Julie Anne Long
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Series or Standalone: The Palace of Rogues #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I was incredibly excited to dive into book two in The Palace of Rogues series after Julie Anne Long teased the couple at the end of Lady Derring Takes a Lover. This book built on everything Long established in book one and made it even better. From the romance to the characters to the story, I enjoyed every minute of reading this book.
Lucien Durand, Lord Bolt, drowned ten years ago in the Thames…or so everyone thought. Imagine the surprise when he shows up at the Grand Palace on the Thames and claims their best rooms. Angelique Breedlove, one of the two proprietresses, knows he’s trouble as soon as he walks through the door. As much as she’d like to stay far away from the man, she cannot help but be drawn into his orbit. Angelique has given up on love after being burned by men in the past. With The Grand Palace on the Thames, she has the freedom and power to do what she wants without having to rely on the benevolence of men in her life. Her growing attraction shakes her, and she’s determined not to give up her heart again.
One of my complaints with the first book in this series was that I found the romance lacking. Luckily, Angel in a Devil’s Arms did not suffer from that problem. The chemistry between Angelique and Lucien was there from page one. Heck, it was even there in the epilogue of book one. There was an instant spark between them that slowly built into a flame that neither of them could ignore even though they tried. Long did a fantastic job building the romantic tension between Lucien and Angelique. The two of them had razor-sharp wits and could sling verbal quips back and forth without a second thought. I loved watching them go toe to toe in front of everyone as they were both flirting without intentionally meaning to.
When they set boundaries to be friends and nothing more, I knew that this book would be a winner for me. That truly ramped up the sexual tension between them, yet also gave them the chance to get to know and trust each other. Both have been burned by love in the past yet want nothing more than to be loved for who they are. But putting your heart on the line is a big risk and one they both struggle to take. I loved how Long slowly built up the tension in their relationship while also allowing them the time to get to know each other. Lucien truly understood where Angelique was coming from with her inability to trust men. Instead of pushing her to accept a relationship she wasn’t ready for, he was willing to go at her pace and take whatever relationship she was prepared to give. I loved that about him. When the drama in their relationship was introduced towards the end, he knew exactly how she would react and why she was going to be hurt before it happened. He didn’t blame her for her reactions at all, which I truly loved. They also talked about the conflict, and when she closes herself off to him, he understands why. I loved how everything in their relationship was resolved in the end as they put their heart on the line by doing the one thing the other had their heart set on initially.
Outside the romance, I felt like this book was an exploration of the theme of love and the different forms it could take. The Grand Palace on the Thames is a labor of love between Delilah and Angelique and represents the love between friends. The folks who live and work there genuinely care for each other and have become a found family. I feel like I would die for Dot and Mr. Delacorte (as would Angelique and Delilah). Meanwhile, with Lucien, we see that love from your family is not a guarantee and that our perception of love changes as we get older. With Angelique, we also see how love can damage and the dangerous consequences it can have for women. I thought it was a fascinating theme to play within a historical romance novel, and I loved the various ways Long explored it through the story.
Long has created such a fantastic cast of characters and world in The Palace of Rogues series. I love the genuine friendships between all the women and how warm and welcoming The Grand Palace on the Thames is. Each character feels three-dimensional, and I have genuinely come to care for everyone, even the secondary folks. Long’s writing is also so clever and wry at times. I frequently found myself grinning and laughing while reading. She manages to capture and express emotions on the page exquisitely. I feel like I have so many highlights of favorite lines and passages from this book.
I wasn’t sure what to expect before diving into The Palace of Rogues series, but I’m shocked at how much I am enjoying it! Each book gets better and better, and I find myself falling more in love with the characters and wishing I could have a stay at the Grand Palace on the Thames. This series hasn’t gotten much hype, but I think it’s an underrated gem. I’m excited to see where Long takes the series in subsequent books, especially as the focus shifts from our leading lady founders of the Grand Palace on the Thames.