I just finished A Scandalous Deal, the second book in The Four Hundred series, by Joanna Shupe and to say I enjoyed it would be an understatement.
Joanna Shupe returns with another unforgettable novel set in the glittering world of New York City’s Gilded Age…
They call her Lady Unlucky…
With three dead fiancés, Lady Eva Hyde has positively no luck when it comes to love. She sets sail for New York City, determined that nothing will deter her dream of becoming an architect, certainly not an unexpected passionate shipboard encounter with a mysterious stranger. But Eva’s misfortune strikes once more when she discovers the stranger who swept her off her feet is none other than her new employer.
Or is it Lady Irresistible?
Phillip Mansfield reluctantly agrees to let the fiery Lady Eva oversee his luxury hotel project while vowing to keep their relationship strictly professional. Yet Eva is more capable—and more alluring—than Phillip first thought, and he cannot keep from drawing up a plan of his own to seduce her.
When a series of onsite “accidents” makes it clear someone wants Lady Unlucky to earn her nickname, Phillip discovers he’s willing to do anything to protect her—even if it requires A SCANDALOUS DEAL.
So I’ve been in a book funk for a couple of weeks. I keep reading blurbs and longingly gazing at covers, but once I open the book and try to read I get bored and put the book back down again. I’m so behind on reviews it isn’t even funny. But then I looked at my spreadsheet and saw that I had this up for review this week and hoped and prayed that this book would be the one to break me out of my funk and strike that spark again.
It so did.
Not only is this a historical romance set in the Gilded Age, but it features an architect heroine, passionate about her craft, but fighting for a chance at recognition, and a hero who while forward thinking in some areas, has the same ideas about abilities and gender as other men of his time. This romance was sexy, feminist, and kept me reading late into the night.
Lady Eva is the daughter of one of the world’s most renown architects, E. M. Hyde. She has spent her life learning from him and following him around on job sites. Unfortunately, while he was talented at designing buildings, he lacked in keeping his finances in order. Since falling ill, with what sounds like Alzheimer’s Disease, Eva has stepped into his shoes to keep the family afloat and pay for his care by taking on jobs under his name. Including a grand hotel in New York.
Phillip Mansfield has a passion for building and design and knows that this new hotel will be the jewel of New York. He only chooses the best, most gifted and competent engineers, designers, and architects to work on his projects. Which is why he reached out to E. M. Hyde to design the building that he is staking his reputation on.
Eva and Phillip first meet on a ship headed to New York. They don’t know the identity of the other and late one night, in the midst of a storm that has chased everyone else to their cabins, they share conversation, quite a bit of champagne, and a hot night of kisses and touching. In the morning Eva disappears and it’s not until she shows up at the job site for the hotel that they realize who the other is.
The sparks fly almost from the moment Eva and Phillip set eyes on each other. Their chemistry heats up in the second chapter and just blazes right up until the very end. The main conflict between them is Eva’s role in Phillip’s hotel and the predisposed notions that woman shouldn’t work in certain areas and in jobs that are considered men’s domain. Eva is gifted and has flourished in the place of her father, but always under his name and with no recognition. She knows she won’t marry, not only because she has been deemed Lady Unlucky because of the tragic deaths of three fiancées, but also because she doesn’t want a man to control her life. She wants equality and respect, which she doubts she will ever find.
Trust me when I say I was frustrated at times with each of these characters for different reasons. Secrets kept too long, hard-headed heroes who are obtuse on occasion, and secondary characters who I wanted to karate chop in the head in nearly every scene. I loved Eva’s determination to stand on her own two feet and remain independent in order to reach for her dreams. She takes Phillip as a lover on her terms and, other than keeping the truth about who really designed his new hotel, is truthful and pretty open about the fact that she doesn’t intend to marry, but wants to experience an intimate relationship with him. There’s really nothing about Eva that’s not to like. She’s a wonderful heroine. Phillip does wise up in the end, and their HEA is lovely.
I’ve read the blurb for the next book in the series, and I’ve already put it on my TBR list, but there is a secondary character in this book, Becca Hall, that is Phillip’s friend and someone who he helps escape from a bad situation at home with her lover only referred to as “her”. I’m hoping that Ms. Shupe decides to write Becca’s story sometime in the future. I would buy this book in a minute. Final Grade-B+
“Why is it men call a woman stubborn when she disagrees with him? Are we not allowed to know our own minds?”