Review: Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley

Format: E-bookladyisabellasscandalaousmarriage.jpg
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Hero: Lord Roland Mac Mackenzie
Heroine: Isabella Mackenzie
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 6, 2010
Started On: October 4, 2010
Finished On: October 9, 2010

I have finally managed to finish the second book in the Highland Pleasures series which started off with a bang with The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie which I reviewed earlier this month. This is the story of Mac who is 3rd in line to receive dukedom. We get to see glimpses of Mac and his intriguing as well as extremely likable and separated wife Isabella Mackenzie who befriends Beth and reluctantly shows signs that she misses and loves her husband something fierce.

This story kicks off when Isabella comes calling at Mac’s home after she left him 3 years ago, a period during which although they had come across one another neither had resorted to exchange pleasantries with one another. After Ian’s marriage to Beth and his intuitive probing into Mac’s life sends Mac running back to London in the intention of wooing his wife back into his life, Mac didn’t anticipate that his wife would walk in on him painting a woman in all her naked glory.

Isabella comes calling on Mac because someone seems to be creating forgeries of Mac’s art work and selling it for profit, something which Isabella knew that Mac doesn’t do since he always donates his immensely good paintings to anyone of his friends who wants them. Though Mac treats the issue lightly, Isabella is outraged to think that someone was so blatantly going about impersonating Mac and creating extremely good forgeries of Mac’s paintings.

Although a lot of heartache and pain still lingers between Mac and Isabella, neither one of them has stopped wanting one another or loving each other. Each in their own ways had suffered during the 3 year period of separation and had stayed faithful to each other all throughout. Now Mac is more than ready to properly court and woo back his wife, something which he had failed to do when Mac had gatecrashed Isabella’s coming out ball on a wager placed by his friends that he wouldn’t dare go uninvited to Earl Scranton’s virginal daughter’s coming out party and steal a kiss from the lady in question. But from the first moment that Mac lays eyes on beautiful Isabella, his heart thuds something fierce and the wanting that takes control of his heart and body makes him seduce his way into innocent Isabella’s heart and before the night is through they are lawfully wedded wife and husband rocking London with scandal. Mac vows that this time round he would do proper by the woman he loves more than life itself and gently court her back into his life.

However all plans go awry when Mac’s home is set on fire and Mac moves into Isabella’s house in town stirring London with scandal once again. The threat on Mac’s life gets him serious about the very possible fact that someone intentionally wants to impersonate him and would go to any lengths in order to achieve what he wants. And when Isabella is nearly kidnapped by the mad man himself who manages to escape and elude the authorities once again makes Mac stick to Isabella like glue.

Amidst all this, Mac’s creative juices which he thought he had lost when Isabella had walked out on him starts stirring the minute Isabella lets him know that she would pose naked for him for a series of erotic paintings his wild and partying friends had wagered him into completing. Its not only the creative juices that start flowing when these rather wicked painting sessions start up. Isabella who had always managed to heat his blood in ways unimaginable stirs his pent up longings with one touch and sets both of them ablaze with a desire that would no longer be denied.

Slowly these two embark on a journey fraught somewhat with danger with a mad impersonator on the loose. However even that doesn’t stop these two from rediscovering each other, understanding what had driven them apart and healing over the much heartache each had gone through in the end. Though Isabella is reluctant to see the change in Mac and accept that he won’t revert back to his wild ways once again she is no match for the desire of her heart to accept Mac back into her life. But before these two can possibly ever hope for a happily ever after of their own they have to face a madman who is hellbent on removing Mac to achieve his ultimate destiny of claiming Isabella as his own and Mac has to face his own fear of opening himself up to his beloved wife and make himself finally face what loving someone is really all about.

My favorite part of this book as many who has read the first book in the series would agree with me was catching glimpses of Ian and Beth throughout the story. And yes, I loved those bits at the beginning of each chapter that somehow managed to let the readers know what marriage between Mac and Isabella had been like before via newspaper clippings rather than taking the reader through a boring narrative of what life had been like for both of them. Though Isabella and Mac are likable characters, there just was that elusive something missing that didn’t make Mac’s story as good as Ian’s. Though after reading through the sneak peak of the next book in the series The Many Sins of of Lord Cameron which is to come out during the summer of 2011, I am very much intrigued in learning more about Cameron. He sounds like someone who would make for a great story.

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Review: The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Format: E-bookmadness
Read with: Amazon Kindle
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 1
Publisher: Leisure Books
Hero: Lord Ian Mackenzie
Heroine: Beth Ackerley
Sensuality: 3.5
First Published on:  April 28, 2009
Started On: October 1, 2010
Finished On: October 2, 2010

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie lived up to and exceeded all the expectations I had before I started on this novel. A lot of romance readers on Amazon seem to unanimously agree that this is one of the best historical romances that has been published of late and the awards that this book has received is testament enough that this story is a favorite amongst many romance readers.

This story is the first title in a series entitled as Highland Pleasures by Jennifer Ashely of which the second book in the series has already been published on July of this year. The Mackenzie family is Scottish in its origins and was one of the most powerful families in the region during the 1800’s. Hart Mackenzie who is the Duke of Kilmorgan is the eldest followed by Mac, Cameron and Ian who is the youngest.

