Cover Image: After Dark with the Duke

After Dark with the Duke

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The short version: 
Despite a disastrous first meeting, sparks fly between a grumpy duke and a scandalous opera singer in Julie Anne Long’s After Dark with the Duke.

When Miss Mariana Wylde meets James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, it’s disdain at first sight. Mariana’s bad reputation precedes her: A disastrous duel was fought over her favor, and she was lambasted in the press as the “Harlot of Haywood Street.” Although Mariana didn’t encourage the duel or welcome the media attention that followed, this is 19th century England, and women are usually blamed for men’s bad behavior. James, an upright former general who places a great deal of importance on reputation, needs no further information to judge her harshly.

Mariana and James should make no sense together, but their interactions are delightfully chaotic and charged with an explosive sexual chemistry that shakes them to their bones. The more time they spend together, the more they see past each other’s outward appearances. The combustible chemistry of opposites breaks down their defenses, leading to mutual respect, support and love in this sublime and steamy historical romance.

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After Dark with the Duke
Mariana Wylde is an opera singer who is at the center of a scandal with duel over her, where one of the duelists is wounded.  Fallen from grace and called a harlot in the papers, Mariana escapes a mob outside her apartment and retreats to The Grand Palace of the Thames to throw herself on the mercy of its proprietresses. Meanwhile, celebrated war hero General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, has moved to The Grand Palace of the Thames to write his memoirs. He has lived his entire life honorably and above reproach. However, the Duke is experiencing writers block, and has trouble writing his memoirs.

Meanwhile, the proprietress of the inn believe they can help restore Mariana’s reputation and encourage patrons to their establishment by offering an exclusive one-night-only benefit concert with the infamous opera singer. Mariana is hoping that ticket sales from her performance will help her repay her hostesses for her accommodations and help her travel to her next singing role.

Responding to stereotyped, preconceived notions of each other, the Mariana and the Duke trade insults until the proprietresses require an apology from the Duke as a condition of his staying on at the Palace. His penance is to teach Italian to Mariana, who until now has only learned it phonetically for her operatic roles. The pair gradually get to know and develop feelings each other through the lessons.

This is the fourth book in Long’s “Palace of Rogues” series. Although the book can be read as a standalone, there are characters that appear in other books and knowing more about these characters enhances the story. Supporting characters such as Dot the maid bring additional life to the story. For example, for the concert, Dot seats and arranges the guests by color, moving them around to fit her fancy, while the concert attendees wonder if it's due to some unknown social hierarchy.

I really enjoyed this book! Julie Anne Long’s writing is beautifully detailed with lovely dialogue and sensual love scenes. The enemies-to-lovers trope developed slowly as the Duke gradually gets to know Mariana.  Mariana is a wonderful character, who retains sense of self even though the press has called her the Harlot of Haywood Street. She is resilient and is working on obtaining another singing role in Paris while not really knowing for certain if the role is either a mermaid or a lobster. The couple finally get their HEA with an emotionally satisfying ending.
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With its slightly shady (for the time) heroine, After Dark with the Duke explores the predicament of Marianna,  an opera diva with her reputation in tatters. Sparkling banter, an appealing hero and heroine plus an adorable array series' secondary characters add up to delightful and satisfying resolution, not to mention a fairytale happily-ever-after with the now-besotted James, Duke of Valkirk.
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I was honestly surprised at how much I ended up liking this book. I had not read much by this author in the past, but I will certainly be reading more!

The chemistry was built up slowly, which sometimes irritates me, but it worked well for this story. You really feel connected to these characters, so when they encounter challenges, you feel for them. I recommend having tissues handy!
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duel over her, and one emerges quite wounded. Fallen from grace, called a harlot in the papers, and facing a growing mob outside her apartment, she escapes and finds refuge at The Grand Palace on the Thames, where the celebrated war hero and widow General James Duncan Blackmore the Duke of Valkirk has retired to write his memoirs (and half-heartedly look for a new wife). 

