Tracy’s rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Uptown Girls, #2
Release Date: December 31, 2019
New York City’s finest casino, the Bronze House, is not only illegal, it is exclusively for men, but that doesn’t stop Florence Greene from bribing her way in the door or from winning a fortune in an effort to gain the attention of the owner Clayton “Clay” Madden. Florence wants nothing more in life than to own a casino of her own, exclusively for women, she understands the actual games, but she need a teacher for the finer points of club ownership and she has decided that Clay is the perfect man for the job.
Clay has been running games and bets for many years, his success is gratifying, but the true reason he has pushed so hard to succeed is for the money and power he needs to enact his revenege against Duncan Greene, Florence’s father. Duncan bought the property he lived in as a boy, forcing out his family and therefore putting into motion events that changed Clay’s life, including his brother’s death and his father’s abandonment. Clay has spent the last 20 years plotting and is on the brink of seeing his plan come to fruition. He plans on buying the property Duncan’s family home is on and tearing it down to build a casino. So when Florence asks him to teach her the ropes, he agrees but is honest about his feelings towards her father and his sexual interest in her – he won’t tell her why he hates her dad or what he is going to do to him, but says he isn’t trying to ruin him or break him financially, he is also clear that while he is interested in her as a lover, he will not force her or do anything to make her uncomfortable.
Florence can’t imagine what her father did to earn Clay’s hatred, but since he isn’t going to ruin him and she really needs a teacher, she accepts his terms. She is also attracted to him and she is not a virgin, having long ago decided (this crack me up because she is only 21) that she never wants to marry and sees no point in “saving herself”, she has enjoyed lovers, but is determined to keep her relationship with Clay strictly professional. Clay agrees and they begin her lessons.
The more time they spend together, the more the attraction grows, both physically and emotionally, they like each other and enjoy working together, he teaches her the darker side of casino ownership, with lessons on the payoffs and handling cheaters, but through it all, he continues with his plan against her dad. When a Clay pisses off a policeman on his payroll, trouble comes to his club and he and Florence are forced to flee a raid. While hiding in the brothel next door, their relationship takes a serious turn and the result leaves Florence feeling embarrassed and she flees. But after he comes to her rescue while playing at another club, she decides to return and makes it clear that nothing like that will ever happen again. But it does and this time they actually have sex – but Clay’s reaction afterwards is appalling and cruel to Florence, who is justifiably angry and leaves.
Clay thinks this is for the best, until he learns that she has begun taking “lessons” with Mulligan, another crime lord in the city. He finally admits he was wrong and misses her, but when he goes to see her, it is clear that she is not going to let him off the hook that easy. They come to an agreement and their relationship changes, they are both happy and things are going well until Florence learns the truth about Clay’s plans and how it affect her and her hopes and dreams.
This book is very well written, flows nicely and has some very hot, steamy love scenes, but in my opinion, the leads are not likeable, there isn’t really any romance (there is a lot of lust and sex, but that isn’t romance) this book read more like “ChickLit fiction” set in the gilded era, rather than an actual historical romance. Florence has very 21st century ideals and her dream is to run an illegal gaming house. And Clay went from being a badass gaming lord to be Florence’s whipped lover. I really, really didn’t care for the ending, I thought it was unrealistic for the era and just cemented my feeling that Florence was selfish and expected everything to be on her terms. I didn’t actually hate the book, but it is my least favorite by Joanna Shupe and while I would recommend this author and this book, I wouldn’t read it again. This is this the second book in the series and it runs concurrent with the first book, so it can be read as a standalone with no problems.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher.*