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After Dark with the Duke

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Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series. She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Pal Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series. She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames think they can make a silk purse from scandal: They’ll restore her reputation and share in her triumph...provided they can keep her apart from that other guest. Coldly brilliant, fiercely honorable, General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is revered, feared, desired...but nobody truly knows him. Until a clash with a fiery, vulnerable beauty who stands for everything he scorns lays him bare. It’s too clear the only cure for consuming desire is conquest, but their only chance at happiness could lead to their destruction. The legendary duke never dreamed love would be his last battleground. Valkirk would lay down his life for Mariana, but his choice is stark: risk losing her forever, or do the one thing he vowed he never would...surrender.


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Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series. She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Pal Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series. She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames think they can make a silk purse from scandal: They’ll restore her reputation and share in her triumph...provided they can keep her apart from that other guest. Coldly brilliant, fiercely honorable, General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is revered, feared, desired...but nobody truly knows him. Until a clash with a fiery, vulnerable beauty who stands for everything he scorns lays him bare. It’s too clear the only cure for consuming desire is conquest, but their only chance at happiness could lead to their destruction. The legendary duke never dreamed love would be his last battleground. Valkirk would lay down his life for Mariana, but his choice is stark: risk losing her forever, or do the one thing he vowed he never would...surrender.

30 review for After Dark with the Duke

  1. 4 out of 5

    OLT

    (4.5 stars) I've been whining lately that HRs which appeal to me are as scarce as unicorns. Well, look at this new JAL novel. It's all sparkly, with rainbows and lollipops and flowers all around it. (And is that a horn I see sticking up somewhere?) Yep. This is a good one. Now I can feel okay about my decision to keep reading historical romance in spite of striking out nine times out of ten in my reads. And I really shouldn't like this all that much. It has two things against it. (1) The setting (4.5 stars) I've been whining lately that HRs which appeal to me are as scarce as unicorns. Well, look at this new JAL novel. It's all sparkly, with rainbows and lollipops and flowers all around it. (And is that a horn I see sticking up somewhere?) Yep. This is a good one. Now I can feel okay about my decision to keep reading historical romance in spite of striking out nine times out of ten in my reads. And I really shouldn't like this all that much. It has two things against it. (1) The setting is still that Grand Palace boardinghouse on the Thames, for the fourth straight book. When I reviewed book #3 of this series I had complained (yeah, I complain a lot) about being bored with the boardinghouse and wanted JAL to move on to a new series and a new setting. And (2) there's an age gap here between our H and h that's above the limit I prefer. He's 43 and she is 25. That's all well and good for the here and now but I think about HEAs and forevers and see, down the road a few years, the H's need for (non-existent-at-the-time) Viagra, and, even further down the forever road, a relatively spry 72-year-old wife taking care of a much older 90-year-old husband. But then, this is book fantasy world so I need to ignore those nagging thoughts and enjoy that here-and-now romance. In spite of the 18-year age gap, the H and h seem to be well matched here. In the first place, the h, Mariana Wylde, is an opera singer and no virginal, innocent miss that an older hero might be tempted to call "Little One." (An endearment that I always hated in Georgette Heyer's THESE OLD SHADES.) No, Mariana Wylde has lived on her own in the world, has become a popular opera singer and has even taken lovers. The only problem in her life at the moment is that her ex-lover has recently fought a duel over her and she is the one left with the tarnished reputation and the epithet "Harlot of Haywood Street," with no job and no money and nowhere to live. In desperation, she heads to the Grand Palace on the Thames to hide herself away, and our two exceptional and beloved owners ("beloved" assuming you've read the first books of the series) agree to her staying there for free room and board in exchange for her giving a one-night concert in their new ballroom a month down the road. Meanwhile, we have 43-year-old General James Blackmore, Duke of Valkirk, also a boarder there. He's also hiding away, in a manner of speaking, trying to overcome his writer's block and get his memoirs written with no distractions. Valkirk is handsome and very well put together for his age (must have that, ya know, for our sexy times) but is also very honorable and strict and straitlaced. From the get-go he does not approve of Mariana, having preconceived ideas about her from all the gossip which surrounds her. And there you go. The plot is simple, the outcome assured, but it's the getting to the HEA that's so very lovely and satisfying. And the writing is superb. Julie Anne Long is, for me, one of the top Queens of Swoony Romance and always has been, since her first book in 2004. She develops her characters excellently, even the secondary ones, in so much more depth than most HR authors. She writes with humor. Her dialogue sparkles. She makes me believe in love, not groan at the sappiness of it. And when she writes intimate scenes, they fit in with the overall relationship and add to it, rather than feeling like tacked on pages of sex for titillation purposes. All in all, this may not be perfect but it's getting 5 stars from me because it's far and away better than anything else I've read lately. And now I'm looking forward to the next JAL release, whenever that may be. Thanks to Ms Long, I still believe in romance novels. (And even, maybe, in unicorns.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    WhiskeyintheJar

    3.5 stars I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Through her slitted curtains, she’d looked down into upraised fists and furious, snarling faces shaping the word over and over: harlot harlot harlot. After a duel is fought and a Lord is injured, Mariana is blamed in the public eye. She's an opera singer who now has no popularity and starting to fear for her safety. Knowing about Mrs. Breedlove and 3.5 stars I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Through her slitted curtains, she’d looked down into upraised fists and furious, snarling faces shaping the word over and over: harlot harlot harlot. After a duel is fought and a Lord is injured, Mariana is blamed in the public eye. She's an opera singer who now has no popularity and starting to fear for her safety. Knowing about Mrs. Breedlove and the twists and turns her life has taken, Mariana has heard that The Grand Palace on the Thames can be a safe spot, so she decides to hideout there for awhile. From farmer, to soldier, to Duke, General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, has hit writer's block on his memoirs and decides a change of scenery is in order. He decides on an inn by the docks that no one would think to look for him there. James knows about Mariana's reputation and Mariana can't help poking England's most honorable hero but when some unfriendly wordplay leads to the two having private Italian lessons, they begin to find something in the other they've been searching for. She didn’t even precisely know what she wanted from him. Apart, perhaps, from being seen. Fourth in The Palace of the Rogues series, this keeps us at the inn we've all grown to love with all it's characters. The last book had me pulling on the reigns to break free from the location but, for the most part, I found myself cozily settled in this time. Whether due to reading this during the holiday season where intimate settings with close friends and family just hits me better or Mariana and James had a better chemistry that they could carry the story, I found I didn't mind the one-stop setting. This does mean that this would be harder to just jump into the series here, however, readers of the series will enjoy our patronesses with glimpses of their husbands, and all our favorite guests, with a strong showing by Dot as she and Mariana share a love of learning new words. He was very brisk, frequently impatient, but always respectful and polite, and unless she counted the occasional devastatingly sensual smile that implied he knew precisely what she was up to, he did not take up the flirtation baton that she could not resist, every now and then, extending. This is an age gap story with Mariana at 25 years old and James 43 years old. In the beginning, as their relationship started to develop, I did feel some hero worship from Mariana's side which made their age difference glaring obvious but as their chemistry took up, this faded away. With age gap, there is some enemies-to-lovers as James thinks Mariana is frivolous and uncaring because of the gossip about the duel. When he learns the truth, his perception changes and we get some great threads about women's power, agency, and thin line they must tread during this time. Mariana is an opera singer and staying popular is her life blood, so this involves flirting and playing nice, even if she doesn't want to and with her younger age, not always having the experience needed for certain situations. He realized he’d lately taken to saying things to get her to laugh, the way he might reflexively open a window to allow in fresh air. There's some machinations to get these two together, Mariana gets to stay at the inn because she'll pay her way with a performance our patronesses decide they need to hold in their new ballroom and James ends up having to give Mariana Italian lessons as a “punishment” because those same patronesses decide he must be reprimanded for that unfriendly world play I mentioned earlier. Nothing feels too unbelievable to go along with and around 40% when James hears the truth about the duel from Mariana, these two really started to pull me in. I thought the whole “Harlot of Haywood Street” and “Valorous Valkirk” was an interesting premise and I ended up enjoying how layered their relationship ended up feeling and built. When James realizes the danger he's in, in regards to falling for Mariana, he tries to pull away but Mariana calls him on it and at 60% they have their first kiss. She wanted to be alone for a while in a room where, for the first time in her life, a man had come to her defense. Most of the story is the heated building promise of could be between these two and I enjoyed how the author gave us fully formed characters that could stand on their own, giving me the opportunity to see and feel all the ways they could fit together. James with his war career, caring the burden of being England's honorable hero, his marriage, widowhood, and feelings on his son and then Mariana with the pain of her father's death, her worry over her mother, and learning how to navigate the world. These two hit the sheets later in the story but I almost enjoyed their heated conversations and looks more. Holding her was the only comfort he’d truly known. Possibly the only peace he’d truly known. Because peace was being known. The last 20% ended up feeling a little rushed for me, at 87% James makes an offer to Mariana that at that point and time in a story, I'm not sure I want to see from my hero as he should know the heroine by now, and then the make-up ending declaration gave me more of that rushed feeling and I wasn't quite satisfied as I thought Mariana deserved more. At that point, I can't say I totally felt I believed in a happily ever after for these two, thinking about their positions in life, the way this particular story was written. There's a compacted epilogue that tries to give us that fairy tale ending to strengthen the idea of their HEA but with it's time jumps, it didn't completely work for me. Overall, though, I enjoyed this addition and time spent at The Grand Palace on the Thames, all our favorite characters are there and Mariana and James provided some welcome heat.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Princess under cover