Ian Mackenzie is a genius (who was suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome?) who was gravely misunderstood during his childhood. With a father who was driven to rages and drinking, Ian had always been the odd one who had stood out from his siblings. With his analytical genius mind which would remember everything he has read or heard verbatim and the ability to play music that he has heard once flawlessly though he never understands the normal modes of behavior always lands him in trouble. When Ian witnesses the murder of his mother at his father’s hands during one of his fits of rages, Ian’s father has him declared insane and locks him up in an asylum where he spends his childhood until his father’s untimely death ends in Hart attaining dukedom. Because Ian is misunderstood, he has always been labeled as the mad one in the family. The Mackenzie’s though powerful has always been considered wild and uncouth and it was considered unfit for a lady to be in the presence of a Mackenzie without a chaperon.

Ian and his tendency to collect Ming porcelain items lands him in the company of Sir Lyndon Mather who has got himself engaged to Mrs. Thomas Ackertey (Beth Ackertey), a widower who had come into a considerable fortune on the passing of her employer Mrs. Barrington.  Beth’s father had been a Frenchmen who had seduced her mother, a daughter of an English squire into marrying him which had ended up in her mother being disowned. Her father had died when Beth had been quite young leaving them both destitute which had resulted in both mother and daughter having to seek refuge at a workhouse. When Beth’s mother had died when she had been 15 years old, Beth had managed to acquire a teaching position at the workhouse and when she had turned 19, Thomas Ackerley the vicar newly in charge of the workhouse had married her. A year later, Thomas had died of a fever and Mrs. Barrington had hired her as her companion whom Beth had looked after for the past 9 years.

When Beth first lays her eyes on Ian, his massive height, width of his shoulders together with his dark hair and amber eyes that always seem so restless take her breath away.  The heat that slowly starts to burn within her in the presence of Ian is something that Beth had almost forgotten that her body could feel. Having agreed to marriage to Mather had been Beth’s way of making sure that she would never be lonely during the years to come and also the route to having her own children someday. What she never expects to happen is for Ian to warn her of Mather’s rather unusual sexual preferences and the fact that Mather was actually interested in her money rather than herself. Ian knows something worth protecting when he sees one and he so badly wants Beth. And before the first encounter between the two is over, Ian thoroughly kisses the delectable Beth and proposes marriage to her as well the latter of which Beth refuses though she is more than tempted.

Ian wants to protect Beth from all the rumors and the darkness that surround his family. The murder of a whore named Sally Tate that had long gone unsolved which Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows was trying to pin on the Mackenzie’s with a vengeance; particularly to send Ian back to the asylum where he supposedly belongs to is something that Ian would rather Beth doesn’t find out. When another whore who named Lily Martin is viciously murdered Fellows swears that he wouldn’t stop his quest for justice until the Mackenzie’s pay for their crimes. Beth however has a mind and a will of her own that Ian has no idea how to predict or control and before long Beth has it in her mind to find out who actually committed the murders so that her beloved husband would finally be free of the nightmares that haunt him day and night.

I absolutely loved reading this story. Ian is a hero so very worth drooling over with his eccentric and unusual behavior. What he fears most is looking Beth in her eyes because it is the one place in this world that Ian fears he might lose himself in. Ian who doesn’t know how to express emotions like normal people do has a hard time believing that he has the capability of falling in love, something which Beth disproves so beautifully before the story is through. I loved Beth for her courage and unwavering belief in the man she comes to love, and for the fact that she understands Ian better than anyone else. The love scenes are beautifully done with a hero whose unwavering focus on what he is doing is a delight in itself. I am so very interested in reading about all the Mackenzie men because Ms. Ashely has definitely whetted my appetite for more.

All in all, recommended for all romance lovers. This is a MUST read!

Favorite Quotes

She heard the echoes of Ian’s screams in her head. Beth pressed her forehead to his hands, her heart wrenching. Ian’s hands were large, sinews hard under his kid-leather gloves. Yes, he was strong. In the Tuileres Gardens, it had taken both Mac and Curry to pull him away from Fellows. That didn’t mean others could try to tear at that strength, try to defeat him. The doctors in the horrible asylum had done it, and now Fellows was trying to.
I’m falling in love with you, she wanted to say into their clasped hands. Do you mind awfully?

Ian closed his eyes. Beth watched emotions flicker across his face, the uncertainty, the stubbornness, the raw pain he’d lived with for so long. He didn’t always know how to express his emotions, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel them deeply.
When Ian slowly opened his eyes, he guided his gaze directly to Beth’s. His golden eyes shimmered and sparkled, pupils ringed with green. He held her gaze steadily, not blinking, or shifting away.

“I love you,” he said.
Beth caught her breath, and sudden tears blurred her vision.
Love you,” Ian repeated. His gaze  bore into hers harder than Hart’s ever could hope to. “Love you, love you, love you, love you, love you, love you…”

Ian cupped her chin and turned her face up to his. Then he did what he’d been practicing since the night on the train – he looked her fully in the eyes.
He couldn’t always do it. Sometimes his gaze simply refused to obey, and he’d turn away with a growl. But more and more he’d been able to focus directly on her. Ian’s eyes were beautiful, even more so when his pupils widened with desire. “Have I told you today that I love you?” he asked. “A few dozen times. Not that I mind.”
As a young woman who’d been starved for love much of her life, Beth lapped up Ian’s generous outpouring of the words. He’d surprise her with them, catching her as she walked down the hall, pushing her up against a wall, breathing, “I love you.” Or he’d tickle her awake and tell her while she tried to hit him with a pillow. The best was when he lay against her in the dark, fingers tracing her body. She treasured his whispered
, “I love you.”

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