Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: The Duke’s Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley

The McKenzie family epitomizes the Byronic creed of being mad, bad and dangerous to know. The MacKenzie head of the family was a horrible man who beat his kids, sent his youngest son into an insane asylum, and ultimately killed his wife. Hart MacKenzie, the eldest, did all he could to protect his family, saving his brother, Ian, providing money for his brothers. But the instability of his home life drove Hart to become obsessed with power, believing that power would save his brothers and even when the brothers no longer need saving, Hart can’t let go of his quest. It is his obsession.   Yet for all the money and power, Hart could not protect his family.  The unofficial motto of the MacKenzie family was that they broke everything that they touched.

the duke's perfect wifeTheir fortunes began a reversal when the youngest brother, the Mad MacKenzie, Ian found love with Beth.  If Hart is the head of the family, Ian is the heart and the glue that holds them together.  The two have a complicated relationship.  The MacKenzie series begins with The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie and it is in that book that we are introduced to Hart.  I have a feeling that if The Duke’s Perfect Wife is the introduction a reader has to the MacKenzie brothers, this book will generate a much different opinion.

Hart has built up a certain reputation in the past of having a dark sexual nature.  I was not able to separate what I learned about Hart in previous books with what appeared on the page in The Duke’s Perfect Wife.  Ultimately I felt like you wimped out on Hart, that I was promised to see a man whose bedroom tastes became a source of conflict for him and his beloved.  How would this be resolved. Unfortunately, how it was resolved was to make Hart out to only want to have control in the bedroom, much like he wanted control in every other aspect of his life.  This was a natural extension of Hart’s personality but again, not consistent with what we were previously told. (In one scene in The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, we are told that Hart engaged in sexual asphyxiation, for example)

What new readers and followers of the series may have in common is attempting to understand the exact reason that Eleanor refused to marry Hart years ago and why she reverses her decision now.  While I believed in the deep love that both of the characters had for each other, Eleanor had jilted Hart over his treatment of women. It wasn’t that she was afraid of his sexual activities or that she was particularly upset that he kept a lover.  It was something else, something that led her to be frightened but I didn’t get it and because I didn’t get why she left, I wasn’t sure why she came back.

The setting is Victorian England and the political unrest of the time was used to great effect.  This was not a story you could have lifted out of its setting and have had the same result.  Hart’s quest to be prime minister and the conflict over the vote for the Irish Home Rule were integral to the plot arc.

If I take the book alone, without referencing the previous series, other than Eleanor’s thin and confusing reasons for leaving Hart (and she had good ones but it was asserted that she did not leave him for any of those good reasons), it is a strong romance.  Hart’s obsession with power is met with increasing resistance from supporters of the Irish Home Rule. Some radicals begin targeting Hart’s family with violence and Hart’s control over his life unspools.  Not helping is the reappearance of Eleanor, his first and only love.  Hart had proposed to Eleanor, the daughter of an impoverished but well respected Scottish nobleman, when she first came out.  They fell madly in love.  But Eleanor spurns Hart after a summer of engagement based on something.  Over the years, Hart has had other women and even married and lost a young son, but he has never been able to fully forget Eleanor.

As for Eleanor, Hart was her one true love but as a teenager, she could not have met power with power.  Hart was older than she and already a man.  Eleanor had not yet come into her own. In the intervening decade, Eleanor grows into her own person and when she returns to Hart, she does so fully able to counter his demands and exert her own will.  I really loved Eleanor.  She had a strong personality tempered by vulnerability.  She was capable without being foolish.  She was unafraid of what Hart perceived to be his demons.  Because Eleanor was so great, I was doubly disappointed at the watering down Hart’s sexual nature.  Eleanor was completely Hart’s equal and I wanted to see that challenge met inside the bedroom as well as outside.  In glossing over the history of Hart, I felt both Eleanor and I were cheated. B-

Best regards,



Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kati
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 10:24:18

    As I said on Twitter, “Well poop.” I was really hoping that this one would live up to the Hype. Even if the hype was only in my head. I’ve been eagerly anticipating Hart’s story and I’m sorry to hear it leaves a vague dissatisfaction. It’s on my Kindle, and I’ll definitely read it, but I’m not anticipating quite as eagerly as I had been. Thanks for your review, Jane.

  2. Babs
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 10:29:53

    Awww…she wimped out?!?! I’ve got it on my Kindle and it is next up for me to read but I’m feeling a little disappointed after the build up in previous books. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

  3. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 11:10:15

    Are you effing kidding me!?! I was all geared up for Hart to be a dom who kept women tied up in the basement! Do you mean there’s no BDSM at all? Good grief!

  4. Jane
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 11:12:49

    @Roslyn Holcomb: He likes to be in control but yeah, I had those expectations too and they were not fulfilled.

  5. Dabney
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 12:17:11

    I found this book to be a let down. I didn’t really see why Eleanor had left Hart and I definitely thought Hart in this book is the least interesting Hart in any of the books. I also think this story is so traditional compared to the first two books in the series–I wanted Ms. Ashley to take more risks and I felt she took virtually none.

    The series is tough, though. I think none of the following books is as good as the first. That was such a fabulous book perhaps I was destined to be disappointed in those that followed.

