by Kathy Davie
First of the Highland Pleasures, an historical romance revolving around the larger-than-life Mackenzie family. The couple focus here is on Lord Ian and Beth Ackerley.
Oh, I did enjoy this! Not for its historical accuracy…the main premise right out the gate was very improbable. What I truly loved was Ashley giving her hero an emotional disability. She made me feel the difficulty and frustrations Ian suffered in his world because of his “madness”. It really makes you appreciate how far we’ve come medically when you read of how Ian’s father treated him. Of course, we do learn much later an even better reason for his father’s treatment…it’ll be interesting to read the others in the series to see how their father affected the rest of the boys.
It was definitely a sweet read with its unusual hero and heroine. The improbability of Beth marrying into a duke’s family was so minor in light of the amazing characters Ashley created. Ian lived life on his own terms. Neither giving way nor losing his humanity. Grateful for all the good things in his life and very protective of his family. No matter what. Beth, too, is a good person with the most horrible background. In spite of it, she has a moral high ground and an intense need for the truth.
Ya just can’t help but enjoy the boys and Beth. Ian’s interaction with Beth is particularly abrupt and Ashley truly does write an amazing series of dialogs between them. Realistic. True. Brutally honest. I love Beth’s reactions to what Ian says, demands. Through the dialog, we learn a great deal about Beth’s character as well as gaining an understanding of the difficulty someone with Asperger’s Syndrome has interacting with people.
All of them seize life with gusto and damn the torpedos…!
And Ian learns about love.
It starts with a very mischievous Lord Ian trampling over Mather’s Ming bowl and stealing his intended with a revealing letter and a proposal. Only the “theft” backfires on Lord Ian when Beth ends her betrothal to Mather and runs for Paris refusing to believe Lord Ian was serious.
A Paris where she meets two more members of the Mackenzie family as well as Lord Ian when he follows her. Detective Inspector Fellows also follows her to Paris where he accosts her in Lady Isabella’s house. Threats. Blackmail. Fellows will do anything to take down the Mackenzies. His mere presence is enough to drive Lord Ian into a rage. Fellows’ latest attempt forces a new alliance between Beth and Lord Ian following which he whisks her off to Scotland…with a side trip to London to thwart Mather. Again.
It’s Scotland where things come to a head, for the duke has arrived home determined to scotch this mésalliance between his brother and Beth. Beth also gets angry when Lord Ian refuses to explain about the High Holborn house and the murder. A murder she knows he did not commit and she has the determination to prove it.
Lord Ian Mackenzie is the youngest brother and suffers from what appears to be Asperger’s Syndrome. His father’s ostensible reason for putting young Ian into an asylum leaving him there to be subjected to the sadistic experiments of what passed for doctors. He’s brutally honest and absolutely brilliant with hard facts. It’s dealing with society and understanding the emotional aspects that has him clueless. Curry is his valet and a former pickpocket. He does a beautiful job of smoothing Ian’s life. Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan, is the oldest with his own checkered past, but a genuine love for his brothers. Wilfred is his valet. Lord Mac is a famous artist with an estranged wife, Lady Isabella. Bellamy is his valet. Lord Cameron is gifted with horses and has a son, Daniel.
Beth Villiers Ackerley has literally risen up from the gutter. Her father was a confidence trickster who ensared her mother. His death left her and her mother to survive as best they could while Thomas Ackerley was the vicar who rescued her from the poorhouse. Married her. Taught her about the marriage bed. Loved her. When her latest employer, Mrs. Barrington, died, Beth inherited her estate. Katie Sullivan is from her husband’s old parish and Beth has hired her as a companion.
Sir Lyndon Mather is a charming and handsome moron who has managed to make most of the ton believe he still has money. He intends to ensure that his income continues by marrying the newly-wealthy Mrs. Ackerley. Arden was a fellow inmate, a Frenchman, with Lord Ian. Incarcerated by his father because he preferred men. Graves is his lover. Dr. Edwards was in charge of the asylum where Arden and Lord Ian were tortured.
Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows has a huge chip on his shoulder for the Mackenzie family and hounds them to the delight of criminals everywhere. Sally Tate was a prostitute murdered in her bed in a house owned by Hart Mackenzie five years before our story. Lily Martin is another prostitute murdered in her home. The same night Lord Ian left for Paris. Mrs. Angelina Palmer was Hart’s first mistress and she’s still in love with him. He set her up with some other ladies in a house.
The cover is three-fourths light blue moiré with the last quarter a slice of a man in a white linen shirt with bloused sleeves embracing a rather dramatically posed woman in a very low-cut red gown with white lace that bunches up into a huge flower between her breasts. Her pose looks rather dorky, but the dress looks great.
The title is literal. It is The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie that powers the entire story.