Based on preconceived notions, the two butt heads until their insults reach a peak that results in the hostesses forcing an apology from the Duke. He also agrees to make amends by teaching Italian to Marianna, who until now has only learned the parrot by ear for her productions. They get to know one another's histories and traumas, catch feelings, and of course, finally give in to their simmering passions and a series of late-night trysts ensue.

Marianna is also planning a one-night only benefit concert to pay for her accomodations and thank her generous benefactors, but as on the outs with society as she is, it's unclear if anyone will purchase tickets and attend. Meanwhile, she is also seeking her next gig (a subplot about whether she is to play a lobster or a mermaid for an open in Paris is delightful). The duke, convinced they come from two different worlds, asks her to allow him to make "arrangements" for her (translation: be his mistress, with all expenses covered, which for Marianna translates to sex for money) and a rift occurs, just before the concert. Will they resolve things and get a HEA?

Set in the Regency period, the writing is luscious--beautifully detailed, with period allusions and vocabulary and turns of phrase. The description of the concert is particularly excellent, from the detailed set to the maid arranging the guests by color and moving them around to fit her fancy, while they wonder if it's due to some unknown social hierarchy. Supporting characters such as Dot the maid come to life off the page. The flirtation that takes place across two languages is rich and wonderful, and the love scenes are sensual, consensual and unapologetically shameless. Themes of honor, reputation, and judgement carry through the story.

This is the fourth book in the Palace of Rogues series, and while past incidents are alluded to, reading in order is not required. 
I received an advance reader's review copy of #AfterDarkWithTheDuke from#NetGalley
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Unique, excellent writing, characters, and storyline!  Julie Anne Long manages to write a book where the two main characters could be all alone in the book and it'd still be great.  As though they were alone after dark!  No traumatic events or scandals were necessary to develop the relationship.  Excellent book!

I received an advance reader copy.  These are my honest opinions voluntarily given.
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I just loved this. Kind of a quiet book (as are the others in the series). However, being a classical musician, I am always drawn to stories about the world off classical music. I cannot imagine how difficult Mariana's situation would have been. Even having the gift of a beautiful voice could not save her from the pettiness of the ton. Thank goodness for The Grand Palace on the Thames and it's quirky inhabitants. I had serious reservations about the Duke of Valkirk and his self righteousness, but thankfully he saw the light, or should I say "heard the nightingale" in the end.
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This was okay? I didn’t love. I didn’t hate it. I was kind of indifferent about the main characters. 

My favorite part was Dot and the other people who lived at the boarding house. 

I was afraid this wasn’t going to be steamy at all, it was but it was kind of a slow burn so it just took a while to get to that point. 

Rating: 3.5/5
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Oh my word! Another outstanding book by JAL. This is a May-December Romance which I typically don’t like but this was wonderfully done. Miss Mariana Wylde is an opera singer who is in the middle of a scandal (a duel fought over her) and decides to hides out at The Grand Palace of the Thames, if the proprietresses will take her, that is. The Valorous Duke Of Valkirk is also at the boarding house, hoping for some quiet so he can finish his memoirs. He couldn’t be more opposite from Mariana - he was a general, a Duke, a national hero and always does the right thing. His last bestselling book was called “Honor” for goodness’ sake! And he annoys Mariana so much just by being his imposing, stern, judgy self. She takes it in her head to needle him, just to see if she can get a reaction out of him. And that’s when the, surreptitiously hidden, sparks start to fly.

I will say I wasn’t a fan of the cover. With the red and green, I almost thought this was a Christmas novella at first. And, I think the male model is much too young looking.
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Julie Ann Long delivers another stellar romance among the guests at The Grand Palace on the Thames with this latest installment of the Palace of Rogues series. 

Being introduced to this world has been nothing short of my own form of checking into an establishment and finding my own family. I've had ups and downs with this series but Mariana and Valkirk solidify that there's no where I'd rather be than among the guests of the The Grand Palace on the Thames. 