    Hallelujah!! Julie Anne Long is BACK! I admit I have been worried. She has always been one of my fave HR authors, top 3 for sure! Right up there with Lisa Kleypas and Elizabeth Hoyt (when they were still burning bright, TBD recently). When JAL started this series, I wasn't terribly keen. I didn't even realize this is book 4, thought it was book 3. The first 2 books I do recall reading and they were...OK. I missed the romance in those books and I felt like there was more love JAL had with her own w Hallelujah!! Julie Anne Long is BACK! I admit I have been worried. She has always been one of my fave HR authors, top 3 for sure! Right up there with Lisa Kleypas and Elizabeth Hoyt (when they were still burning bright, TBD recently). When JAL started this series, I wasn't terribly keen. I didn't even realize this is book 4, thought it was book 3. The first 2 books I do recall reading and they were...OK. I missed the romance in those books and I felt like there was more love JAL had with her own words than love between the MCs. Now, THIS book, is not the case. This is CLASSIC JAL! The focus is on the romance YES!!! From chap 3 when they first met... Oh the tension! The wit! The flawed MCs. And yet so compelling! And how the Hero capitulates in the end with a swoon-worthy declaration of love! CLASSIC!! Historical Romance at its best! Love love love. I will be buying this book. Welcome back JAL! P.S. Not fond of the cover. Esp. the male model.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Liese

    Happy Pub Day to AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE! Thank you to Avon and NetGalley for the advance review copy; all opinions are my own. It's no secret that I love Julie Anne Long's writing, especially her Pennyroyal Green Series, but AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE has just moved up as one of my all-time favorites of hers. JAL's balance of engaging plot and deeply character-driven storytelling, her flair for sparkling love interests with smoldering chemistry, feisty repartee, and sharp wit, is at its finest in Happy Pub Day to AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE! Thank you to Avon and NetGalley for the advance review copy; all opinions are my own. It's no secret that I love Julie Anne Long's writing, especially her Pennyroyal Green Series, but AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE has just moved up as one of my all-time favorites of hers. JAL's balance of engaging plot and deeply character-driven storytelling, her flair for sparkling love interests with smoldering chemistry, feisty repartee, and sharp wit, is at its finest in this story of a national legend, the noble, proper, serious retired General James, Duke of Valkirk, and the feisty, resilient, talented but down-on-her luck opera star, Mariana. Their backgrounds, stations, and circumstances couldn't be more different, but their stay at The Grand Palace on The Thames brings them together, and under the pressure cooker of forced proximity, their clashing encounters which evoke the delicious sharp-tongued, mounting tension a la Darcy and Lizzie in Pride & Prejudice, unfurl into an achingly romantic hot slow-burn, a gradual, witty, tender unfurling of emotional vulnerability and ultimately profound intimacy that is physical, emotional, even spiritual. James and Mariana's romance captures love's triumph over fear, its call to live beyond the safe confines of identities and beliefs that no longer are true to us, and its powerful gift in liberating us to cherish and be cherished as our honest selves. Content notes: sexual assault (in past but revisited in present and discussed), financial anxiety.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Loves Reading

    4.25 stars on a Julie Anne Long scale, which is a 3 to 5+ star scale (it’s a very scientific scale). Look, there’s an argument that can be made that JAL is my favorite author. I have not only read all of her novels but reread most of them. They will all be reread at some point. There are at least 5 of her stories that I will happily sink into at any given time. So I really do rate her books against her books. And this one was great. It was wonderful. The characters were flawed with lonely souls 4.25 stars on a Julie Anne Long scale, which is a 3 to 5+ star scale (it’s a very scientific scale). Look, there’s an argument that can be made that JAL is my favorite author. I have not only read all of her novels but reread most of them. They will all be reread at some point. There are at least 5 of her stories that I will happily sink into at any given time. So I really do rate her books against her books. And this one was great. It was wonderful. The characters were flawed with lonely souls finding a person that truly sees them, and that is a beautiful thing. But it’s not really a criticism to say that I didn’t find it as interesting as some of my absolute favorites. It met my very high expectations but didn’t exactly exceed them. This is a may-December romance, and it was pulled off with aplomb. The falling in love was the best aspect of the story. It took its time and believably brought down the walls between the h&h. I am not much of a fan of May-December romances, unless JAL writes them. Most don’t even try these days, but it’s tricky convincing readers that a young woman holds her own against commanding duke heroes. And here there’s never a doubt that she does, and that speaks to JALs skill. I recommend this to most HR readers, particularly if looking for a story with a convincing romance that stays focused on the h&h. If looking for one with a bit more adventure and complexity of plot, I have suggestions for other JALs.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Blackjack

