Julie Anne Long
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Series or Standalone: The Palace of Rogues #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: sexual assualt
I’ve been meaning to read more of Julie Anne Long for ages, and I have finally taken the plunge! I have an ARC of the newest Palace of Rogues book so I decided now is the perfect time to dive into this series. Lady Derring Takes a Lover is the series starter and introduces us to the lovely Grand Palace on the Thames, which serves as the central location for the books in the series. While I’m enjoying this series and the characters, the romance in this fell a bit flat.
After the death of her husband, Delilah Swanpoole, the Countess of Derring, learns she was left penniless…except for an abandoned building down by the dock. After a chance encounter with her husband’s mistress, Angelique Breedlove, both Delilah and Angelique see their future in that abandoned building. They are determined to make it into the best boardinghouse you ever did see. Welcome to the Grand Palace on the Thames! As Delilah and Angelique welcome their first guests, Captain Tristan Hardy is interested in the Grand Palace on the Thames as he thinks it’s connected to a smuggling operation he’s trying to unravel that involves Delilah’s dead husband and foul-smelling cigars. While Tristan is there to uncover information on the smuggling plot, little did he realize he’d have a growing attraction to the proprietress. Both believe love is a myth, but they see an opportunity to find pleasure in each other’s arms.
I love the Grand Palace on the Thames and the cast of characters that Long fills it with. This house was long forgotten and abandoned, but Delilah and Angelique saw its potential and made it into something worthy of attention. Walking through the doors of the Grand Palace on the Thames is like coming home – it’s so warm and welcoming, even with the long list of rules residents must follow. The people who live and stay there imbue it with such life. I loved all the secondary characters, from Dot, the clumsy lady’s maid, to Helga, the masterful chef, to Mr. Delacorte, a gentleman in need of some refinement. I love that the Grand Palace on the Thames offers a haven for those who might not fit in perfectly elsewhere.
This novel does spend quite a bit of time establishing the setting and character of the Grand Palace of the Thames, which I didn’t mind, but I did feel like it pushed the romance to the backseat a little bit.
Personally, the romance between Captain Tristan Hardy and Delilah didn’t work for me. I struggled to connect and get a read on both of their personalities. Angelique was my favorite character of the bunch, and I felt like the secondary characters had more life and energy than our romantic leads. Tristan was very hard to read and very stoic. I thought I’d get more insight into him as a character since the narrative shifts to focus on his POV at times, yet I still found him a bit of a brick wall. Delilah, I struggled with as well, but for different reasons. I liked her character journey since a lot of this book is about finding herself after realizing she had no desire or purpose outside of being a nobleman’s wife. However, something failed to click with me that I cannot put my finger on – I think some of it might be that she came over naive to me even after she’s supposed to regain her power and autonomy.
My struggle to connect to the romantic leads definitely impacted my enjoyment of the romance. I felt like Delilah and Tristan had no chemistry. I didn’t feel any sexual tension between them so when they both realized they were in love, it felt like it came on a bit suddenly. Because of the lack of chemistry, I found I was not super invested in them getting together or not. I honestly became more interested in the mysterious smuggling ring and how that was going to play out than the romance.
Despite not loving the romance in this historical romance, I still enjoyed this novel. Long’s writing style is so fun, and I like the feminist, empowering messages woven throughout. One of the central themes in this book is owning your feelings, owning your pleasure and I think that’s one of the reasons why I love historical romance novels. It celebrates the power that sex and love can bring to women – it doesn’t shame them or shy away from it. Long really embraces that in the story through Delilah’s character arc, and I loved that.
The book’s ending sets up book two perfectly, and I’m dying to get Angelique’s story! I already felt the chemistry between her and the mystery man who rented their largest room from their quick interaction so I have high hopes that the romance in the next book will make up for this one.
While this isn’t my favorite, I think it sets the stage nicely for the rest of the series, which is well worth the read!