My Season of Scandal

My Season of ScandalMy Season of Scandal (The Palace of Rogues, #7) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #7
Published by Avon Books on April 23, 2024
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A captivating and emotionally charged tale of an unlikely love between a world-weary man and an innocent country girl. Long’s signature wit, lyrical prose, and masterful relationship-building are on full display in this seventh installment of the Palace of Rogues series.

THE STORY: Catherine Keating arrives in London for her first season, determined to find a suitable husband. However, the glittering ballrooms and societal expectations prove more daunting than she anticipated. When a chance encounter leads her to the Grand Palace on the Thames, Catherine finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Lord Dominic Kirke, a man known for his fiery speeches in Parliament and his ability to captivate any woman he chooses. As they navigate the season together, attending balls and sharing secret moments, Catherine and Dominic discover a connection that goes beyond mere attraction. But with Dominic’s tragic past and Catherine’s innocence, their love seems doomed from the start. Dominic must decide whether to protect his battered heart or risk everything for the woman who has captured it so completely.

OPINION: Once again, Julie Anne Long has crafted a delightful romance in returning to the Grand Palace on the Thames. The pairing of an older, cynical man and a young, optimistic woman is an unlikely combination that surprises even the characters themselves. Long’s incredible use of language elevates the story, while cameos from beloved characters add depth and continuity to the series.

The emotional journey between Catherine and Dominic is the heart of this book. Their conversations are emotionally resonant, allowing them to understand each other on a profound level. The love they share brings out the best in both of them, a testament to Long’s skill in building relationships. The “tragic past” trope is handled with a fresh perspective, making Dominic’s story compelling and relatable.

The yearning and angst between Catherine and Dominic is palpable, creating a delicious tension that keeps the pages turning. Their secret meetings and desperate attempts to resist their feelings only heighten the slow-burn romance. Watching them navigate their big, scary feelings and put each other’s hearts back together is a beautiful and rewarding experience.

Dominic, usually so eloquent in Parliament, finds himself tongue-tied and baffled by Catherine, who slips under his defenses like water through a leak. Catherine, in turn, refuses to let Dominic hide away from his pain and hurt. The result is a love story that is both tender and passionate, with a satisfying ending that will leave readers sighing with contentment.

WORTH MENTIONING: The secret alcove run-ins and rendezvous add a delightful touch of forbidden romance to the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY SEASON OF SCANDAL is the seventh book in the Palace of Rogues series. While the romance stands alone, reading the series in order provides a richer experience and allows readers to fully appreciate the cameos and connections to previous characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: How to Tame a Wild Rogue

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: How to Tame a Wild RogueHow to Tame a Wild Rogue (The Palace of Rogues, #6) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #6
Published by Avon on July 25, 2023
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series! This is an amazing book that leverages the relationships the series has already developed into a wonderful story of two people who meet by chance, pretend to be married, learn about one another, and fall in love.

THE STORY: On a dark and stormy night, Lorcan St. Leger walks through the London dock areas as a man who has accomplished so much. He managed to raise himself from the slums of St. Giles to become a privateer for the Crown (with some questionable choices along the way), and things seem to be going well. Until he spies a woman climbing out of a window and dangling in the air. That is how St. Leger meets Lady Daphne Worth. Daphne is as desperate as St. Leger is self-satisfied. Forced to take employment due to her family’s reversal of fortune, Daphne had to save herself from assault. When a major storm forces Daphne and St. Leger to take refuge at Grand Palace on the Thames, the two masquerade as a married couple to get a room. It turns out the owners of the Grand Palace are not strangers to either Daphne or St. Leger, which makes their fake marriage even more complicated.

OPINION: I loved this book. It has some great tropes, including forced proximity. So much of the story takes place within the rooms that Daphne and Lorcan rent at the Grand Palace. I’m a sucker for two characters who can talk their way through the book. But don’t be fooled, this book is hot. Nothing is better than sexy talk that just explodes on the page by the end of the slow burn.

I liked these characters. Both Daphne and Lorcan have depth and are just decent people. The story avoids all the cliches and easy answers that I expected in the story. Relationships are messy and complicated, and this book doesn’t shy away from that messiness, whether it be romance, family, or friendships.