  6. Lynn S.
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 12:44:54

    I just recently read The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie and had the bad feeling, based on the way the author handled everything in that book, that she would cop out on Hart’s sexuality. Looks like my bad feeling was correct. Bummer.

  7. Susan
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 13:42:48

    Boo. I know there were some mixed feelings about Ian’s book, but I loved it and have been on tenterhooks ever since in anticipation of Hart’s story. We saw that dark side of him with intimations of even more to be revealed. And all it turns out to be is that he’s a garden variety dominant guy? Well, how typically Victorian. I had hoped for more secrets, angst, conflict, happy resolution.

    Sadly, as much as I love Jennifer Ashley (in all her incarnations), I felt that the middle two books in the series were pretty tepid. I was hoping the series would close on a bang, but I guess I shouldn’t have invested as much hope as I did. My copy was delivered early this morning, and I was so looking forward to jumping into it. I’ll still read it, but will go in with open eyes and more realistic expectations.

    Thanks for the review.

  8. nearhere
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 13:44:34

    the way this book tied up the Mackenzie family left me quite happy. One of Hart’s character arcs was working through his control issues so it seemed quite reasonable to me that his sexual preferences would have changed since the first book in the series.

    As much as I loved Eleanor and Hart, all the scenes with Hart and Ian stole the show. Their relationship is so moving.

  9. nitnot
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 15:21:52

    Oh, darn. Is this another Vishous book? I really hope it’s not.

  10. Anna Cowan
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 17:45:00

    @nitnot haha, Vishous will ever be the benchmark of disappointment, in all ways (at least it sounds like Hart and Eleanor don’t “cuddle” for hours, off-screen).

  11. Sharyn
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 18:12:28

    Oh, I was hoping the sexual preferences of Hart would be covered. That’s actually one of the reasons I was dreading this book because I didn’t see how “good” Eleanor would handle that side of Hart. At least, even if was resolved that he has been “experimenting” or something in his past, that it would be discussed by both of them. Sounds like it was just swept aside? Well, I do love Ian so I’ll still read the book.

  12. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 19:11:12

    I adore Ian too, and will probably by this book, but serious stinkeye at Jennifer Ashley for punking out.

  13. infinitieh
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 00:10:24

    Good thing I’m getting this book for the hot Paul Marron cover – shirtless and in a kilt!

  14. Lay Jaye
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 06:05:42

    I enjoyed the story a lot even though she ‘punked out’ on Hart. I’ve always looked forward to his story, being rather underwhelmed by Ian’s and the rests.

  15. nitnot
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 12:20:50

    @Anna Cowan: @Anna Cowan:

    Tell me about it. As domesticated as Zsadist was, Vishous’ book was a wimp. I loved Ian’s book so much and I think that love has carried over to Cam and Mac’s book (although Mac’s book was not bad). I really do hope Hart is good, if only because he reminds me of Balogh’s Bedwyn’s Duke.

  16. Lady Wesley
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 12:47:05

    Excellent review. I eagerly devoured this book yesterday and had the same two problems: why did Eleanor jilt Hart and why did the author, as you say, “wimp out” on showing a truly dark side to Hart. I really wanted to find out something awful about Hart, something that would make me think “whoa, maybe he’s not someone I’d want to marry after all.” Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found that Hart’s life-changing experience near the end (although a bit contrived) was profound and believable.

    I must say that I was charmed by the epilogue’s “Kodak moment.”

  17. Susan
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 13:06:53

    @infinitieh: I know I’ll probably be kicked out of the “club” for this, but Paul Marron doesn’t do it for me. At all. Good thing I don’t pay much attention to covers.

    @Lady Wesley: OK, your comments have now made me move this back up to the top of the TBR pile, if only for the “Kodak moment.” Thanks!

  18. Vicki
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 08:37:34

    As someone who didn’t love the first book in this series, I kept reading it in anticipation of Hart’s book. All the hints at his very dark nature were so compelling that I couldn’t wait for this one. I haven’t been as disappointed in a book since Suzanne Enoch’s epic end of series crash in Sins of a Duke.

  19. pamelia
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 08:43:19

    Hmmm… I would give the book the same grade as you but for different reasons. I fully understood her reason for leaving him although I think it got strung out for far too long through the story; maybe if it had been revealed a little earlier on it would have made more sense. To me it felt like a secret the author was keeping from us readers that didn’t need to be kept for as long as she did if that makes any sense. I thought the watering down of Hart’s sexual proclivities was a little disappointing as well although it was hinted that there was more to come. What really made me go WTF was the contrivance at the end that kept them apart for a time. THAT made so little sense to me.

  20. Courtney
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 11:42:01

    I have to say that after finishing the book, I agree with this review and found myself very disappointed in the book overall. I thought we’d see Hart’s “dark proclivities” but we didn’t and the sex with Eleanor was fairly vanilla, IMO. I’m still not sure why she decided to return to Hart using the photographs as an excuse.

    The one part I did enjoy was seeing more of Hart’s relationship with Ian.

  21. Review: The Duke’s Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley | Smexy Books
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 11:31:10

    […] Reviews Dear Author – B- The Book Pushers – A All About Romance – B- Book Binge – 4.5/5 Fiction Vixen – B- […]

%d bloggers like this: