Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

You know you're reading a good book when you fall asleep reading it, and wake up wanting to pick up where you left off. And, in between, you skip the chance to take a nap, because you just want to keep reading it.

And, at the end of it, there's a sense of happiness, satisfaction and pleasure in having read a really good book, but I also felt a tiny bit of regret at not having read this book sooner (so that I could've loved it longer. ^_^) Nevertheless, I am so, so pleased to have discovered another family to love, and, while I'm working on this review, I've already finished reading the second book in the series, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage and about to start on The Many Sins of Lord Cameron.

I'm a bit stuck writing this review, because I really, really admired Ian and want to do his character justice. He is incredibly intelligent and very good with facts -- and he recognises that he can't read emotions very well. The world thinks he's mad, but I saw him as the most balanced, most self-aware character I have met so far. He knows his limitations, but he also knows not to be hindered by those limitations.

Ian's upbringing was already complicated by a rage-filled father and a delicate mother, and it was further complicated by his "madness" and subsequent stay at the asylum -- but the amazing thing about Ian is that he still retains an incredible amount of faith in humanity, despite what has been done to him. Ian can't be kind or compassionate because his "madness" prevents him from understanding emotions, but his mind can rationalise the need to repay the courtesy extended to him. In that I became fascinated with how there are logical counterparts to emotional concepts: kindness = service; compassion = goodwill, etc ... I think it's this exchange that allows Ian to deal with his brothers, but, there is one emotion that Ian hasn't quite grasped yet -- love. The closest logical approximation to it is "attachment", but it really isn't the same and Ian knows this and is very curious.

This is what I loved about his story, as Ian delves into the concept of love, we all realise (the characters in the story as well) how much/little we know about love and how difficult it is to explain what love is -- and it challenges all of us to deconstruct this abstract concept and make it tangible, and explainable to Ian (and to ourselves).

"I told you I can't fall in love," he said. "But you have."

Her heart thumped. "Have I?"

"With your husband."

So many people wanted to talk about Thomas Ackerley. "I did. I loved him very much."

"What was it like?" His words were so low she barely caught them. "Explain to me what loving feels like, Beth. I want to understand."

He waited, his golden eyes burning, for her to explain the mysteries of the world. "It is the most divine thing imaginable," she tried.

"I don't want to hear about divinity. I want to hear about flesh and bone. Is love like desire?"

"Some people think so."

"But you don't."

Sweat trickled down Beth's back, despite the clouds cutting the sun's heat. The trouble with Ian Mackenzie's questions was that he asked the unanswerable. And yet she should know how to answer -- everyone should. But they couldn't, because everyone simply knew. Everyone except Ian.
- Chapter 9 - Chapter 10

It falls unto Beth to show Ian what love is. When we think complementary, the idea of yin-yang immediately comes to mind -- not in terms of strong/weak, but in other ways. Beth is heart where Ian is the mind. She is the lightness to his gravity ... and vice versa. In that, they fit -- truly, like yin and yang.

Jennifer Ashley strikes a wonderful balance between the courtship and the mystery of Ian's past, the presence of Inspector Lloyd Fellows (and the case of the murdered prostitutes). The author poses such formidable questions and challenges for our hero and heroine to overcome -- casting doubts on Ian's sanity and innocence. It's truly a test of discernment (logical) and faith (emotional) for Beth (and us): Given the facts, what does she believe? Given what she sees of Ian, what does she believe?

As first books (of a series) go, this one also did a fantastic job of introducing the rest of the Mackenzies. She paints a compelling picture of a family so full of tragedy, imperfection and emotional hang-ups, but also so full of story and heart. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I've already finished reading Lady Isabella and Lord Mac's story and will be reading Cam's story after this. They're irresistible!

Mac sighed, cutting through the memory. "We're Mackenzies. We don't get happy endings."
- Chapter 9

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is book 1 in Jennifer Ashley's Highland Pleasures (The Mackenzies/McBrides) series. To find out more about Jennifer Ashley and her books, click below:


  1. Fantastic review! I love this entire series so much and am so glad you're loving it too. :)

  2. You have me very intrigued! Going to download it now!

  3. Wonderful review! This is one of my favourite series.

  4. Great Review.
    This is one of my all time favorite books and series. I have read this book four times and I love it more every time.



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