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Hitting all the high notes

Cover of After Dark with the Duke
A review of After Dark with the Duke by Julie Anne Long

There's a trope in the romance genre that almost always entertains me. And there is an author who does likewise. So you can imagine my happiness when I realized that After Dark with the Duke by Julie Anne Long has both.

Grumpy/sunshine as a trope has a grumpy protagonist paired with a more light-hearted, sunnier partner. In Ms. Long's newest in her Palace of Rogues series, the 'grumpy' is General James Duncan Blackmore, who has been gifted with the title of Duke of Valkirk for his skill and heroics on the battlefield. The 'sunshine' - though admittedly more so only as a defense mechanism - is Mariana Wylde, an opera singer recently dubbed the "Harlot of Haywood Street". Mariana is literally escaping a mob out for her blood when she lands on the doorstep of the Grand Palace on the Thames, a combination hotel/rooming house where interesting people seek refuge. Also staying at the Palace is Valkirk. To say the two clash is understating things by a lot. But when the Duke lets his disdain show just a bit too much, the patronesses of the hotel insist he make amends to Mariana if he wants to stay. The bargain struck between Valkirk and Mariana forces them to actually talk with one another and realize that perhaps they are more in tune then they could guess.

Their progression from loathing to loving is both realistically drawn and warmly wonderful to read. This one will likely be in my top books of the year.

Oct 28, 2021