Monday, April 03, 2006

Taming of the Duke (spoilers ahead)

I first ran across Eloisa James when I read a novella by her in "The One That Got Away." I liked it. Then I found out that she was an English prof at Fordham University, which a number of family member attend/have attended. So as some kind of show of solidarity, I continued to seek her work out. I like her, with qualifications, so it was interesting to see, as I got into the whole romance thing, that she inspires such mixed and strong feelings. I admire the fact that she is trying to do something different. She plays with structure, supporting large than usual casts of characters and multiple subplots. She also writes more human characters: they can be weak and selfish, even annoying. Her heroes are strong, but beta, and her heroines can have very strong personalities as well. It seems to be for these reasons that a lot of readers dislike her work. I actually like these elements. She's got a nice writing style as well. My beef with James is that in the process of challenging herself and readers, she seems to lose sight of the primary challenge of a romance: to create a clear, engaging, believable love story between two characters.

I was really looking forward to The Taming of the Duke. I put aside Lord Perfect for it.
I had enjoyed the two previous books in the "Sisters" series, and I had enjoyed Rafe Jourdain, the Duke of Holbrook's appearances in them. He looked to be an unusual hero, a drunk with a gut, but there was definitely some kind of tension or feeling between him and Imogen, and I was excited to see what James would do with it. Similarly, I didn't particularly care for Lady Imogen Maitland, she was often petulant and immature, but there were glimmers of something likable and I wanted to see how the author would make these two over and give them an HEA. In TTOTD, Imogen returns to the home of her guardian, Rafe, just as he's getting to know his illegitimate half-brother, a Cambridge professor named Gabriel Spenser. For reasons I'm not going to bother getting into, the two are going to mount a theatrical production at Holbrook Court. Rafe drives Imogen crazy as usual, but she is intrigued by his brother, who looks a lot like him, but has a sober dignity that Rafe lacks. Although, he is unmarriageable due to his birth, Gabriel is the perfect candidate for the affair that Imogen is desperate to have (yeah, she's still a bit annoying). But just who is it that Imogen is meeting in the shadows, bearing a fake mustache?


Wait for it...

WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!! I really wanted to like this story. The weakness can be summed up quite easily--not enough Rafe and Imogen. There was too much Imogen and 'Gabriel' and too much of the real Gabriel's romance (Although I enjoyed the character and the love story, it needed its own forum 'cuz it took away from the story at hand). Furthermore, it really bugged me that Rafe continued his charade thoughout the book. It made him seem stupid at best, downright creepy at worst. I couldn't believe that he wouldn't think that Imogen wouldn't hand him his balls when she found out that he had sex with her while pretending to be someone else. If they had had sex, he had come clean, had the inevitable blow up, and continued from there, I would've liked it much better. As it was, Imogen was in love with a made up person for reasons based on lust. Although I definitely believe that there were strong sparks between the two, and feeling (which makes it all the more disappointing), I just didn't believe in their (especially Imogen's) declarations of love at the end. We just didn't get enough of their love story. They weren't there yet, y'know? I'm really curious to see if the element of dishonesty bothered anyone else.

Ah well, I'll still look forward to Josie's story. I wonder if she'll hook her up with Mayne. I suppose it's realistic, but James' habit of heroes that are much older than the heroine yucks me out a bit. Very Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Especially since the heroes comment on the heroine's youth. It's like they know they're stealing them from the cradle.

ETA after reading reviews on Amazon: I just want to state that there was not a glimmering of evidence that Imogen had realized Rafe's charade until the denouement. As written, I really don't believe she made that discovery until his proposal. Just one line to acknowledge it. Again, disappointing.


Kristie (J) said...

I hear via the internet romance grapevine that she is going to be adding more to the book on her website - which to me screams just wrong! I've never tried her before but this "kerfuffle" for lack of a better word just makes me glad I haven't.

Stacy~ said...

I have to agree with everything you wrote. I see you have updated posts on this topic, and I will have to read them at another time, but I just want to say that I felt exactly the same. I also believed Imogen knew way before the proposal - she would never have made love to Rafe if she believed he was Gabe - but the ending was a complete disappointment. Rafe deserved better, imo. I just finished this book yesterday (4/14) so I'm feeling a bit emotional about it, still. Kept me up all night, conflicted LOL. Great post.