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The Duke's Perfect Wife
by Jennifer Ashley
(Berkeley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0425-24710-5
*
Sent in Victorian times, this story was long... least it felt long. I was engaged right away and then the more I read, the more my interest faded. The caveat I can give is that those readers who have followed the Mackenzie brothers and read other stories in this series may enjoy this more, as many members of the family make an appearance.

Eleanor Ramsey and Hart Mackenzie have a history. They were even engaged once, and very good friends to boot. But their relationship ended and it took a good portion of the book to figure out why. After their break-up, Hart marries and then loses his wife and daughter. Eleanor is a spinster in her father's home. Now Hart is on the verge of running for Prime Minister and he has decided he wants to marry Eleanor. Out of the blue, Eleanor receives some naked pictures of Hart and comes to London to make sure he knows these could ruin his chances. She is as surprised as anyone that he wants to marry her.

The story follows them from London to Scotland and back while they try to figure out their relationship. The pictures are merely a backdrop, as are his political aspirations. There is some danger thrown in but by that time, I was merely reading to finish the book and I have to acknowledge that it was a labor. The plotline was convoluted and is difficult to explain. There is intrigue with the politics and with Eleanor. There are weird happenings with the Mackenzies that I never really got a handle on. Ian, one brother has a history that is alluded to and which is used to explain his odd behaviors. But since his story was in another book, it was nothing but a distraction that quickly aggravated this reader rather than adding depth, which I believe was the author's intent.

Eleanor's character seems odd for the 1880's since she is independent yet not and she strives for equality, yet seems to play the victim many times too many. Hart tries to be mysterious. He is the "foundation" of the family, always looking out for others. He is ambitious, but only because of the "horrors" of his childhood...i.e. his father was mean and at times, abusive. He often threatened Hart with killing Ian after putting him in an insane asylum for a period of time. I struggled with this being his motivating factor.

For this reviewer, Jennifer Ashley has written a long-winded, often convoluted story that tries to be more than it is. The hero is not always warm-hearted, making him difficult to like and a heroine who did not ring true to the setting. The Duke's Perfect Wife is not an apt description for the character or the story.

--Shirley Lyons


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