    4.5 I am so very grateful to JAL for bumping me out of my reading slump. She is a long-time favorite writer of mine, but I have to admit that I haven't been enraptured with the Palace of the Rogues books - until now! After Dark with the Duke is the best of the series easily, but it is also one of her best books overall in a large cannon of some very good books. Everything that I love about this author is here in full force and I look forward to rereading it after some time has passed. Mariana Wyld 4.5 I am so very grateful to JAL for bumping me out of my reading slump. She is a long-time favorite writer of mine, but I have to admit that I haven't been enraptured with the Palace of the Rogues books - until now! After Dark with the Duke is the best of the series easily, but it is also one of her best books overall in a large cannon of some very good books. Everything that I love about this author is here in full force and I look forward to rereading it after some time has passed. Mariana Wylde is talented young opera singer struggling to thrive in a creepily sexist profession of groping male fans and sexual harassment from male managers. She holds dear to the Italian word "rispetto" early in the novel, and as a harbinger for the respect she craves and in the end demands from her relationship with the man with whom she falls in love. When she is unfairly rumored to have instigated a duel between two drunken aristocrats vying for her affections, she flees to none other than the Grand Palace on the Thames, a now apparently favorite retreat for misfits of all sorts. Donned with the ugly epithet "Harlot of Haywood Street," she is graciously welcomed to this respite by both proprietors, Delilah and Angelique, as another nonconforming woman in need of sanctuary. She is not, however, accepted into this world unreservedly though because the guest of honor has a giant stick stuck so far up his rear he's barely human in the first few chapters. I think we need an over-the-top moralist like Gen. James Duncan Blackmore, Duke of Valkirk, to get to the heart of some of the issues here, not least of which is the double standards that allow men to take without censure in life and women to be demonized for the exact same behavior. James represents the suffocating honor that sets the moral standards of society, even while it is slowly killing him. He is the character in the book most in need of change and Long does a fabulous job with him as he progresses through the stages of understanding Mariana's predicament to empathizing with her experiences to relinquishing the standards imposed on him. The social mores that constrain James slowly crumble over the course of the novel as he slowly recognizes that the intellectual and sexual compatibility of the woman he is falling in love with are at tragic odds with the sterile and loveless life awaiting him without her. This is the odd JAL novel where I identified a bit more with the hero, mainly because his changes are so much more significant than Mariana's. Mariana understands all too well that her reputation is a near insurmountable obstacle for a life with James, and yet it is a life she requires of him. The novel is on the one hand an obvious morality tale of how society condemns women after stripping them of agency and choices, but in JAL's hands, it is also a subtle exploration of two people falling in love and lowering their own barriers to be seen by their beloved and to allow themselves to be vulnerable with another person. The story is never better than the exquisite moments where they discover each other. Some small deductions due to the overly quick resolution of the final quarter of the novel. Once Mariana and James engage in a secret affair, I wanted more time with them together as a couple. Nevertheless, the art of falling in love is captured so wonderfully in this book and makes this one of my favorite romances of 2021. I will also say that for the first time in this series, I felt that the unconventional relationships from Delilah and Angelique and the other offbeat characters in the book came together to show James a world where people can find their own path to happiness. I've at times been unsatisfied with the sometimes claustrophobic setting of this series, but it worked here mainly because it all came together as an alternative to the claustrophobic nature of society at large.

  7. 5 out of 5

    emtee

    Man, this book put me through the wringer… in the very best way. So many feels! I laughed out loud, was angry enough to mutter choice words under my breath, was filled with breathless anticipation because of the slow burn, swooned at the intensity between the duke and Mariana, felt my heart ache and then break, like it was crushed beneath a boot, cried and sighed and smiled. It’s a very talented author indeed, who can make a reader feel such feelings. The sound reached him before he’d fully desce Man, this book put me through the wringer… in the very best way. So many feels! I laughed out loud, was angry enough to mutter choice words under my breath, was filled with breathless anticipation because of the slow burn, swooned at the intensity between the duke and Mariana, felt my heart ache and then break, like it was crushed beneath a boot, cried and sighed and smiled. It’s a very talented author indeed, who can make a reader feel such feelings. The sound reached him before he’d fully descended. His breath caught. He stopped abruptly. She was singing. And oh, the sound. Full-throated, glorious waves of it reached him through the walls as though he was hearing it from a distance as far away as heaven. And he moved toward it. Slowly. Breath shallow, heart beating slow and absurdly hard. Entering to witness her seemed like something he had irrevocably forfeited the right to do. But it seemed he could neither stop nor deny himself, because stealthily, quietly, as though he was stealing this moment, he moved into the room and pressed himself against the wall. Mariana was onstage, head tipped back, eyes closed. Her arms, crossed over her chest, unfurled outward as the note she held grew in breadth and depth until he could feel it everywhere in his body. He was motionless. Held fast by awe. That such a small person should possess such power. It wasn’t just the volume, which seemed otherworldly. He was helpless against the tide of its outrageous beauty, against the sorrow and yearning. He couldn’t recall the last waking moment he’d felt truly helpless. He couldn’t remember the last time he wasn’t at least somewhat conscious of the full weight of who he was. But all of it was borne up, and then away, on her voice. He’d hurt her, and this glory was what she’d done with her pain. Suffice it to say he felt things. Things for which he had no vocabulary, possibly because they could not be captured in mere words. She hurled skyward a final glistening note, and held it aloft, elongating until its edges frayed with a sort of weary, bitter triumph. Then, like a handful of leaves tossed, down in half steps the notes drifted into a forever-altered silence. Battlefields had that kind of silence, he thought, even when the smoke had cleared and the bodies buried. One always sensed something of consequence had happened there. And when that last note receded like floodwaters, hidden things were suddenly revealed to him: old wounds and terrible griefs and guilts. Dormant ecstasies and needs. Much love also for Mr Delacorte, Dot and Mrs Parsineau, side characters who felt like old friends of mine. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of Julie Anne Long, or if you’re in the mood for a ton of feels and a story that’s intensely focused on two people and their journey of discovery and falling in love, without a lot of outside distractions. The low stone walls along the walk leading to the house had been battered a bit by the weather; wildflowers were peeping through. “You’re done for, walls,” he thought, amused and sympathetic. “The wildflowers will win.” They could be built up again. But his own walls were rubble. Absolute smithereens, like the vase he’d hurled. They could not be rebuilt. Which was all to the good: he didn’t want them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Debby*BabyDee

    "After Dark with the Duke" (The Palace of Rogues) was just wonderfully written and a somewhat love story that had its complications. The heroine, Mariana is a well-known opera singer and very successful at her profession. Unfortunately, she likes to flirt a bit and that flirtation has imploded into a duel between to close admirers and subsequently tarnishing her reputation and career. Worse yet, she is being blamed for the fiasco and takes seclusion at the Grand Palace on the Thames. Her place o "After Dark with the Duke" (The Palace of Rogues) was just wonderfully written and a somewhat love story that had its complications. The heroine, Mariana is a well-known opera singer and very successful at her profession. Unfortunately, she likes to flirt a bit and that flirtation has imploded into a duel between to close admirers and subsequently tarnishing her reputation and career. Worse yet, she is being blamed for the fiasco and takes seclusion at the Grand Palace on the Thames. Her place of refuge is a humble one and has its strict rules of the occupants that stay there. While there are other guests who reside in the Palace, there is one duke...the Duke of Valkirk who raised himself from a lowly stature to becoming a well-known General and appointed Duke for all of his bravery. He is there to write his memoir and eventually marry. It is unfortunate that when Mariana meets him, she sees an icy and uptight man. There are so many impossibilities with this story and the relationship between Marian and James. She is an opera singer and he is a Duke who has valor and a a relationship between the two could jeopardize all that they have accomplished in their lives. This was trope of enemies to lovers and angst that you just had to love it. I love the combative play off both characters and each not willing to back down on their convictions. This was a slow developing love story between the hero/heroine that subsequently leads them to love and learning to understand one another and their lives. I loved the plot, whit and the characters that make the Grand Palace come alive again. The growing romance to love and HEA was heavenly. This was one well-written and heartfelt story that I recommend reading. Having not had a chance to read the others in this series, I plan on catching up soon. Thank you NetGalley and Avon and Harper Voyager for this ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review. All opinions in this review are my own.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah B.

