Joanna Shupe’s “Tycoon,” the introductory novella to her Gilded-Age-set Knickerbocker Club series, opens with one of the funniest scenes Miss Bates has read in ages! At NYC’s Grand Central Depot, eponymous tycoon, Theodore “Ted” Harper waits for his private Pullman car. In a blink, a feisty young woman accosts him:
Ted Harper never saw it coming. Once minute, he was alone on the platform, and the next he’d acquired a wife.
“There you are, dear husband! Let’s not miss the train,” said a loud, husky feminine voice.
What in the name of Jacob? He tried to extricate his arm from her unexpectedly strong grip while glancing around for a porter. A patrolman. A crowbar … Anyone or anything to dislodge this woman from his side …
“I’m looking forward to meeting your mother,” she said and began propelling him toward the train. “I do hope she can teach me to cook that apple pie you like so much.” Mother? Ted frowned. His mother had been dead for eight years. Crazy, thy name is woman …
Ted’s staid, solitary life, dedicated to growing his New American Bank, will never be the same. Miss Clara Dobson, Hoyt’s department store perfume-seller, takes him in firm hand and makes great use of his stupefaction and bemusement to escape from the dangerous men who are following her.
Shupe’s Clara is a great spirit while her Ted is dispirited. At 32, Ted’s whole life has been to grow his fortune, from humble beginnings as Ohio farm boy to his present millionaire banker status. And yet, he’s never experienced an emotionally intimate relationship. He’s had women, but never one who brings out his exasperation, protectiveness, and roaring lust as Clara does. Clara is irrepressibly plucky. She left her own humble Missouri farm-family to lead an independent life in New York City. She made a great go of it: achieving star-perfume-seller success and holding her in a huge city … until she witnessed a crime and found herself on the run from bad guys. Ted’s heart comes awake around Clara: she fascinates him, irritates him adorably, challenges his notions of womanhood, and makes him question his single status. Clara herself is of an open-hearted, generous, and affectionate disposition. She likes Ted’s quiet ways, sky-blue eyes, broad shoulders, and ability to deal with challenges with shrewdness, . She likes his kisses and she easily falls in love with him. They fight the bad guys on board train and Ted fights his attraction and the stirrings of his heart.
Miss Bates enjoyed many of “Tycoon”‘s elements. She loved that it was set on a late-19-century train of velvet seats, luxurious, genteel dining, and sleeping cars. Ted and Clara were most likeable. Shupe’s writing was at times fun and funny, at others, quite elegant. But Miss Bates has never been a novella-fan and “Tycoon” suffers from underdevelopment. Miss Bates never understood what made Ted so averse to emotional engagement and attachment. The villains were caricaturish and the mystery flatly resolved. Ted exhibited some annoyingly typical “women are not to be trusted” attitudes, but spunky Clara set him straight. Though Ted’s attitude was vexing, Miss Bates loved how Clara demanded his trust, not just his love and fidelity, and how she stood her ground on retaining her independence. A romance novella is always a mere taste of a delicious dish, which is why Miss Bates is going to read the rest of the Knickerbocker Club romance novels. 😉 With her reading sidekick, Miss Austen, Miss Bates deems “Tycoon,” to be a “real comfort,” Emma.
Joanna Shupe’s “Tycoon” is published by Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing). It was released on February 23rd and may be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Zebra/Kensington, via Netgalley.