Saturday, May 26

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Book 1 in the Highland Pleasures series

It’s mighty sad that it took me about half of the book before I recognized that these Mackenzie men are Highlanders. With names like Ian, Cameron, Hart, and Mac… well, some days I prove to be slow-witted.

Moving on. Ian Mackenzie was locked in an insane asylum as a child for his unusual penchants – but has been released again to roam in polite society (rather impolitely). A collector of porcelain, he is fascinated by beauty and truth. Beth Ackerley has recently inherited a large fortune from the wealthy widow to whom she was a companion. Beth is about to marry the sordid Sir Mather. Ian feels compelled to save her because of her beauty and sincerity – he deems her worth saving and so he reveals Mather’s sexual proclivities and massive debt. While the two could’ve parted ways, Ian is drawn inexplicably to Beth and follows her to Paris. The two become quite entangled and as dark, mysterious elements from the Mackenzie brothers’ past begin to show up, Beth becomes determined to help Ian discover the truth. At any cost.

Ian… is a very unique hero. He was mad enough (he has various attention issues, observation issues, etc) that he was interesting and inimitable but not so mad as to be strange and unlikeable. Overall, he was a good man if a little overprotective of Beth (way before his time, I might add). He acts like a caveman sometimes and while it’s endearing too a point he went way beyond endearing to Neanderthal. His absolute obsession and absorption with beauty was fascinating. I liked seeing how Beth opened him up to more feeling and depth of emotion – he wasn’t miraculously ‘fixed’ by the end of the book but he was better (this is good. I despise the miraculous fix). My only complaint is that his character was occasionally inconsistent – at one instance he talks of how he is unable to talk when he gets too overwhelmed or angry but at the next moment he’s screaming ‘Fuck you’ in a man’s face (and I quote).

Beth, for her part, was a fantastic heroine. I loved watching her stand up to all the patriarchal men around her. I loved her sass, her loss of inhibition, her beauty, honesty, and trusting nature. She didn’t even seem out of place for the era despite her un-lady-like tendencies. She was strong-willed, stubborn, and I loved her for it. Ian was indeed a lucky man to end up with her. There’s not too much more to say about her than that – she’s well-developed, well-rounded, intelligent… all-around a good woman with a good heart.

The plot was a bit tired. It was clearly overused and didn’t always make sense. Frequently, conclusions were reached on assumptions. A lot of the time it required me to suspend my belief in reality and good police work which, frequently, I was happy to do. But it still niggled at the back of my mind. Other than that, I liked her style of writing – the prose flowed nicely and the dialogue was excellent (especially between Beth and Hart and Beth and Fellows). I liked that some of Beth’s journal entries were included in the book – the change in narrative perspective was nice. Often, the reader is in the hero’s head and can miss the female perspective. Not here! I appreciated how the setting of the book appeared to be constantly changing - it was a good reflection of Ian's restlessness. Finally, there were some really poignant scenes between the brothers. While I didn’t find all of the romantic scenes especially powerful, all of the scenes between the brothers pulled at my heart-strings. This looks to be a promising series and I look forward to reading the other books.

Favorite Quotes:

“‘I find that a Ming bowl is like a woman’s breast,’ Sir Lyndon Mather said to Ian Mackenzie, who held the bowl in question between his fingertips. ‘The swelling curve, the creamy pallor. Don’t you agree?’
Ian couldn’t think of a woman who would be flattered to be compared to a bowl, so he didn’t bother to nod.”

“‘Find her,’ Ian said. He jerked Fellows upright. ‘You’re a detective. Detect something.’”

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hot… except for the cunny. Why, why, why would you EVER use the word cunny? I know about historical accuracy… but there are fewer words less appealing to come across in the middle of a hot sex scene. Really.

Overall Rating: B

Bottom Line: Well-developed characters, a moderately interesting (if not terribly extended) plot to keep things moving, some interesting twists and the classic I’m-pregnant-I-promise-you-won’t-be-like-your-dad-honey happy ending, if you like historicals this one will likely suit your tastes.

Pages: 323
Published: April 28, 2009
Genre: Historical