    ✨Voglio scoparti.✨ The ending was cute but idk these two Julie Anne Long books haven’t convinced me that I want to read any more. I like her characters’ pluck and the humor of it all but there’s just something (besides from sex) missing for me. I’ve been told to try some of her earlier books so that’ll be the journey I have. I didn’t hate my life and did enjoy the beginning probably 40%? But then things just got messy but not a hot smearing-food-on-each-other’s-bodies messy. I’m a hypocrite I adm ✨Voglio scoparti.✨ The ending was cute but idk these two Julie Anne Long books haven’t convinced me that I want to read any more. I like her characters’ pluck and the humor of it all but there’s just something (besides from sex) missing for me. I’ve been told to try some of her earlier books so that’ll be the journey I have. I didn’t hate my life and did enjoy the beginning probably 40%? But then things just got messy but not a hot smearing-food-on-each-other’s-bodies messy. I’m a hypocrite I admit but his characterization of his first marriage and infidelity just rankled. I get that I got over it in The Ugly Duchess. I’m a hypocrite. I. Get. It. Idk. Julie hasn’t proven herself to me like Eloisa yet. Like that was kind of the beginning of the end for me. I definitely could have looked over it if he wasn’t such a toad to her or if the sex was better. Alas. The two promises I felt like I was made at the beginning of this book were that he was going to shoot someone for her and she was going to get kicked out of the inn. I suppose she did do something that “could” have gotten her kicked out, but he shot nobody. He just kept bringing it up how he would NEVER be so overcome he’d go out cock and guns blazing. Therefore, I was really hoping for him to go a bit nutty. He had the audacity to ask her to be his mistress NOT bc mistresses are bad if they wanna be mistresses but he is too embarrassed to marry her and THAT is insulting. I’m so confused why he was confused that she thought that he thought she was a harlot and that he was embarrassed of her…when he was the first one to believe the gossip and didn’t want to be seen with her. I thought I could get over it but here we are and I’m not over it. His reaction in the beginning was bad and definitely could’ve been redeemed, but I just don’t think I felt that in his character arc. He may love HER but how would he judge another woman in her same situation? Fairly? Idk. Oh also! He came inside her right after the mistress talk! Love to see it. I loved the Italian lessons and their passion together, but the sex sucked. Plain and simple. Did he ever even bring back dirty talk in Italian? Maybe something a bit more nuanced than ‘voglio scoparti’ but tbh that would’ve done the trick. (I definitely could be forgetting if he did bring it back up so lemme know!) It was a bit more than fade to black but it was rarely a detailed view and often summarized a chapter later. Truths they reveal during sex were also summarized. Why not show not tell both??? These two were hornier than unicorns for each other and they deserve pages of explicit sex. Not foreplay and orgasmic finale in the same paragraph. Do I think they belong together? Yeah I think the book proved that. Do I think he deserves her? I can’t really say that I do. This book got above three stars from me because I did like 40% of the story and believed the romance. I just never fully connected with either character, the story delivery, or the fact that this man literally didn’t go to her performance at the inn. I get it was for “good” purposes but what the fuck. I do really enjoy Long’s writing style and wit so that does compel me to her backlist. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.25/5 🌶🌶.5/5 P.S. It’s an age gap romance but the age gap has like no significance on anything. It’s not a barrier to them getting together, despite his son being 22, her being 25, and him being 43.

  10. 5 out of 5

    PlotTrysts

    Julie Anne Long continues to write beautiful prose and create authentic, enjoyable characters. The Palace of Rogues series has been a gem, with hilarious ensemble comedy, poignant emotion, and of course the happily ever after we all crave from the romance genre. After Dark with the Duke continues the series with a match between an up-and-coming opera singer and a silver fox war hero duke. The book hits all the right notes. Mariana shows James that the world is not as black-and-white as he once b Julie Anne Long continues to write beautiful prose and create authentic, enjoyable characters. The Palace of Rogues series has been a gem, with hilarious ensemble comedy, poignant emotion, and of course the happily ever after we all crave from the romance genre. After Dark with the Duke continues the series with a match between an up-and-coming opera singer and a silver fox war hero duke. The book hits all the right notes. Mariana shows James that the world is not as black-and-white as he once believed, and he shows her that she is worthy of love and respect. That said, the fact that this is a relationship with a nearly 20-year age gap (he's 43 and she's 25) AND some forced proximity because he's tutoring her... was tough for us to read. His son is 3 years younger than Mariana! While the relationship is presented in historical context, and he is considering marriage to a debutante years younger than either his son or Mariana, still doesn't distract from the absolute value of the age gap. We realize that this is personal preference, but it made the book a tough sell for (one of) us - because Laine didn't really care at all! 11-Word Summaries: Laine: Judgmental Duke is brought to heel by a scandalous opera singer. Meg: Mariana’s got James singing - me voici me voici militaire et mari! This objective review is based on a complimentary advanced reader copy of the novel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    3.5 to 4 stars. One of the better books of this series. I did not really enjoy #3, but this one was much more enjoyable. I liked the development of the attraction and relationship between the MCs. I wondered how a duke who was a famous war hero and a scandalous, lower-class opera singer could end up having their HEA. But the writer did pull it off, and the ending was very nice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jultri

    3.5/5. JAL is her own worst enemy, because some of her past books (read: most of the Pennyroyal Green series) have been of such superior quality that she set the bar too high for subsequent books to follow, including her own. While this is definitely better than book 1 (I skipped Books 2 and 3) it is nowhere near her best. Mariana is the opera singer whose dramatic fall from grace represents all that is tawdry. Valkirk is the respected general whose war heroisms earned him a dukedom. His accolad 3.5/5. JAL is her own worst enemy, because some of her past books (read: most of the Pennyroyal Green series) have been of such superior quality that she set the bar too high for subsequent books to follow, including her own. While this is definitely better than book 1 (I skipped Books 2 and 3) it is nowhere near her best. Mariana is the opera singer whose dramatic fall from grace represents all that is tawdry. Valkirk is the respected general whose war heroisms earned him a dukedom. His accolades define him and he continues to live by the strict codes of his highly regarded reputation, the epitome of honor while she is the antithesis of all that he stands for. Antagonism is bound to happen when they they both find themselves residents at The Grand Palace on the Thames. The heroine is appropriately independent and resilient and there's much to admire about her. However, despite Mariana's strong points, her evolving relationship with the duke was not one of equals. Their significant age difference (his 43 to her 25) and his powerful position as a peer and respected general to give orders made her seem like a recalcitrant youngster who gave him some cheek, but really was no match for his wit nor experience. The sexual attraction was definitely there from the beginning, but I didn't really buy the romance. The setting is already feeling claustrophobic and too restrictive, the recurring characters especially the heroines from books 1 and 2 getting a bit tedious. Having said that, I can't get enough of the adorable and effervescent Dot (maid)! Rounded up after I reread the quotes. She supposed she was glad he’d been the one standing between the English and the French. But she was also glad there was bird shite all over his statue in Hyde Park. But most females did try to impress him. He wished they would not try. It was like being flogged with little satin ribbons, repeatedly. He supposed there were men who might enjoy and even pay for ribbon-flogging, but he found it confounding and pointless. A bit like shadowboxing. She began to suspect, with a certain thrill and uneasiness that accompanies walking the ledge of a tall building, that he was, in fact, capable of devastating charm. He just hadn’t seen fit to expend any of it on her thus far. It occurred to her that this was likely a mercy. He realized he’d lately taken to saying things to get her to laugh, the way he might reflexively open a window to allow in fresh air. She wasn’t complaining about any of it. But through her words ran a current of almost bewildered wistfulness, as though the life she’d imagined was something she could see receding inexorably into the distance. Borne away by the damned caprices of fate, like a boat that had slipped its moorings while she stood on the shore. How difficult would it be to find and keep one’s bearings in life when the road wasn’t at all defined? When life came at you as though you were a moving target? Loneliness was so much a part of him now that at times it seemed to be the inalienable force, like gravity, that held him to the earth. The invisible plinth that held him up and apart from everyone else. It was simply the fact of who he was. It came along with the supposed greatness. “Because if I were to kiss you, Miss Wylde . . .” He jabbed a period at the end of a sentence and looked up at her. “It would ruin you for all other men.” He did not lift a brow. He didn’t duck his head to fix her with a smolder. Such embellishments were wholly unnecessary. After all, everyone understood what went on inside volcanos. It was why one did not recklessly tiptoe about their rims. But he saw nothing to lament, unless it was the passage of time. He looked the way a man ought to when he’d lived a life like his. He’d seen himself reflected in the eyes of women and men; he was satisfied with what they reflected back to him. There were any number of times in her life when she had asked, “Why me?” But she knew the answer to that was, “Why not you?” Fate had such an insouciant shrug it must be French. This adulation and gratitude formed the confines of his world. He was a blessed man. He was a trapped man.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves

