The Mad, Bad Duke

Perils of the Heart

The Pirate Hunter

The Pirate Next Door

Lady Knightly's Secret

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
by Jennifer Ashley
(Leisure Books, $7.99, PG13) ISBN 978-0-8439-6043-3
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is the tale of two adults with considerable emotional baggage who make a fragile connection and strive to make a life together. In 1881, Lord Ian Mackenzie is one of four brothers in a very prominent Scottish family.† His brothers Hart, the duke, Mac the artist and Cam the horseman love him fiercely. However, his powerful family hasnít been able to save him from terror and heartache.

Ian was locked away in an asylum as a young boy, because he witnessed an awful act by his father.† While Ian has always been shy, awkward, unable to look people in the eye, uncomfortable in crowds and unable to follow multiple conversations, he was terrorized at the asylum by the "treatments," which has made his eccentricities much worse.

Ianís oldest brother, Hart, had him released from the asylum upon their fatherís death, but still feels responsible for the terrible treatment that he suffered there.† Ian still suffers from constant headaches and awful rages that boil up inside him since his release.†He tries to control himself, and his valet Curry does a lot to help him escape from the situations that cause him pain.

Ian collects Ming bowls to soothe himself, and we meet him as he buys a bowl from an acquaintance, Sir Lyndon Mather.† He quickly realizes that Mather is a bumbling idiot, who doesnít know the value or authenticity of the bowls in his collection - or the value of his lovely, rich, widowed fiancťe, Beth Ackerley. Upon meeting the beautiful, funny Beth, Ian senses that she can soothe him, and he decides to steal her away from Mather any way he can.† The theft doesnít prove difficult as Beth is taken with Ian and his sideways glances and truthful speech.† Heís handsome and unintentionally charming.

While their love story could have progressed smoothly and easily from this point, it turns out that both Beth and Ian have very complicated pasts that threaten to swallow them.† Beth has risen above her fatherís deceitful image and her motherís fall from gentility to the workhouse.† Her high-profile affair with the powerful, mad Ian Mackenzie hasnít gone unnoticed by the gossip rags, Ianís brothers or Scotland Yard, and suddenly, Bethís seedy past is being unearthed.

Ianís troubles are far worse.† For five years, heís been hiding behind the powerful Mackenzie name with the support of his brothers, after waking from one of his ďmuddlesĒ to find his hand covered in a courtesanís blood, her dead body sprawled in the room.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is masterfully written, Ianís problems and eccentricities are wonderfully detailed to the point of being frightening.† Ian is heart-wrenchingly vulnerable; when the reader learns of the treatment he received at the hand of his angry father and later, of the staff at the asylum, itís hard not to hope that he is completely innocent and will get some measure of secure happiness.† He is one of the most detailed, well-rounded heroes Iíve read.† Ian manages to be intently sexy and strong while enduring his tormented existence, longing for friendship and love.

Beth is far from a sweet, two-dimensional missish heroine.† She doesnít try to hide or beautify her past; she has taken her path and succeeded at making it through the perils of the rough streets while retaining her compassion for others.† Beth is strongly drawn to Ian, and her diary entries open up an intimate inside look into her thoughts towards him.† She refuses to be appalled by the terrifying questions that the familyís history poses, or wilt away from the challenge of helping the man sheís falling in love with.

The only hitch in Ian and Bethís relationship was the believability of her quick declaration of love for him, in spite of the murky circumstances surrounding him and his family.† One would think that a lady whoís lived a tough life would be more careful, more protective of her heart than Beth seems to be, and it makes her seem foolish.†

Ian, Beth and the Mackenzie family were thoroughly fascinating, and well-described in depth, due to the tight, seamless flow of the story.† I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with Ian, Mac, Hart and Cam over the next few books in the Mackenzie series.† †

--Amy Wroblewsky††††††

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