Review: Magnate by Joanna Shupe

magnateReviewed by Janell

Lizzie Sloane is part of a rich Knickerbocker family in New York. If you, like me, are unfamiliar with the Knickerbockers, I would say that they’re like the English ton: the snobs who cling to breeding, rules, and tradition, looking down on the nouveau riche. The year is 1888, and Lizzie wants to open her own stock brokerage firm, which is obviously not going to be easy.

She approaches Emmett Cavanaugh, the former gutter snipe turned superrich owner of a steel company, because he’s a friend of her brother’s and he might give her financial backing. Emmett is his own type of snob — he doesn’t think she has the cunning to succeed, and he actually hates her brother. Lizzie is strong-willed, though, and very attractive even though she’s not his usual type of woman, so Emmett gives her a trial run to see if she even knows how to make money on the exchange.

I enjoyed the parts of the story that showed how Lizzie worked the system that was made for men. She has to secretly hire a man to place orders for her, because women aren’t allowed at the stock market. She picks up gossip in the women’s lounge of the theater from the wife of a company leader. Lizzie has brains and bravery, and she is not having it with anyone who tells her no.

Emmett was less interesting to me. He’s got a tortured past that makes him brooding, and an inferiority complex that has him throwing money around to prove to people that he’s just as good as they are. He’s hot for Lizzie (he calls her Elizabeth, because it’s the name for a queen, but she calls herself Lizzie, and it’s shorter to type), but feels unworthy.

I enjoyed their early relationship, when they flirted and teased and stole kisses and then freaked out because they should definitely not be kissing. Then a Thing happens a third of the way in that forces them into a different relationship. After The Thing, both characters become stupid. They spend too much time assuming things about each other without actually, you know, talking to each other, and that leads to judgment and unilateral decisions. It was bleak for me, as a reader, because I wanted to see their romance develop in a more natural, mutually agreeable way.

They move forward and experience some happiness and sexy times in Emmett’s gigantic mansion with an underground swimming pool and Turkish bath, because, of course. (Sidenote: I may have distracted myself wondering how the sauna could stay clean and not mildewy. That’s a problem for the servants, luckily.) The story doesn’t focus on Lizzie’s business as much as it does on Emmett’s jealousy and self-loathing and threatening behavior.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Lizzie was pretty cool, and mostly smart. Emmett wasn’t my type of hero, so he wore me out. The road to their HEA was crooked, but the ending was nice.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

by Joanna Shupe
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Zebra

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