LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER – Julie Anne Long
The Palace of Rogues , Book 1
Just days after her husband's funeral, Delilah, Countess of Derring, visits his solicitor to learn why she's being hounded by bill collectors. She's been told to pay up or surrender her possessions. The solicitor has worse news for her. The husband was completely without funds; he owed everybody. She will lose, not only his collections, but her house and all her belongings. Moreover, everything entailed to the estate must go to his legal heirs. As she tries to deal with all this, a woman enters the scene wanting to talk to the solicitor about a pension Derring promised her. She announces she's Angelique Breedlove, Derring's mistress, making for a rather embarrassing scene. After being told there is no pension, she leaves a note to Lady Derring advising her to quickly hide her jewels. At the last minute, the solicitor recalls something. He gives Delilah some keys telling her they are for a derelict house on the East India docks, but all hers free and clear. (He thinks her husband must have won it.) When Delilah gets back home, she finds all her servants gone except one loyal young lady's maid named Dorothy.
With very limited funds and nowhere else to go, Delilah and Dorothy go to the docks to check out the house. Before entering, they see a restaurant/pub across the street. They are both famished so they go there. The friendly owner feeds them meat pies, coffee, and information about the house that may have been a brothel at one time. They also run into Mrs. Breedlove. The three of them (Delilah, Angelique and Dot) open the house which they see has possibilities as a rooming house. Putting their jewelry money together, Delilah and Angelique form a partnership to fix it up. They rename it The Grand Palace on the Thames . Meanwhile, king's man Captain Tristan Hardy is on the trail of smugglers and suspects that the Earl of Derring was involved. The trail leads to the new rooming house.
LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER is a very deep, rich, and engaging story with intriguing characters. Delilah changes from a victim to a strong, independent woman. Angelique was already strong and interesting as the story began. Together they make the rooming house a friendly home (albeit with rules) for a variety of people including Tristan. He's able to use it as a base without exposing himself. He began life in a slum but moved up in the world in the navy until he becomes a hero.
Don't miss this combination historical mystery, character study, suspense and romance.