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Blog Tour Review + Giveaway | Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long

I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for this first novel in Julie Anne Long's new historical series―The Palace of Rogues. I found my way to Ms. Long's writing in a bit of a piecemeal fashion. Her long-running Pennyroyal Green series is widely beloved and records the various and sundry escapades of the always-scheming, never repentant Eversea and Redmond families. Really, the series is worth the price of admission for the hilarious (and ever-evolving) "Ballad of Colin Eversea" alone (though Colin's is not actually my favorite book). But I've come to believe that this sweeping eleven-book series has something for every reader. You just have to dip your toes in enough times to find your favorites. And once you do, they will become instant and confirmed comfort reads. Spoiler alert: mine are It Happened One Midnight and What I Did for a Duke. I'm sorry, Colin, but the Duke of Falconbridge, you are not. You'll be just fine, though. Madeleine has enough moxie to take care of you both.

Delilah, Countess of Derring, is having a bad day. The absolute worst sort of day, really. The kind of day in which one finds oneself sitting in the office of one's late, unlamented husband's solicitor being told that one is destitute and then forced to make the acquaintance of said unlamented husband's mistress. But it turns out that, though no one ever thought to ask how Delilah would handle utter ruin and humiliation, they are all about to find out that she handles it very well indeed. Or she will, just as soon as she has one more unorthodox chat with her husband's former mistress (one Angelique Breedlove) and the two of them properly investigate the sole item the despicable Derring owned outright―a derelict building on the banks of the Thames. And thus a plan of salvation (and permanent independence) is born out of the all-but-dead hopes and driving desperation of two women who should never have met, let alone become business partners. If only the building, its dubious history, and Derring's ownership of it weren't being investigated by naval hero turned agent of the crown Captain Tristan Hardy. But Delilah and Angelique aren't about to give up on their dreams, no matter how sneaky and determined Captain Hardy finagles to be.

It takes zero pages, my friends, just no pages at all to fall in love with this beautifully written novel. With Delilah, with Angelique, with Tristan, with each and every last ridiculous and hysterical denizen of the Grand Palace on the Thames. In fact, though I knew how charming the tale was likely to be (and it so was), I don't think I was quite prepared for how sensitive and artful the storytelling would be (it so was). And the very first tell is the friendship between these two women. These two women who have been so badly hurt by the same man. So much of their lives were forged of solitude, they could so easily have fallen back on that very real shame and pain and focused their individual hatred on one another. But Delilah and Angelique are more than the sum of their hurts and the foibles of that man. Watching them first warily and then certainly hold on to each other as they build the foundation of something fine and good and safe is one of the great joys of this novel. A favorite moment taken from early on, just after the plan is hatched:
Angelique gave a little snort. But her posture suggested that some sort of internal knot had finally loosened.

"Can you picture it?" Delilah demanded on nearly a whisper.

"I can picture it," Angelique conceded. "And it's not only not mad, we might never have to be at the mercy of another man again."

"Precisely my thought."

Delilah took a breath. "Shall we shake hands on it?" Her voice was shaking.

Angelique drew in a long, long breath.

And then with a certain ironic flair, extended the hand Delilah had lately stopped from taking that last sip of sherry.

They shook briskly.

"To The Grand Palace on the Thames!"

"To The Grand Palace on the Thames!" Dot and Angelique echoed.

And they all raised their lanterns and toasted each other with light.
This image is fixed in my mind―these women choosing not to give in, not to die, but rather toasting their hope and their newfound strength and their future with light. In fact, I don't think the way that scene made me feel will ever leave. Light and its attendant imagery and symbolism pervades the tale. Enter one sea captain who, among other things, is tall enough to reach the sconces. For the record, Tristan Hardy is many excellent things, but that may be my favorite of his qualities. And it is referenced just perfectly throughout the book. Tall enough to reach the sconces. But, of course, he is also in disguise and ruthlessly determined to break up the smuggling ring with which he has been tasked, never mind Lady Derring's fine eyes and the way she has of making him want to stay in the drawing room, threats of nightly musicales notwithstanding. Their evening conversations are light-footed things of beauty, and laughter bubbled up out of me on more than one occasion. For example:
Would you mind telling me a bit more about the rules?"

She looked relieved. "They're very simple, really. We expect our male guests to behave like gentlemen in the presence of ladies. Rough language, drinking, spitting, or smoking will not be tolerated in the drawing room when ladies are present, and will be fined one pence per word. We've a jar, you see."

"A jar." He said this with every evidence of fascination.

"But we also have a withdrawing room for gentlemen, in which they can unleash their baser impulses in case the effort of restraint becomes too much to bear."

Lady Derring was very dry.

"What a relief to hear. Tethering instincts wears a devil out."

He was rewarded with a smile, one of delightful, slow, crooked affairs, as if she just couldn't help herself, and he, for a moment, could not have formed words for admiring it.
Ah, Tristan. Your instincts are so very good. There is nothing not to admire about Delilah. But the truly wonderful thing is that both Delilah and Tristan are equally admirable. It is so often the case that one or the other partner in a relationship has been decidedly less than admirable. And part of the narrative inherently involves a coming to see the error of their ways, if you will. It's not that I don't thoroughly enjoy that trope, but I was just so gratified to find that these two were worthy of my admiration and regard (and each other's) from the word go. It was such a pleasure watching them quietly learn each other. I enjoyed the balance of intrigue surrounding the Palace of Rogues Grand Palace on the Thames with the wonderful humor infused in Delilah's tireless efforts to fashion a home for the weary and the lost. She was the light, and every other character in the novel is understandably drawn to what she represents. It was so beautiful―almost as beautiful as the ending that Tristan starts and Delilah finishes, carefully placing all the right words in all the right places. Finest kind.
They regarded each other somberly, making internal adjustments to accommodate the mere glorious fact of each other.

ABOUT JULIE ANNE LONG
USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up (and she has the guitars and fringed clothing stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it), but writing was always her first love. Since hanging up her guitar for the computer keyboard, her books frequently top reader and critic polls and have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Rita, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and The Quills, and reviewers have been known to use words like “dazzling,” “brilliant,” and “impossible to put down” when describing them. Julie lives in Northern California.



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GIVEAWAY
To celebrate the book's release tomorrow, Avon Books has kindly offered up one paperback copy to one lucky reader. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses and will run through Monday, March 4th. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck and happy reading!

Comments

  1. Ah sold, I just one-clicked! I haven't read JAL for a loooooong time but this sounds like exactly what I need now.

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