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"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Angel in a Devil's Arms by Julie Anne Long

Angel in a Devil's Arms: 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.

 

What mattered was she was standing, and that was very much in spite of the men who had populated her life.

 

Readers first met Angelique in Lady Derring Takes a Lover, first in The Palace of the Rogues series. A mysterious man had just arrived when we left the series and Angel in a Devil's Arms picks right up from that. It wouldn't be hard to start the series here, you'd miss emotional foundations between Angelique and Delilah (Angelique was Delilah's husband's mistress) but the author does a good job of revisiting Angelique's background and the romance between our leads starts here.

 

I’ve had all manner of experiences and known all manner of people . . . I believe I can say with some authority that people become who they are more because of the pain they experience than the pleasure. And you, my friend, I do believe you carry about your pain the way you might carry eggs in your apron.”

 

Angelique popped off the pages for me in the first book and I was highly anticipating her story. Almost all of the story takes place in the inn she runs with Delilah and except for a slight revenge plot, this story is focused on character driven and the relationship between Angelique and Lucien. If you're a reader of Long, you'll know how beautifully she can turn a phrase and describe emotion, for example: He paused. She would not be surprised if it was because he heard her heart beating. He’d toyed with the rhythm of its since they met. He ought to know it the way a violinist knows his own instrument. Gorgeous writing. The story has many sentences like this, but I still ending up feeling a lack of connection between our couple.

 

Imagine a woman who could shorten his breath and blank his mind with just one curve of her lips.

 

Our hero Lucien was born a bastard but his Duke father started off very loving until he married and then he shunned Lucien and his mother. Lucien started to act out for attention which caused his step-mother to be embarrassed about him and possibly is behind assailants pushing him into the Thames. He gets rescued by a passing ship and ends up sailing the seas for ten years. We're told this and I think I needed some flashbacks of his time surviving, fighting, and building himself up to feel closer to his character. A developing relationship between Lucien and his half brother helped to add layers to Lucien's character and I can't help but already wish for the half brother's book. However, there wasn't anything that really stood out for me with his character and Lucien ended up feeling pretty benign.

 

But what surprised her most was the gratitude for everything, including all the heartbreaks, upheavals, betrayals she’d so far known. The wrong men had simply prepared her to recognize the right one. The seemingly wrong turns had led her precisely to where she wished to be.

 

When Angelique and Lucien are together, they do have some good byplay but the sparks just weren't there enough for me. The bedroom scenes were there but felt strangely short and rushed for what Long usually writes. A revenge plot ends up sputtering out and I just don't think the characters and their relationship was strong enough to carry the character driven focus. Angelique and Delilah have screen time together, more towards the end and I missed feeling their connection like I did in the first. The inn's guest are all here again and provide some comedic relief but secondary characters couldn't make up for the lack of punch I was missing between our leads.

 

Living one’s truth, it seemed, was more liberating than the false safety of no emotion or no risk. It was just so much easier to do when you knew you were loved.

 

Long has talent and skill for writing and describing human emotions and complexities beautifully and truthfully, but the breadth of the romantic relationship between Angelique and Lucien was missing for me. The epilogue sweetly sets up the next couple in the series and I'll definitely be reading it and hoping the setting can leave the inn more and our main couple will have more scope to their relationship.