A spicy story of gamblers and ruthlessness, The Prince of Broadway is a unique experience and one heck of a way to end 2019.
Clayton Madden is a rough-and-tumble casino owner who can make or break a man with a flick of his finger. All the high society types come to wager at his casino -his pride and joy - and he’s not afraid to break heads to maintain order there. Money and revenge are his true goals in life. When the lovely Florence Greene – of a good family and part of high society – shows up at the casino repeatedly and shows a high aptitude as a cardsharp, Clayton has no idea what she’s doing there – and is determined to find out.
Florence has one request of Clayton; she wants to learn how to operate a casino so she may open a single-sex establishment for women, and asks him to mentor her. He’s taken aback, but is also pleased by the idea, since this will drag Duncan Greene’s beloved daughter’s reputation through the mud, and Clayton will finally obtain his revenge on Duncan for ruining his family. This is exactly what Florence wants, anyway – as well as her own independence.
While Clayton shows Florence the ropes – which includes a memorable visit to a brothel peepshow – these two soon want to be more than business partners. It helps that they’re immediately attracted to one another. But will Clay’s thirst for revenge – and Florence’s ambition – get in the way of love?
I loved Florence, and let me explain why. At one point, a dealer at another casino presumes she’s been cheating and makes her prove she’s just That Good at playing cards. Does she prove herself a card sharp instead of a card counter? Heck yes, she does. I did find some of her behavior anachronistic, but liked that she’s seasoned in all the right ways.
Clayton is more of a typical hero, a wounded and angry rake who has a mean outer shell but has a soft spot for the heroine. Yet he stands out, immorally moral, above the crowd and becomes a fairly delicious hero with time.
The romance could melt steel. I promise you this one’s a barn-burner, and a meeting of two strong, smart souls who know how to get each other’s goats but are also deeply attracted to and yet weak for one another. The attraction is palpable, but they are themselves, with their own specific limits and desires. And kudos to Shupe for choosing the ending she chose for them.
I do have some quibbles about the plot. Clayton refuses to tell Florence his plans to ruin Duncan Greene because she might warn him – but he’s already told her his plans in that direction, so she could have done it if she’d wanted to.
But otherwise there are a lot of nice, sparkling minor characters, such as the chorus girls who meet up with Florence, her grandmother, and all of the wicked street characters who populate Clayton’s life.
Overall, The Prince of Broadway is a fun gem of a novel that brings out an interesting side of the pre-Turn of the Century world into which Shupe plunges us with her great research and fascinating characters.
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