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.
When I was not quite halfway through this book, I sent the following message to the author.
This book is exceptional. I want to rush through it while at the same time force myself to set a snail's pace so as not to miss any of the beautiful prose. If I took the time to underline every exquisitely-written phrase I doubt I'd ever finish reading the book. I'm at 46%. If the second half is anywhere near as good as the first, this is going to end up being one of my all-time favorite JAL stories.
Upon turning the final page, the first thing I did was release a deep, satisfied, heartfelt sigh. The second thing I did was hug my Kindle. Yes, you read that correctly. I was overflowing with so much emotion, so much love for these characters, for their story, I had to express it somehow! Then, after a sufficient amount of affection, I sat down and wrote the author one more message. Here's what I said.
I am ruined. Totally, completely, utterly ruined. Do you know how many books I have in my read/review queue? How am I supposed to read them now? All I want to do is simmer in the stunningly beautiful, all-encompassing emotion of this book, of these characters. I can't just move on to something else. This is my favorite book this year. It's my favorite book of ALL the books you've written - - and I've read every single one of them. I might as well change the name of my review to "gush fest" because that's exactly what it's going to be. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But, seriously, RUINED!
In my review, I had planned to write about the snappy banter between Mariana and James, the forced-proximity, enemies-to-lovers evolution, the deeply romantic slow burn as they gradually reveal their vulnerabilities and open their hearts. The Italian lessons that lead to unexpected desire and, more importantly, to the realization that there are deeper layers within each of them waiting for the other to discover. And, to the self-realization that there is more to life for each of them than they had previously considered. But rather than delve into any of the afore-mentioned facets of this book, I recommend that you, my fellow readers, acquire a copy for yourselves, curl up in a comfy chair, and immerse yourselves in this exquisitely-choreographed verbal dance that deserves nothing less than a standing ovation...and a Top Dish rating.
Have you read Julie Anne Long?
Do you have a favorite of her books?
What's the last book you read that pulled you so deeply into the story you couldn't put it down?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, November 30 will receive their choice of a Kindle (Amazon US) or print copy of After Dark with the Duke. (If international, winner will receive a print copy from Book Depository)
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited
As you know, she's one of my all-time favorite authors. :) Can this series be read out of order? I'm a book or two behind in the Palace books.ReplyDelete
Hi Tracy! It can be read, and enjoyed, out of order. The hero and heroine of this book are both new to the series and their story very much stands on its own. I do think, however, that readers will have a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the nuances of continuing characters if they have read the previous books.Delete
I got a little burned out on JAL while trying to read her Pennyroyal series. That said, I do really enjoy her books. She is a fantastic author and from your 'gush fest' comments, I really must put this series on my books-to-buy list. I did read Angel in a Devil's Arms and loved it so I'm sure I would love the rest of this series.ReplyDelete
That is a long series, Karen. Glad to hear you enjoyed Angel in a Devil's Arms.Delete
I have read her and you make this one sound like a great read - thanks.ReplyDelete
It's so good!Delete
I have two of her books in my TBR pile. I will have to move them up to the top. That’s quite an endorsement Best of 2021!ReplyDelete
The book that touched me the most this year was Janet Dailey’s Paradise Peak.
I haven't read Janet Dailey in quite some time. I'll have to check that one out.Delete
Wow, PJ. That is quite a review. You make me want to toss the book I am currently reading and start on this one instead. LOL!ReplyDelete
I have really enjoyed JAL's historical and contemporary books. One of my top favorites is What I Did for a Duke.
That one is my favorite, too!Delete
Tracy, I loved the whole Pennyroyal Green series, but this book is one I like to reread. What a great ending!Delete
It took more than a week after finishing this book before I could start another one.Delete
I really enjoyed the A League of Extraordinary Woman series by Evie Dunmore as well as the Dukes Done Wrong series by Alexa Aston. I have not read After Dark With The Duke, I hope I win, thanks for the chance PJ!ReplyDelete
I have not read Alexa Aston. I'll have to take a look at that one.Delete
OMG PJ! I've been reading your reviews forever and never did you go off the deep end. The series I loved was The Wallflowers of West Lane by A.S. Fenichel.ReplyDelete
This one is definitely deep end worthy! :)Delete
I echo Pamela's comments above - this is OBVIOUSLY a superior book. I've loved Julie Anne Long in the past, (I think Like No Other Love was my favorite), but I'll definitely have to get this one (fingers crossed!) and add it to the top of my TBR pile. Probably the last book I was so deeply engrossed in was The Rose Code (with How Lucky and Meet me Another Life close contenders).ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy it!Delete
Julie Anne Long is one of my favorite historical romance authors :) My personal favorite is What I Did for a Duke — it was the first book of hers I ever read, actually! I quickly worked my way through her whole backlist shortly after reading it.ReplyDelete
The last book that I read all in one sitting was The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun - highly recommended for any contemporary romcom fans!
I enjoy contemporary romcom. Thanks for the rec!Delete
Thanks for the review, PJ! I love JAL and one of my favorites by her is actually a contemporary - Hot In Hellcat Canyon. That best man toast JT makes gets me every time!! The last book I read straight through was Rosaline Palmer takes the Cake by Alexis Hall. Right now I'm deep in Christmas books mode, new and old.ReplyDelete
I adored the Hellcat Canyon series! I'd love to read more contemporaries by her.Delete
I am very much a fan of this author’s books, but no I can’t think of a favorite. The last book that really pulled me in was a re-read Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering.ReplyDelete
It's been a while since I've read a book from her. Sounds like I need to get back to reading her. Thanks for the amazing review PJ.ReplyDelete
I have read a few Julie Anne Long books and have a couple more on my TBR pile. No real favorite yet, I need to read a few more. This one sounds like it will be satisfying and unforgettable. I have had trouble finding time to read lately plus my eyes are giving me issues. Most of the time I get wrapped up in the book I am reading and steal time to get back to it to see what will happen next. It has bee a few years, but Katie Ruggle's Search And Rescue series grabbed my attention. It is a good thing I had all the books in the series before starting. Each book held on demanding I finish and pushed me on to the next to finish the series so I could find out who the villain was.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the gush fest,I can't wait to read this one!!! I adore Julie Anne's books ever since I started reading her Pennyroyal Green series and it's so tough to choose a favorite but I have to say What I Did For A Duke tops my list. The last book that I couldn't put down was It Started With A Kiss by Marina AdairReplyDelete
I've read all the books in this series, so I look forward to reading the new one. My favorite JAL novel is What I Did for a Duke.ReplyDelete
I've read one of her contemporary books - hot in hellcat canyon and it's hands down one of my favorite contemporaryReplyDelete
Sounds very goodReplyDelete
I am a fan of JAL and my faves are What I Did For a Duke and It Started With a Scandal. Her writing is so lush and deep. I am looking forward to this new release, esp after this review! The last book I read that hit all the right spots was It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey - loved it!ReplyDelete