The first time I read these books, I was nervous about Hart's story. He's a bit like Wulfric Bedwyn from Mary Balogh's Slightly series except Wulfric was more sympathetic and my real issue was whether or not Balogh could write a heroine worthy of him. Hart is just much harder character and though he loosened up in Lady Isabella and Many Sins, it was hard for me to get past the story in Madness when his mistress nearly killed Beth.
I knew that Eleanor could stand up to him -- we met her briefly in Many Sins in which she counseled Ainsley and ran into Hart in Ediburgh. Her jilting of Hart has been referred to in every book. I just wasn't confident that I was ever going to warm up enough to him to want a happy ending for him.
While there are some minor quibbles in the romance and characters, I have to say that this story definitely managed to make me want a happy ending for Hart. His maddening need for control was very well written and his growing dissatisfaction even as he grows closer to his goal was very well done, and I thought Eleanor did a good job of holding her own, even if I wasn't entirely sold on a few pieces.
When Hart find's Eleanor's memory book and the letter he wrote her about killing his father, I kind of blinked. He wrote that letter to her after she jilted him--after they had that terrible scene in which he is definitely cruel to her. I'm not sure I buy that Hart would have written that letter to her.
In Lady Isabella, I praised Jennifer Ashley for not going back in time and giving us a portion of the book set during Mac and Isabella's first wedding. In this book, I think I would have been a lot happier with more about Hart and Eleanor's courtship. Eleanor knows so much about the Mackenzie family--information that would only come from Hart--but I don't know that I ever really believe he would have confided in her after their engagement ended the way it did.
I was also disappointed--for three books, we've been told about Hart's dark sexual proclivities, but Ashley shies away from really doing anything that smacks of controversial. If what Hart does is about trust, then it would have been more interesting to have them experiment with that more. I just kind of feel like to make Hart palatable to romance audiences, she tamed him down from what we were expecting, and I just thought he didn't live up to his reputation.
These are literally my only criticism of the book -- their story is beautiful and I absolutely love it. I just kind of think we could have gotten more in the romance.
The Duke's Perfect Wife (MacKenzies & McBrides, #4)
Overall Response The first time I read these books, I was nervous about Hart's story. He's a bit like Wulfric Bedwyn from Mary Balogh's Slightly series except Wulfric was more sympathetic and ...