Skip to main content

Review of "Magnate" by Joanna Shupe

The first thing that intrigued me about Joanna Shupe's Knickerbocker Series (other than the fact that Knickerbocker is the full name of the New York basketball team) was that it took place in Gilded Age New York.  I remember reading about that time period in both my high school and college American History classes and through the 21st century liberal gaze, I saw that period as rivaling our current economic situation (which is true in some respects and utterly false in others).  This alone was reason enough for me to check out this series, but seeing as the hero of Magnate is one of those figments of the GOP's collective imagination -- the self-made man, who struggled out of the slums of Five Points and made his way into the boardrooms and ballrooms of Manhattan (of course, this description is the true difference between the late 19th Century and today, the fact that a boy from the slums actually can become a millionaire) -- my finger deftly pressed the "Buy with One Click" link on Amazon and I found myself the new owner of the first full novel in the Knickerbocker Series (the actual first book of the series is Tycoon, a novella, which should have been a full novel).



Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sloane grew up in the gilded ballrooms of Manhattan society, splitting her time between New York City and Newport, but she never really fit in with the rest of her peers.  She was no more comfortable hanging out with Alva Vanderbilt than she would be sitting with President Cleveland.  Her life bored her.  She didn't want to go to parties and be some man's trophy.  No, what she wanted was to open her own investment firm, but her brother, Will, wouldn't allow it.  Their blood was too blue, too pure to do something so common.  Not to be deterred, Lizzie set her sights on her brother's friend, Emmett Cavanaugh, a ruthless businessman, who had risen from an impoverished childhood to be one of the richest people in the country.  What was the worst that could happen?

Emmett Cavanaugh didn't have the time to deal with blue blooded socialites, but when he learned that Elizabeth Sloane wanted to meet with him, he needed to know why.  Although he had money, they did not travel in the same circles and he knew her brother would not approve of her even being in the same building as him, especially if that building happened to be his home.  Elizabeth quickly surprises him by asking for his help -- she wants him to help her open up an investment firm.  He'd be the public face of the company while she'd be the brains behind it.  It couldn't be done, of course, but that didn't mean he couldn't have some fun with her first.

Before reading Tycoon, I'd never heard of Ms. Shupe, and as my long time readers are aware, I don't tend to pick up new-to-me authors, but for some reason I gave her a shot.  While I enjoyed Tycoon, it was much too short to do the plot justice.  However, I was interested enough in the other members of the Knickerbocker Club to seek out its sequel.  (Currently, only Tycoon and Magnate are available.)

As a whole, the series is about four powerful men, Theodore "Ted" Harper, Emmett Cavanaugh, Will Sloane, and Calvin Cabot.  Each man is involved in one of the major businesses of the Gilded Age -- Ted owns a large, national bank, Emmett runs East Coast Steel, Will is in charge of Northeast Railroad, and Calvin is the publisher of one of the country's largest newspapers.  Tycoon covered Ted's story and Magnate is Emmett's.

As a character, Emmett was intriguing.  He came from a very poor background in which he had to struggle just to get by.  Five Points, immortalized in The Gangs of New York, was not an easy place to grow up and Emmett had to see to the safety of three siblings.  His personality is very much influenced by how he lived and this makes him different from most romance novel heroes, who are usually the bluest of blue bloods and who have never had to struggle for anything in their lives.  What I liked about Emmett was that despite his rough upbringing and the things that he's had to do to become one of the most powerful men in New York City, he is a good man -- not that he would ever see himself that way.

Lizzie was also interesting, although she more closely resembles the archetypal romance novel heroine.  She's rich, pure, and spunky.  She's had everything given to her on a silver platter, but isn't satisfied with the life that the men in her family have always envisioned for her.  This is definitely the current trend, even if women of that time would have been as likely to do anything about that dissatisfaction as Beyonce releasing a country album.

One of the best things about this book is how much detail Ms. Shupe gave to her setting.  It was obvious that she did her research and deftly applied it to her writing.  She talks about the disparity between the "old rich" (the people Elizabeth and her brother grew up with) and the "new rich" (Emmett and his family).  I love the fact that they alluded to the beginnings of the Metropolitan Opera House (the "new rich" built it after being denied entrance to The Academy of Music) and that the characters would talk about the need to please Caroline Astor (or as The History Chicks called her, "The" Mrs. Astor) and Alva Vanderbilt, who I googled and found the very picture that was used in my American History textbook to depict the excesses of the Gilded Age.



My favorite piece of history included in this book was The Great Blizzard of 1888, which buried New York City as well as Brooklyn, which was not a part of the city at the time (it only became incorporated into the five borough system in 1896) in 50 inches of snow and plunged the citizens of those two cities into sub-zero temperatures.  While I was reading, I shared this article on the blizzard on the facebook page.  I found it an excellent account of what really happened and I thought it complemented the scenes in Magnate very well.  The one downside to reading the article after reading Ms. Shupe's version is that it made me wonder how Elizabeth and Emmett would have fared had they actually been stuck in an abandoned office with little food and no electricity during the worst blizzard in New York City history.

