So good! Like everyone else who read Julie Anne Long’s Lady Derring Takes a Lover, I couldn’t wait to read Angelique’s story. Her character in the first book of The Palace of Rogues series was intriguing and delightful and her story, Angel in a Devil’s Arms is a real treat – arguably the best Historical Romance of the year.
Angelique Breedlove and Delilah Hardy (the former Lady Derring) are happily ensconced as the owners of The Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house when the mystery man (with the other half of the mystery coin from Lady Derring Takes a Lover) shows up on their doorstep. Lucien Durand, Viscount Bolt, is considered by all to be dead, having fallen into the Thames a decade ago and not seen since. But here he stands in Angelique’s parlor wishing to claim the best suite that his man of business had previously reserved for him. What is a respectable establishment to do? Angelique remembers Bolt’s reputation and the last thing they need is a resurrected, disreputable viscount on their hands. But they could use his money.
Lucien Durand did not fall into the Thames – he was pushed. Rescued by a ship bound for China, Lucien has spent the last decade learning everything there is to know about the shipping and import business and is returning to London a wealthy man with vengeance on his mind. He knows who pushed him in and he knows who hired the would-be killer – his father’s wife, the Duchess of Brexford. She has always hated Lucien, her husband’s bastard son. Lucien feels the same. He has one goal – revenge with a little mental torture thrown in along the way. Bonus for Lucien – The Grand Palace on the Thames is co-owned by a beautiful widow, Angelique Breedlove.
Oh, how he loved the delicious period between nascent lust and the animal satisfaction of it; he loved the serrated anticipation, the not knowing, and yet knowing. He was going to enjoy every bit of it while he was here. Widows were the ideal lovers.
Angelique is rightfully wary of men. As far as she can see, Lucien is nothing but heartbreak on two legs and she vows to steer clear of him. They enjoy a heated kiss but Angelique quickly puts on the brakes and asks Lucien to just be her friend. Lucien agrees and proceeds to become a wonderful friend – and how is a woman to resist that?
He was, in fact, all that was respectful. But she hadn’t anticipated that their exchanges of confidences would act as a sort of loom. He threw a thread, she threw a thread…But that’s what friendship was, wasn’t it?
Until the first thing she did when she walked into a room was to look about for him, as if he were the warmest seat by the fire. To discover that his eyes were already on her, like the beacon she ought to follow.
Lucien moves forward with his plot for revenge but he softens along the way, considering what he really wants out of life and who he wants to become. Angelique and Delilah continue making a comfortable nest and family of sorts for all their guests. And Lucien and Angelique continue their friendship – what else is possible with Angelique’s past and Lucien’s future on the line?
Angelique is a refreshing heroine – smart, tough-as-nails when called for, quick-witted – and, in the end, just as vulnerable as the rest of us. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her better but I was completely enthralled by Lucien. He has a depth we rarely see in HR heroes. And the things he says, goodness:
“And it’s a funny thing,” he continued. “Lately, now and again, when I see my hand…” He turned his palm up, then down. “So mundane and familiar, going about its business splashing water on my face or lifting a drink or scratching my bum or moving a chess piece… suddenly I stop. And I marvel at the fact that it knows what it is to touch your skin. That it holds that magic, that memory. And when I remember…” He gave a short humorless laugh. “I cannot breathe for lust. It slashes like a sword.”
Ms. Long has a talent for writing the most swoon-worthy heroes (think the Duke of Falconbridge from her What I Did for a Duke).
Angelique and Lucien are a fabulous couple. The dialogue between them is completely delightful every time they interact and the attraction between them is perfectly written as Ms. Long slowly pulls the two of them together. This is one of those reads where you are aching for the characters to have their HEA, and the secondary characters and their stories add a perfect balance to the romance between Angelique and Lucien. Delightful characters like Dot, the clumsy and endearing maid, and Mr. Delacorte, the affable boarder, return to build a warm community at The Grand Palace. Ms. Long has set up a perfect enclave from which to launch many wonderful stories.
I could go on and on about how terrific this book is… but instead I’ll just urge you to go and pick it up. You could read it as a stand-alone but you’d lose out on a great backstory. I’m looking forward to a nice, long The Palace of Rogues series. And, in the meantime, I’m re-reading this one. Thank you Ms. Long, you have bolstered 2019 Historical Romance immeasurably!
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