Sunday, July 11, 2010
Six years ago, eighteen-year-old Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized all of London by eloping the night of her come-out ball with the notorious rake, Lord Mac Mackenzie. After three turbulent years of marriage, she scandalized London once again - this time by leaving him.
Now the reformed Mac has returned, and he wants one thing: Isabella back in his life, his house, his bed. He'll do anything he has to, play any game, as long as he gets her back. Isabella resists, but when she agrees to pose for erotic paintings he's been working on, she realizes her body has never stopped craving her husband's very skilled touch. Mac is determined to show Isabella that he's a changed man, but three years without her has only increased his hunger for her.
When an ingenious forger with designs on Mac's paintings, and Isabella herself, comes dangerously near, Mac sets himself up as Isabella's protector and vows to never leave her side, whether his independent and proud lady likes it or not.
I'm a sucker for a Scottish Highlander in a kilt. Mac Mackenzie, the hero of Jennifer Ashley's highly enjoyable sequel to The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is probably one of the sexiest Scots in a romance I've come across in a long time. Mac is an artist, passionate and all consuming. When he paints, he is dressed - or rather undressed - in nothing but his kilt and red "gypsy" scarf on his head. The image makes me swoon. This bare chested, red headed, large man with the body of a warrior is undeniably attractive, particularly because he can be the suave and sophisticated Victorian aristocratic gentleman as well -with a Scottish accent no less! *thud* Adding to the allure is that crazy kind of Scottish intensity he has for his estranged wife, Isabella.. He is mad for her, he wants her back and when he gets that glint in his eyes that says "Mine!" she better watch out!
And that, my friends, is the gist of the story.
Mac wants his wife Isabella back and nothing will stop him. Six years have gone by since they eloped and created a scandal in London. Three years into the marriage, Isabella had had enough. Yes, Mac was super passionate, a great lover, the love of her life. But he was a drunken sot as well. Unreliable, unpredictable and often out of control she could no longer live with the uncertainty of what he would do or where he would wind up. Their quarrels were often and she never knew when they would start or end. Weeks would go by when all would be well and then the fighting would begin again, he'd disappear off to Rome or Venice and then he'd pop up again months later and the cycle would repeat. Together they had the most passionate lovemaking imaginable, but also a million headaches and worries to go along with it. She needed stability in her life and she could no longer enable his drinking habit and wayward lifestyle. After a tragic miscarriage, she called it quits. At age twenty-one Isabella grew up fast, but Mac was still very much of a child. He needed comforting and assurances from Isabella that her love for him would never die, yet what did do for her after her miscarriage? You don't want to know.
Now, three years after their separation, Isabella comes back into Mac's life. Did she do it because she wanted to start up something with him again, or was it because she wanted to find out if he was aware that there was a forger out there passing himself off as the talented artist, Mac Mackenzie? I think the forger was an excuse for her. It was time for her to let him into her life again, but she didn't count on her husband's ferocity nor impatience. Mac is not a "gray area" kind of person. He needs to know what Isabella wants: does she want to be married again to him or not? It's that simple. But for Isabella, it's not that simple. She's scared of her feelings for Mac. She still loves him just as much as ever, but she's torn. She doesn't want to take him back and then find out he's that same old Mac he used to be, despite his assurances that he has completely stopped drinking alcohol and now prefers tea. She can see for herself that he's sober, but he's so intense and big and dominating - he's a daunting figure with his kilt - and without it! Apart from his heart stopping maleness and bravado, I loved his vulnerability -what will he do if he can't have Isabella? He's desperate, on the inside he's torn up over her. More than once he turns to his brothers for help, he must get her back, but how without scaring her off?
Deep down she knows she wants him back again, but it has to be slowly - baby steps - on her terms. But Mac is like a steamroller - ready for action and - sex! He's been dying for it for years - they both have! Theirs is a highly sensual, erotic relationship, built on love, but his painting plays a large part in it too. Isabella is his muse. Now that she's back in his life, he can't stop himself from painting her nude by memory and before long, she becomes his model. What a courtship! To say the least, instead of coffee breaks, they have a different kind of break - if you know what I mean. Who could resist Mac? He's amazingly sexy in that kilt when he's painting, I could totally sympathize with Isabella for giving in to him. But later when she's no longer clouded by that lustful daze, she worries, and probably thinks too much about whether she can live with him or not. He rather neatly solves that problem by moving in with her univited when his townhouse is set afire by this nut who is running around posing as him. This gives them the opportunity of being close, sort of testing the waters, though Isabella is naturally skittish and wary. She's determined not to give in until she's absolutely sure of herself, no matter how often she lets him share her bed. She may not have made up her mind yet about being his wife again, but all the servants and the rest of the household know how it's going to end up. Mac is undeniably sure and he's determined to help Isabella make up her mind any way he can! He goes on to prove to her he is a changed man and courts her the way he thinks she wants him to. It's cute, but they both acknowlege his attempts are nothing more than a superficial game. What's important to Isabella is seeing that Mac can be trustworthy and she can rely on him. That's he grown up. She'll always love him, but can he be a father, protector, a partner? Someone she can count on?
I really did love this book but once it became inevitable that Mac and Isabella would reunite, the storyline lost a little of it's oomph. The side story of the forger gave the book some unexpected turns, but I felt the sudden adoption of the little girl, Aimee, improbable and rash. I was primarily interested in Mac and Isabella and felt Aimee was a distraction. Isabella's relationship with her estranged family and younger sister also seemed a bit undeveloped, but these were minor in the grand scheme of things. The lovemaking was sensual and well done throughout the book and the storyline flowed easily. Some minor characters are amusing as well, such as Isabella's disapproving butler who refuses to give an inch to Mac. It was great to see his brothers, Cameron, Hart and Ian and Beth from the last book (which I adored!) but the heart and soul of this story was the chemistry between Isabella and Mac and their undeniable attraction to each other. They make a great couple. Theirs is a crazy kind of love, everyone thought they were nuts to elope together in the first place and now here they are again causing a scandal by reuniting! I loved it and I hope you will too! I highly recommend it!