The Taming of the Duke (Essex Sisters Series #3)

The Taming of the Duke - Eloisa James 3.5 starsImogen finally takes Center Stage -- not because she thrust herself into the spotlight, but because it was truly her turn. Imagine that!Mixed review here... admittedly Imogen is not my favorite sister. She's simply behaved so badly in both of the previous books, it's difficult for me to like her or relate to her. But I knew that this was coming, and I knew that she was destined for the Duke from book 1. I suspect Ms. James knew it all along, too. But there's a certain amount of ickiness to the two of them being together, no matter how perfect for one another they are. Because the Duke has been presented to us as so much older than he really is? Although, 36 isn't young for a romantic hero, either, not even in Regency romance times. Perhaps it's the whole guardian thing? I don't know. Or perhaps because Imogen is 22-ish, and even in modern times, it seems a little "icky" for 36 year-old to pursue a 22 year-old; kind of the middle-aged guy seeking a young, sexy chick thing. But, oh well! We knew they were destined for one another.And then there's the illegitimate brother, Gabe. Such a wonderful set up from the 2nd book: an unknown brother who is just a few days or months younger than the Duke (Rafe). And the two are practically twins in looks. But Gabe is the more serious, Doctor of Divinity (why?), while Rafe is the devil-may-care drunk. Hmmm... Rafe is in love with Imogen (which only Gabe seems to see), while Gabe is in love with the returning Ms. Pythian-Adams. But Imogen is pursuing Gabe for an illicit love affair, and Gillian (Ms. P-A) is pursuing the Duke for marriage? Seems to have all the elements of a Shakespeare comedy. But somehow, it falls flat.It falls flat because Gabe seems so flat. So much potential for a rollicking good comedy of errors, and this "other brother", Gabe, is just... FLAT. One moment he's telling himself that Gillian is too much of a lady and completely out of his sphere, because he's illegitimate, and the NEXT, he's kissing her madly. He's so passive-aggressive with the poor girl, it's a wonder that she doesn't have the man taken away to the loony bin! So much about this secondary story seems lost-in-translation or simply left behind -- even the bits with the actress, rather than adding to the overall story, seem to be leftovers from another story that Ms. James felt like she had to throw in to round out this story. But instead of helping us get a better picture of Gabe, they seem to muddy the waters.This is, after all, Imogen and Rafe's story of love and seduction. And I will say that the whole disguise and secret assignation part of the seduction seems brilliant. It's so... Imogen -- so dramatic. And it's fun and funny. But instead of being a comedy of errors, it's just a... comedy. Because somehow, Imogen figures it all out before the Duke can tell her, as he wants to do and as he deserves to do -- we all want to see Imogen's shock and horror and even anger, as she figures out what he did and to what lengths he went to in order to woo her. But that delightful moment is stolen from us, and I, for one, resented it.Then, there's some falderal with Josie in Scotland. Which, again, could be quite amusing, but seems to only be thrown in as scraps. I'm tired of the jokes about Josie being too fat. How can that be? Josie's sisters and chaperone assure her that she's got a wonderful, curvy figure, and yet the men all seem to think of her as Ms. Piggy. Are we supposed to believe that Josie's sisters are being kind? Or are we supposed to believe that these men are pigs? Hmmm...I did feel for Ms. Pythian-Adams when she felt as if she'd never have a chance with any man as long as Imogen was around. THAT was one of the most true moments of the book, for me.I suppose that I wanted so much to see Imogen set down -- knocked down, in fact -- that this book seemed too loose for me. Too many loose plots and subplots and story pieces that could have made for a much more satisfying book had they not seem so leisurely plopped in.Here's hoping that Josie's story is back on-track with the 1st two books... and that Imogen takes a decidedly back-seat in that final book!