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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A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Jennifer Ashley)

Overall Response

I always like revisiting characters, when authors write novellas that bring us back to a family of characters, I'm basically throwing my money back at them. Jennifer Ashley has written two novellas taking us back into the Mackenzie family and I like them both just fine. This is the first, which begins about eight months after The Duke's Perfect Wife ended. Chronologically, it's also set after The Seduction of Elliott McBride because Elliott and Juliana are mentioned briefly but this book was published first.

Each couple has his own little mini plot, though some are better than others. Ian and Beth's, is always, the best. Beth has broken one of Ian's Ming Bowls and the whole family is on tenterhooks because it has been a disaster for Ian in the past. Hart and Eleanor's is probably the next best, as they await the birth of Alec, the little boy we were introduced to in the epilogue of Perfect Wife. Ainsley and Cameron have a sweet story about their daughter, which gives Daniel something to do. Mac and Isabella have almost nothing to do except Mac is creating a gift for Isabella. I was disappointed to see that they didn't have their own strong storyline.

It's clear that Ian is Jennifer Ashley's favorite brother to follow, because his is the only story that interweaves throughout the entire book. There are some minor subplots--Mac's valet Bellamy almost looks as though he's getting a story, but it's only two quick scenes. David Fleming gets a lot of POV scenes for some reason that's never entirely clear. I wonder if Jennifer Ashley intends to give him his own book or was playing around with the idea here. Lloyd Fellows also shows up and has a minor subplot.

This is a sweet revisit of characters we fell in love with during the first four books, but it's a bit scattered and all of the characters and plots are not evenly given time to breath. I could have done with fifty more pages, I think.

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