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When a series is about siblings, the challenge is to make each one stand out and have a unique story -- in the Mackenzie's case, Hart, the eldest brother and the Duke of Kilmorgan, is the head of the family, and I think there's no denying that Ian is the heart and soul. Cameron is the second eldest and the "spare" -- he loves horses with a passion and has an ugly scar on his face. There are hushed speculations about his rocky marriage and his crazy late wife, and louder discussions about his many mistresses. Stuck in the middle, Cameron and his story are suffering from an identity crisis as evidenced by the multiple storylines:
1. There's Cameron and Ainsley and the blackmail plot
2. There's Cameron and Ainsley and Cameron's previous marriage
3. There's Cameron and Ainsley and Daniel
4. There's Cameron and Ainsley and Jasmine, the horse (and Jasmine's cruel owner, Pierson)
Granted that Cameron and Ainsley deal with all these difficulties together, but I didn't see them grow together through their experiences -- Cameron seemed to have his own agenda and so did Ainsley. I couldn't help but be disappointed because there was so much wealth in Cameron's character. Where is the man who collected books with naughty pictures in them (and smuggled them to Ian at the asylum)? Where is the man who bravely defended his younger brothers against their father?
Cameron in his own story seemed like a muted version of himself: he gave me the impression of a man too tired to fight, so he just avoided the world altogether and stayed with his horses. That is one side of Cameron. The other side, the Cameron with horses shows a man I can't help but admire. Considering everything that has happened to him, Cameron has retained this much gentleness and compassion and love (just not for people). In that Cameron is a strange mix of broken and hopeful, wary and optimistic -- he saw Jasmine's potential and sacrificed his own pride for the sake of the horse.
"What should I be doing? Demanding more jewels? Breaking plates and screeching if I don't get them? Threatening to leave you for a man who will buy me more?"
"It's what they all do." His voice was hollow.
- Chapter 23
Ainsley's change was better explained, and this was, I think, what redeems this story. I thought Jennifer Ashley did a good job showing how the decisions one makes can drastically alter the path one's life takes -- and the beauty of Ainsley is that she made the best of her situation. While she presented a very subdued front, there was still fire and pluck to her. She gets things done in very cunning ways. ^_^ I also enjoyed the introduction of Ainsley's family, the McBrides, and I look forward to reading about them soon. (The Seduction of Elliot McBride is book 5.)
Ainsley was a glorified errand-runer, trusted by the queen to solve domestic dilemmas, asked by her highborn friends to help with their social events.
Dependent on others for her living.
Exotic men like Lord Cameron Mackenzie were not for Ainsley. That dream was dust.
- Chapter 8
With so much happening, the author really wasn't able to develop the romance between Cameron and Ainsley. The attraction was present from their very first meeting and there were definitely sparks there -- but, when they finally got together, I didn't see much chemistry between them. I didn't think they really had time to explore their relationship, because they had their hands full handling so many different crises.
The Mackenzies are, without a doubt, a complex mix of bad boy/fierce protector/wounded soul -- I'm about to start reading Hart's story, and, three books in, I have to say that Ian's story is still my favourite, but I'm also excited to read how the rest of them gain their happy endings. ^_^
"Do be careful, Ainsley. They entice you, these Mackenzies, first with their wickedness and then with all that is heartbreaking."
- Chapter 18
The Many Sins of Lord Cameron is Book 3 in Jennifer Ashley's Highland Pleasures (The Mackenzies/McBrides) series. To find out more about Jennifer Ashley and her books, click below: