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*Actual* 5 Star Review! AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE by Julie Anne Long (The Palace of Rogues #4)

After Dark with the Duke cover

Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series.

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.

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Review:

So…I was about to pick up the latest in this series ( You Were Made to Be Mine ) when I realized to my absolute horror that I hadn’t read this one yet! And I owned it! Obviously, I had to remedy this oversight ASAP.

I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I am that I did <3

After Dark with the Duke was a delightful not-quite-enemies-to-OMG-the-very-bestest-of-lovers romance. It was while reading this that I discovered the only real benefit to the ‘zon purchasing GR: when I read an actual Kindle book I purchased, my (good grief, there were so many in this one) highlights show up on GR for me to giggle and sigh over again…and copy to put in my review. So obviously, I’m obligated to show you the progression of Mariana’s feelings toward James here in her own words, from:

Rooms. Plural. Because of course a single room could never possibly contain his big, fat duke head.

and

Had the Duke of Valkirk learned words like “bewitched” and “beautiful” and used them to seduce women? It seemed nearly impossible to imagine him in the throes of anything other than self-importance.

to

“How are you today?” he asked.

A little sore from locking my legs around your naked back so I could take you deeper, thank you for asking. “Very well,” she said, politely. “And you?”

“Never better.”

I honestly don’t know how Ms Long does it. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times this book made me laugh–from semi-quiet giggles to full-volume LOLs (thankfully, these were mostly in the privacy of my own home. But my cat is still annoyed with me). Yet near the end? I was full-on sobbing. Twice. I almost never give 5 *actual* stars, but if ever a book earned it, it was this one.

Mariana and James’s is a slow burn romance, but it’s so delicious that you won’t even mind the wait for actual sexytimes. (I had just begun to wonder when the “after dark” portion of the title was going to come into play when it all became very clear. Again, worth the wait.) The black moment, as Ms Long’s tend to be, was oh so very black. I *knew* she wouldn’t let us down and there would be a delicious HEA–eventually!–and that knowledge was *just* enough to keep me going through the worst of it.

I don’t know, honestly, what kept Mariana and James going. But oh, that ending. It was glorious. I got to the last page on this one and was very tempted to wallow, book drunk, in its glory…except that I knew book 5 was waiting, and I had some reading to do!

Rating: 5 stars / A+

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