The banter and sexual tension with these two was perfect along with the language lessons. It was a joy watching them fall for each other despite their class and age difference. 

This is definitely a favorite for me within the series.
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Mariana, a notorious (for some unfortunate turns of fate) opera singer, is forced to seek refuge at the same boarding house as a duke (notorious for being unfailingly honorable) who is working on writing his memoirs. At first, the two cannot get along for the life of them and the duke tends to look down his nose at Mariana because of the reasons for her notoriety but the longer they get to know each other over Italian lessons, feelings grow and change. 

I absolutely adored this book! It had absolutely everything that a romance should: great build up, compelling conflict that made sense to keep the main characters apart, and one of the better happily ever afters that I've read. 

This was my first Julie Ann Long romance and I'm definitely going to add more of her novels to the shelf. 

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I read this last year and because I got mired down in personal health issues, I never got around to reviewing this wonderful book.  It is an emotional tour de force.  Julie Anne Long brings these characters to living breathing life and we think they actually are real people.  The entire Palace of Rogues Series is terrific, and I encourage you to start at the beginning (even though each is a standalone novel) with Lady Derring Takes a Lover, book #1.  Each subsequent book in the series adds some new characters but also keeps many from the previous books. The side characters are as well drawn as the protagonists.  I look forward to more Palace books in the series.
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Julie Anne Long has been a little bit of a hit or miss author for me, but this was definitely a HIT in every sense of the word.

Oh my GOD literally everything about this was PERFECTION. I LOVED how different these 2 main characters are. James is a 43 year old widower who earned his dukedom from his service to England, and Mariana is a 25 year old opera singer who has found herself disgraced due to 2 idiots fighting a duel over her. The way James and Mariana’s relationship started as verbal sparring between the two of them (James judges Mariana at first for the gossip about her in the papers and Mariana believes him to just be a cold duke) and turns into a slow burn and tender romance filled with vulnerability and passion is simply exquisite. 

Y’all….I cried SO MUCH at the ending. I can’t get over James showed Mariana how much he truly loves her. The grand gestures were EVERYTHING!! GAH so beautiful 😭😭😭😭😭

PS I really appreciate how the age gap wasn’t ever brought up as a reason they couldn’t be together! How refreshing.

**Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-arc in exchange for an honest review**
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Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I don't like A), when the heroine is lesser class than the hero, and B), when the third act breakup is resolved by the man changing. Mariana just kind of cruised through life and I don't think that she learned much, once we started to get to know James, and I was disappointed by the end.
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FINAL DECISION: Oh, I loved this one! Emotional with lots of longing and (not too dark) angst. This combined with the beautiful lyricism of Long's writing makes this an example of the reason I'm a big fan of Julie Anne Long's books.

THE STORY: Fleeing to the Palace on the Thames, Mariana Wylde is considered a harlot as an opera singer who had a duel fought by two men for her favor. Almost penniless and desperate to hide from gossip and those who want her to pay for her part in the duel. The proprietresses of the Palace see an opportunity to promote the Palace and also to help Mariana's reputation. At the Palace is also General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, honorable and deeply respected. A self-made man who gained his own title, Valkirk initially scorns the scandalous opera singer but finds himself drawn to a woman he finds to be intelligent and deeply vulnerable.

OPINION: In the story of Mariana and James, the series gets a fantastic emotional story. What is not to love about the self-made Duke who always does what is right and proper and the woman who has found herself on the seedy side of society's judgment. The slow entanglement of these two was deeply satisfying.

The Duke is almost twenty years older than Mariana and is a widower with a son who is already an adult. He has structured his life as being proper and above reproach. Now he has reached a midlife crisis of a sort and is having trouble writing his memoirs. His meeting of Mariana changes his life. He finds a new purpose and a threat to his perfectly organized life. The gentle way in which Long demonstrates how James changes throughout the story is what makes her such a great writer.

Mariana's past is something that she doesn't apologize for. She recognizes her mistakes but doesn't enter into society's condemnation of herself -- and neither do the owners of the Palace. Her story is one of self-acceptance and accepting her mistakes.

