DIK Challenge Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Friday, April 30

Title: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie*

Author:  Jennifer Ashley
Series: Highland Pleasures book #1
Genre:  Historical Romance
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Format: mass market paperback
Date/Year: May 2009

*This book is from my own personal collection and is being reviewed for my participation in the DIK Reading Challenge

Summary from the publisher:

The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

My Musings:

This is another book that I had been wanting to read for a while, but it had been buried in the TBR, so I was excited to find it on the DIK Challenge reading list which prompted me to dig it out and finally read it.  I had heard SO MANY good things about the book, and have seen Ian come up in blog comments often as a favorite romance hero.  I had high expectations which is why I think I felt a little disappointed in him as a hero after finishing the book.  

Ian, is an unusual hero in that he has Asperger's syndrome and has been misunderstood and mistreated pretty much his entire life.  He abide scorn and beatings from his father, which finally resulted in his "incarceration" in an insane asylum where he endured tortuously painful shock therapy treatments as well as other Victorian methods to try and cure him of his atypical behavior for years.   He is incapable of expressing or feeling love, and is locked in a world that he has had to learn to adapt to, but remains distanced from everyone including his family.

He is haunted by memories and dreams of a mysterious murder, not knowing if he, or his brother murdered a woman in a house of pleasure that his brother owned.  Thus ensues a plot to try and uncover who murdered two women Ian knew.  Ian has struggled with doubts for years, and now that another woman has been found murdered an Inspector who has a vendetta against Ian and the Mackenzies sets out to prove that Ian is the murderer and belongs back in the asylum, while Beth does her own sleuthing to uncover the murder mysteries and prove that Ian is innocent.

There are many things to love about this book, but one of the things that bothered me the most was that it took Beth's intervention for everyone to believe that Ian was incapable of murder.  Even his brother, the Duke, believed that he had killed the prostitutes.  She was his savior in more ways than one, including teaching him the meaning of what it is to love.  She was responsible for revealing the truth behind the murders and endangering herself in the process.  And while I love a heroine who is capable and not in need of rescue I'm not quite sure how I feel about the heroine rescuing the hero.  I'm conflicted about this aspect of the story.

I loved the moments when it was just Ian and Beth learning to communicate, understand, and love each other.  And while the murder mystery drove the plot of the book I wanted more of just Ian and Beth.  Since so much was made of Ian as a hero I imagined that most of the book would deal with his form of Autism and how he and Beth learned to love each other despite his emotional handicaps.  I wanted to learn more about how Beth learned to deal with his "affliction" and didn't feel that the story adequately explored this aspect of their relationship.  I also thought that the additional mystery solved by Beth involving the Inspector that was revealed at the end of the book was superfluous and unnecessary.

In the end I enjoyed The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, but as a hero Ian didn't quite live up to my expectations, which was disappointing. I know I am in the minority here, but what can I say?  That being said The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was an engaging read, and the secondary characters (his family) were incredibly intriguing.  I can't wait for the next book, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, due out in July.  Isabella and Mac's story promises to be even better than Ian and Beth's romance.


Stars: 4.0 stars
Sensuality level: 3.0 (pretty much your standard "modern" historical romance fare)

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Scorpio M. April 30, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

My reactions are similar to yours, Booklover. I really enjoyed reading this book. I appreciated the novelty of Ian's character and did not feel let down which usually happens when a book/character is hyped up.

My most favorite moments were when Ian was his most aggressive. I liked his plain speak. I guess on a "regular" hero it would be construed as crude but Ian is forgiven these trespasses because he can only speak honestly with no barrier. I wish J. Ashley would have focused more on that, to push the envelope a bit more but she shied away from it and in turn Ian, at times, became quite pedestrian, so I totally understand your take.

Great review.

Tracy April 30, 2010 at 1:50 PM  

I'm glad that you ended up liking the book despite your issues with the hero. I loved Ian and his personality so much that his personality quirks (AS) didn't bother me but made his character stronger. I thought the murder plot was bit overdone but loved the book anyway. :)

Great review.

librarypat,  May 3, 2010 at 2:18 AM  

This book is on my TBR list. Your comments on the book are similar to several others I have read. I think the book suffered from the expectations.

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