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review 2019-11-13 20:12
History and Historical Romance
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

I tend to get all breathless and twitterpated when I discover a new historical romance writer I enjoy, sending out profligate hold requests at the library. That was the case with Julie Anne Long, whose Lady Derring Takes a Lover was so beautifully choleric on the ingrained sexism of the time, and features a found family plot and exquisitely rendered female relationships. I maybe don't need to say this, but I will anyway: as much I enjoy a historical, the baked in acceptance of social norms which are, to put mildly, antique, and to put more specifically, fucked beyond the telling of it, makes me often quite itchy while I read.

 

This is figleafed in ur average historical romance: industrialists are all, to a man, fair minded and generous, having acquired their fortunes without being the rapacious monsters they all, to a man, were. The aristocrats -- the dukes and earls and the like -- may have daddy issues, struggling under the injurious regard of their Old Testament fathers, but these paternal and paternalistic dinosaurs are emblematic of a outdated mode of lording over great swaths of land and hundreds, maybe thousands of people. These new sons are embodiments of a New Aristocracy, one that views its marriages as meritocracies, the perfect embodiment of noblesse oblige. 

 

I was just reading one recently where the industrialist romantic lead mentioned offhand his ownership of cotton mills, and my mind leapt right to tour of Lowell, MA I took some years ago. Lowell is a locus of both early American industrialization, and the inevitable labor movements that follow once people grow weary of being ground down by engines, spitted by the spearpoint of progress. Young women, girls really, worked 12 hour days six days a week until they coughed themselves into an early grave due to the cotton fibers they inhaled, the factory air muzzy with a fog of particulates. (It is also the hometown of Jack Kerouac.) That's the problem with historicals: they are inescapably based on history, which features a boot on a throat in one permutation or another for as far back as one can manage.  

 

So, the endgame of this little diatribe was some dissatisfaction with It Started With a Scandal. On every objective metric, this is a fine novel, with excellent characterization, smooth pacing, and well drawn sexual tension. Long is a smart, interesting writer, and I will continue to read the shit out of her back catalog. However, I was never quite able to get over the fact that our romantic lead was a prince of Burgundy or Bourbon or somesuch, a French aristocrat who fled France during the Revolution. He's very put out by the fact that his ancestral lands are not in his family's possession anymore, and spends much time glowering and throwing vases in fits of pique. The leading lady, his housekeeper, vouchsafes to feel bad for him quite prodigiously. She is herself just weeks from penury -- she and her child -- so she knows what it is to lose things. 

 

To which I say: bah. The French aristocracy deserved to have their heads separated from their necks. They were indolent, greedy, dissolute shits whose venality resulted in the abject poverty and misery of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people. So boo fucking hoo about getting run out of the country where our hero was born into incredible wealth and privilege. (I may have my back up after seeing some billionaire -- there are only 600 or so in America, a listable group of people -- literally crying on television because someone might tax him commensurate with his wealth. Meanwhile millions of Americans go bankrupt or just fucking die due to a medical insurance system designed to maximize profits at a brutal human cost. Fuck, and I can't stress this enough, every single billionaire.) 

 

I am aware of, and engage in quite happily, the sort of historical blindness required to enjoy a historical romance. I am not going to nitpick inconsistencies unless they are egregious and/or not in service of the final resolution. But sometimes I'm in my own place in history, where I cannot unsee the parallels to current, ongoing, often fatal injustices in the world. I am not going to waste time feeling bad for people who have had everything and then some given to them by accident or birth who, just occasionally, feel thwarted in their every impulse. Our heroine's soft-heartedness looks soft-headed. 

 

I've said this before, but I'm going to repeat it: every romance has the echoes of a less satisfactory conclusion embedded within it. Without the invisible authorial hand, our housekeeper's life would end in brutal poverty, discarded by a "polite" society predicated on systematic exploitation. Mostly I'm satisfied with these romantic revisions -- that is the point of a historical romance novel, n'est-ce pas? I can and do acknowledge this freakout is largely on me -- I do not want to enbussen Long, who seems a very fine writer, because of a personal convergence of things. But sometimes I just can't. The romantic conclusion ends up seeming such a petty, priapic thing, the tumescence of love blotting out all impediments to our lovers, even the important, necessary, and structural ones. 

 

Probably I should just back way from historical romance for the time being, library holds notwithstanding, until some improbable time when our brutal history is less brutal. I'll be busy holding my breath. 

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review 2019-11-11 05:59
Would you like to read my AU?
Lady Derring Takes a Lover: The Palace of Rogues - Julie Anne Long

 

Lady Derring Takes a Lover has such an unbelievably jaundiced view of the relationship between men and women -- and between the classes -- and I am 100% here for it. The titular Lady Derring meets with her solicitor after her husband's death, only to discover he left her destitute. While she's learning of her abject penury, her husband's mistress sweeps in, and learns that she, too, will not inherit a dime. They've been ruined by the same man, because it is a rare situation where women's fortunes are their own. Lady Derring and the mistress, one Angelique Breedlove (not her birth name), pool their limited resources and set up a boarding house in a building that once was a brothel known as the Palace of Rogues. 

