The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, by Jennifer Ashley

>> Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TITLE: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
AUTHOR: Jennifer Ashley

PAGES: 335

SETTING: England, Scotland and France in late 19th century
TYPE: Historical romance
SERIES: Starts a quartet about the 4 brothers Mackenzie

REASON FOR READING: Good comments online, and I thought the hero sounded intriguing.

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.
The summary above is pretty good, so I'll only add that when it says everyone agrees that Ian is decidedly odd, that's because he suffers from Asperger's syndrome. That was the main reason I wanted to read the book: because I thougth it would make for interesting issues in the romance, as Ian and Beth dealt with things like Ian's obsessive tendencies, or his difficulties in understanding the non-verbal cues and the subtexts in communication.

Everyone seems to have loved the book, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to be a bit of a party pooper. After reading this book, the first word that comes to mind is "disappointing".

I did like the characterisation, and even most of the romance. Ian's very well-drawn and believable, and quite a fascinating character. So is Beth, actually. She could easily have been overshadowed by Ian, but she held her own, with her good humour and earthiness, and most of all, her matter-of-fact attitude to Ian's difficulties. That, I think, was one of the best things about the book. Beth recognises that Ian has issues, and she loves him for who he is, issues and all. She's even comfortable enough with the real Ian that she can tease him by making little jokes.

The problem was that this potentially wonderful romance got completely diluted by a seriously crappy suspense plot. Ian and his eldest brother, Hart, were somehow involved of the murders of two prostitutes, you see, and there's a police detective who'll do anything (anything, I tell you!) to pin it on them. This was just boring and over-the-top, and completely took over the whole story.

The police detective's character was unbelievable (just wait until you get to the revelation of why he's so unbelievably obsessed with the Mackenzies. Eye-rolling) and the resolution got way too convoluted and silly, as well as giving Beth a perfect opportunity to act like a complete idiot and do her best to endanger herself as much as possible. Even worse, after a while, everything, even the romance, becomes all about the mystery of the dead prostitutes. The development of Ian and Beth's relationship becomes all about whether he tells her the truth or not.

I just got progressively more and more bored and irritated. I started feeling tempted to skim, and that reached a peak during the long, drawn-out resolution. There were pages and pages and pages after the mystery had been solved and nothing much really needed to be settled, and I almost just closed the book and declared myself done with it. That's a bad sign, isn't it, if I didn't care what else would happen?

I also found myself annoyed by the constant and incessant sequel-baiting. Ian has got 3 brothers, and a significant portion of this book was devoted to setting up their stories and trying to get us to want to read them. I didn't find them particularly intriguing, so I kept wishing we could get back to Ian and Beth.

MY GRADE: A complete waste of a fascinating hero and potentially great romance. A C-.


Fia,  9 December 2010 at 20:34  

Heh. My reaction was similar to yours, but to different areas of the story, oddly enough. I agree that the suspense overshadowed the romance. I suspect it might be because JA didn't want to affect our perspective of Ian if we focused on the overall relationship between him and Beth, considering his disability.

I wonder how it compares with Morsi's Simple Jess? (I stil haven't yet read Simple Jess.)

rosario001,  10 December 2010 at 06:10  

Fia: Well, it's been quite a while since I read Simple Jess (hmm, feel a reread coming on when I go back home next month!), but I remember it being much better. Morsi doesn't chicken out from showing us exactly who Jess is and what problems he and Althea will face, especially with other people's reactions to them.

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