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    Splendid Historical Romance

    Baron by Joanna Shupe The Knickerbocker Club #2 Another splendid story in the Knickerbocker Club Golden Age historical romance series! This time with a millionaire and a medium! Madame Zolikoff is a medium with a following and provides a good show in private readings as well as on stage. She has three siblings to support and, thinking nobody knows her name is really Ava Jones. She dreams of saving enough money to remove her three siblings from their lives of toil and poverty in New York City. She is strong willed, independent, will not let any man push her around, knows who she is, has goals and plans to achieve them. When Will Sloane arrives on the scene her life, and his, begins to change. Will is a wealthy man driven to achieve more – always more and more. He is in the running to be elected on a political ticket and does not want anything to derail success – and – Madame Zolikoff just might be a stumbling block for the success he and Bennett seek. He has plans, as does she, and neither one figures into the plans of the other. And with this in mind their story is oh so much more than a simple romance with a HEA. I am eager to find out what will happen in the next book of the series. I would also like to find out what will happen to at least one of the debutantes that appeared in this story – she seemed a keeper even though Will decided she wasn’t for him. Thank you to Net Galley and Kensington Books for the ARC. This is my honest review. 4.5 Stars
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    Boring Will? Not on your life!

    Who would have thought that Will’s story would be so exciting! Madam Zolikoff, a medium, is performing at the Atlantic Theater in New York City, in the Tenderloin district. William Sloane, far from his element, is in attendance. He certainly doesn’t believe in Madam Zolikoff and her fake Russian accent; Will just knows she’s a fraud. Will aims to shut her business down because he’s been asked to partner John Bennett for lieutenant governor of New York, and Bennett sees her in a professional fashion; it wouldn’t look good to the electorate. Nobody says no to Will, and when he goes backstage to dissuade Madam Zolikoff, he finds out very quickly that she will not be intimidated. Ava Jones, Madam Zolikoff’s real name, needs the money to provide for her three younger siblings, and this is the best paying job she could get. She wants to get out of the dirty city and buy a farm. Will offers her a bribe, which she vehemently refuses; she will not be obligated to no one, even if this swell is very handsome indeed; she has seen the likes of him before. If only their worlds weren’t so different, if only they weren’t so attracted to each other, if only Will weren’t so blinded by ambition… I have loved every book in the The Knickerbocker Club series, but I was not expecting very much for Will who didn’t sound very interesting to me, and I was wondering how Ms. Shupe would work around his personality without a complete turnaround. Will is so serious, driven, unbending, and totally consumed by his work. He is very wealthy, a prominent and respected member of society, but he wants it all. He is however fascinating, and profoundly infuriating, not because the author tells us so, but because he really is, yet he is compelling, and so very real. Ava is a wonderful character: caring, and loving; she has made decisions she regrets, but keeps on trying for a better life. My heart broke for her more than once, because she loved so much. Although I disagreed with some decisions both Will and Ava made, they were entirely logical with who they are. Their romance is anything but simple, mostly because of Will’s snobbishness, his stubbornness, and obsession with keeping up with appearances, and none of this is fabricated for storyline purposes: he has blinders when it comes to anything that does not have a positive impact on his future. But when Will mans up, it has to be read to be believed; what a fabulous hero he turned out to be! Ms. Shupe paints such a vivid picture of Victorian New York that it seemed like a movie, and the characters, especially Will who is so complex, that BARON feels like a great biography. Ms. Shupe describes the life of the underprivileged in such a way that we understand exactly how miserable their living and working conditions were, without ever making them deliberately sordid. BARON is a multilayered story, absolutely riveting on so many levels: the political machinations, the working class versus the privileged, the plight of women and children. Joanna Shupe has written a book that is just as enlightening as it is entertaining. BARON concludes in spectacular fashion; the ending is absolutely brilliant, not what I expected at all, and so thrilling that I hope we will see more of what happens to Will and Ava in the future, even if only in upcoming books, or better yet a novella, because the possibilities are nearly endless. And I am ecstatic that the next book will be that of Calvin Cabot, a character who totally mesmerised me. BARON is a phenomenal read! I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book
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