I was already acquainted with Jennifer Ashley through her pseudonym; Allyson James and I always enjoyed her novels. However, with The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie she gave voice to a few intrinsic characters who gave a different vibe to the usual Highlander tale. The four brothers; Hart - Cameron - Mac and Ian distinctly flavored this novel while of course Ian Mackenzie stole the show in his own tale.
Ian is a complicating, frustrating and an insanely smart man who you can throttle and at the same time love him to pieces. The fact that Ian can't feel or express emotions is quite an obstacle but it provides situations that become so endearing. He is so aware of his shortcomings and yet he can't act any different. By watching the reactions of his surrounding he can imitate but never give the real deal. With reading chapter after chapter I discovered that behind Ian's bluntness hides a well of emotions!
Beth on the other hand is almost as uncomplicated as they come, she is an inquisitive person with an open-minded nature. She is a widow, has known poverty and through an inheritance has become a wealthy widow. She has humor and life's wisdom at her side which makes her a great character to opposite Ian.
Together they create a chemistry that is both easy going and sensuous as it is involving and difficult. Jennifer Ashley certainly can keep a balance between the sometimes frivolous romance and the more serious aspects of this novel. In those days being admitted in an asylum is no easy feat and shaped the man Ian is. Also Beth has her past of being raised at the wrong side of the track. Still I had no problem reading their romance in almost one sitting. It has a fluent, poignant writing style without becoming heavy handed. Jennifer Ashley fine-tuned the characters to highlight their individualities and their bonds to one another, which resulted in a rich and diverse cast of characters.
Ian may be complex and his logics not always understood, it is also the reason why I loved the way Beth made him so understandable. The communication was so interesting to follow, it was never boring, never without emotion and to see Ian and Beth come together was highly entertaining. The romance was at an all time high, the supportive cast left their seductive calling cards and the plot was intriguing with gossip and murder following the Clan Mackenzie.
With the plot came Scotland Yard inspector Fellows, a very persistent man who liked to thwart the four Mackenzie brothers in any way possible. He was obnoxious and predisposed to find the Mackenzie's guilty of the crimes at hand. Layers and multiple POV's to an event make the plot interesting enough to have it weave a suspenseful note in to the romance. If there was another thing that the plot achieved was making me aware of Hart. I like my male characters complex and he screams it, breaths it, and in this novel he just gave me an appetizer making me hungry for what he will dish out in his own story.
Each of the brothers was intriguing and left a distinct impression behind. Especially when the four of them got together, the underlying emotions and hints to past events all perks up the interest another notch for future stories. The hotheadedness can erupt quickly between four highlanders and it is in those moments I learned the most. Hart, Cameron and Mac are in the background but very key to the overall story and not to forget Isabella and Curry. Isabella is tied to the Mackenzie family and becomes a wonderful friend to Beth while Curry is Ian's right-hand, without him things wouldn't run as smoothly. The supporting cast isn't distracting from the main couple or romance, they are adding to it with their own personalities. They turn The Madness Of Lord Ian Mackenzie to a rounded, full bodied historical romance that anyone can disappear in for a few hours.
Jennifer Ashley enamored me with the first novel in The Highland Pleasures series. This novel holds flamboyant and lively characters, romance displayed with a heartwarming glow and a plot that elevates the reading pleasure from the beginning. Ian is an inherent complex man and Ashley gave him a capturing romance that makes me gobble it all up without reservations.