Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by J. Ashley

Having read and LOVED The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, I thought I’d go crazy waiting for this book to come out, and at times I nearly did. But let me just say, it was well worth the wait!

Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage is, of course, Roland “Mac” and Isabella Mackenzie’s story. From the first book in the Highland Pleasures series, we learned that they had married under unconventional, AKA scandalous, circumstances, then separated a few years later. It was clear that their relationship had been intense, a roller coaster ride of epic proportions, and that there were still deep, unresolved feelings between them. This book gives us a much closer look into their relationship and what went wrong.

I’ll start off by saying that while I love this book, I mean really love it, it still didn’t quite compare to my absolutely-over-the-top-bordering-on-unhealthy-adoration of Ian’s book, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and honestly, I’m not terribly surprised. I’m only mentioning this to you, dear readers of this review, because in most series, the first book is the weakest and the others just get better and better. In this case, I found the first book to be incredibly phenomenal and the second book merely wonderfully splendid!!!

That said, here’s what I loved about Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage :

Jennifer Ashley has the Mackenzie family down to an art. Each brother has his very own quirks and peculiarities, which was quite fashionable during that time period which means that while in some circles they were merely tolerated, in others they were nearly worshipped. While Ian’s “madness” wasn’t something he could control, it made him such an endearing character, and some of the highpoints of Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage were the times we spent with him.

Mac is an artist, and like most artists are, he’s quite eccentric. But what I adored about him was that he was so willing and able to accept the blame for what went wrong in his marriage, and he believes that most, if not all, of their problems were his fault. He makes no excuses for his behaviors and is willing to do whatever it takes to win Isabella’s heart again. The thing is, and what Mac doesn’t understand is that he hasn’t really lost it, not yet anyway. But we can’t mistake his acceptance of blame for playing the martyr, which he did not. My grandmother, on the other hand, was the queen of disingenuous martyrdom! She was someone who didn’t like to accept blame. She had this act she’d fall into whenever someone accused her of something that she knew darn well she was guilty of. “Go ahead, heap it on! Blame me, my shoulders are wide,” she’d say, slapping herself on the shoulders, “I can take it!” The thing was, we all knew she was in the wrong and knew that she knew she was wrong, but she played that part to get everyone to shut up. LOL!!! Ummm… yeah, so, where was I? Oh, yes! There was nothing like this about Mac. He was actually very straightforward about what blame he’d take as his own and what he would not, which is why I believe that he meant what he said when he said he was the one who had ultimately driven Isabella away. Wow! How refreshing is it to find that in a man?!?

Isabella was so, so young when they met and married. There was no way she would have the “tools” or the experience to deal with a man like Mac, yet she fell in love with him anyway. I have to admire the way she tried and tried and then when she finally what her entire life would be if she didn’t do something, she finally left him. For one so young, she was amazingly insightful. Thankfully for her, and for us, Ian had been there for her over the years of her and Mac’s separation. All of the Mackenzie brothers were. They adored her and still saw her as a member of their family. They watched out for her, protected her, and loved her every bit as much as they ever had – in fact, even though blood is thicker than water, I think if they had had to choose between Mac and Isabella, they would have chosen her. Their unfailing devotion to her was a brilliant bit of storytelling because it allowed us to accept her easy, believable return to the family when it happened.

With the exception of a subplot used to help propel the reuniting of Mac and Isabella that I thought was rather weak and didn’t really “grab” me, I adored every minute of this book. And while, as I said, I didn’t care for that subplot, I loved the outcome, for what it means for Mac and Isabella. And of course, the high points of the book were Ian’s appearances. I’m thinking that once this series is through, Jennifer Ashley should just write a series based solely on Ian – perhaps he’d make a great investigator with his eye for detail and being able to read even the most subtle of nuances. And I’ll be the heroine **big grin**

Now, I have a question/thought for those of you who have read both books - Spoiler Why do you suppose Inspector Fellows, who was revealed to be a ½ brother to the Mackenzies, is never mentioned as such, either in character dialog or in author narrative, in this book? I found that odd and it had me questioning whether or not I was remembering correctly exactly who Inspector Fellows was.End Spoilers

Well, I’m going to stop here because I’m just rambling anyway and honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about the Mackenzies and yet never do them justice. I just adore them, each and every one of them, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not eloquent enough a speaker or writer to express in words how much I feel for this incredible family. I’ll just say this; Jennifer Ashley, with the help of Clan Mackenzie, has created another masterpiece with Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage.

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