A lady hunting for scandal finds a fin de siècle fairy tale instead.
Lady Honora Parker behaved so badly with a starving artist named Robert Landon that her family has banished her from London all the way to New York City, where she can be matched with a suitable “American man.” Nora decides to create an even bigger scandal by becoming temporarily engaged to the most unsuitable man in the city: new-money financier Julius Hatcher. She proposes the ruse after finding him soused at a dinner on the second floor of one of the city’s finest restaurants, and he’s delighted to be part of this new caper in order to finally be welcome in high society. While they wait for the news to get back to London and upset her father, thus freeing Nora to marry Robert, they’re obligated to act as an affianced couple—which uncovers a powerful attraction between them. Shupe (Tycoon, 2016, etc.) returns to the Gilded Age with the Four Hundred Series, using two outsiders to introduce readers to the opulent world of Mrs. Caroline Astor’s Four Hundred, the New York aristocrats who looked down on upstarts like Julius. She uses clever historical detail to bring to life both the ballrooms and the trading floor of New York City in 1890, and Regency readers will appreciate Nora’s observations of how her new world is very different from London society but also very similar. As she searches for a proper scandal, Julius’ respect for Nora’s reputation and intelligence makes the scenes where they give in to their attraction all the sweeter. Shupe builds tension beautifully, and readers will be pleased to finally come to the opulent wedding at the end.
Shupe continues to raise the bar for Gilded Age romance with the first book in a promising new series.