Mini-Review: Joanna Shupe’s MAGNATE

magnateMiss Bates greatly looked forward to Joanna Shupe’s Magnate. She loves the Gilded Age setting and an opportunity to read a historical romance “beyond-the-Regency”, with characters from America’s class system. Because, make no mistake, Shupe’s romance is a cross-class romance. Heroine Lizzie Sloane is a blue-blooded beauty from one of New York City’s oldest and most prestigious families. However, there is a hint of failure with, of finances gone awry for, the Northeast Railroad Company her family owns. William, Lizzie’s brother, struggles to keep the family fortunes running. What he won’t accept is help from his baby sister. Unlike the social-whirl focus of most young women of her circle, Lizzie wants to operate her own stockbroking company – unheard of for a woman in the day and age! But Lizzie is as determined as she is beautiful. She brings her appeal to a self-made man, a man whose past is couched in the poverty and violence of his Five-Points childhood, Emmett Cavanaugh. Emmett is big, powerful, fastidious, and unrelenting in his pursuit of wealth and influence. Lizzie, who’s aware of her attempt to flout social conventions, believes she’ll find a kindred spirit in the man who had to break them down to prove his mettle and worth. While Lizzie’s worth comes in gown-form, she does find, if not a kindred spirit, at least someone who listens to her plans and ambitions.

Shupe’s Magnate held the promise of a truly original romance. Emmett and Lizzie are interesting characters as they stand outside the social norms of their day. Emmett and Lizzie strike a deal: Lizzie will invest a certain amount of money on Emmett’s behalf; if she increases it significantly, he’ll serve as a “front” for her stockbroking business. Lizzie knows she cannot, nor any woman, serve as a stockbroker. A hero who takes a woman’s mind and chutzpah at face value and a heroine determined to go where no woman has gone before thought Miss Bates, “THIS is gonna be great!”

Alas, Miss Bates’s hopes for the novel were not to be. Even in the promising first few chapters, there were hints of Big Mises, that pesky romance novel gnat of not talking to each other, and one-dimensional villains. Sadly, they proved to be true. In time, the Big Mis and villainous machinations proved too much for the romance arc and Magnate devolved into the most conventional of marriage-of-convenience stories. After Lizzie’s initial business forays, that aspect was left behind. After the initial business banter between Lizzie and Emmett, Emmett turned into alpha-hero-extraordinarius, with typical overprotective behaviour, a voice that growls and teeth that grit. Moreover, once Lizzie and Emmett do the deed, the novel also devolves into one love scene after another. The characters are stunted by this and so is their relationship.

There is a kind of rollicking good rhythm to Magnate. It clips along and the love scenes are quite sexy, if you enjoy A LOT of them in your romance. Miss Bates can’t say she was bored, but she did want MORE out of what began as a great premise: MORE theme, MORE ideas, MORE character development. But it was not to be. With her now-scandalized reading partner, Miss Austen, Miss Bates says that Magnate offers only “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.

Joanna Shupe’s Magnate is second in The Knickerbocker Club romance series. It is published by Zebra Books of Kensington Publishing. It was released on April 26th and is available at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Kensington Books via Netgalley.

12 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Joanna Shupe’s MAGNATE

  1. I liked it, actually. Read it straight through in one evening. Of course being a lover of MOCs, I’ll take any flimsy excuse for one. Shupe does have a long way to go to reach my first tier of authors, however. The character of her brother was particularly inconsistent.

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    • Yup, I have to admit, I didn’t dislike and it certainly clipped along. I just wanted to like it a lot better than I did and for it to deviate from alpha-male and develop characters beyond the bedroom. The brother, William, hadn’t thought much about him, but yes, he does veer from one extreme of solicitous bro to villain at breakneck reader speed.

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      • I’m not even sure you could call the hero an alpha. He was SO insecure, I mean he gives her this big honking diamond engagement ring, but immediately assumes she won’t like it? That is not the behavior of a Devil Cynster or Sebastian St. Vincent.
        btw, I just read Shupe’s novella which is part of the “Christmas in America” anthology, again starring a tycoon and a shopgirl. Nothing to write home about but it kept me entertained as I was reading. I got the anthology mostly for Donna Thorland’s novella.

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        • Yes, he was terribly insecure. And I actually loved that scene with the honking Tiffany diamond. Also, I love Tiffany-anything. But I think I liked the scene b/c his insecurity was manifested, externalized. His insecurity is like a deeply help secret and the heroine doesn’t seem to have much insight. I mean for a gal who is smart enough to make oodles of money, she needs his bro to help her understand him.

