By Jennifer Ashley
Publication Date: December 15, 2012
Genre: Historical Romance
The Mackenzies gather for a clan Christmas and New Year’s in Scotland. In the chaos of preparations for the celebration–the first of Hart and Eleanor’s married life–one of Ian’s Ming bowls gets broken, and the family scrambles to save the day. Daniel busily runs a betting ring for everything from the time Eleanor’s baby will arrive to whether Mac’s former-pugilist valet can win a boxing match to who will be the first of the many guests to be caught under the mistletoe. Ian begins a new obsession, and Beth fears the loss of one of his precious bowls has made him withdraw once more into his private world.
If it wouldn’t send most of you running for the hills, this would be one of those books I could review with nothing but GIFs. I have files of screaming girls, kids flopping on the floor and curiously, a lot of Neil Patrick Harris – all of which I think I could string together to show you how much I love the Mackenzie clan. But my holiday gift to you is that I won’t crash your browsers or cause your Shockwave plug-in to stop working. No wrapping paper to throw away or recycling of boxes needed!
There’s not a single historical romance series I love more than Ashley’s Highland Pleasures and since there are only four books in it and it’s only four years old, I hope that says something. I have a handful of books that have made me wonder if it’s possible to damage them by reading them too often on the Kindle and The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is one of them. Ian and his Beth are just one of the four Mackenzie couples and assorted relatives at Kilmorgan Castle for the holidays in this wonderful, sweet story.
For anyone not familiar with the series, here’s a brief overview: youngest brother Ian was locked in a mental institution by the brothers’ abusive father years ago because he has Aspberger’s Syndrome. Ian and Beth have a gorgeous, torturous love story, which remains my favorite out of all of the family’s. Rakehell alcoholic artist Mac eloped with debutante princess Isabella, then after three years of making her miserable, she left him until he wised up and won her back. Cameron, the Mackenzie with a bitter past and a son from his first marriage, married Ainsley, an aide to the Queen and someone he first caught stealing from his bedroom. Hart is the politician who could have been Prime Minister. He married Eleanor, the woman who initially got away but fell back into his lap because of a brewing scandal. Half-brother Inspector Fellows and Cam’s son Daniel are there on the Mackenzie side too.
Everyone’s gathered at Kilmorgan for Christmas and New Year’s and the impending birth of Eleanor and Hart’s first child. Ian has been hunting for months for a special Ming bowl to add to his collection and when Beth drops and shatters it, she’s terrified that she’s driven him into one of his “muddles” when he doesn’t react at all. She enlists Hart to help her find another one, only to have Ian tell her that she can’t replace what she broke. I don’t know if it’s because Ian is my favorite or because he’s Ashley’s favorite, but I think he’s the most lovingly-written character in the series. He’s so gentle and sweet in his emotional confusion and he adores Beth so much – this storyline had me crying. Openly admitted. He gave Beth, his daughter Belle and his son Jamie a gift that just reading about had me grinning.
Meanwhile, Eleanor is on bed rest, heavily pregnant and a little miserable. Because she’s in her early thirties, she and Hart are a little worried about the pregnancy. There are all sorts of mini-upheavals going on in the household over the course of the holiday, events that have Eleanor participating and back in bed and Hart is growly and solicitous through the whole thing. He even starts to do some naughty things with scented oil and foot rubs before he’s interrupted, which reminded me to read their book again. They have terrific dialogue – she chatters on, he’s sort of bemused for a while, then he gets all commanding and sexy and she purrs for him. It’s just adorable and once you’ve read where they came from, so, so fun.
Cam and Ainsley and Mac and Isabella all have smaller stories in terms of impact but are still there for about the same amount of page time. There’s a nice amount of Daniel in the story too – I’m looking forward to his book, he’s been a favorite of mine since the beginning and he’s developing into a real wild Mackenzie himself. The writing is on the wall for a romance for Fellows when it’s time for his book (if you’ve read Hart and Eleanor’s story, you know who it is) and the next book is Ainsley’s brother Elliot’s and Juliana McBride’s. There’s a nice excerpt at the end of this book.
If you’re a fan of the Highland Pleasures series and you’re thinking about this one, my answer is an unconditional yes. I really did laugh and cry and the ending is absolutely perfect. If you need any excuse at all to start the series, use this. Repeat after me – “Barbara said the holiday book was so good that I had to buy The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.” See? Easy!
My Rating: A