Review: After Dark with the Duke

Review: After Dark with the DukeAfter Dark with the Duke (The Palace of Rogues, #4) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #4
Published by Avon on November 30, 2021
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384


FINAL DECISION: Oh, I loved this one! Emotional with lots of longing and (not too dark) angst. This combined with the beautiful lyricism of Long’s writing makes this an example of the reason I’m a big fan of Julie Anne Long’s books.

THE STORY: Fleeing to the Palace on the Thames, Mariana Wylde is considered a harlot as an opera singer who had a duel fought by two men for her favor. Almost penniless and desperate to hide from gossip and those who want her to pay for her part in the duel. The proprietresses of the Palace see an opportunity to promote the Palace and also to help Mariana’s reputation. At the Palace is also General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, honorable and deeply respected. A self-made man who gained his own title, Valkirk initially scorns the scandalous opera singer but finds himself drawn to a woman he finds to be intelligent and deeply vulnerable.

OPINION: In the story of Mariana and James, the series gets a fantastic emotional story. What is not to love about the self-made Duke who always does what is right and proper and the woman who has found herself on the seedy side of society’s judgment. The slow entanglement of these two was deeply satisfying.

The Duke is almost twenty years older than Mariana and is a widower with a son who is already an adult. He has structured his life as being proper and above reproach. Now he has reached a midlife crisis of a sort and is having trouble writing his memoirs. His meeting of Mariana changes his life. He finds a new purpose and a threat to his perfectly organized life. The gentle way in which Long demonstrates how James changes throughout the story is what makes her such a great writer.

Mariana’s past is something that she doesn’t apologize for. She recognizes her mistakes but doesn’t enter into society’s condemnation of herself — and neither do the owners of the Palace. Her story is one of self-acceptance and accepting her mistakes.

One thing I really enjoy about this book is that the story is concentrated between these two characters. By centering both of these characters in the Palace, there is an ability for them to spend time together and grapple with their relationship. This is a great device that allows Long to avoid many of the expected interactions between a stuffy proper Duke and the opera singer. The domestic setting allows the book to avoid the setups for Mariana and James to meet and instead allows the story to focus intently on their relationship.

I loved this book because of the emotional resonance of the characters and how deeply invested I became in their relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: One thing I love about this series is following the development of the Palace itself. I’m rooting for it to succeed as the Palace itself is a central character in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Palace of Rogues series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are characters that appear in other books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: I’m Only Wicked with You

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: I’m Only Wicked with YouI'm Only Wicked with You (The Palace of Rogues, #3) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #3
Published by Avon on August 24, 2021
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400


FINAL DECISION: A solid entry in the series that was slow to develop, but ended in a satisfying fashion. The book is my least favorite in the series as I didn’t find enough emotional conflict in the story, but even an average Long book is better than most books I read.

THE STORY: Hugh Cassidy is an American who has traveled to London searching for a missing woman. Instead, he finds Lillias Vaughn, a lady who is a bit out of the ordinary and strains against acceptable lady behavior. The two meet at the Grand Palace on the Thames where the boardinghouse guests must adhere to rules which require them to interact with one another. Hugh and Lillias, however, have difficulties with the “civilly” part of the rules. Instead, they needle one another as each has interests elsewhere, and yet the two end up in a compromising situation necessitating a hasty engagement. But there is hope that the engagement could be unraveled with a little effort from both of them.

OPINION: I struggled through the first third of this book. There was a lot of talking but not much conflict that felt interesting. Once the forced engagement occurred, the pace of the book picked up and I felt that the relationship between Lillias and Hugh became emotional and engaging. I was willing to give the story time to develop, but less dedicated readers might have given up by then. I’m not sure why that first portion of the book was so unengaging, but I think it might be because so much time is given to explaining Lillias’s unconventional outlook on life. The real conflicts in the story (her other connection) are kept as a surprise and the reader doesn’t really get a good sense of Lillias’s interior emotional life.

At the same time, once the surprise reveal occurs, the emotional depth between these two main characters had resonance. This was a book where I could see the first third of the book excised and then expanded in the last portion. I loved Lillias’s parents who become real characters by the end.

Why did I rate this so highly when the first part was disappointing? Because if that portion did not exist, the story would have been fulfilling just based on the last two-thirds. I finished the book satisfied with these characters’ story even if it took a while to get to the good part.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of Long’s Pennyroyal Green series will be happy to know that this series takes place in the same universe. Watch for the reference!

CONNECTED BOOKS: I’M ONLY WICKED WITH YOU is the third book in the Palace of Rogues series. This book can be read as stand-alone although the supporting characters appear in other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.