Daphne is a woman who has taken on so much burden of caring for her family. No one has taken care of her, and Lorcan, who could have been only concerned with himself, always has a community behind him, whether it be the slums of St. Giles or his crew, always looks out for others even while he tells himself another story of his life. Her strength allowed me to believe the circumstances that surround this book. Daphne is not sheltered even though she has pockets of innocence and naivety. Lorcan is a man who needs to care for others, and his encounter with Daphne gives him something to care about even while he fights those instincts. The decency of these characters and the avoidance of the obvious romantic situations kept me engaged in the book. I was rooting for these two on every page of the book.

While the story takes place primarily within the walls of the Grand Palace, the vibrant community that has been built throughout the series blossoms in this book. The arrival of Daphne and Lorcan causes (or exposes) problems in the household. This book felt so vibrant with all the relationships shifting and being renewed.

I think this is the best book in the series, but it relies upon all the previous books to have so much depth. There is one night in the book that might be the funniest sequence I’ve read in one of Long’s books. It felt like an old sitcom or a 1940s movie comedy. I don’t want to give anything away because it is structured so well, but I loved the entire evening, which was funny but also served as an important catalyst in the book.

We get to see a lot of the people in the Grand Palace, which I really enjoyed because I do love the characters, and I like to see how the Grand Palace is changing and how these people are growing together.

I can’t say enough about this book, and it is definitely my favorite book of the year so far. My last note is that his book has a perfect epilogue that left me feeling so happy about the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew that spillikins could be so sexy?

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOW TO TAME A WILD ROGUE is the sixth book in the Palace of Rogues series. The romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone; however, the other characters matter in this book, and a richer experience awaits those who read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 enthusiastic 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.

five-stars

Review: You Were Made to be Mine

Review: You Were Made to be MineYou Were Made to Be Mine (The Palace of Rogues, #5) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #5
Published by Avon on June 28, 2022
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book suffers from a delayed meeting between the hero and the heroine. There just isn’t enough time for them to meet, fall in love, and resolve both the emotional and plot issues in this book. At the same time, Long, as always, writes so beautifully and lyrically about love and pain. There are passages that just enthralled me.

THE STORY: Christian Hawkes, an English spy, newly freed from a French prison, agrees to find the Earl of Brundage’s fiancee, who has disappeared. Lady Aurelie Capet has fled France and comes to the Grand Palace on the Thames, traveling under a false name and hiding from her fiance. Hawkes soon arrives at the Grand Palace as well. The two are keeping secrets from one another and falling for one another.

OPINION: Mixed feelings about this one. Once the hero and heroine meet, the book has such beauty in it. But the book doesn’t take the time to develop the relationship between these two characters. They meet, and love is quick and fast between them. Most of the book is unwinding the plot with the villain of the novel.

So I loved Hawke and Aurelie; the story was beautiful and painful when they were on the page together. Both have suffered incredible betrayals, which threaten their ability of them to trust other people. Yet, from the start, something between the two is powerful and draws them together.

I wanted to like this book more than I did because I adored the characters. Hawke emerged from being imprisoned during the war, having lost almost everything. What could have made him hard and cruel instead has made him empathetic and understanding. And he is almost immediately willing to give up his own desires to protect Aurelie.

Aurelie could have been destroyed by what happened to her, but instead, she has the inner strength and determination to take control of her own life. One thing I really loved in this book is how these two wounded people recognize both the pain in the other and also the strength and ability to overcome the deep wounding that both experienced.

Hawke is one of my favorite heroes. He is immediately determined to do what is right once he realizes that things are not what was represented to him.

The book also has a good dose of characters we already know from the series, so fans will be pleased to see beloved characters again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book discusses and has rape as a significant plot point, although it occurs off-page before the book begins.

CONNECTED BOOKS: YOU WERE MADE TO BE MINE is the fifth book in the Palace of Rogues series. The romance here is self-contained; thus, the book can be read as a standalone. Characters from the other books do make significant appearances, however, so reading in order provides more depth to the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

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
Goodreads
five-stars

 

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.

 

five-stars

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
Goodreads
four-stars

 

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.

 

four-stars