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REVIEW: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

book review As a satisfied reader of your Regency pirate series, I was definitely on board to try your new late Victorian book about a hero who suffers from Asperger’s.   The barbaric aspects of a growing medical tradition and the increasing urbanization and complexity of British society are a perfect fit for a story that explores the sometimes narrow gap between obsession and madness.   And in a genre where love is often portrayed and expressed in extreme measures of desperation, the fit is very fine.   So it should be no surprise that I enjoyed The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, both in its unusual choice of hero and its deft use of many solid genre conventions.

Lord Ian Mackenzie has been out of the asylum for only a bit longer than Beth Ackerley has been widowed.   Ian’s father had him committed at the age of nine, ostensibly for his uncontrollable rages, inability to meet another’s gaze, and obsessive tendencies.   Beth’s husband, an East End vicar, left his young wife in roughly the same state he had married her in:   poor.   Although her maternal grandfather was a squire, Beth hardly grew up in comfort, and by the age of ten, she had practically grown up in a workhouse, only finding financial security inheriting a substantial fortune from a woman whose caretaker she eventually became.   Newly engaged to the clearly unworthy Lyndon Mather, Beth cannot help but notice the handsome and unusual Lord Ian at the opera, especially when he approaches her with news of her fiancé’s unsavory proclivities.

Determined to win Beth Ackerly into his life and his bed upon the first moment he sees her, Ian shows no hesitation in maneuvering Beth away from Mather, in the same way he takes Ming bowls into his appreciative possession.   Although convinced he is incapable of love and unable to pierce the more affective aspects of interpersonal communication, Ian knows desire, and something about Beth focuses every bit of Ian’s physical and intellectual attention upon her.   Proposing to her the very first night they meet, Ian is unfazed by Beth’s reluctance, following her all the way to Paris to win her.   Beth is more than a bit intrigued by the handsome and intense Ian, although she is nowhere near ready to marry a man she has just met, even one that kisses so wickedly and passionately as Ian Mackenzie:

His hand loosened more curls, rendering the maid’s work useless. “You were a vicar’s wife, respectable, the sort to be married. Otherwise, I would offer a liaison.”
Beth resisted rubbing her face against his glove. “Have I got this right? You want me to come to your bed, but because I was once a respectable married lady, you must marry me in order to get me there?”
“Yes.”
She gave a half-hysterical laugh. “My dear Lord Ian, don’t you think that a bit extreme? Once you’d had me in your bed, you’d still be married to me.”
“I planned to bed you more than once.”
It sounded so logical when he said it. His deep voice slid through her senses, tempting her, finding the passionate woman who’d discovered how much she loved touching a man’s body and having that man touch her.

The budding passion between two mutually attracted, passionate people cannot be restrained, though, at least not in Romance, and it is not long before Beth and Ian are engaged in a variety of sexual explorations, with Ian’s eagle eye still firmly focused on the prize of marriage, and Beth’s on the deepening feelings of attachment she is having toward the powerful yet vulnerable Ian.   Against the backdrop of 1881 London, Paris, and Kilmorgan, Scotland, Beth and Ian’s relationship seems idyllic, except for the unwanted attentions of one Lloyd Fellows, a Scotland Yard detective convinced that Ian and his eldest brother Hart (the Duke of Kilmorgan) are responsible for the murders of two High Holborn prostitutes.   Fellows’s fixation on finding the Mackenzies guilty is as strong as Ian’s on securing Beth in marriage, and all too soon Beth finds herself between the two men, convinced of Ian’s innocence but determined to uncover the truth behind the murders.

Without a doubt, the heart of The Madness of Lord Ian is Ian, despite his repeated insistence that he does not have one himself.   Ian is incredibly gifted in languages and mathematics, a musical prodigy despite the fact that he cannot read the notes, and capable or memorizing documents, maps, and conversations word for word despite not necessarily understand them.   He cannot comprehend irony or subtext, is beset by constant migraines, as well as frequent nightmares, and while is a masterful puzzle-solver, his lack of confidence in his own mental stability makes him susceptible to rages that rob him of memory.     Further, those close to him vacillate between pity and fear of his “madness,” undermining any confidence Ian might gain in his own faculties. While the asylum may have been a horrific punishment for the sensitive, struggling boy that Ian was, his emotional problems were/are very real, and nothing, not even the love of a good woman, will exorcise most of his demons.

