Julie Anne Long
Publication Date: August 24, 2021
Series or Standalone: <a href="/tag/the-palace-of-rogues/"The Palace of Rogues #3
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I was a bit nervous going into I’m Only Wicked With You as it is the first book in the Palace of Rogues series that focuses on two guests at the Grand Palace of the Thames who we don’t know super well. However, this book was something extraordinary. Julie Anne Long knocked it out of the park with this one. I swear, each book in the Palace of Rogues series gets better and better.
Lady Lillias Vaughn is the high-born daughter of an earl, destined to marry an earl, while Mr. Hugh Cassidy is a rough and tumble American who has built his own path in life. When the two of them are thrown together during their stays at the Grand Palace on the Thames, they cannot help but push each other’s buttons. While Lady Lillias is nursing a broken heart, she cannot help but be attracted to Hugh. When they get caught in a compromising situation, Hugh does what he needs to protect Lady Lillias’ reputation but is willing to step aside to let her get her happy ending.
This book gave me all the feelings. The romance was the perfect blend of electric chemistry, cutting flirty banter, and some hardcore pining. It was the type of romance that tugs at your heartstrings and hits all the right notes, from the highs and lows of falling in love.
The sexual attraction was immediately apparent between Lillias and Hugh. Despite being from vastly different walks of life, they cannot help but find the other attractive, even if they’re off-limits for the long run. Lillias and Hugh start with a bit of a contentious relationship – he catches her smoking a cheroot and has to tell her parents, who punish her by not letting her leave the Grand Palace on the Thames for a fortnight. From that first encounter on, they both need to needle each other in whatever way they can – it becomes a bit of a competition to see who can one-up the other. But beneath the surface, it’s very much an “I dislike you, but I also really like you” situation going on. The verbal banter back and forth between the two of them is fantastic. I literally could not wait until the two of them finally kissed as romantic tension kept building and building. And when they do kiss, it’s electric.
However, getting their happily ever after ended up really tugging at my heartstrings. First off, Lillias has pined for someone else for years and is nursing a broken heart. She thinks of the thing with Hugh as just a fling. When they might be forced to marry, that’s not what she envisioned. When she sees there is a possibility to get with the man she’s loved for years, she’s willing to take it. And Hugh is ready to step aside to let her find happiness, even if it means breaking his own heart. Both Hugh and Lillias go on a journey to realize the true extent of their feelings for each other. Their relationship is initially built off attraction and lust, but it slowly becomes something deeper and more meaningful to both of them. It’s the best sort of slow build that truly tugged on my heartstrings.
Outside of the romance, I truly loved the characters in this novel. Lillias was not at all what I expected. I thought she’d be a bit spoiled, but she was this incredibly emotionally complex character. She puts on a brave face when she’s nursing a broken heart and trying to figure out how to recenter herself. She truly wants to be loved for who she is, not what she looks like, yet the one person she thought loved her pushed her aside to put his duty to his family over her emotions. Hugh ends up putting her feelings first, which is why they end up working so well in the end. I truly loved him as our romantic lead. He’s made his own path in life and has had a lot of heartache along the way. He’s fancied himself in love with a woman he’s tracking down in England but ends up distracted by Lillias, who awakens something inside him. He’s also a true gentleman, even though he doesn’t have a title. Hugh putting aside his own feelings to ensure Lillias’ happiness is a true sign of love.
In addition to our romantic leads, I truly ended up loving Lady Lillias’ family. Given their nobility, I expected them to act one way, but they ended up surprising me. There is true love and camaraderie between all the members of the Vaughn family. I loved how the Earl of Vaughn was willing to trust his daughter and let her make up her own mind. Both her parents just wanted her to be happy, which feels like the exception in historical romance. I also felt like the Vaughn’s fit in perfectly at the Grand Palace on the Thames, as they added more color to the wonderful cast of characters who reside there.
I feel like this review doesn’t do justice to how fabulous this book is. I honestly couldn’t read the book fast enough and was dying to see what would happen next. Long wrote an emotionally complex love story that truly hits all the right notes and tugs at the heartstrings. I truly loved this one so much and cannot recommend it enough! I feel like the Palace of Rogues series doesn’t get enough hype even though it’s a wonderfully smart and compelling historical romance series. If you haven’t picked up the books yet, I highly recommend adding them to your TBR.