A mistress. A mountain of debt. A mysterious wreck of a building.
Delilah Swanpool, Countess of Derring, learns the hard way that her husband, “Dear Dull Derring,” is a lot more interesting—and perfidious—dead than alive. It’s a devil of an inheritance, but in the grand ruins of the one building Derring left her, are the seeds of her liberation. And she vows never again to place herself at the mercy of a man.
But battle-hardened Captain Tristan Hardy is nothing if not merciless. When the charismatic naval hero tracks a notorious smuggler to a London boarding house known as the Rogue’s Palace, seducing the beautiful, blue-blooded proprietress to get his man seems like a small sacrifice.
They both believe love is a myth. But a desire beyond reason threatens to destroy the armour around their hearts. Now a shattering decision looms: Will Tristan betray his own code of honor…or choose a love that might be the truest thing he’s ever known?
This is Julie Anne Long’s return to historical romances, (to much greater success than some, Lisa Kleypas, I’m looking at you) after a few years of only publishing contemporary ones. While I thought her Hellcat Canyon books were just fine, gradually getting better with each book, it is really almost sad how much better I thought this was.
In this, the beginning of a new series, The Palace of Rogues, Ms. Long introduces us to Delilah Swanpool, whose really rather boring husband has died and left her with nothing but a lot of creditors and a large, empty building near the docks. When visiting her husband’s solicitor, she also discovers that her husband had kept a mistress for years, and said woman is also down on her luck. After some consideration, Delilah suggests to the other woman, who goes by the name Mrs. Angelique Breedlove (NOT her actual given name), that they go into business together. They use what meagre funds they have, selling their jewelry and refurbish the building into a boarding house, ignoring all the warnings of the somewhat dodgy neighbours that the property has a notorious reputation and there is no way they will meet with success.
While it might have been natural for them to hate each other, Delilah and Angelique, helped by Delilah’s well-meaning, but rather inept maid, as well as whatever former staff Delilah has been able to persuade to still work for her, set about making their boarding house not only a profitable business, but a cosy place that they and their guests can call home. They make sure to have set rules for what is allowed and expected of their lodgers, such as at least some mandatory socialising every week and communal meals. It’s all rather sweet.
Full review on my blog.