In truth, Ian does not know whether or not he has killed in one of his rages, which makes him fight Beth’s determination to clear his name.   He is also extremely loyal to Hart, because it was his eldest brother who rescued him from the asylum after their brute of a father died.   In some ways Ian reminded me of Faelan from Kinsale’s Uncertain Magic, and despite his autistic tendencies, Ian is in many ways the ideal romantic hero: physically strong yet emotionally vulnerable, passionately devoted to the heroine yet tortured inside, determined to protect those he loves yet firmly in need of rescue himself.   In fact, it may be less that Ian is unique among Romance heroes and more that his more pronounced, more extreme difficulties reveal the relative “madness” of many epic heroes within the genre.

Beth, while very strong in character and intelligence, also functions to enrich Ian’s characterization.   She is that standard Romance combination of plucky and innocent, despite having an alcoholic reprobate father and being raised in a workhouse among poverty and crime.     Both aspects of her personality function in critical ways within the novel, of course, because the tortured hero is always most powerfully attracted to the woman whose goodness is crystal clear, and the heroine’s background allows her to accept Ian’s eccentricities without judgment, as well as facilitating her own investigation through the more degraded areas of London:

The woman was incredibly innocent. She’d seen what she’d seen in London’s slums, she’d been destitute and desperate, and yet she still looked for good in the Mackenzies. Unbelievable.

Exactly.   Like Ian, I could never really believe that a woman who had lived most of her life among prostitutes, criminals, and impoverished laborers would be quite as naïve as Beth.

I had some moments of confusion about Ian, too, especially when “[h]e always had difficulty deciphering what another person was feeling,” but he was so adept at figuring out how Beth would proceed once she was determined to clear his name. Was that the Asperger’s or the characterization – I was never sure.   Also, because Beth cannot always communicate her complex emotional state with Ian, she journals much of it, which sometimes felt clumsy and as nothing more than an excuse to fit more sexual encounters into the novel amidst endless speculation on whether Beth was a “lady” or whether her sensuality was a mark of baseness.   I am, I think, so very tired of that characteristic in historical Romance heroines that I easily find it intrusive.   On the other hand, though, I was charmed by the fact that Beth liked to joke with Ian, even though Ian could not understand a word of it.   I found that amusing, in part because it emphasized a larger truth of male-female conversational disconnect.

The Madness of Lord Ian is the first book of a series encompassing all four Mackenzie brothers, and still to come are the stories of Mac, the famous artist whose estranged wife befriended Beth in Paris; Cameron, the widower genius horse trainer whose son is a slightly less wild Mackenzie male; and Hart, the politician and widower who promises to be the most complex and difficult of the lot (I am most looking forward to his story).     And as Ian points out,

“All of us are mad in some way,” Ian said. “I have a memory that won’t let go of details. Hart is obsessed with politics and money. Cameron is a genius with horses, and Mac paints like a god. . .   We all have our madness.   Mine is just the most obvious.”

If I remember correctly, Mac and Isabella’s book is next, and there was plenty in The Madness of Lord Ian to set the stage for this tempestuous couple, another brooding, complex male paired with a devoted but independent female.   In fact, I suspect that this series will gain a wide readership because of the way so many standard Romance elements ground the love story, despite the unusual circumstances of the heroes.   Also, while not rich, the historical elements are not insultingly anachronistic, either (although I wondered about the existence of ice used to reduce swelling during the Scottish summertime, when the sun barely sets).   Further, the draw of Scottish heroes who do not use fake Scots-speak is a big bonus, as is the fact that the Kilmorgan title holds high status in both Scotland and England, making the transcontinental path of the story believable.   The plotting is relatively predictable, but the emotional connection between Ian and Beth remains strong enough to make it interesting, in part, I think, because of the incredibly magnetic presence of Hart Mackenzie, whose own sexual history may be even more scandalous than Beth’s one-time fiancé, the unsavory Lyndon Mather.

It strikes me that these novels will all investigate the line between passion and madness, and that they will all offer a new perspective on the concept of “normal,” which is itself a welcome addition to the genre, as far as I’m concerned.   I was definitely entertained enough by The Madness of Lord Ian to recommend it and to look forward to Mac and Isabella’s story.   B

~ Janet

This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore. I can’t find the ebook version of it yet.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

46 Comments

  1. FD
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 12:08:07

    (although I wondered about the existence of ice used to reduce swelling during the Scottish summertime, when the sun barely sets)

    If the scene is anywhere on or near a great estate/house, that is actually quite plausible, due to the use of ice houses.

