plans to achieve them. When Will Sloane arrives on the scene her life, and his, begins to change. Will is a wealthy man driven to achieve more – always more and more. He is in the running to be elected on a political ticket and does not want anything to derail success – and – Madame Zolikoff just might be a stumbling block for the success he and Bennett seek. He has plans, as does she, and neither one figures into the plans of the other. And with this in mind their story is oh so much more than a simple romance with a HEA. I am eager to find out what will happen in the next book of the series. I would also like to find out what will happen to at least one of the debutantes that appeared in this story – she seemed a keeper even though Will decided she wasn’t for him. Thank you to Net Galley and Kensington Books for the ARC. This is my honest review. 4.5 Stars