This is one of those books where I had an array of emotions while reading. I went into A Daring Arrangement with some anticipation, mainly because of this blurb:
Set in New York City’s Gilded Age, Joanna Shupe’s Avon debut introduces an English beauty with a wicked scheme to win the man she loves—and the American scoundrel who ruins her best laid plans…
Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match—leaving her free to marry the artist she desires. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course….
Julius is intrigued by Nora’s ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora’s horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancé, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own—one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.
I was really looking forward to a historical romance set in New York during the Gilded Age. I was even excited for the marriage of convenience trope. While not my favorite, if done well two characters faking a marriage can be pretty entertaining. This is my first book by Ms. Shupe, so I had all my fingers crossed that I had discovered another historical romance author to add to my auto-buy list.
From the moment this book opened I was entertained. Nora, the heroine, first meets Julius, her soon to be fake fiancé, while he is astride a horse in the middle of a hotel dining room, drunk and flush from a good time. She is desperate to get back home to her artist lover, and has decided that Julius, with his reputation for wild parties and unacceptable behavior, is just the man that will scare her father into forcing her to return to London. She offers up a deal that she will introduce him to upper crust New York society, if he will pose as her fiancé for the next several weeks. He accepts, and then promptly passes out.
Of course, Julius has his own reasons for going through with the farce. After years of searching for the men who abandoned his father in the midst of a financial crisis, which he believes ultimately led to his suicide, he still has no idea of their names or identities. The opportunity to mingle and engage the richest families in the city in conversation is too good to pass up. Maybe now he will be able to single out the three men who he blames for his father’s death. Nora wants an unsavory fiancé who behaves badly, but Julian knows he must be on his best behavior.
Let me be completely honest, while I did enjoy both of these main characters, I had my doubts over their behavior at certain times throughout this book. And the weird thing is, without their behavior this story would never have ended in an HEA. Nora is in love with a man back home. Not infatuated, not sporting a crush that she hopes will eventually come to fruition, but in love. They were lovers for a time and have promised themselves to each other. She spends most of the first half of the book angry that Julius isn’t acting more improper because she wants to get caught up in a scandal so that her father will get fed up and make her head back to London. Yes, Julius is gorgeous, and rich, and a math genius who made his fortune through hard work and brainpower, she recognizes all this and doesn’t really care. Until she does.
I really liked Julius. I really did. He is just the sort of hero who I fall for. Smart, handsome, and self-made. I know he finds Nora attractive and desires her, but for some reason I couldn’t get the thought that every time they engaged in a little hanky-panky Nora was cheating. Did I think they were a good match? Yes. Did I like their chemistry? Yes. But I was conscious of the fact that Nora had committed herself to someone else the whole time she and Julius were flirting and getting to know each other. It does help that she broke off her relationship before the full on sex scene. Somewhat.
So while I did enjoy this book, it was mainly because of the writing and setting. The romance itself felt kind of tarnished, simply because I couldn’t get the word cheating out of my head. What I will say is that I am very much looking forward to reading more by this author. Final Grade-C
He put out his hand, which she readily accepted. His palm pressed to her smooth, soft skin as they shook. “You have yourself a fake fiancé, Lady Nora.”