    I’ve read a few good reviews of this now, I think I’ll be adding it to the TBR pile.

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  2. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 13:11:52

    the Scottish summertime, when the sun barely sets

    It’s not quite that extreme:

    Scotland enjoys very long hours of daylight in Summer. In the North of the country June will see up to 18 hours of daylight. It is not unusual to be able to read a book outside at 11pm. (from the VisitScotland website)

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  3. Robin
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 13:31:46

    Thanks, FD, for clarifying that.

    Laura: Thanks. I got the impression from the book that it was light almost the whole 24 hour cycle and my only reference (in reverse) was a Christmas I spent in Sweden, where it was dark by 3 pm and not fully light again until 10 the next morning. And even when it was light, it was hardly bright.

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  4. Marianne McA
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 14:19:45

    I liked the central romance, but really thought the brothers were dragged into the story to advertise their forthcoming books. I like series, and would sometimes hope that a character would have his or her own book – but I just thought the author wasn’t in the least subtle about it, so that instead of feeling intrigued, I continually felt that I was being sold something.
    I agree with you about Hart’s sexual history. I did wonder after the book if the author thought the readership would regard his behaviour as morally different than Mather’s. Have to say, I didn’t find him incredibly magnetic: I thought he was a boor, and a criminally negligent boor at that.

    (And I found Lord Mac’s name annoying, though if Jaili says it’s okay, I shall bow to her superior knowledge of all things Scottish.)

    Having said all that, I thought the central romance was so good that I would recommend the book – it was genuinely something different, and a really enjoyable read.

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  5. JulieLeto
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 14:32:48

    Jennifer Ashley told me that the Kindle version of the book is supposed to be released a week after the print release, which officially is today. Personally, I can’t wait to read this book after reading the full first chapter at her website.

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  6. Pamela
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 15:13:08

    Thanks, Julie, for letting us know about the ebook release. I was excited because Jennifer Ashley’s and Elizabeth Hoyt’s new books were coming out today but not in any e-format! (I have a Sony but their editions usually come out the same day as the kindle’s.)

    Hoyt’s e-version of To Beguile A Beast has a release date of this Friday, May 1st. I wonder if it is the standard in the industry to release mass market paperpacks a week later? Best selling hardcovers come out the same day as the paper versions.

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  7. RStewie
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 15:25:12

    This is the second hint of “Kinsale-esque” writing. I will be purchasing and reading this book. I was also hooked by the first chapter.

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  8. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 16:02:22

    Robin mentioned

    Hart Mackenzie, whose own sexual history may be even more scandalous than Beth's one-time fiancé, the unsavory Lyndon Mather

    and Marianne McA replied

    I agree with you about Hart's sexual history. I did wonder after the book if the author thought the readership would regard his behaviour as morally different than Mather's. Have to say, I didn't find him incredibly magnetic: I thought he was a boor, and a criminally negligent boor at that.

    I’ve only read the excerpt, but my impression was that Lyndon Mather was supposed to be seen as particularly “unsavory” because he’s a sexual submissive. Maybe there’s a lot more to it than that, but it seemed like a variation on the “make the villain extra evil by also making him gay/a sadist” type of characterisation. I hope I got the wrong impression from the excerpt.

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  9. Marianne McA
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 16:55:27

    I've only read the excerpt, but my impression was that Lyndon Mather was supposed to be seen as particularly “unsavory” because he's a sexual submissive.

    Possible minor spoilers.

    That’s what I wondered Laura – because it’s mentioned at least twice, possibly three times. In contrast Hart is shown performing erotic asphyxiation (I’d have to reread, but I took it that the prostitute may not have been consenting in the circumstances). We’re told he skilled at this.
    It did leave me wondering whether the author thought the reader would condemn both equally (for keeping prostitutes) – or whether the reader is supposed to feel differently about the men because of the type of sex they had with those prostitutes.
    I definitely read it that the book expected us to see Mather as a poor choice for a life partner, but I was less sure whether the reader was supposed to see Hart as an equally poor choice.

    (To be fair – that was not the only reason why Mather was a bad choice, but I did think there was a suggestion that the type of sex he enjoyed was somehow in itself a mark against him.)

