Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long

First things first: Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long is a bit offbeat as romance novels go. I like that but I think it's worth stating because most of the regular romance readers I know crave consistency. There's a feminist bent to Lady Derring Takes a Lover, a bit less focus on attraction between the two characters who fall in love (it's more of a slow burn, which I prefer, in spite of instant attraction), and more on the business she starts up with two other women. I personally loved the uniqueness of this book and the lack of lengthy, gushy narrative; it was a 5-star read, for me. On to the description.

Delilah Swanpoole, Countess of Derring has just been widowed. Her marriage was arranged for the opportunity to pull her family out of poverty; it was not a love match and she feels somewhat freed by Lord Derring's death. That is, until the lawyer explains that Derring was heavily indebted and that, since they had no children in their six years of marriage, the estate is entailed to the closest male relative. Delilah must find alternative lodgings. Everything in her home is being reposessed and it's only through the determination of her ladies maid, Dot, that she is able to salvage her jewelry and clothing. Only one item is not attached to the estate: a building on the Thames, right by the London docks. It's a seedy part of town and the name of the building is the Rogue's Palace (which doesn't bode well) but it's all she's got.

Lady Derring and her loyal maid travel to the dockside building and stop for a drink in the pub next door, where Delilah discovers her husband's mistress, Mrs. Breedlove, seated at the table where she met Lord Derring and where he suddenly died. She, too, is destitute and has been ill used by men. But, after they get to know each other, Delilah decides to include her in her plan to turn the Rogue's Palace into a boarding house called The Grand Palace on the Thames.

Captain Tristan Hardy is the Captain of the King's Blockade, a hard man who worked his way up from poverty. His investigation into the smuggling of cigars by the deadly Blue Rock Gang has led him to suspect the involvement of the deceased Lord Derring. But, could Lady Derring be involved? In order to find out, he moves into The Grand Palace on the Thames. He will check out the building while his men observe the comings and goings of those in and around the boarding house and track down other leads. The last thing he's expecting is to fall for the beautiful proprietress in half-mourning.

Highly recommended - I was immensely entertained by Lady Derring Takes a Lover. Both Delilah and Angelique (Mrs. Breedlove) are in their 20s but they've already spent their lives serving men in loveless relationships, living well only to be cast back into poverty. Their venture is risky and, at times, absolutely hilarious. The characters in Lady Derring Takes a Lover are wonderful. Most of the romance novels I've read recently have had some sort of a rogue tamed by a young lady. Captain Hardy is quite the opposite. He's the strong, silent type but he's also a very good man who arose from hardship, himself. The maid, Dot, is a hoot. I don't even want to tell you about her for fear you'll miss out on the joy of learning about her quirks. I loved the way Lady Derring and Mrs. Breedlove, who first bristled at each other, learned to work together and eventually became friends. And, the hodge-podge of lodgers are absolutely delightful. I love everything about this book and highly recommend it. Expect uniqueness and a charming set of characters.

Lady Derring Takes a Lover is the first in The Palace of Rogues series and I can't wait to see what Julie Anne Long comes up with, next. I'm hoping the next book will be Angelique's story. I received an advance reader copy of Lady Derring Takes a Lover from Avon Books for review. Many thanks!!

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