Joanna Shupe’s Baron, the second book in her popular Knickerbocker Club series, is set in New York in the late 1800s. The novel features Will Sloane, the stuffy older brother of Shupe’s heroine in Magnate, and pits the wealthy rail baron against an irresistible force: Madam Zolikoff, aka Ava Jones, who is struggling to get by as a medium.
William Sloane and Ava come from very different walks of life. The Gilded Age of New York City means a mansion for the wealthy Sloan, but a gritty third story apartment for Ava. Left penniless by the death of her parents, she has become Madam Zolikoff, a performance medium wearing a blonde wig and faking a Russian accent, “conjuring” up the spirits of client’s deceased family members to make a buck.
As a pillar of industry and a rising star in politics, William Sloane needs a suitable wife, but first he must take care of business. He attends Madam Zolikoff’s performance with a specific purpose—to dissuade her from entering a relationship with his political ally, John Bennett. Bennett is the gubernatorial candidate who’s asked Will to join him on the ticket as lieutenant governor. With the election only six months away, any missteps must be avoided, and this impertinent actress with the flame-red lips simply screams scandal. William won’t let a curvy con artist ruin his political career, but the feisty medium draws him like a beacon.
Ava grew up far from the fine and fancy Will Sloane and has done the best she can—single-handedly raising her younger siblings, scrimping and saving and building a home for them. Years earlier, a romance with another privileged man left her sadder, wiser and mistrustful. She thinks she knows the kind of man Will Sloane is and wants no part of him. Unfortunately, Will is the kind of man one can’t help but notice, and unbeknownst to Ava, he has a heart of gold.
Though they come from different worlds, neither William nor Ava can ignore the compelling heat of each other’s company, and their resulting romance sizzles early and often. Readers should be advised not to scorch their fingers while flipping through the pages—or get them caught on all the hidden buttons of Victorian garb . . .