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  10. Robin
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 17:13:50

    Marianne McA and Laura:

    More minor spoilers

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    Correct me if I’m wrong, MMcA, but I think it’s more what Ian refers to as the implications of “vacant eyed women” that Mather uses that make him unsavory in terms of his sexual proclivities, not so much the submission aspect of it. That and he has no intention of giving any of that up after marrying Beth.

    Hart, OTOH, actually owned the house in which the women he dominated lived (and by implication the women?), which might be considered worse, even if the women are willing. And I’m honestly not sure we’re supposed to see Hart in a positive light. When he becomes politically powerful, for example, he sells the house to his mistress, who then functions as a madame and the women as prostitutes. There’s a sense in which Hart is being portrayed as a man who uses people as tools in various endeavors — political, sexual, etc. Beth believes (as does Ian) that Hart brought Ian home from the asylum primarily because he was useful to Hart as someone who could memorize treaty language and expertly manage/grow the Mackenzie investments.

    I am looking most forward to Hart’s story because he is SUCH a jerk, and I’m hoping that Ashley won’t make him too tame in his own story.

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  11. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 17:44:31

    I think it's more what Ian refers to as the implications of “vacant eyed women” that Mather uses that make him unsavory in terms of his sexual proclivities, not so much the submission aspect of it.

    When I read the excerpt, the impression I got (and obviously an impression gained from reading an excerpt is not very reliable) was that the women were vacant eyed either because they were bored or because of the horror of having to act as dominatrixes. Could it be that the horror of it makes them take drugs which causes them go “vacant eyed”?

    Going back to the excerpt, I get the sense that Mather is being portrayed as intrinsically “wrong” somehow: he compares a bowl to a breast and “The little vessel might just cup a small rounded breast, but that was as far as Ian was willing to go” (does Ian have a greater knowledge of/interest in women?); he’s got an “overly handsome face” (presumably a hero would have a manly, rugged face?); “There were at least five fakes in the glass case on the other side of Mather's collection room” (can one read this metaphorically as hinting that Mather himself is a “fake” in some way, or at least is deficient because he values “fakes” as much as real women/real women’s real sexual responses. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t notice that the women he pays for sex are “vacant eyed”?); “in Ian's opinion, Mather understood pleasures of the flesh about as well as he understood Ming porcelain” (again, a suggestion that Mather’s not able to understand/appreciate women to the full); Mather is “slim” whereas Lord Ian is “a big man, his body solid muscle, the hand that reached to hers huge” (and again, there seems to be a contrast set up here, which perhaps hints that there’s something not quite masculine about Mather).

    A man being sexually dominant, as Hart is, doesn’t seem nearly as transgressive in terms of the gender norms of romance. It’s not as though there’s been a lack of heroes doling out “punishing kisses,” brusing heroines lips and even raping them. So my impression is that in the genre male dominance could be seen as being at the extreme end of the masculine spectrum of sexual behaviour, and so there might be parallels with what you say about Ian:

    it may be less that Ian is unique among Romance heroes and more that his more pronounced, more extreme difficulties reveal the relative “madness” of many epic heroes within the genre.

    Maybe it “may be less that Hart is unique among Romance heroes and more that his more pronounced, more extreme sexual dominance reveal the relative ‘sexual dominance’ of many epic heroes within the genre.”

    Hart, OTOH, actually owned the house in which the women he dominated lived (and by implication the women?), which might be considered worse,

    but in the excerpt it says that “Mather kept a secret house for his mistress and several other women to cater to his needs” so he seems to be owning a house for his women too.

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  12. Miki
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 18:05:33

    I have always loved a “tortured hero” theme, but as I read the comments about the sexual domination and submission, I’m thinking I might just have to give this series (author?) a pass. Not my cuppa, not at all.

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  13. Kaetrin
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 18:22:31

    I’m really interested in the Aspberger’s side to the story and how Beth and Ian work it out to a satisfying relationship (it is a romance after all, so I assume there is a HEA for these 2!). I know a few people with Aspberger’s and they are quite difficult to live with.

    Having said that (and this isn’t very politically correct, I know) I’m also looking forward to the humour which flows from one person in the conversation not understanding subtext and irony, etc. It’s apparent from the little excerpt above that Ian is going to come out with some pretty outrageous statements which, on the other hand, are exactly what someone with Aspbergers would say. Beth’s “teasing” of him sounds like I’d enjoy it too.

