This is the third book in the Essex sisters' series about four daughters of a viscount who, upon his death, are made wards of Rafe Jourdain, the handsome but frequently inebriated Duke of Holbrook. This book focuses on Imogen, who is married for only two weeks when her reckless husband is killed in an accident. It nicely redeems the troubled heroine, who up until this point in the series has been rather hard to like. It is now a year since her husband's death, a year filled for Imogen with loneliness, anger and a good deal of self-destructive behavior. She returns to Rafe's estate, determined to turn her life around. She does not feel ready to marry again, but hopes to find a man with whom to have a discreet affair. Who should also be staying with Rafe but his long lost look-alike brother Gabe. Gabe has all of Rafe's good points, but without his perpetual drunken haze, and Imogen immediately sets her sights on him.
Meanwhile, she and Rafe spend endless hours goading and tormenting one another - she over his drinking and he over her loose behavior - but it is clear that something is simmering right below the surface. They look more like a frustrated and bickering married couple than a guardian and his former ward, which is not lost on his very observant brother. So after Gabe reluctantly agrees to meet Imogen for a nighttime rendezvous, to which they are to come in disguise, he gets Rafe to take his place. Rafe's disguise gives him the courage at last to approach Imogen as more than his ward. He spends a passionate night with her and finally admits to himself that he loves her. However, Imogen thinks that her memorable encounter is with Gabe, and so the complications begin.
This story takes place against the backdrop of an amateur theatrical production of a comedy being staged at Rafe's estate, and it is a very apt setting. "The Taming of the Duke" is like a Shakespearean comedy of errors, rife with intrigues and misunderstandings, and with twin-like brothers to boot. Of course Rafe has all the most important roles, and he performs them all admirably. His effort to quit drinking is one of the most interesting aspects of the story, and lays the groundwork for his clear-eyed pursuit of Imogen. The leads' insecurities play nicely off each other to create both humorous and tender moments. The humor somewhat overshadows the romance, though, and the pretense drags on too long and is resolved too late, weakening the romantic impact. The book is well-written, however, with good dialogue and a very attractive hero. There is also a fine secondary romance involving the enigmatic Gabe, and the appealing Gillian Pythian-Adams in an encore performance.