Julie Anne Long
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Series or Standalone: The Palace of Rogues #5
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Rape; physical abuse
Returning to The Grand Palace on the Thames ( or TGPOTT as it’s referred to) is like being welcomed home by a dear friend. I adore the Palace of Rogues series so much, and every book I read from Julie Anne Long solidifies her place as one of my favorite historical romance writers. You Were Made to Be Mine is one of the more emotionally heavy books in the series, but Long crafts a beautiful tale of love and resiliency with the romance of Hawkes and Aurelie.
Lady Aurelie Capet fled from France and her fiancé, the Earl of Brundage. To get her back, Brundage enlists the help of legendary spymaster Christian Hawkes, recently released from a French prison for spying. While Hawkes agrees to help Brundage, he has his own motives for doing so as he suspects Brundage is a traitor to the Crown and the reason he ended up in prison. After having her worldview shattered, Aurelie escapes France and ends up at the Grand Palace on the Thames – a little heaven of safety – before making her way to America to meet with her brother. However, when Hawkes falls through the front door of TGPOTT – literally – an unexpected spark alights between Hawkes and Aurelie as they slowly unravel each other’s secrets. Hawkes must balance his growing attraction to Aurelie with his employment by Brundage and his duties to the Crown, while Aurelie needs to reconcile what she wants from her future.
If there were ever a book to make me believe in soulmates, this would be that book. Hawkes and Aurelie felt meant for each other and found each other at the exact right time. It’s risky to have the couple meet for the first time nearly a third of the way into the book, but somehow it worked perfectly in this book. From Hawkes and Aurelie’s first conversation, everything just felt…right. The banter and conversation flowed naturally, and they had a connection that couldn’t be denied. While a lot of the development of their romantic relationship happens in the last 20% or so of the book, I didn’t mind as it just felt right. There was chemistry and attraction between them, but their emotional connection went much deeper than that, making the relationship timeline work.
When it comes to Hawkes and Aurelie, these two were incredibly nuanced and well-drawn characters. Both had been betrayed by those closest to them and dealt a cruel hand by fate. They both suffered different kinds of pain, but I admired that they didn’t let that break them. They turned their pain into strength.
I quickly fell in love with Hawkes as I admired his tenacity, humor and protective nature. This man has a vendetta about Brundage, but he’s willing to go about it slowly and methodically to destroy the man. He knows what he wants and will do anything to get it. I loved his protectiveness – it’s not an overbearing type of proactiveness but one more driven by love and preventing someone you love from feeling pain. His personality sparkled and drew me in as he frequently made me laugh with his little quips. He’s good at what he does and getting others to give him the information he needs, and I loved that. Oh, he’s also got a tattoo, and that’s just hot in a historical romance.
Aurelie is a different kind of strong female lead than I expect. This girl – I just wanted to hug her. All she wanted her whole life was to be loved and wanted. When she thinks she got that, she’s betrayed and violated in the worst possible way. Her worldview got upended, but she doesn’t let that destroy her or define her but instead takes her fate into her own hands. She has a quiet sort of strength to her and confidence that most people overlook. She’s a survivor, and I love how Long handled her emotional journey following what happened to her with Brundage.
Speaking of Brundage, my god, is that man the WORST. He’s an entitled, narcissistic, traitorous pig and I loved watching Hawkes work alongside Hardy, Bolt and the Duke of Valkirk to bring him down. I also really enjoyed the spy/espionage intrigue woven into the plot of this book, as it brought more action than I was expecting.
Outside of our main characters, You Were Made to Be Mine featured many familiar faces from previous books. More so than other books in the Palace of Rogues series, this felt like a full ensemble piece as we got many scenes with some of our previous couples, primarily Angelique and Bolt and Delilah and Hardy. I loved some of the callbacks to earlier books and seeing how these characters and their relationships have grown. My favorite secondary characters, Dot and Mr. Delacorte, continued to steal scenes, and I adored seeing them again. And the whole saga with the footman, which opens and closes the book, was perfectly fitting for TGPOTT.
As I’ve said before, Long has a way with words. Her writing is fantastic as she’s able to masterfully balance all the emotional beats of the story and fully capture the feelings of falling in love. She seamlessly blends the humor and lightheartedness with the serious and emotional. Her characters jump off the page, fully formed with their own unique voice and personality. In this book, I found myself highlighting so many beautiful lines that hit me straight in the emotions, with my favorite being: “She was the heroine of her own story. She would be the victor.” Hawkes and Aurelia’s story is beautifully written, and I adored reading it.
You Were Made to Be Mine was a beautiful, emotional entry to the Palace of Rogues series. Long’s writing and storytelling continue to shine, and I highly recommend picking up this series if you haven’t already. It’s best read in order to appreciate what TGPOTT represents and the characters who inhabit it. I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment of the series to see who the next guests will be and what their romance may entail.
Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own.