Standing on the platform at Grand Central Station, Ted Harper is surprised by a fiery kiss from an undeniably gorgeous damsel in distress. He’s certain she’s a swindler who’s only after his money, but he’s never met a woman so passionate and sure of herself. Disarmed, he invites her to spend the journey to St. Louis in his private car—perhaps against his better judgment.
Clara Dawson has long known how to take care of herself, but the savvy shop girl is at a loss when she witnesses—and becomes entangled in—a terrible crime. Desperation propels her into a stranger’s arms at the train station, but she hadn’t expected Ted to offer her the protection she so badly needs—nor did she expect their chemistry to develop more steam than the engine of the train. He’s everything she never thought she could have, and she’s everything he didn’t know he wanted. But as her secrets begin to unfurl, their fledgling romance could be in danger of derailing before they arrive at the next station.
Having read and enjoyed Magnate, which is the first full-length novel in Ms Shupe’s new Knickerbocker Club series, I decided to backtrack and pick up this prequel novella. In Magnate, we met banking Tycoon Ted Harper and his vibrant, voluble wife, Clara, a former New York shopgirl; at first glance, perhaps a rather mismatched couple. In Tycoon, we discover how they met and fell in love when Clara, on the run after witnessing a murder, accosts Ted at Grand Central station and insists on boarding the train with him in order to evade her pursuers. This makes for a nicely dramatic opening, and Ms Shupe keeps the thriller element bubbling along nicely while also allowing Ted and Clara to spend time getting to know each other.
At just thirty-two, Ted is a multi-millionaire, so is rather used to young women throwing themselves at him. He is initially suspicious of Clara, and especially so when she insists she has no idea who he is, but he eventually accepts her explanation and comes to appreciate the breath of fresh air she brings to his busy life. The story is well-put together and Ted and Clara are engaging characters, but I didn’t like the way that Clara insisted on concealing the truth and evading Ted’s direct questions about the reasons for her running from New York. It’s true that Ted doesn’t tell her his true identity either, and that perhaps, had he done so, Clara would have realised that he really would have been able to protect her from the bad guys. And even after the truth is out between them, yet another misunderstanding is thrown in to create a bit more tension between them before the HEA. Even with those reservations though, Tycoon is one of the better novellas I’ve read recently and while the page count doesn’t allow for the same sort of scene-setting that is so impressive in Magnate, it’s a good introduction to the series and is definitely worth a look when you’re in the mood for a quick but satisfying read.