Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mad Hero Week: The MacKenzie Brothers

Jennifer Ashley does "mad" heroes so well that she's given readers a whole family of mad men. The Mackenzie brothers are each mad in their own special ways. Lord Ian MacKenzie from The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is the most obviously "mad," and one of the most unusual historical heroes as he clearly suffers from something that today would be labeled aspberger's syndrome. His brothers have protected him and helped him cope with living in a harsh world, one where his own father had him committed to an asylum. However, he's not the only one in his family struggling with "madness." His brother "Mac" Mackenzie from Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage has his own demons. When we meet Mac, he's newly sober after a long battle with alcoholism that's cost him his marriage. Victorian England neither understood addiction nor appreciated the struggles of sobriety, making Mac's recovery all that more remarkable. In addition, like Ned in Trial by Desire, Mac seems to have elements of what today would be labeled bipolar disorder. Luckily, Ashley gives each of these brothers the perfect heroine to help them cope. Both heroines expect more from their Mackenzie man, forcing each to grow beyond previous limitations. The depth of their affections for their ladies is what sets these heroes apart and makes them both keeper shelf winners.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage first and absolutely loved that book, so I started in on Ashley's backlist. While this book didn't disappoint, I did like Lady Isabella's story a bit more. However, it is absolutely wonderful to discover an author who grows with each subsequent book--the writing in Lady Isabella is much crisper, the POV's more delineated, the emotions and stakes higher. I love watching good authors get even better instead of just resting on their laurels. Lord Ian was almost too complex for me, but Ashley does a great job of making us believe that Beth is the perfect woman for him. I think her life post-HEA may be a little harder than most HEA's, it's also much more realistic. In the end, we all have to love the partner we have, not the partner we might wish he was.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved this, and I'm hoping that her backlist lives up to the tremendous potential here as this is the first work by her that I have read. I didn't feel like I needed to read the first book to understand the characters which is always a plus as I usually hate reading things out of order.

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