There were a few things that bothered me about this book, no matter how much I liked it.  The biggest was the existence of Henry Rutlidge, who is only present in the book as a juxtaposition to Emmett.  Henry was everything Lizzie was supposed to want in a husband -- he came from the same background as she did, was her best friend's brother, and had grown up with her -- and a large portion of the book involved Emmett being jealous of Lizzie's relationship with Henry, even though she'd given him absolutely no reason for that jealousy.  Magnate would have worked equally well without him and we wouldn't have had to deal with a vile scene in which he does something so awful that left no question as to whom Lizzie should pick.

4.5 Stars

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of "The Other Miss Bridgerton" by Julia Quinn

Title: The Other Miss Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesby #3
Publisher: Avon
Price: $6.99 (e-book) $5.77 (mass market paperback) $21.55 (Audible)
Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 I love Julia Quinn.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon Just Like Heaven in the Howard Beach library; I'd heard of Ms. Quinn before, but hadn't actually read one of her books.  Immediately after finishing the book, Marcus and Honoria became one of my favorite hero/heroine pairings ever.  I'm probably going to be diving back into the Smythe-Smith books again soon because despite reading all of the Bridgerton books, the Smythe-Smith series is still my absolute favorite Quinn series.  The Rokesby series is giving it a run for its money, though (I've read Because of Miss Bridgerton at least four times since it was published in 2016).  Is it wrong that I want another book already?  Sure, The Other Miss Bridgerton came out just last week, but one is never enough, right? From the Publisher:
She was in the wrong p…

Blog Tour: Excerpt and Review of "Kiss Me At Christmas" by Valerie Bowman

Title: Kiss Me At Christmas Author: Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $7.99 (e-book) $5.98 (mass market paperback)
Rating:❄️❄️❄️❄️
Christmas Rating: 🎅🎅 1/2

I guess it is that time of year again--it is finally acceptable to listen to Christmas music on repeat!  Yes!  Unfortunately, I read this book in October and was getting a lot of weird looks when people heard snippets of Shake Up Christmas.  Honestly, this wasn't the earliest I've listened to Christmas music.  That honor goes to my review of Snowfall on Haven Point for the Smart Bitches, which I wrote in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in Northern California back in June of 2017.  But you're not here for a recitation of my Christmas music woes, so let's do this thing.

ExcerptCHAPTER ONE
London, December 1818
Lady Regina Haversham’s thirtieth birthday was precisely one month away, which didn’t leave her much time to lose her virginity. Not that she wanted it lost. S…

Fifteen Years Later: Review of "His Sinful Touch" by Candace Camp

Title: His Sinful Touch
Author: Candace Camp
ISBN: 0373789963
Publisher: HQN
Series: Mad Morelands #5
Price: $5.98 (Paperback) $5.99 (e-book) $19.96(Audible)
Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2


Most readers remember their first, the first book of their particular genre that they read, whether they enjoyed the book or not.  I have two firsts--the first romance I ever read was a Harlequin Intrigue written by Amanda Stevens.  If you've read my blog before you probably already know this.  The first historical romance I read was Mesmerized by Candace Camp, which was also the first book in her Mad Morelands series.  

I was a senior in high school when this series began and I remember seeing the paperback version of Mesmerized on the shelf at the Target on Queens Blvd (yes, I spent a lot of time on Queens Blvd as a teenager), and was pulled in by the gorgeous cover.  Apparently, that book has had several covers over the last 15 years, but this is the one I remember:


Isn't it pretty?  Of course from the cover I…

It's Not Me; It's You--A Review of "Shelter in Place" by Nora Roberts

Title: Shelter in Place
Author: Nora Roberts
ISBN: 1250161592
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $14.99 (e-book) $16.49 (hardcover) $23.95 (Audible)
Rating:⭐️

Over the last few years, I have found myself reading fewer Nora Roberts novels.  In the past, she was my go-to author, an auto-buy, someone I knew whose work would never disappoint me.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  While her prose is still beautiful and effortlessly depicts all manner of situations, her stories have become stale (recycling plots from other books is a big part of my problem with her) and it seems that she is less inclined to writing actual romances.  I was actually really excited about Shelter in Place because it wasn't like anything else I've read by her--and that sounded like a good thing.  What I got was a book that wasn't really sure what it was or what it wanted to be.

From the Publisher:
From Nora Roberts, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Year One (December 2017), comes…

Happy Bookaversary! A Review of "Edge of Darkness" by Karen Rose

Title: Edge of Darkness
Author: Karen Rose
ISBN: 9780399583087
Publisher: Berkeley
Series: Cincinnati Series
Price: $5.98 (Paperback) $7.99 (e-book) $28.28(Audible)
Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


It seems like I've been reading Karen Rose novels my entire life.  I remember the day I came across Count to Ten in the Duane Reade on Queens Blvd.  I'd finished the paperback I brought with me to school that day while sitting in the Dining Hall eating lunch and needed something for the long bus ride home.  I almost didn't buy it because it was $9.99 and I hadn't gotten my financial aid money yet, but the cover copy called to me.  Not even the 500+ page count could scare me away.

I recently learned that Edge of Darkness is Ms. Rose's 20th book and in a strange way, I feel like a proud mama watching her child cross the stage to get their diploma.  I'm just a big ball of happy nostalgia, thinking back to all of the other books I've read by her and hopeful about the ones to come, so befor…