The Taming of the Duke Mass Market Paperback – Mar 28 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
James's delightful third installment in her successful Four Sisters Regency series (Much Ado About You; Kiss Me, Annabel) revolves around Imogen Maitland, the mischievous sister of Kiss Me, Annabel's titular heroine. Now a widow residing at Holbrook Court in Suffolk, England, Imogen lives under the care of her guardian, Rafe Jourdain, the stubborn, drunken duke of Holbrook charged with the parentless Essex sisters' care. As she clashes with the controlling, brutish Rafe, Imogen believes she is uninterested, but helping Rafe through painful alcohol detox helps spark the attraction between them. When Imogen meets Rafe's illegitimate half-brother, Gabe Spenser, however, she becomes determined to pursue an illicit affair with Gabe; soon, Rafe is impersonating Gabe—complete with a fake mustache—in a scandalous nighttime outing with Imogen that pushes them to the edge of temptation and forces Rafe to seriously consider the delicate proposition of seducing his own ward. Before long, Rafe becomes determined to pursue Imogen—for his wife. James's intelligent, believable dialogue rises above the often trite language found in historical romances, giving the characters depth and substance. James's considerable talents for clever prose and tight, breezy plotting are on full display, promising a perennial delight in each coming adventure of the Essex sisters. (Mar. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Imogen Maitland designed her entire life around Draven Maitland, but only two weeks after their honeymoon, Draven died. A year later, Imogen is just beginning to entertain the thought of taking a lover when she meets Gabriel Spenser, the illegitimate half brother of her guardian, Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook. A Cambridge professor of divinity, Gabe shares Rafe's dark good looks, but, fortunately, he doesn't emulate Rafe's annoying habit of trying to direct Imogen's life or curb her taste for scotch. When Rafe agrees to host a theatrical production for Gabe at his estate, Imogen sets a plan in motion to get to know the sexy professor better only to discover that the only man she truly desires after all is the argumentative, stubborn, yet totally irresistible Rafe. RITA Award-winning James' latest addition to her Essex sisters series is truly delectable. James' writing is graceful and witty, her plot delightfully clever, and her characterization--including the captivating Miss Gillian Pythian-Adams--is nothing less than brilliant. John Charles
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
From things I have read elsewhere, I believe Ms. James realizes her error and she is backtracking trying to remedy it. For me, it is too late. I didn't like all Ms. James earlier books, but I have enjoyed the Essex sister's stories. But this one has me shaking my head. I would really like to have known that Imogen knew it was Rafe. I think that would have made some delicious scenes, where she knew it was him, but he wasn't sure if she knew. That never happened and the book came to an abrupt end. If the tidbits were there that she knew, they were very vague. I don't like to be hit over the head with something, but a few more helpful hints wouldn't have hurt. I honestly don't believe the author had any hints.
One thing I did enjoy about the book was Miss Pythian-Adams and Gabe. Their story was tremendously entertaining. When EJ gets it right, she gets it very right.
I hope Ms. James listens to her reader's comments and does a better job with Mayne's story. That is one I hope she gets right.
Rafe is the rather blithely tipsy Duke of Holbrook who unexpectedly found himself guardian to four sisters in first in the series, MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU. He's perpetually rumpled, shaggy-haired and paunchy. He's just discovered that he has an illegitimate brother, Gabe, whom he welcomes into the family fold. Rafe is also carrying a torch for one of his wards, the impetuous widow Imogen, Lady Maitland. Unfortunately, Imogen does not share Rafe's feelings, rather his drinking and dishevelment disgust her.
Imogen has never come to terms with her husband's death, their too brief time together (a week), nor the realization that she loved her husband far more than he loved her. She is determined not to marry again and so she decides to take a lover. When Gabe arrives on the scene she sets her cap at him. Unfortunately for Imogen, Gabe's head has been turned by Gillian Pythian-Adams the fiancee from whom Imogen stole Draven, her late husband. Keeping up so far? When Imogen corners Gabe and arranges an assignation, Gabe later changes his mind and asks Rafe to take his place. And so begins the mistaken identity farce that Ms James hoped to create.
Unfortunately, I think Ms James tried to be too clever by half and tripped herself up. A Shakespearean farce works for Shakespeare, but not in a story where you are supposed to believe that these are "real" people. It was never clear to me that Imogen knew she was with Rafe instead of Gabe until well after they had had sex. Not good! And I really wondered at Rafe's self-respect to allow her to fall for him all the while thinking he was someone else. Pathetic! And, once he gives up drinking and loses a few pounds, Rafe is suddenly handsome? He was never, to my memory, described as handsome in either of the prior books in this series. Though the author attempts to convey Imogen's vulnerabilities as regards her marriage, I never warmed up to her. She was just so brittle and hard and I felt that Rafe deserved better. Personally, I had always hoped that Rafe would wind up with Josie who is so warm and down-to-earth.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the relationship between Gabe and Gillian very much. At times, their romance overshadowed Rafe and Imogen's, however. Ms James loves to coyly tease her readers by playing musical chairs with her characters but I just don't think it worked this time. Well, it looks like Josie will wind up with the world weary Mayne eventhough he supposedly has become engaged at the end of this book. I'm going to hope that Josie gets a story she deserves!
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.