A Duke Never Yields

By: Juliana Gray


I’d like to think that Shakespeare, that great purloiner of history and legend, would not have minded my adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost into a romantic trilogy set in Victorian-era Italy. I’ve tried in A Duke Never Yields (as in the previous installments, A Lady Never Lies and A Gentleman Never Tells) to honor my source with plenty of the servants’ banter, mistaken identity, and magical realism he employed to such classic effect.

But I owe another debt to Giuseppe Verdi, who composed many of his greatest operas at the same time and in roughly the same corner of the world as the setting of this trilogy, and all three books are littered with references, large and small, to his life and work. My most blatant larceny, of course, is of the Curse of the Castel sant’Agata itself (named, by the way, for Verdi’s estate in nearby Lombardy). Opera lovers will recognize at once that the over-the-top events taking place in the castle’s courtyard in 1590 mirror those in the first scene of La Forza del Destino (itself an adaptation of earlier dramas by Schiller and Angel de Saavedra); my Leonora’s flight to a religious sanctuary is based on that of Verdi’s Leonora. The Convento di San Giusto is named for the convent in Don Carlo, which opera also inspired some of the dynamics of the love triangle in A Gentleman Never Tells, including one of its key scenes.

Both Shakespeare and Verdi loved the otherworldly, and their works seethe with ghostly spirits, with undercurrents of fate and destiny, with the redemption of sin as the beating heart of human drama. I’ve used these devices liberally in this trilogy, and I hope the masters would approve.

One final word of heartfelt thanks to cast and crew: my matchless agent, Alexandra Machinist; my keen-eyed editor, Kate Seaver, and her lovely assistant, Katherine Pelz; the wonderful people at Berkley who make magic with book covers, marketing, publicity, and sales; and most especially to my copy editor, Marianne Grace, who kept all the details straight in this complex three-book project, and who deserves a year-long Tuscan holiday of her own, dashing aristocrats included.



February 1890

The Duke of Wallingford, as a rule, did not enjoy the sound of the human voice upon waking. Not that of his valet, nor his mistress—he never, ever spent the night with a woman—and certainly not the one that assailed his ears just now.

“Well, well,” said the Duke of Olympia, to the prostrate form of his eldest grandson. “For an instrument that has cut such a wide swathe of consternation, it appears remarkably harmless at present.”

Wallingford did not trouble to open his eyes. For one thing, he had a crashing headache, and the morning light already pierced his brain with sufficient strength, without his giving up the additional protection of his eyelids.

For another thing, he’d be damned if he gave the old man the satisfaction.

“Who the devil let you in?” Wallingford demanded instead.

“Your valet was kind enough to perform the office.”

“I shall sack him at once.”

Olympia’s footsteps clattered in reply along the wooden floor to the opposite end of the room, where he flung back the curtains on the last remaining window. “There we are! A lovely day. Do examine the brilliant white of the winter sun this morning, Wallingford. Too extraordinary to be missed.”

Wallingford dropped an arm over his face. “Rot in hell, Grandfather.”

A sigh. “My dear boy, may I trouble you to consider a dressing robe? I am not accustomed to addressing the unadorned male member at such an early hour of the day. Or any hour of the day, as a matter of habit.”

Arthur Penhallow, Duke of Wallingford, twenty-nine years old and assuredly not a boy, flung his unoccupied arm in the direction of his dressing-room door. “If the sight offends, Grandfather, I recommend you to the wardrobe. The dressing gowns, I believe, are hanging along the right-hand side. I prefer the India cashmere, in wintertime.”

“I must decline your gracious invitation,” said Olympia, “and ring for your valet instead. Have you never considered a nightshirt?”

“When I am sixty-five, and without hope of tender feminine attention upon my withered person, I shall remember the hint.” This was not quite fair. Wallingford knew for a fact that his grandfather’s person, withered or not, currently enjoyed the tender feminine attention of Lady Henrietta Pembroke herself, who did not choose her lovers for mere whimsy.

On the other hand, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up.

“And yet, Wallingford, your own person exhibits no evidence of feminine attention of any kind.” A delicate pause. “Quite the contrary, in fact.”

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