A wager between a Knickerbocker princess and an upstart steel magnate from the slums leads to marriage in this novel set in New York City during the Gilded Age.
Shupe (Tycoon, 2016, etc.) returns with the first full-length novel in her Knickerbockers Club series about a group of wealthy industrialists. Lizzie Sloane feels stifled by the constraints placed on young, unmarried women. Bored by the parties and opera outings considered by her brother and guardian to be appropriate activities for her, Lizzie intends to make a fortune speculating on the stock exchange instead. She approaches Emmett Cavanaugh, hoping to convince the wealthy owner of East Coast Steel to provide the necessary backing for her investment firm. Emmett is a ruthless businessman who overcame crushing childhood poverty. Unwillingly attracted to Lizzie and unable to resist the chance to gain a business advantage over her brother, Emmett suggests a wager that could cost Lizzie her shares in her family’s rail company. Lizzie accepts. But the pair’s association quickly leads to scandal, and Emmett finds himself blackmailed into marriage by Lizzie’s brother. The rest of the book continues at the same quick and enjoyable pace even as Shupe deftly weaves other characters from the series into the narrative. A slower pace might have served the main story better in some places, however. Emmett spends most of the novel tormented by his failure to protect his family and by the things he did to overcome poverty. Until suddenly he isn’t. A more in-depth exploration of Emmett’s change of heart would have been preferable.
Readers will enjoy this entertaining romance about two people who refuse to let society dictate whom they love.