One thing I really enjoy about this book is that the story is concentrated between these two characters. By centering both of these characters in the Palace, there is an ability for them to spend time together and grapple with their relationship. This is a great device that allows Long to avoid many of the expected interactions between a stuffy proper Duke and the opera singer. The domestic setting allows the book to avoid the setups for Mariana and James to meet and instead allows the story to focus intently on their relationship.

I loved this book because of the emotional resonance of the characters and how deeply invested I became in their relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: One thing I love about this series is following the development of the Palace itself. I'm rooting for it to succeed as the Palace itself is a central character in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Palace of Rogues series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are characters that appear in other books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.
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I haven't read a Julie Anne Long book in a while and boy was I missing out!  Even though this is book 4 in the Palace of Rogues series, I can attest that this can easily be read as a standalone.   JAL can write emotions like no other.  

Marianne, a 25 year old singer, is introduced in a fantastic way, fleeing in the middle of the night from a mob.  She's at the center of a scandal involving a duel.  I loved Marianne, especially her many attempts to write to her mother.  She's funny, accomplished, a bit desperate, but still hopeful.  She meets her match in the Duke of Valkirk, a national hero, 17 years her senior.  He's upright, noble, and horribly judgmental.  But this is more that an opposites attract trope because even though they are of different status, they are each trapped by societal expectations.   Their love story was wonderful and HEA was well earned.  I teared at the inevitable falling out and swooned at the final grand gesture!
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Thank you Avon for an arc of After Dark with the Duke. This is my first book by Julie Anne Long, but I can't wait to read more of her back list! 

This was such a great read. Mariana ends up in a terrible situation and is blamed for men dueling and almost dying over her. She has to escape her home and ends up at the Grand Palace on the Thames. They kindly take her in and she agrees to put on a show since she can't currently pay them for her room and board. The legendary Duke of Valkirk is also a current tenant, hiding out while he works on his manuscript. One of the Palace's rules is that all guests dine together and spend some time together at night. Mariana and the Duke are antagonistic and banter with each other until the Duke is accused of taking it too far. It's decided that he'll apologize and offer Mariana Italian lessons as an apology. They already have chemistry and are unable to deny it as they're thrown together multiple times a day. 
I really enjoyed Mariana's character and how she's not the typical lead in historical romance. I loved how the Duke apologized when he messed up by making sure her concert was well attended. Their feelings for each other were sweet and I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read more. 
I will update with the link when I share to my bookstagram account.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Mariana is a great character - I loved her resilience and her strong sense of self, even after it had been battered by so many others, and I loved her professionalism as a musician. It took me longer to warm to James, who had a tendency to rush to judgment. But I really liked the enemies-to-lovers dynamic, and the Italian lessons were such a perfect masterclass in the different worlds Mariana and James lived in. Beautifully done.
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I won a copy of this title from the publisher; all thoughts and opinions are my own.  After Dark with the Duke is another wonderful title from Julie Anne Long.  It features her trademark wit and beautiful writing style.  This title continues the trend of this series (I've read all but the previous title) of featuring characters that are not all titled or part of the ton.  Mariana is an opera singer, who is facing public scorn after two titled young men use her as an excuse to fight a duel.  Fleeing from an angry mob, she finds herself at the Palace on the Thames and finagles a room.  In return for her room and board, she will sing at an event   The Duke of Valkirk has taken up residence in the Palace to work on his memoirs with limited distractions.  Valkirk gained his title as a reward for service during the Napoleonic war, he grew up in modest surroundings.  Valkirk is held up as an ideal to young men and finds himself struggling to live up to that image.  Mariana and Valkirk of course have instant chemistry, but both try to ignore it.  When he agrees to teach her Italian as penance for an incident, the two slowly give in to their desire.  I loved these two together and enjoyed their journey to happily ever after.
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Great book of you like age difference..Big gap between H and h ..started off pretty good but didn't keep me captivated like others in this series . Low on the steam scale
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