A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred Series #1)- Joanna Shupe
Avon Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Warning: Potentail Spoilers
Synopsis: 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 loves. 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.
Lady Honora Parker has been sent to New York after a scandal in London involving a man her father deems unsuitable for her. Nora hatches a plan to get engaged to an American so outrageous that her father will have no choice but to call her home and agree that her artist is a good choice after all. And the incredibly rich, handsome, and scandalous Julius Hatcher fits her plan perfectly. Julius needs to get into Society to solve a mystery, but riches alone won't buy him entry. Nora's crazy scheme of a fake engagement seems like the perfect answer. To Nora's dismay, the scandalous bachelor turns into the perfect fiancé - and to Julius' dismay, Nora turns out to be his perfect match.
A Daring Arrangement is an entertaining story of (seeming) opposites attracting and a conveniently fake engagement turning into one both parties wish was real. Despite very different backgrounds Nora and Julius are quite similar beneath the surface: both are intelligent, daring, and determined in all aspects of life. One of the big themes to the book is change: circumstances change, people change, goals change, and the only way to live life is to accept that and be flexible enough to allow change to be a part of your life- sometimes at the difficult expense of pride. Julius determined he would never marry or have a family because of the tragic, drunken ramblings of his father. When he discovers how much he enjoys Nora's company, her wit, her conversation, and the intense chemistry between them he's still not willing to consider changing his mind about marriage. Nora was sure her artist Robert was the love of her life, and she's horrified with herself when she develops feelings for Julius. How can she be so inconstant? Fortunately her aunt has enough experience with life and love to explain to her the difference between a first love and a true love.
Secondary characters like her aunt and Julius' friend Tripp don't get quite as much development or 'on screen' time as they deserve but they make the most of every second they have. It's obvious Shupe has done plenty of research into New York and the Gilded Age of the 1890s. The city and time period are practically characters themselves, immersing the reader in the glittering life of the ballroom and the earthiness of New York dance halls with a perfection that matches her earlier Knickerbocker Club series (Magnate, Baron).
I was hoping for more to the mystery that Julius is trying to solve. He wants revenge against the Society men who ruined his father- but he doesn't know who they are or have much of a plan on how to figure it out. Nora comes up with a scheme to draw them out, but the whole revenge idea fades disappointingly into the background. As a plot point it had great potential, especially for the emotional dilemma Julius finds himself in on discovering one of the names, but it pretty much fizzled out.
Despite hoping for a bit more depth to the plot, I enjoyed A Daring Arrangement - especially Julius and Nora and the great chemistry between them (both mental and physical!) and am looking forward to Joanna Shupe's next Gilded Age story.