    I have made a decision to try and actually read some of my TBR pile BEFORE I go and buy more books (I am expecting to fail miserably…) but I’d like to put this one on my wishlist – can someone tell me if a Sony friendly ebook is coming out?

    Great review Janet, thanks.

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  14. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 19:12:37

    @Laura Vivanco: Oh, God, I’m so fucking sick of the sexual dominant/submissive as villain convention. But I’ll have to read for my research, because, well, that’s what my Princeton paper was all about.

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  15. Robin
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 19:39:18

    I just want to point out that Mather is NOT the villain of this book — he’s not even portrayed as particularly evil.

    He is, however, used to amplify the genuine v. fake theme of the novel, with Beth being the genuine prize (like Ian’s Ming bowls) and Mather incapable to seeing her true value. His greatest sin, IMO, is that he lacks insight and depth, and while it’s true that the sexual submission aspect of his character is considered a negative, the guy is FAR from, say, a Robin Schone villain (where homosexuality is merged with pedophilia and seen as a perversion and sign of evil).

    As for Hart, Laura, I can’t say much more without providing major spoilers for the book, as the High Holborn house where Hart’s women live is plays a major role in the suspense plot of the novel. And while it’s true that Hart’s interests might be praised by his peers and even more traditional in the genre, IMO it’s presented as one more symptom of Hart’s extreme need for control over others. Their father, who suffered from terrible rages (he’s probably the true villain of the novel, even though he’s dead), will, I’m guessing, be cast as the primary reason Hart is so locked down emotionally.

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  16. willaful
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 19:54:35

    Just throwing this out because it seems to be becoming a trend – like “Jane Austin” – there is no b in Aspergers.

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  17. Robin
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 20:00:24

    @willaful: It’s not a trend, just my idiot spelling and bad proofreading skills (of my own work, that is), which spell check does not help me with because it can’t spell Asperger’s, either.

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  18. Maya M.
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 20:03:19

    I wonder whether anyone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome (themselves or a parent) has read this book and what they think? From the post, it seems as though Ian may be an unusual case.

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  19. GrowlyCub
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 20:19:25

    This series set up is starting to sound very much like Madeline Hunter’s Easterbrook books. While there was no explicit mention of Asperger’s, certainly the mathematically inclined brother sounded like he had something like it.

    This book sounds very interesting nevertheless.

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  20. SonomaLass
    Apr 28, 2009 @ 22:00:11

    Hero with Asperger’s? Scots who don’t sound like they belong in the engineering room of the Enterprise or the school janitor’s closet on The Simpsons? A tweet-fest of praise from people whose opinions I trust AND a B from Robin/Janet?

    Tomorrow, bookstore, I’m there for this book!

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  21. Sandy D.
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 08:37:02

    It’s Asperger’s, not Aspberger’s (or Asberger’s or the sometimes on purpose Assburgers), btw (fix the tag, and the second place in the review, please!)

    My son doesn’t have AS, but was once mis-diagnosed as such, because of his Tourette’s and OCD. I went to an AS support group and got lots of help, anyway, and we spend lots of time with kids who do have AS, in his social skills groups and at school.

    Anyway, the variation of expression in individuals (and where they are on the spectrum) is so huge, it’s hard to say how accurate the portrayal is. But Ian really does seem a little too comfortable, verbally. The communication problem for people with AS I’ve met is more than just not being able to tell a lie, or eschewing some social conventions. A few non sequiturs, and outright uncomfortable verbal blunders with Beth would have been more realistic.

    I enjoyed the book, anyway, though like Marianne (#4), I really thought too much time went into setting up the brother’s stories. It detracted from the main characters (and come on, each of the brothers has an usual valet? How many ex-pickpocket, ex-pugilist, Gypsy valets can we tolerate?)

    If you’re interested in Asperger’s Syndrome, I recommend reading some books by people with it – Jon Elder Robison’s “Look Me in the Eye” is fascinating (here’s his website: http://jerobison.blogspot.com/), as is Dawn Prince-Hughes’ “Songs of the Gorilla Nation”.

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  22. Jennifer
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 11:12:59

    I have to admit that reading this review made me curious to see how the author balances the Asperger’s vs. the romantic hero conventions.

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  23. MCHalliday
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 11:24:51

    “The woman was incredibly innocent. She'd seen what she'd seen in London's slums, she'd been destitute and desperate, and yet she still looked for good in the Mackenzies. Unbelievable.”

