The Palace of Rogues, Book 4
From the publisher:
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.https://amzn.to/3zxcK7I
Mariana has a mob after her. Two men fought a duel, purportedly over her, and she is on the run. The opera singer cannot perform while the ton is up in arms about this brouhaha. She has heard about The Grand Palace on the Thames and the women who own it, and decides to see if they will let her hide out there for a while.
Of course they do, and get the idea of having Mariana perform to inaugurate their brand new ballroom. It will take a little time to decorate and arrange everything, and meanwhile, they house her and feed her. One of their other guests is the Duke of Valkirk, and they immediately butt heads. Eventually he really insults her, breaking the rules of decorum the house insists upon. His punishment is to give her Italian lessons. Spending all that time alone together leads them down a different path, as anyone who has ever read an historical romance can guess.
Valkirk is revered throughout England, and is hiding out himself. He had published his memoirs and they were a huge bestseller. Now his publisher wants a sequel, and he is trying to write in solitude at the boarding house at the docks, under the radar of anyone in his social circle. But as he gets to know Mariana, he becomes smitten. Eventually things progress until he offers to set her up as his mistress. That isn’t exactly what she had in mind.
There are some difficulties in reaching the happy ending, much of them Valkirk’s own doing, but they get there eventually. It is a lot of fun taking this journey with them. Long adds another terrific entry into this wonderful series, best read in order:
12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE by Julie Anne Long. Avon (November 30, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063045095. 384 pages.