Series: The Palace of Rogues #1
Published by Avon on March 26, 2019
“I have perhaps seen more beautiful women, but the difference between them and you is like the difference between the grimy window and one rubbed clean, one though which the sun shines. It is about a certain quality of light.”
FINAL DECISION: A book about love and friendship and building a family, I loved this book. Long writes such beautiful prose about love and relationship that I just fell into this book and didn’t want to find my way out. A great start to Long’s return to historical romance.
THE STORY: Delilah Swanpool, Countess of Derring, finds out upon her husband’s death that not only was he in financial debt and has left her nothing but a useless building in a poor area of London, but that he also had a mistress. Delilah decides never to be at the mercy of man again and opens a boarding house in the building her inherited. One of her guests is Captain Tristan Hardy who, unknown to Delilah, is hunting a smuggling operation and Delilah and her new boarding house are under suspicion. Tristan begins to question his mission as he gets to know Delilah who touches a heart that he doesn’t believe he has.
OPINION: This is a wonderful book. As it began, I wondered if I would like it because the story and tone was different than I expected, but by the time the two central relationships in the book (Delilah/Angelique and Delilah/Tristan) were established I found myself relaxing into the sigh-worthy beauty of the text and the relationships.
The first book in the series tends to suffer as characters and places and situations are introduced. This book does have some of that in the first portion of the book, but I truly enjoyed the development of the friendship between Delilah and Angelique. Two women left penniless by the same man, find common ground. Their relationship is important to this story (and I expect this series). I especially appreciated how these women look at their lives and see how they are not “seen” or “known” by people and find a way to help themselves. I very much like seeing women take power into their own hands. These two women have an interesting story even without the romance and in essence are the “founding mothers” of the new family built in The Grand Palace of the Thames aka the Palace of Rogues.
Delilah is a darling woman. Nothing about who she is has mattered to those around her. Instead, she has had to play a role built for her. Tossed from all the protection of her life that she expected, Delilah refuses to continue on that path and seek another husband or a protector as is expected. Instead, she cuts a new path for herself. Despite the sadness and disappointment in her life, Delilah is a kind and optimistic woman. Indeed, she is the heart of the new operation.
Tristan is a man dedicated to his work when he arrives at the Palace. Delilah immediately draws Tristan. I loved how sensitive Tristan is even though he claims to be cynical and without a heart. Everything about why he does things comes from a place of doing right and care. He doesn’t search from smugglers because he wants riches or advancement. Instead, he feels responsibility for those harmed by the smugglers and is dedicated to the responsibilities placed upon him by the King.
I love the quiet development of the relationship between Delilah and Tristan which depends upon talking and appreciating and knowing. At the same time, there is intense passion which flares between them. But there is something very powerful in Delilah’s demand that what lies between them must be centered in knowledge and relationship rather than mere bodily passion. She is always willing to demand that she be more than the easy expectation.
This is a beautifully written book. As always, Long has such a lyrical and emotional power to her books. This book ripped my heart out at times and made it bleed but then also made it beat harder and soar with a recognition of the universal joy and power of love. I immediately began to re-read passages not only for the intense emotional parts, but just the beautifully written parts. Long has written another winner.
WORTH MENTIONING: The boardinghouse sets up an intriguing variety of potential stories that can be explored in this series, but I’m breathlessly waiting for the next book in the series, ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS, which will be about Angelique (Derring’s former mistress) and which will, thankfully, be out in October this year.
CONNECTED BOOKS: LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER is the first book in the Palace of Rogues series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.