    I like the h. She's a real (saucy) sweetheart. And the H is quite her opposite. A large and larger-than-life character. So honorable that he's an ass. If you love May-Dec romances (like me), then it's not to be missed because good ones are so rare. He's 43 to her 25, and has a 22 yo married son. (view spoiler)[ I did not quite get the era - Late Georgian or Regency? In his (ill-fated) memoirs, he starts writing about 1799, somewhere in India; once Waterloo's mentioned and another time - that the I like the h. She's a real (saucy) sweetheart. And the H is quite her opposite. A large and larger-than-life character. So honorable that he's an ass. If you love May-Dec romances (like me), then it's not to be missed because good ones are so rare. He's 43 to her 25, and has a 22 yo married son. (view spoiler)[ I did not quite get the era - Late Georgian or Regency? In his (ill-fated) memoirs, he starts writing about 1799, somewhere in India; once Waterloo's mentioned and another time - that the war's been over for 5 years. But nothing substantive or clearly. So perhaps, we are somewhere in 1820. She's a cobbler's daughter and is now a disgraced opera singer. He's a farmer's son but his ambition and focus has seen him rise dramatically through the ranks to become a general and a duke (erm, Wellington anyone?). So, he's very aware of his aura and glory and the expectations of the public etc. They come together at the 'inn/boardinghouse' run by the previous two hs (this is my first book of the series) and he considers her beneath even his contempt. While he easily put her out of his mind she seethes doubly because of the insult and her own attraction to him. “They regarded each other in silence. Hers purely dumbstruck. His unmoved.” Her fall into disgrace involves a duel by two young suitors where one guy gets shot. And by the given double standards of the time, she's judged harshly (when she did nothing to actually instigate) and is condemned by the ton and the general public. Her career is in ruins, her life in danger and while on the run, she finds this place and is graciously let in - despite her notoriety and inability to pay. Btw, I love that she's not a virgin and has had a lover (the shooter actually is her ex)- not because she had to but because she wanted to and in fact enjoyed the sex. “I have always tried very hard to be good. But he was very handsome, and a lord, and he said to me things like “beautiful” and “bewitching.” These initial few chapters with the battle-lines drawn (in the drawing room) between the mcs, are the best thing about the book. I immensely enjoyed this battle of the wits and sexes. They are evenly matched - she's so good at trampling on his snobbish dignity while he shows her her place every time in return. He insults her a bit too much once and the two ladies of the house punish him by making him give her Italian lessons. Oh and it was so sweet the way the h sings the opera pieces without even understanding a word of Italian that she sings. Like a parrot. And it's during these lessons that they come close. And then even more so. While we can see that he cares for her, he's bound by his own persona or cares too much for public opinion. And so he hurts her. My heart really broke for this little fighter. “When in doubt and backed into a corner of her own making, embrace bravado for all it was worth: that was her credo.” It's a great story and even better story-telling but in the middle, the round and round of the same things, even if good becomes tedious. And so much inner monologue >> is nothing but overthinking. There were a few times when I felt things were getting tad cheesy especially with the duke's overemotional analyzing of things. I really don't think a man thinks like this. Actually, all my grievances with book can be put down to the fact that it was so good and original that even the littlest nag or drag disappointed me. There are so many small and sweet touches in the book - like the letter the h think she owes her mother but never gets down to actually write it. Her musings on it change daily with her moods and the H's latest affronts. Their skirmishes, of course. Or the way she loves negotiating. Or the way she needles him on why Chess has no dukes. (hide spoiler)]

  14. 5 out of 5

    aarya

    2021 Winter Bingo (#SnowInLoveBingo❄️): Sparring (Verbal or Physical) JAL is an engrossing writer but there are enough plot inconsistencies and lingering questions that irked me. Recommended for lovers of age-gap romance, haughty dukes struggling with a mid-life crisis, and a down-on-her-luck opera singer refusing to let life defeat her. I particularly liked the found family aspect of the boardinghouse — if that’s the series premise, I’ll definitely check out other books in The Palace of Rogu 2021 Winter Bingo (#SnowInLoveBingo❄️): Sparring (Verbal or Physical) JAL is an engrossing writer but there are enough plot inconsistencies and lingering questions that irked me. Recommended for lovers of age-gap romance, haughty dukes struggling with a mid-life crisis, and a down-on-her-luck opera singer refusing to let life defeat her. I particularly liked the found family aspect of the boardinghouse — if that’s the series premise, I’ll definitely check out other books in The Palace of Rogues. Let the maid Dot have a book, please! Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    RachelReadsandSings

    Julie Anne Long has been a little bit of a hit or miss author for me, but this was definitely a HIT in every sense of the word. Oh my GOD literally everything about this was PERFECTION. I LOVED how different these 2 main characters are. James is a 43 year old widower who earned his dukedom from his service to England, and Mariana is a 25 year old opera singer who has found herself disgraced due to 2 idiots fighting a duel over her. The way James and Mariana’s relationship started as verbal sparri Julie Anne Long has been a little bit of a hit or miss author for me, but this was definitely a HIT in every sense of the word. Oh my GOD literally everything about this was PERFECTION. I LOVED how different these 2 main characters are. James is a 43 year old widower who earned his dukedom from his service to England, and Mariana is a 25 year old opera singer who has found herself disgraced due to 2 idiots fighting a duel over her. The way James and Mariana’s relationship started as verbal sparring between the two of them (James judges Mariana at first for the gossip about her in the papers and Mariana believes him to just be a cold duke) and turns into a slow burn and tender romance filled with vulnerability and passion is simply exquisite. Y’all….I cried SO MUCH at the ending. I can’t get over how James showed Mariana how much he truly loves her. The grand gestures were EVERYTHING!! GAH so beautiful 😭😭😭😭😭 PS I really appreciate how the age gap wasn’t ever brought up as a reason why they couldn’t be together! How refreshing. **Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-arc in exchange for an honest review**

  16. 5 out of 5

    Saby Westcliff Bedwyn

    This book wrecked me. Easily one of the best HRs I've read, and I can't find one thing I'd criticize about it. There's a reason I faithfully read everything Julie Ann Long has written. Sometimes, I run into a dud or two, but generally, her books have that magical escapism quality that simply transports me to a different world, which is the whole point of reading HR for me. :) I am a sucker for a cold Duke, and a down-on-her-luck heroine in HR, and Valkirk and Mariana are stellar. The plot, the wr This book wrecked me. Easily one of the best HRs I've read, and I can't find one thing I'd criticize about it. There's a reason I faithfully read everything Julie Ann Long has written. Sometimes, I run into a dud or two, but generally, her books have that magical escapism quality that simply transports me to a different world, which is the whole point of reading HR for me. :) I am a sucker for a cold Duke, and a down-on-her-luck heroine in HR, and Valkirk and Mariana are stellar. The plot, the writing, characterization - everything here was top notch. I actually haven't read the previous books in this series, and was nervous about whether I'd find myself lost with little context, but this one can easily be read as a standalone, and the writing covers enough of the older characters to suffice.