          LOL to the anthology! I have it too, for that very reason: woot! Donna Thorland! ❤

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  2. Miss Bates
    I have tried several of Ms Shupe’s books, with lackluster results. I am always on the look-out for a new (to me) writer of historical romances. I had hopes (from the reviews) that she would be one whose writing ‘clicked’ with me. Alas, not. Thank you for your review, because the subject/time made me want to give her one more try. I guess I’ll just keep looking…

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    • Me too! With my early love for Balogh, and then writers like Duran and Lerner, I wanted a lot more than what I got here. I’m not sure I’ll read Baron. It’s just that Shupe’s premises show such promise … but then, lapse and become quite trope-tired.

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  3. I liked her Tycoon book a bit better than this, but I think I liked this a bit more than you did. I love an MOC plot, however it comes about, and I enjoyed Emmett and Lizzie’s version of it. The subplot with her brother was all quite ridiculous and I agree, the book would have been a lot stronger if there had been more consistent focus on her business interests and his.

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    • I like the “Tycoon” novella better. It had this absolutely marvelously funny and clever opening. But like this one, the opening’s promise just didn’t hold. I LOVE MOC and I wanted to like this a lot better than I did. Yes, there could’ve been more of her life as a working women, might have made for some interesting conflict too. Instead, it was jealous alpha-male and virtuous at heart heroine. Not once did she actually do any brokerage work. The interesting premise was dangled before the reader, then, it kinda was “poof” taken away …

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  4. I took this book with me to Charleston this past summer to read on my ‘down’ time. LOL There was no ‘down’ time. For one week, seven days, I didn’t fire up my Kindle or crack open a book because I was like a maniac who’d drunk a gallon of Red Bull, running hither and thither (is that even a word?) as fast as my short little legs could run. I didn’t see it ALL, but I made a big dent in my ‘MUST SEE’ list. So, I brought Magnate back home with me to read later, and SURPRISE! It’s still right there on my desk where I laid it when we returned. I’m so easily distracted sometimes I believe I have the attention span of a gnat.

    Many of the things that disappointed you would also disappoint me, especially creating an intriguing premise of a woman clever enough to work around a male dominated profession and a man secure enough in himself to be a ‘front’ man for her – and then making said premise disappear. I think I’ll just leave MAGNATE right where it is for now.

    A few GR friends have reviewed LIONS AND LACE by Meagan McKinney, another ‘Gilded Age’ historical but pubbed in 1992 – some have loved it, some have absolutely hated it. One review cited Joanna Shupe’s love for that book and speculates that MAGNATE might be her homage to LIONS AND LACE. That’s pretty cool, I think. It might be interesting to read both books and compare the similarities and elements that worked or didn’t in both books, but Linda Howard is still calling me name. 🙂

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    • Your Charleston trip sounds absolutely marvelous! I’m so glad you got to visit and see amazeballs things! And Magnate doesn’t really make for a memorable read. I think it’s a pleasant read and I might have liked it a lot more if it hadn’t made premises it couldn’t keep …

      Thanks for the Lions and Lace story: that is most interesting!!

      LH is still the ❤ for me!

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  5. SPOILER ALERT for my comment below:

    Oh thank the Lord – I’m not alone. I have seen numerous glowing reviews and at the halfway point (on audio) I’m less than enthused – mostly because the heroine is as dumb as a sack of hair. She’s shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU!, that her brother would go to such lengths to marry her off. Why is he so upset? I mean, who cares if she’s practically making out with the hero in a private dining room? Who will care what she did and or does?

    Really?!?! You’re a society miss. Everybody cares! If your reputation was shot all to heck you were basically a whore.

    Yes, her parents are dead – but she’s not ignorant of society. She’s got a best girlfriend. She socializes. Am I to believe she’s never heard gossip about “good girls” who “got into trouble?” That she never heard about girls who were later shunned for their “bad behavior?” To have the heroine be shocked that the hero was “forced” to marry her and he’s not madly in love with her? I mean, REALLY?!?!?!?!

    This is probably a minor thing to be irritated about, but given that I’m finding the rest of the world-building quite interesting this seems like a glaring “C’mon on now!” when it comes to social history.

    That said, at this point I’m still interested in reading the brother’s book and I’ve got the prequel novella (Tycoon) buried somewhere on the Kindle. I’ll try both because dagnabit it – GILDED AGE NEW YORK!!! Le sigh.

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    • E-XACT-LY, Gilded Age New York totally drew and almost kept me. Wish there was MORE of it. But the characters after such a promising start: surly hero, money-handling heroine, potential social conflict over her WORK … turn into tedium-orama. I like “Tycoon” a lot better overall, though it too devolved into something predictable and wooden. The opening, on the other hand, is HILARIOUS!!

      I’m curious too about Baron, BUT I’m also frightened to invest time into it.

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