Published by: Zebra (February 23rd, 2016)
Format: Kindle ARC
Reviewed by: Erin
What kind of awesome can you expect inside: Featuring a damsel in distress, a millionaire banker, strangers on a train, secrets and secret identities.
Plot: Standing on the platform at Grand Central Station, Ted Harper is surprised by a fiery kiss from an undeniably gorgeous damsel in distress. He’s certain she’s a swindler who’s only after his money, but he’s never met a woman so passionate and sure of herself. Disarmed, he invites her to spend the journey to St. Louis in his private car–perhaps against his better judgment . . .
Clara Dawson has long known how to take care of herself, but the savvy shop girl is at a loss when she witnesses–and becomes entangled in–a terrible crime. Desperation propels her into a stranger’s arms at the train station, but she hadn’t expected Ted to offer her the protection she so badly needs–nor did she expect their chemistry to develop more steam than the engine of the train. He’s everything she never thought she could have, and she’s everything he didn’t know he wanted. But as her secrets begin to unfurl, their fledgling romance could be in danger of derailing before they arrive at the next station.
Review: Tycoon is the prequel novella in Joanna Shupe’s new Gilded Age series, set in and around New York City in the late 1800s. I really enjoyed Shupe’s previous Regency series, Wicked Deceptions, and I was excited to see her take on a place and time we don’t see often enough in romances!
This story spans the course of a train ride from New York City to Missouri, after multi-millionaire bank owner Ted Harper is surprised by a kiss from a stranger on the platform. The stranger is shopgirl Clara Dawson, and her life is in danger. Clara doesn’t know who Ted is, and Ted doesn’t know if Clara is really the innocent shopgirl she claims to be. He only knows that she has secrets. Ted doesn’t want to reveal his identity to her until he knows more about her, and she doesn’t want to endanger him by telling him why she’s in trouble. This misunderstanding is handled well; it’s not one of those “Just talk to each other!” situations. They both have very good reasons for holding back with each other, particularly as they’re complete strangers who have been thrown together.
Ultimately, this story worked best for me in terms of the world-building. I loved all the details about what the inside of the Pullman car looked like, the descriptions of the clothes, and she really gave you a great feel of what the politics and national sentiment of the time felt like. As someone who’s read a lot of Regencies where a titled gentleman marries an American heiress, it was fun to see it from the other side, where Americans were making money hand over fist in our brand new country. I felt immersed in that world, which is exactly what I’m looking for in a new series.
The story worked less well as a romance, for the same reason that I liked it so much as the intro to a new series. In a novella, you really only have time to do one or two things well. There just wasn’t enough time to develop the relationship, once the setting was established. The resolution felt very rushed, and I didn’t really buy them falling for each other so fast. Ted was heavy-handed in a way that works if you develop his character over time, but left me feeling like Clara could do better.
That said, I’m very excited about the next book (Magnate – coming April 2016!), and I’m really looking forward to how she can develop this world in a full-length book. Also, the covers for these books are fantastic, so kudos to the cover artist.
What you may not like: It’s not quite insta-love, but close; the novella length leaves you wanting more
What I loved: The world-building, the setup of an exciting new series, and the Pullman car!