Why I picked it: Came highly recommended at Smexy Books.
Synopsis: 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.
Review: Maybe this book was a prime example of myself expecting far more from a book than it delivered…and I wanted to like it SO MUCH. But nope. As I think I wrote not too long ago in another review, all romance/fantasy/sci-fi books ask that you suspend a certain amount of belief when reading them. Where I have a problem is when events happen so fast, so perfectly, or so out-of-the blue that I find myself going “Come on! Seriously?” This book was brimming with such things – to the point where I felt Ashley was trying to cram as much different plots and sub-plots as possible. But before I start ranting and raving about the actual events that occur in the book, let me begin with the characters.
Ah, Ian Mackenzie. Tragic hero with a dubious past. Unlike other romance books, this one really makes a focus on the male lead as being unwell – not just eccentric by that time’s societal norms but really – there’s something wrong with him. I did not care for Ian at all. I didn’t like his bluntness and I did not find him endearing in the least. I felt bad for his experiences and the reasons behind why he is the way he is but yeah…not enough for him to be desirable.
Beth, our female protagonist, came off completely unbelievable. Formerly the wife of a vicar, apparently she lost all sense of propriety just because this crazy man coaxed it out of her. I found her to be weak and generally unlikeable.
In terms of the plot – ugh. There is a murder in which Ian is the prime suspect. An overzealous detective, with a secret of his own, makes it his job to uncover the truth behind the crime and to discredit the Mackenzie family once and for all. They way everything unfolds is just so unbelievable that the last 100 or so pages had me rolling my eyes as events kept piling on and on.
The last reason why I didn’t particularly care for this book was the relationship between Ian and Beth. It wasn’t convincing – and what’s a good romance read if you can’t get behind the main love story?
Overall this was a 2-star read for me because the steamy scenes were super steamy and the book kept my attention well enough for the first half.