  17. 4 out of 5

    b.andherbooks

    Mariana Wylde, an opera diva newly branded the “Harlot of Haywood Street” finds shelter at the Grand Palace on the Thames when she finds herself out of funds and options after two rival beaus duel over her. She finds the rules of the Grand Palace delightful, and is grateful to find a soft place to land while she finds a way to keep carrying on. She wasn't expecting the starchy General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk and grand war hero of well, everyone, to be so entirely rude to her. Mariana Wylde, an opera diva newly branded the “Harlot of Haywood Street” finds shelter at the Grand Palace on the Thames when she finds herself out of funds and options after two rival beaus duel over her. She finds the rules of the Grand Palace delightful, and is grateful to find a soft place to land while she finds a way to keep carrying on. She wasn't expecting the starchy General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk and grand war hero of well, everyone, to be so entirely rude to her. When the proprietresses of the Grand Thames chastise James for his behavior and ask him to make it up to Mariana, he agrees to tutor the young ingenue in Italian. Instead of the flirt he pre-judged, James finds himself slowly falling in love with this determined woman as he helps her learn to both recognize when people are taking advantage and to stick up for herself. But, with honor and propriety on the line for James as he attempts to pen his next book, he cannot fathom every allowing himself, or Mariana, the pleasure of finding a happily ever after, together. WOW THE ANGST. This book, what a ride. I truly wanted to yeet James a few times, as his honor causes him to so thoroughly wound Mariana, who only wanted to give him her heart. BUT BUT how he falls, and how he groves. Perfect. Yes. I about died when he threatened the Italian composer while he wouldn't listen to a no. Put that in my veins people. Also, all the little moments, the soft touches. how Mariana clutched James' palm kiss against her heart while she slept. UNF. My one minor quibble was the anti-sex worker rhetoric, that felt shaming. James really uses it to hurt Mariana at one point, but it felt true to his character (and he atones). Mariana also is disdainful of sex workers. It was great to be with the ladies of the Thames again. I need to go back and read the book I missed, and I snagged an ARC of the next one. JAL - a queen. Big thanks to Kate Clayborn, and Funmi, for reading this with me! Thank you to Avon for the advanced copy. Glad to find out this wasn't a holiday romance (don't let that cover fool you like me. I do want that robe though!) CW: physical violence, sexual harrasment (described, some on page - countered, James is a widower and is about 20 years older than Mariana. Lingering grief over death of a father (in past, described).

  18. 5 out of 5

    ChasingLeslie

    Mariana Wylde, known as the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” is an opera diva ruined by a duel fought for her favors. She takes refuge with the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames, and quickly gets off to a poor start with another guest: war hero General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, who is staying at the Grand Palace while he writes his memoir. This is the fourth book in The Palace of Rogues series, which centers around the Grand Palace on the Thames boardinghouse. This is my firs Mariana Wylde, known as the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” is an opera diva ruined by a duel fought for her favors. She takes refuge with the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames, and quickly gets off to a poor start with another guest: war hero General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, who is staying at the Grand Palace while he writes his memoir. This is the fourth book in The Palace of Rogues series, which centers around the Grand Palace on the Thames boardinghouse. This is my first time reading Julie Anne Long, so I don’t know if this book would have been better read in order. There are clearly secondary and background characters who have appeared in the previous books. The story begins with Mariana fleeing her lodgings while being hunted by an angry mob and arriving at the Grand Palace. She doesn’t have much money so she trades her talent for room and board, agreeing to a ticketed singing performance. Judgmental James has read all about Mariana’s notorious reputation and immediately snubs her. In turn, she is nasty right back and things escalate until he takes the insults too far and is forced to apologize. I thought the story hit a good stride when James agrees to give Mariana Italian lessons. They begin to let down their guard and reveal personal details that help them understand more about each other. But the story lost momentum for me, and I struggled to connect to their romance. Overall, a decent read, but not one that will be memorable for me. Tropes: Class Difference, Enemies to Lovers, Forced Proximity, Lessons (Italian), Age Gap Romance Steam: 1.5 (there's a couple of scenes, but most are short and flowery) * I received an ARC and this is my honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christie«SHBBblogger»

    Title: After Dark with the Duke Series: The Palace of Rogues #4 Author: Julie Anne Long Release date: November 30, 2021 Cliffhanger: no Genre: historical romance I've enjoyed every single installment of the Palace of Rogues series so far. While the newest book is regrettably my least favorite of the four, there were still moments to be swept away by Julie Anne Long's beautiful writing. She has a way of evoking passion and emotion between her characters that's a pleasure to read. He was a bloody castl Title: After Dark with the Duke Series: The Palace of Rogues #4 Author: Julie Anne Long Release date: November 30, 2021 Cliffhanger: no Genre: historical romance I've enjoyed every single installment of the Palace of Rogues series so far. While the newest book is regrettably my least favorite of the four, there were still moments to be swept away by Julie Anne Long's beautiful writing. She has a way of evoking passion and emotion between her characters that's a pleasure to read. He was a bloody castle. And she, like a wildflower, had been seeking out the chinks between the stones from the beginning. This was a opposites attract romance where the hero and heroine have a significant age gap. In fact, Mariana Wylde is only a few years older than the hero, the Duke of Valkirk's son. She is a disgraced opera singer who was branded the “Harlot of Haywood Street” after a scandalous duel was fought in her honor. The newspapers printed conjecture and lies about her moral character which resulted in her fleeing one night from a sanctimonious mob. She arrived on the doorstep of the Grand Palace on the Thames in desperate straits. Near penniless, friendless, and with no prospects of getting hired by anyone in the near future, she hoped the proprietors would take pity on her and give her a place to formulate a plan. It so happens that England's most revered war hero was currently residing there in order to write his latest book, and her presence is an immediate affront to his honorable sensibilities. These two rub each other the wrong way from the start. While Angelique and Delilah show her respect and withhold judgment, James believes every slanderous word printed about her in the papers and deems her unworthy. James has built his entire career and reputation around the concept of honor. That honor has made him God-like in the eyes of society and the weight of it has become burdensome. In reality, we are all human with the imperfections that come along with humanity. It's unrealistic to hold ourselves up to this unrealistic standard as an example to others. in the beginning of the book, James comes off as fairly pompous and condescending. Not only has he risen in society by having been given a dukedom, he's cushioned from judgement by the ton over any transgression he could possibly make. Not that he would ever allow himself a moment of weakness in any life decision that would tarnish the sparkling life he has built. Or would he? Valkirk’s entire allegedly blameless life ensured he was spoken of only in hushed, reverent tones, and the details of his life had been reported as national news, safely on the front page of the newspaper. Never on the gossip pages. Mariana's only sin was perhaps succumbing to her passion and taking a lover at a time when only men were free to explore their sexuality without limits. After she ended a consensual relationship that resulted in a duel, she was immediately blamed for the two men's foolish actions and slapped with the sensational label of Harlot. The judge and jury of public opinion was ruthless, setting out to destroy her with no questions asked. It's kind of a sad thing to think about that things haven't changed all that much in modern times. I enjoyed the author's exploration of this theme in the book. It illustrated how malicious gossip and slander could potentially have catastrophic effects on a person's life. If it weren't for Mariana's strong will and bravery in the face of all of the hate aimed at her, she could have easily folded like a deck of cards.Her inner pride didn't allow for self-pity or fragility. It's that strength that allows her to hold her own when it comes to James' disdain. After one rude exchange between the two of them in which he attempted to shame and embarrass her, he regrets his actions and apologizes. He offers to give her private lessons in Italian as an olive branch which she accepts. It doesn't take long before their attraction starts to bloom. Their attraction eventually leads to clandestine nightly meetings that they both become addicted to despite their heads telling them that it can only end badly. The conflict between the two of them is pretty predictable. He feels obligated to maintain his pristine public image, and going public with a relationship with her would almost certainly decimate the legacy he has worked so hard to build. His life has been built around suppressing his emotions and controlling his desires. Then she comes along and shows him true passion and companionship. He's been undeniably brave on the battlefield, but doesn't know if he can face disapproving public scrutiny. Towards the end of the book, James makes an unforgivably insensitive and careless offer to Mariana that's basically like a knife in her back. You could chalk it up to pure stupidity, but really, for him to say what he said to her would mean that he didn't value her as a person at all. That he was ashamed of her and wasn't willing to show the world that he respected and valued her. By the end, he does redeem himself, and shows her with actions rather than simply words that he was wrong and deeply sorry. I respected him for that. Some types of loneliness had only one cure. He was hers. She was his. But the notion of that was unbearable. God help him. He just wanted to keep her. I did have some issue with the lack of natural progression in their feelings for each other. It felt as if one moment they were not attracted in the slightest bit (on his end he found her to be average and unremarkable in looks) and then suddenly they were fantasizing about each other uncontrollably. I needed a little bit more in order to believe this drastic pull between the two of them. Then when it was revealed what he had been writing in his book the whole time it didn't add up to what he had been thinking and saying in regards to her. I wanted to believe it but the mechanics didn't quite fit for me. He had, in fact, never been this hungry for any other woman. He had the oddest sensation he was meeting his true self for perhaps the first time, and Mariana had somehow affected this introduction. I also felt that the plot was a tad slow in the first half and I had to force my attention to stay on the pages. Maybe that was due to the focus being solely on the Grand Palace inhabitants' interactions and a lack of any relationship building between the hero/heroine. While the humor in JAL's books is always appreciated at some level, after three books the house banter and quirky cast can start to get stale if it's not freshened up. Also, there wasn't really any lead-in to the next book like the ones in the past which have always whet my appetite for the next installment. Not that I'm really complaining really, because this series has been such a resounding success that I would read whatever she puts out, even without a synopsis. Naturally, some books are bigger winners than others, this one just happened to not hit all the right notes. The eighteen year age gap was personally a bit much for me to wrap my mind around, though many particularly love reading books with this trope so it won't be an issue at all for others. I just couldn't stop thinking about the fact that she was basically the same age as his son and therefore in a whole different generation and stage in her life. Their children will be close to the same age as their grandchildren. If you find happiness together, more power to you, but I admit that it's an awkward thing for me to think about. As always, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next in the series and I'll be eagerly reading whatever it is, no questions asked. You Were Made to be Mine is due for publication in June of 2022. FOLLOW SMOKIN HOT BOOK BLOG ON:

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lu

    He is all that is heroic, prim, and proper, and she is a walking scandal. This couple enchanted me! They were so unique and yet, so relatable. Marianna was an opera singer who inadvertently caused a duel between two young lords and became the main subject of all scandal sheets. James was the son of a farmer that raised to the loft position of Duke thanks to his heroic military career. He was a national hero and a role model who had written a whole book about honor. What a delightful story! I love how He is all that is heroic, prim, and proper, and she is a walking scandal. This couple enchanted me! They were so unique and yet, so relatable. Marianna was an opera singer who inadvertently caused a duel between two young lords and became the main subject of all scandal sheets. James was the son of a farmer that raised to the loft position of Duke thanks to his heroic military career. He was a national hero and a role model who had written a whole book about honor. What a delightful story! I love how these two different people went from judging to love each other and how they found strength in their differences. There was an age gap, but I could hardly notice it, as the heroine was mature for her age. There were so many memorable passages that I highlighted on my Kindle. I love when a book is insightful and witty. I don't want to give spoilers, so I will quote just one: "I instinctively could not picture it, because... I think extraordinary circumstances are, for better or worse, the lot of extraordinary people." Lovely book! Highly recommended! Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley for an honest review. *For more reviews, book art, and book-related articles, please visit https://lureviewsbooks.com *

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nabilah

    This one started out a bit slow for me. Then, the story slowly creeps up on you. And suddenly, you realised you're grinning and weeping for them and experiencing a whole other myriad of emotions. It was that good. It's definitely a character driven story. Everything happened in one place which is the Grand Palace on the Thames. If you're looking for non-stop action, this book isn't it. What this book has would be great banters, well-fleshed out characters and MCs that you definitely root for. Pa This one started out a bit slow for me. Then, the story slowly creeps up on you. And suddenly, you realised you're grinning and weeping for them and experiencing a whole other myriad of emotions. It was that good. It's definitely a character driven story. Everything happened in one place which is the Grand Palace on the Thames. If you're looking for non-stop action, this book isn't it. What this book has would be great banters, well-fleshed out characters and MCs that you definitely root for. Pacing is good and Ms. Long writes beautifully. Steam factor: Mid-level. Not very explicit. However, the intimate scenes definitely impart the longing and desperation that the MCs feel for each other. The scenes are very fine, IMO.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline J

    Another fine edition to the series. I really love how this author stretches the boundaries of the conventions of this genre of romance. Sure there's a duke but he falls in love with an opera singer. The way these two people who definitely didn't like each other slowly fall in love is wonderfully done. It is shown in the reactions the duke has to the things he learns about the heroine as he teaches her how to speak Italian. You just watch him fall little by little. These stories of the revolving Another fine edition to the series. I really love how this author stretches the boundaries of the conventions of this genre of romance. Sure there's a duke but he falls in love with an opera singer. The way these two people who definitely didn't like each other slowly fall in love is wonderfully done. It is shown in the reactions the duke has to the things he learns about the heroine as he teaches her how to speak Italian. You just watch him fall little by little. These stories of the revolving guests in a gentile boarding house in a shady area of London are wonderful. You get to see old friends while a new cast of characters come in the front door. Can't wait for the next one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I’ve had so much fun reading The Palace of Rogues series, books #1-4 this past week. I cannot wait for book #5 releasing this summer. Every book in this series is as plot driven as it is a happily-ever-after romance. I loved every single book, every single couple, each one interesting and unique in their own sweet and spicy way. All stories take place under the roof of The Grand Palace on the Thames. In books 1 and 2 you’ll meet the two proprietresses, their stories and the idea behind the start I’ve had so much fun reading The Palace of Rogues series, books #1-4 this past week. I cannot wait for book #5 releasing this summer. Every book in this series is as plot driven as it is a happily-ever-after romance. I loved every single book, every single couple, each one interesting and unique in their own sweet and spicy way. All stories take place under the roof of The Grand Palace on the Thames. In books 1 and 2 you’ll meet the two proprietresses, their stories and the idea behind the start up of TGPOTT. Any book in this series can be read as a stand alone, but I recommend reading these books in order for a better understanding of it’s main characters and the hotel/boarding house’ QUIRKY and unique set of standards and rules that must be followed to stay there. I highly recommend this series. So good!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    Ok, so this was fantastic! Everything about this was delicious. However, it practically killed me! I mean it. The slow burn in this had me in knots! When I started the book I thought there was no way to make the duke fall for the Harlot of Haywood- Julie did such a good job making him seem so superior and haughty and the little insignificant opera singer stood no chance with him….oh but she brought him down and it was beautiful!!!!! Def re-reading this one! Suggest for all my slow burn loving fr Ok, so this was fantastic! Everything about this was delicious. However, it practically killed me! I mean it. The slow burn in this had me in knots! When I started the book I thought there was no way to make the duke fall for the Harlot of Haywood- Julie did such a good job making him seem so superior and haughty and the little insignificant opera singer stood no chance with him….oh but she brought him down and it was beautiful!!!!! Def re-reading this one! Suggest for all my slow burn loving friends!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hammer