 

The romantic lead doesn't appear except in snatches for a long, establishing opening -- this is the first in a series, so some groundwork must commence. Instead, in that interregnum, we are given a beautiful nuanced relationship between a widow and a mistress, one with so much heat I could see some furious slash written about these characters. Romantic lead dude is fine -- his major superpower is that he godamn listens -- but those women, gah, so hot. Which I guess tells you plenty about my predilections, you're welcome. 

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text 2019-09-03 00:35
Lady Derring Takes a Lover By Julie Anne Long $1.99!!
Lady Derring Takes a Lover: The Palace of Rogues - Julie Anne Long

A mistress. A mountain of debt. A mysterious wreck of a building.

 

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 neveragain 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?

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review 2019-01-27 20:05
Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long
Lady Derring Takes a Lover: The Palace of Rogues - Julie Anne Long

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

 

No one, particularly not her late husband, had ever valued her for wits. Oh, but she possessed them.

 

Starting off the Palace of the Rogues series, Lady Derring Takes a Lover, is a magnificent return to historicals for Long. The first thirty percent of the book was perfection with our heroine Delilah being told by her solicitor that her late husband was in massive debt and eventually winding up going into business with said late husband's mistress. Their Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house becomes the setting for smuggling intrigue and romance.

 

Derring never laughed at my jokes. But I laughed at all of his, even though I didn’t find him amusing. He sulked if I didn’t,” Delilah said. “It’s a small but killing thing, isn’t?”

 

Delilah and the mistress, Angelique, start off very wary of each other but with fantastic telling some truths and learning lessons story writing, Long gives us a female relationship that you will ship hard. This tandem of women from different social levels and impoverished by the same man bonding together was just brilliant. Long played them off each other beautifully, they had their separate strengths and weaknesses but ultimately, their hearts beat for the same reasons. If looking for a immensely satisfying female relationship in your romance, this is it.

 

I am the king’s favorite hunting dog.”

 

Our hero, Captain Tristan Hardy, is all that is strong, contained, and eventually burning. Delilah and Angelique start off with more of the focus and are so strong, that Tristan ended up a little bit to the edges of the spotlight. It takes a little bit before Tristan and Delilah really get going, around 40%, which I know will make some antsy, but while their time seems a bit shortened by how full this first in series book is, they tended to make the most of it. From the first time Tristan sees Delilah, to the mandatory drawing room nights, and finally to the last 10% of their story, they had chemistry. Tristan might not have felt as fully fleshed out as I like, but let me tell you, the man can grovel/make things right with the top tier of romance heroes.

 

The notion of seducing her made him breathless, because he thought it was both possible and inadvisable for a dozen reasons.

 

While Delilah is living at and running the boarding house because it was the only thing not repossessed, Tristan arrives there because he is the captain of the blockade. His investigation into a cigar smuggling ring has led him to believe Delilah's husband was involved, along with The Palace of the Rogues, renamed The Grand Palace on the Thames by Delilah and Angelique. I thought the cigar smuggling investigation worked to get these two together but it moved very slowly and tended to feel almost ignored at times, not the strength of the novel. It is obvious the history of the former Palace of the Rogues is going to be the plot thread stringing the series together as we get a couple hints and clues here that will probably add to the building of an eventually completed puzzle (series).

 

It was nearly as much a collision as a kiss, at first, fierce and hard, as if they were both intent on punishing themselves and each other for wanting this.

 

Long did a great job interweaving secondary characters to create a full ensemble cast but I did think it took away from time I would have preferred to go to Delilah and Tristan. I loved Tristan's relationship with his Lt., providing a wonderful showing and not telling insight into his personality and character, wouldn't change a thing about Delilah and Angelique's friendship, but a very small secondary romance and some other minor focuses on characters could have been taken out. There is some on fire commentary dealing with women's rights but I did almost cringe at a very close to feeling forced mansplaining moment. There is some definite first in a series fullness happening here but again, Tristan and Delilah's moments are impactful when they have them.

 

Oh, now I see. You’re that Captain Hardy.”

 

The beginning was 5 stars, the middle 3.5ish, and the ending brought it back to 5 stars, for me. All in all, I was highly impressed with this first installment and am dying to read the next in the series, which I think will be about Angelique and a mysterious stranger that arrives late in the story. A brilliant female friendship, a loaded chemistry couple, and an ensemble cast that pulls you into their world, don't miss this one.

 

Know that I am at your mercy, now and forever.”

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text 2019-01-26 22:39
100%
Lady Derring Takes a Lover: The Palace of Rogues - Julie Anne Long

The last 10% of this:

 

 

Captain Tristan and his short poetry can come get it anytime

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