    Exactly. Like Ian, I could never really believe that a woman who had lived most of her life among prostitutes, criminals, and impoverished laborers would be quite as naïve as Beth.

    Janet, perhaps I may be able to offer insight regarding Ms. Ashley’s portrayal of Beth as naive in spite of her exposure to a base side of life. Frankly, I was one of those oddities of nature; although raised in an abusive, unstable, deprived environment without a soft place to fall, my belief in people remained untainted. It didn’t serve me well to be gullible but still, it took many years into adulthood before I perceived not all people were truthful with good intentions. Slow to catch on, I don’t believe it was stupidity but rather, an innate blind optimism. It is possible to remain innocent, if one has this nature.

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  24. willaful
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 11:33:27

    Thanks for the spelling fixes!

    Although I haven’t read the book yet, in theory I like the idea of the heroine being somewhat gullible and naive, since people on the Autism spectrum often are those things as well and in my personal experience, people on the spectrum often tend to be attracted to people like themselves. (Although there can also be a negative, repelling effect.) So the book might actually work better for me in that regard.

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  25. KristieJ
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 20:03:33

    I adore this book though to be honest, I didn’t see the heroine as either gullible or naive. I saw her more as accepting of life’s differences. And this worked well as a match for Ian. I thought her perfect for him. She was willing to go toe to toe with Hart when she thought he was out of line and disrespectful towards Ian. And rather then the ‘standard romance heroine’, I found her to be quite remarkable. She was a widow true – but not the dreaded ‘virgin’ widow. Instead she had a great sex life with her husband and remarked more than once she missed that aspect of marriage.
    As for Ian – he totally won over my heart. I don’t know that much about Asperger’s but I did find his character quite believable. I loved the fact that it was so hard for him to look Beth in the eye.

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  26. Robin
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 00:42:43

    Just to clarify a bit, it wasn’t Beth’s faith in humankind that I couldn’t buy; in fact, I think that can be a very effective and realistic defense mechanism for someone who lives in such depressed circumstances. No, it was the fact that despite her acquaintance with those who led lives of, say, sexual service, despite the fact that she grew up sort of immersed in that world and remembers on occasion overhearing things the women said, etc., Beth is awfully ignorant (or innocent, if you prefer that word) of things I would think she’d know from sight or hearing from those around her. She seemed just *too* untouched by and unknowledgeable of what surrounded her, even in a glancing way. Which, given the incredibly curiosity Beth possessed (she becomes absolutely fixated on clearing Ian’s name) just seemed unrealistic to me.

    I realize that Ashley had to walk a line between making Beth someone who would not be repulsed by the darker life of the Mackenzies and someone who was optimistic and accepting and “clean” enough emotionally to be a foil for Ian (and to justify the profound need he has for her and the calming, centering effect she has on him). But I got frustrated with the incessant internal machinations Beth underwent about the “scandalous” nature of her behavior with Ian and about how she wasn’t ladylike, etc. Like a hammer all that was in how it struck me. When Ian got frustrated with the invisible presence of Mrs. Barrington, I was grateful SOMEONE said it FINALLY.

    Those aspects of Beth’s characterization, combined with the questions I had about whether Ian was a good and realistic representation of someone who suffers from Asperger’s, pulled the grade out of A territory for me.

    I did not, however, mind the blatant set-up of the brothers’ stories; in fact, I wish Cameron’s story had captured my interest the way Mac and Hart’s did. I really hope we don’t have to wait another year for the next one. And in any case, I am thrilled this book is getting such good reception, because I definitely think it deserves it!

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  27. Maili
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 05:03:03

    (although I wondered about the existence of ice used to reduce swelling during the Scottish summertime, when the sun barely sets).

    Nooo! The sun does come to Scotland during summertime! And wintertime!

    Joking aside, the intensity of heat (which I assume you were referring to) depends on the location. Some areas suffer heat waves and some areas don’t. It’s more noticeable in mountainous areas, especially those with lakes and streams (and the bloody midge). Easter Ross and the rest tend to have longer daylight hours, bizarre ‘shadow sun’ days (it’s very difficult to describe it), and less heat. Western areas tend to have more warmth (hence the palm trees) and shorter daylight hours.

    In short, the weather in Scotland isn’t the same all over the country, due to mountains, flatlands and other geographic issues.