    This is a absolutely soul opening story about how unconditional love should be. This book brought me to a deep emotion place. This story brought me joy,peace,longing it truly made my heart ache with sadness and joy (to say I was emotionally spent is a understatement) My only regrets in reading this story was that it ended far quickly. No book I read last year 2021 made me feel the way this wonderful story did (which is why it was my top pick for 2021) Read it and have your heart forever changed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    JAL never disappoints me. There were parts here where the dialogue felt so real I could see and hear it play out in front of me. One scene in particular was so painfully and wonderfully rendered the only comparison I can make is to the scene in Meredith Duran’s Duke of Shadows when Julian breaks the globe. The next one can’t come soon enough, this year has been wretched for HR releases.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Man, oh, man. When Julie Anne Long is at the top of her game, no one can write beautiful, evocative, longing romance like she. Let me first say that I enjoy the heck out of this series. The recurring cast of characters who run/live in the boarding house known as The Grand Palace on the Thames are a wonderful group. So fun and well written and each interesting on their own. They add just the right amount of flavor to the story. But it is the anticipation of seeing new guests enter through those doo Man, oh, man. When Julie Anne Long is at the top of her game, no one can write beautiful, evocative, longing romance like she. Let me first say that I enjoy the heck out of this series. The recurring cast of characters who run/live in the boarding house known as The Grand Palace on the Thames are a wonderful group. So fun and well written and each interesting on their own. They add just the right amount of flavor to the story. But it is the anticipation of seeing new guests enter through those doors and watch their romance flourish as they spend time there, each with their own various reasons for needing to retreat or hide away at TGPOTT. In this one we have Marianna Wylde an opera singer who finds it necessary to beat feet the the Palace because a mob has decided she is to blame for a duel where one of the young men in clinging to life. She is pilloried in the gossip sheets and shunned by her former patrons. And then there is James, the Duke of Valkirk. A stalwart man of impeccable honor who is a national treasure, a hero, a man whose reputation is so pristine that nothing can blemish it. One of the things I absolutely enjoyed is how deftly and thoroughly the author built each of this characters just in the opening chapters. Her facility with words and language is wonderful, I could absolutely see both of them through their physical and character descriptions so clearly. They start out as enemy combatants, each so very different both in their own character and in the eyes of society. But it is never that simple. Marianna of course is not what the gossips paint her and I enjoyed the deliberate way the author laid out Marianna's story. Of course women are blamed for the stupidity of men. And the ways in which women must placate men in order not to escalate events or to deflect from harm. As an opera singer just starting out, who is not yet developed the cachet of being a Diva, Marianna is in a particularly vulnerable position. She has to walk a fine line of not insulting men but still flirting enough but not enough to be too inviting. It reminds me of the line modern women still have to walk in dealing with street harassment or in bars/clubs so as not to trigger someone. For his part James is almost as much a prisoner of his reputation that Marianna is. He slowly realizes that he is a set of characters traits to people, not a real person. His journey to self realization is almost as rewarding as hers. The trajectory of their relationship is fun to watch. At first they trade silky barbs each night much to the entertainment of their fellow denizens of the Palace. She so funny and clever, he so stuffy and lethal. And then they take a turn. And slowly they find themselves spending more time with each other, talking and understanding. it is during these times that we see them fall in love and it works so beautifully. Also James makes a grand gesture in the end that doesn't feel grand, but instead is utterly perfect and hits just the right romantic note. This was a great book from start to finish. The romance was beautiful and the HEA was well earned. The characters were rich and full. The epilogue was *chef's kiss*

  28. 4 out of 5

    Niki (mustreadalltheromance)

    Driven from her home by a scandal-crazed mob, opera singer Mariana Wylde arrives late at night and nearly penniless at the Grand Palace on the Thames. To the ladies who run the Grand Palace, Mariana’s tarnished reputation is no matter, they’re confident they can repair the damage and earn some much-needed patronage for their establishment in the process, as long as they can keep her from scrapping with their other esteemed guest. General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is famed for b Driven from her home by a scandal-crazed mob, opera singer Mariana Wylde arrives late at night and nearly penniless at the Grand Palace on the Thames. To the ladies who run the Grand Palace, Mariana’s tarnished reputation is no matter, they’re confident they can repair the damage and earn some much-needed patronage for their establishment in the process, as long as they can keep her from scrapping with their other esteemed guest. General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is famed for being the most honorable man in England. Granted a dukedom for his exemplary military service, he is lauded on an untouchable pedestal by society, but not truly known by anyone. He immediately clashes with Mariana, as she stands for everything he loathes, but she renders him all too vulnerable. The desire between them is as palpable as it is irresistible, but any happiness they find together can only be fleeting. Soon Valkirk will do anything for Mariana, but if he hopes to keep her, he’ll have to change everything he’s ever believed in for this final battle for his future happiness. I really wasn’t sure what to expect of this book when I first started reading it, especially as it takes Mariana and James a while to even appear on the page together and quite a while longer for their sniping banter to evolve into something more cordial. I wasn’t sure I would like it given that initial animosity and James’ judgmental tendencies, but I surprised myself with how much I loved this story. The romance between Mariana and James has a gradual build up in friendship with an undercurrent of lust and the progression from those things to full blown love was very believable and a delight to read. James’ grand romantic gesture was everything I want to read in a romance, and I loved that Mariana was able to render such a strong and self-assured man into a bumbling idiot as he tried to express himself. This made his one faux pas, one that would normally be a total turn off for me, something bearable and even a little endearing. Mariana challenged James when no one had done so for some time and that was so fun to read. I was skeptical at first of their age difference, but now I understand why so many readers love the stern older hero. It also must be said that this book was sexy, and I adored the beauty and purity of the intimate scenes between Mariana and James as they truly showed the deepening of their feelings for one another. In sum, this was an excellent book, and I can’t wait to see what Long comes up with next. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Blog link: https://mustreadalltheromance.blogspo...

  29. 4 out of 5

    romancelibrary

    I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. A starchy Duke with a heroic reputation. A charming opera singer with a ruined reputation. He has mastered the art of icy glares. She has mastered the art of flirting. What brings these two together? Why, sexy Italian lessons, of course 😏 Mariana and Valkirk clash while they're both staying at The Grand Palace on the Thames. A bad first impression leads to such witty and savage banter that I found myself chuckling line after line. I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. A starchy Duke with a heroic reputation. A charming opera singer with a ruined reputation. He has mastered the art of icy glares. She has mastered the art of flirting. What brings these two together? Why, sexy Italian lessons, of course 😏 Mariana and Valkirk clash while they're both staying at The Grand Palace on the Thames. A bad first impression leads to such witty and savage banter that I found myself chuckling line after line. The romantic build up is perfectly paced, with healthy doses of pining and sexual tension that make the starchy hero tremble with want. All of this build up happens before Mariana and Valkirk even touch 🔥 And let me tell ya, it is extra delicious when this starchy paragon of a hero loses control. There is quite an age gap between the two: Mariana is 25 and Valkirk is 43. The age gap doesn't feel icky, nor is it presented as an obstacle. It is the class difference and the disparity in reputation that is the main conflict. As expected, Julie Anne Long's prose is mesmerizing, with the exception of a few over the top expressions. This author has such a clever way with words. She strikes the perfect balance between cleverly witty and yearningly romantic. Overall, I really loved After Dark With the Duke. One of the best historical romances I've read so far in 2021.

  30. 4 out of 5

    HR-ML

    I read all but #3 in this series. A story worth re-reading? (Widowed) James & Mariana had late respective sires: a farmer and a cobbler. James was awarded a dukedom for bravery & keen strategy as an Army General. Women flocked to this retired military man. She worked as an opera singer. The newspaper called Mariana a "harlot" for causing 2 bosky men to duel. Not entirely accurate. JAL overused the "notorious harlot" phrase. (Twice would've been plenty.) James acted a stickler for propriety until I read all but #3 in this series. A story worth re-reading? (Widowed) James & Mariana had late respective sires: a farmer and a cobbler. James was awarded a dukedom for bravery & keen strategy as an Army General. Women flocked to this retired military man. She worked as an opera singer. The newspaper called Mariana a "harlot" for causing 2 bosky men to duel. Not entirely accurate. JAL overused the "notorious harlot" phrase. (Twice would've been plenty.) James acted a stickler for propriety until he wasn't. 43 yr old James had 'met his match' in 25 yr old Mariana. MCs had to admit to each other how/ why they clicked. Usually he had 'book smarts' + she had 'people smarts.' The MCs stayed (separately) at a boarding house/ inn by the docks owned by married publicans Delilah & Tris + Angelique & Luc. An inn policy required all guests socialize after the evening meal. We met interesting supporting characters especially Dot, also Mr. Delacourt. One evening Mariana sang a bawdy ditty referencing Jas. & in kind he made a snarky comment in Italian. (Mariana did not know Italian.) The next day the female publicans chastised the H for shaming the h & requested he apologize to her & to make amends: could he teach Mariana Italian phrases? The MCs drew closer during the Italian lessons. The h + the owners prepared for her one night only singing event at the inn. Would she have an audience due to her rep? My only beef with the story? James disrespected Mariana a few days before this event. But a thoughtful gesture 'won the day.'

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