Angelique Breedlove nearly stole the show from the titular character in Lady Derring Takes a Lover, Julie Anne Long’s return to historical romance and the start of her new Palace of Rogues series. Jaded where Delilah Derring was naïve and harsh where she was soft, Angelique was the perfect foil to Long’s good-hearted, somewhat sheltered main character. So when it came time to write Angelique’s own love story, readers were anxious to see just who could possibly deserve her. The answer? Lucien, a deliciously sarcastic bastard son of a duke, whose quest for revenge is totally derailed by his overwhelming attraction to Angelique.
We talked to Long about Delilah and Angelique’s friendship, the joys of setting a series in a boarding house and why Lucien is the perfect man for Angelique.
Where did the idea for a series set in a boarding house come from? What have you enjoyed about it so far?
The notion of a “true home” is a theme I’ve explored more than once in my books. I think it’s a yearning everyone has—to belong, to know your true family, whether they’re related to you or not. And I just loved the idea of a colorful, revolving cast of characters of various ages and social strata who move in and stir things up for a core cast —so many opportunities for connection, conflict, secret intrigues and passions, comedy and tenderness, scandal, growth, you name it! When you throw a disparate bunch of characters together, anything can happen, so it presents a wealth of storytelling opportunities. Moreover, it seemed an opportunity for two women to shine with strength—Delilah and Angelique are in charge at The Grand Palace on the Thames, irregardless of their very impressive husbands. It’s the place where they can be their truest selves. Perhaps it’s why they met their truest loves there.
Readers (myself among them!) adored Angelique in Lady Derring Takes a Lover. Did you feel any pressure to come up with the perfect man for her? And why do you think Angelique and Lucien work so well together?
I’m so happy readers seem to feel as protective of Angelique as I do! And because of that, I did feel a responsibility for finding just the right man for her. She’s far more jaded and experienced than Delilah (the former Lady Derring, current Mrs. Hardy), but in many ways she’s also far more vulnerable (something she disguises with ironic wit) because she’s been betrayed or used by men more than once. The irresistible chemistry between her and Lucien is not something easily squelched, but romantic notions have proven to be her downfall in the past, so she shuts down the physical aspect fast . . . at first. Both Lucien and Angelique have transmuted grave personal betrayals and heartbreaks into strengths—but also into ironclad defenses. Perhaps this is how they see and understand each other so clearly; they’re fitted with similar lenses. And in the distance created when she holds him at arm’s length, this understanding and intimacy flourishes until they both find themselves being almost scarily vulnerable to each other.
"Both Lucien and Angelique have transmuted grave personal betrayals and heartbreaks into strengths—but also into ironclad defenses."
How has Delilah and Angelique’s friendship changed post-Lady Derring and Delilah’s marriage?
During Lady Derring Takes a Lover, it deepened into something even more honest and open, thanks to a few bristly episodes that they managed to navigate successfully. They’re closer now—particularly because Delilah, as a result of her tumultuous love story with Captain Hardy, understands both what real love and real heartbreak is, so she better understands the kinds of experiences that have shaped Angelique. “How could you bear it?” she asks Angelique at one point. Angelique is decidedly more ironic about men than Delilah, but she likes and respects Captain Hardy. And Delilah is not one to rub happiness in, because she genuinely wants it for her friend, too. I think their friendship will go from strength to strength, and occasionally be tested quite a bit, like all good friendships.
Something I really enjoyed about this book is how forthright and open Lucien is about his attraction to Angelique. How did that aspect of his character open up the story for you?
Part of the pleasure of writing mature heroes and heroines—in other words, adults with experience of life and pasts—is that they’ve learned to cut to the chase. Lucien has had a little brush with death and resurrection, shall we say, and has learned that life is short and games are pointless. He’s actually a little too brusque and full of himself in some ways, as Angelique points out in no uncertain terms to him early on. I think there’s nothing more intimate, erotic even—maybe even a little dangerous—than his kind of forthright honesty. I think this bald honesty is in part how he manages to get past Angelique’s charm-coated fortress-like walls—it’s clear he isn’t trying to manipulate her to get something he wants. He respects her intelligence and agency. I felt it helped me develop a relationship between them that grew organically—and volcanically—in ways that felt real to me, and hopefully to the readers.
I am extremely fond of Mr. Delacorte and thus would like to know—will he ever find love?
Awww! Me, too! But I don’t want to give too much away yet! I love him as do our proprietresses at The Grand Palace on the Thames, and as we all care about him, so for now Mr. Delacorte is loved, even if he doesn’t have a wife. Anything can happen at the Grand Palace on the Thames.
One of the best parts of this series is not only how funny it is, but how every character has a specific and personal sense of humor. How do you develop that as a writer? And do you have a way of testing the funny bits to make sure they’re landing?
I’m so glad you think it’s funny! My writing process is kind of difficult to describe because a lot of seemingly contradictory things happen simultaneously: It’s a blend of total surrender to the characters (I feel that in many ways I have to BE them in order to make them real for the reader); a detached, intellectual focus that will allow you to choose just the right words to make the reader see and feel all of the things you want them to experience in the story; and there’s also sort of a delicious spectator aspect to it. Am I entertained by the story as well as the process as I’m writing it? Am I amused? Am I having a good time? Generally, I attempt to entertain myself, and if I can crack myself up then hopefully the readers will be amused, too. I look for the humor everywhere, especially in darker moments. I try not to parse it, usually, because that would be like suddenly watching your fingers when you’re playing a piano piece you know by heart—it might throw you out of the song. I’m just grateful if readers laugh.
"I look for the humor everywhere, especially in darker moments."
Did you map out Lucien’s adventures from the decade he spent out of England for yourself while planning this book? Or was he as surprising to you as a writer as he was to readers?
Oh, if only I “planned” books in detail before I embarked upon writing them! I wish. I suppose I knew that Lucien’s journey, beginning with being hurled into the Thames, would turn him into a formidable, confident, wealthy man, and that he would acquire the experience to continue to build a fortune. The details of his journey dialed into focus later as I came to understand him better as a character, and who he would need to deserve, and be a match for—Angelique.
What’s next for you?
More The Palace of Rogues, and perhaps Pennyroyal Green prequels or other novellas—it all depends on what life throws at me schedule-wise and what readers seem to want!
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Angel in a Devil’s Arms.