Impatient with the strictures of polite British society, Miss Abigail Harewood has decided to live life on her own terms—and the first thing she requires is a lover. When the commanding Duke of Wallingford arrives on the doorstep of her leased holiday castle, she thinks she’s found the perfect candidate: handsome, dashing, and experienced in the art of love.
But tempting Wallingford into her bed proves more difficult than she imagined. Restless and dissatisfied with his debauched life in London, the formerly rakish duke is determined to spend a year chaste. But as Abigail tries her best to seduce him, Wallingford finds his resolve crumbling in the face of her irresistible charm…and her alluring secrets.
Rating: C+ for narration, B for content
A Duke Never Yields is the third in the Affairs by Moonlight trilogy which centres around the love lives of three different couples who end up spending best part of a year living in partial seclusion in an old Italian castle.
Unusually for a series of books, each story happens concurrently rather than consecutively, which means the listener gets to hear some scenes from different points of view in each book. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen so often as to become repetitive, and I confess this is the sort of narrative device I rather enjoy. That said, the book can definitely be listened to or read as a stand-alone, as the overlapping threads are not allowed to overshadow the events in the story.
The eponymous duke is Arthur Penhallow, Duke of Wallingford who, at twenty-nine, is one of the most renowned lotharios in the country. His maternal grandfather is the machiavellian Duke of Olympia (who is also a strong background presence in Ms Gray’s current Princess in Hiding books) and when Olympia appears one morning and accuses his grandson of being a waste of space, good for nothing but shagging, drinking and general debauchery, and informs him that he has to clean up his act he is, to say the least, annoyed. And then becomes very alarmed when Olympia tells him he must either propose marriage within the next few months to a lady of Olympia’s choice or join a planned retreat to Italy with his brother, Roland, and their “friend” (in reality, Olympia’s natural son), Phineas Burke, in order to, as we might say today, get his shit together and work out what he’s going to do with his life.
En route to the Castel Sant’ Agata, the men encounter a party of ladies consisting of Lady Alexandra Morley, her sister Abigail and their cousin Lilibet, each of whom has her own reasons for wanting to get away for a while, too.
Rather like the characters in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, the men have decided to undertake a year of quiet and study away from female company. But the best laid plans of mice and men cannot be allowed to proceed unchecked, and upon arrival, they discover that the castle has also been leased to the very same group of ladies they had encountered on the road. After some initial grumblings, the sextet reasons that the castle is more than big enough to enable them all to co-exist without actually seeing each other very much, so they agree to share.
The heroine of this story is Abigail Harewood, a vivacious and rather quirky young lady with an impish sense of humour. Unwilling to surrender the independence which has allowed her to indulge her penchant for unconventional behaviour – such as betting on horse races and going for a pint down the pub – she has decided that marriage is not for her but isn’t prepared to miss out on the good bits. She wants to take a lover – and who better for her first one than a man of vast experience who will surely know how to pleasure a woman and who won’t want or expect romantic entanglements or commitment? And what better setting than Italy, the lushly seductive land of love? The fact that Wallingford is gorgeous certainly doesn’t hurt either, and Abigail sets her sights firmly upon him. After all, how hard can it be to persuade a womaniser of such magnitude to seduce her?
Unfortunately for Abigail, when the rake in question has been brought to an understanding of his inadequacies and deficiencies, it’s much more difficult than one might expect.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.