Friday, May 22, 2009
Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
I first read about The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie on The Phade message board. A poster had read and loved it, and let all of the Historical Romance readers know about the book. Then Kristie J read it and was over the moon about the story, especially the hero, and I got a strong itch to have the book in my hands immediately. After searching high and low, I found it on Mother's Day and it was one of my gifts. Lucky me.
Ian Mackenzie has been long thought crazy due to his past and inability to handle life the way "normal" people do. He spent his youth in a mental asylum and following his release, he became mixed up in the murder of a prostitute. Though all fingers pointed to Ian being the killer, he was able to get off based on his family's prominence, but the the whispers about him being a murderer and not to be trusted with women have followed Ian ever since.
Widowed Beth Ackerley has come into new money following the death of a gentlewoman she was Lady companion to. With her new wealth, her world has drastically changed from the one she grew up in. She is now a Lady and engaged to gentleman, Sir Mather. Things are going as well as they can be for Beth until Lord Ian shows up, determined to save her from her betrothal. He knows dark secrets about Sir Mather and needs for her to know the truth about her soon to be husband.
Upon first meeting, Ian takes an immediate liking to Beth and wants her "in his bed." Beth is taken with Ian as well, she finds him to be an an interesting man, unlike anyone she's ever known. She is instantly attracted and intrigued by him - a man that can not even look her in the eyes. Beth takes Ian's news about Mather to heart and calls off her wedding, deciding to take her newly inherited fortune and travel the world, her first stop being Paris.
Beth thinks that she she has left London and the disarming Ian behind, but soon finds that while fleeing London, she has run into more Mackenzie's, and Ian soon follows. Over their time spent together in Paris, Beth becomes attached to Ian, and even the horrible rumors about his past and insistence that he is dangerous, won't deter her. In Ian, Beth finds a love that she didn't think possible after the death of her husband and she is intent on showing Ian that he is not mad, and proving to all of London that Ian is not the murderous man they think him to be.
I truly enjoyed the different take on this romance. Lord Ian was both an interesting and unusual hero because he suffers from Aspergers - a disorder on the autism spectrum which makes interacting in social situations and empathising with other's hard. His disorder made him a refreshing hero because he is honest to a fault and means what he says. Having a hero that flat out tells the heroine that he can never love her and mean it, is an oddity in romance. And even though it is odd, it definitely worked.
A good amount of my enjoyment of Ian, I think, stemmed from his character reminding me a little of my favorite hero to date, Christian Jervaulx from Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm. Like Christian, Ian's combination of disability, vulnerability, and strong will drew me to the him and further into the story.
Even though I liked the story, I do have a few nit picks. The first being the never ending references to Beth's growing up in Bethnal Green. Her upbringing was constantly brought up whenever she faced a difficult situation. As though she was only able to overcome an obstacle because of where she grew up. Of course her childhood would have shaped her, but is it really the only reason why she was able to overcome? Was she not just headstrong because that was the type of person she naturally was and not because of where she grew up? Did her ability to persevere have to be because she was from the slums?
I'm not sure if I'm making sense, as it is hard to put my thoughts on this into words - but the constant references to Beth being able to get trough anything because she'd grown up in Bethnal Green, somewhat stifled her character for me. On the other hand, I did like that Beth was a seasoned woman and that she went after what she wanted. She was headstrong without being stupid and I loved that. I just wish that most of her gumption hadn't been reasoned away through of her upbringing. A simple reference here and there would have sufficed.
And for all of Beth's being from Bethnal Green, she was very naive and trusted far too easily. So, she was only Bethnal Green material when faced with an obstacle, but her upbringing in such a place didn't make her more wary when it came to strange men (The Mackenzie's) shrouded in nefarious rumors? There was also Beth's continual thoughts of being wicked that bugged me, only because it was another repetitive thing about her. I could see her thinking it once, maybe twice, but through the first half of the book she was "wicked" for falling for Ian.
Another problem I had with the story was the surprise discovery/twist. It was lame, campy, almost cartoonish. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, so I'm probably alone in my complaint, but the twist didn't work for me. In fact, it annoyed me and threw me right out of the story. I wish that it hadn't been added to the at all, as it was totally unneeded. I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop now.
Aside from my dislikes, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie worked on many levels. I adored Ian, liked Beth, the secondary characters were intriguing enough for me to want to read the next book in this series, the writing was solid, the Scots accent's weren't written out in annoying detail, the passionate tension was well done, the love scenes were perfectly executed... There is a lot of praise to go around and overall, it was a really good read. This was my first book by Jennifer Ashley, though she's written a good amount of books, both Historical Romance and Paranormal Romance, but it won't be my last. Grade B.
Visit Jennifer Ashley here. Read the first chapter of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie here.