Delilah Swanpoole, 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 armor 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?
Dabney: SHE'S BACK! And, man am I happy about that. Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed all of Long's Hellcat Canyon books. But. There's no writer of historical romance I love more than I love JAL and her Pennyroyal Green series. So I was over the moon when I heard she was returning to HR. And what a return!
Kristen: Yes! Since I'm a bit of a late joiner to Romancelandia, I read all of the Pennyroyal series as part of Ms. Long's back catalogue. When I heard she was releasing a new historical series, I was thrilled to be getting in on the ground floor, as it were. I eagerly read this tale in one greedy sitting and adored it pretty much top to bottom.
Well, now that I've tipped my hand... ladies, what say you?
Dabney: I too love this book. So many things about it are my jam--the wonderfully witty banter, the smouldering tension between the leads, the developed and integral cast of characters. And the writing is as good as any in Long's catalog.
Alexandra: I couldn't agree more. I've always enjoyed Long's writing, but this book has to be one of my favorites. I particularly liked the character of Delilah, Lady Derring. She comes across as innocent and naive in the beginning, but then surprised me with her wit and, well, daring.
Kristen: In my professional life, I spend a lot of time with women who own businesses and many who started ones because they had no other choice, much like Delilah. There is such an air of "right, let's get on with it" about this book that I found gorgeously authentic to the women I work alongside and gave me such a deep affection for the character. Delilah could have easily wallowed in her circumstances, emotionally anyway, and instead took a deep breath and made it work.
How did you ladies react to the initial reveal of Derring's mistress?
Dabney: I thought it was a win. And I love how her character, Angelique, evolved over the course of the book. (Slight spoiler ahead!) For me, as lovely as the relationship between Delilah and Tristan is, the relationship between Delilah and Angelique is every bit as wondrous. I was trying to think if Long has ever written such a strong female friendship in any of her other historicals. I adore these two.
Alexandra: I loved that element too--it some ways, this book felt like Women's Fiction wrapped in a Historical Romance. At the core there was a focus on Delilah discovering her own strength as she confronts her husband's mistress and starts her own business. I also particularly liked that those elements stood apart from Delilah's relationship with Tristan. Although he's supportive, her accomplishments are due to her own hard work, not Tristan riding in to save her.
We've talked a lot about what we loved in this book. Was there anything you ladies had problems with?
Dabney: The romance is a bit of a slower burn than I usually like but the banter between Delilah and Tristan is so brilliant that bothered me less than it might have.
Kristen: I can find niggly things for sure - a few lines of dialogue that felt clunky and I'm with Dabney that it took longer to move than I prefer, but honestly? Nothing that deterred from my unadulterated love for this thing. It ticked every box I wanted it to and gave me such a happy book feeling. I was craving a good friendship story more than I even knew, and this delivered.
Also. More Angelique ASAP please and thank you. This one is a A+ from me - I think that's the third one I've ever given out.
Alexandra: I'm right there with you Kristen, it easily earned an A in my book. There was nothing major that I found to dislike, and I actually enjoyed the slow burn aspect of the romance. It felt right to me, as it allowed time for Delilah to find her footing after her husband's death and realize her own internal strength. By the time she officially begins an affair with Tristan, she's doing so as an independent woman seeking companionship, not a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor. For me, that was one of the elements that made this not just a good book, but a great one.
Dabney: I'm going with an A too. (I've never given ANY book an A+.) Not only is this a delight to read, it sets up a context, just as she did with the town of Pennyroyal Green, I love and can't wait to read more of. Here's hoping Angelique's story comes out soon!
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