Alec Mackenzie’s Art of Seduction (Jennifer Ashley)

First, A Rant

Soooo in my review of The Stolen Mackenzie Bride, I wrote that I was happy because I knew for two more books in this Georgian-era trilogy, Daniel and Ian wouldn't show up. And then the framing device of this book was Ian and Beth.

Just...why. Why. Why. Why. There is literally no point to this. In fact, it's actually a break in the trilogy because Stolen Mackenzie Bride did not have this framing device, so it's completely unneeded here.

No, this framing device is here because Jennifer Ashley is obviously tickled pink with Ian Mackenzie and thinks we all want to read him in every book. I don't know, maybe that's true for others. I loved Ian once. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie was my first Jennifer Ashley book and I loved him. I loved Ian and Beth. But now, every time they show up, I'm reminded that Beth basically doesn't exist now except to prop up Ian, and Ian just shows up because Ashley likes him so very much. There is no narrative purpose to Ian in this book and I am incredibly distracted.

I hate framing devices like this, so unfortunately, Ashley was already rubbing against one of my least favorite tropes. In Summer Breeze, Catherine Anderson gives the story a framing device of Tucker Coulter reading Rachel Keegan's diary. Why Rachel's children would have sent such a beloved and important document to Joseph's sister rather than keeping it for THEIR OWN FAMILY is beyond me, but I was completely irritated by it. And then at the end, Tucker decides to go to Colorado to meet these relatives. I was interested and thought, okay, then this device works. Then we get to his book, and nope, it's not that story. He's been there, it was weird. He comes back and meets a woman with four brothers. I REPEAT:

Overall Response To the Actual Story

Anyway. If you ignore the beginning and ending with Ian and Beth (THAT IS USELESS AND SHOULD NOT EXIST), this is a reallly good book. So just skip the framing. You don't need it. Don't irritate yourself unless you love when Ian shows up for no freaking reason every time you turn a page.

Alec was a character I struggled with in the first book because I didn't understand why he'd left his wife behind. I get it a little bit more now because the anarchy and chaos surrounding the Stuart rebellion in 1743 is a lot more extensive that most books usually show. With the added jackass element of Alec's father, it makes sense he held off on introducing Genevieve. And here, we learn a bit more about their marriage that helps me come to term with it.

Celia is a very sweet character that I wished we'd gotten just a little bit more of. She's amazingly resilient, but I'm not sure how much I'm truly convinced that her father would have allowed her mother to do some of the things done here. I wish we'd gotten more there.

But here's what makes me happy: the romance. There's not a super ton of romantic conflict, which is usually a red flag for me. But what is here is one of my other catnip tropes: telling the truth. While some secrets are initially kept, the two of them work together for most of the book and that is one of my favorite things ever. I would have forgotten many things and put the prologue completely out of my mind, except we ended this book with Ian and Beth instead of Alec and Celia.

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The Stolen Mackenzie Bride (Jennifer Ashley)

Overall

For some reason, I bought this book in 2015 when it was released, read the first chapter, and then just...I don't know...stopped? I bought the second book when it came out, last year, I think, but I never got around to reading that either. That's not usually something I do--I'm a read on the day I buy 'em kind of girl. One the reasons I chose this series was to force myself to finally read the final two books.

And then I started rereading that first chapter, and I remembered why I put it down. I wasn't, and I'm still not, a huge fan of insta-love connections, so I think I got interrupted reading and then never got back to it.

I'm annoyed with myself now because this is a fantastic book, one of the best since the original Mackenzie brothers. There are some tiny details that keep it from being the full five stars, but overall, I really enjoyed it. Books set near or around Culloden have a special place in my heart, but this is one of the few that really go into the divided loyalties of the families themselves.

I will say that perhaps the romance wasn't all that interesting until Mal took Mary to Kilmorgan and they had to work together--Mary also disappeared for a bit while Mal took center stage. I liked the supporting cast, and I guess part of me is happy because I know, at least for two more books, that Daniel and Ian Mackenzie aren't going to show up. Unless Daniel Mackenzie figures out time travel, and then I guess he'll be around to annoy me forever. (I'm sorry, I love Ian, but Daniel drives me crazy and the fact that Jennifer Ashley is head over heels for both of them is evident every time they show up with no narrative purpose).

I'm irritated that it took me almost three years to read this, but hey, I've got Alec's story now which makes me happy and Will's is getting released in a few months, so probably good timing.

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