    @Marianne McA

    (And I found Lord Mac's name annoying, though if Jaili says it's okay, I shall bow to her superior knowledge of all things Scottish.)

    :D I don’t like it myself, but it’s popular enough for me to accept it as part of American Romance’s mythology of Scotland.

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  28. Lana
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 14:24:16

    @RStewie: what do you mean by the “second hint” of Kinsale-esque writing?

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  29. Robin
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 20:13:00

    Okay, I’m confused about Mac’s name in general, as in, a) what is it really (i.e. would Mac Mackenzie be a proper name), and b) what’s wrong with it.

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  30. Maili
    May 01, 2009 @ 00:44:23

    I’m not quite sure I understood you right, but will try:

    a) Mac is either an English nickname for an Irish or Scottish man and an abbreviation of Mac/McSurname.

    b)
    - no, ‘Mac Mackenzie’ wouldn’t be a “proper” name. It has the same effect as the name Devon (naming a British historical hero Devon is akin to giving an American historical hero ‘New York State’ or ‘California’ as a given name).

    - Like Jamie, Mac is rarely an actual given name. Both are traditionally nicknames. Even Jamie Oliver’s real name is James Oliver.

    - Because it means ‘son’ in English, it was rarely used as a nickname, especially in some Gaelic-speaking parts of old Scotland (and I think Ireland?).

    - when Mac as a nickname, it’s used to be for/by people of the working class or those in the military and domestic services.

    But Mac fits in with the (American) Romance genre’s mythology of Scotland, though. In this light, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s just a very American thing to do, so to speak. :D

    ReplyReply

  31. Marianne McA
    May 01, 2009 @ 05:08:19

    - Because it means 'son' in English, it was rarely used as a nickname, especially in some Gaelic-speaking parts of old Scotland (and I think Ireland?).

    I’m not sure about the South. There are a fair number of people in the North of Ireland with Mac or Mc as a prefix to their surname – partly because of the Ulster Scots – and I haven’t heard it used locally as a nickname (which signifies nothing.) If I had had to guess, I’d have supposed it was just because it might be a fairly useless nickname because it would apply to so many people.

    However, if the character had been christened ‘MacIntyre Mackenzie’ and his brothers had shortened it to ‘Mac’ I think I’d have read past it. It was the use of ‘Mac’ seemingly as a proper name that really threw me – where people in society referred to him as ‘Lord Mac’ – suggesting that he’d actually been christened ‘Mac’.

    Minor, minor, minor thing – but it bothered me every time. (And now I feel vindicated in my botheration!)

    Good book, though.

    ReplyReply

  32. Marsha
    May 02, 2009 @ 21:06:47

    I just finished this book and I imagine that I’ll be pressing copies into friends’ hands left and right. Loved, loved, loved it.

    On the question of whether or not Ian MacKenzie is an accurate representation of someone with Asperger’s, I cannot say, not having had any experience with actual diagnoses or the process by which someone with Asperger’s might be “treated”. I can say that the character reminded me so tremendously of my own husband – an incredibly smart, physically imposing, mathematically gifted engineer with a curator’s attention to detail and memory that is like living with an Internet/Encyclopedia Britannica/OED smoothie but who also needs me to remind him to, you know, look at me, respond to things people say, shake hands and so on – that I totally bought the characterization. When someone capable of this level of focus turns it to you, well, it’s absolutely compelling and makes up for some of the odd/incomplete/very blunt conversations that go on. Even having the experience I do (reader, I married him), I wouldn’t have imagined a Romance hero with such qualities. So, yay to Jennifer Ashley, I say. Nailed it in one.

    And, I agree with Robin that the old departed Duke, the brothers’ father, is really the villain. Nearly all of the non-Beth loss, pain, and treachery can be brought back to him in one way or another. I wonder if future books will show that dreadful portrait removed from the hall…

    ReplyReply

  33. Lara
    May 03, 2009 @ 16:19:52

    I can’t seem to find this book on ebooks. ;-( does anyone know if it will?????

    ReplyReply

  34. Pamela
    May 03, 2009 @ 21:59:16

    Lara, I believed a previous commentator mentioned that the e-book version should be released a week after the print release, which would mean this upcoming Tuesday.

    I also haven’t read it yet but an eagerly waiting for the e-release.

    ReplyReply

  35. Lara
    May 04, 2009 @ 12:59:27

    Pamela thank you!

    ReplyReply

  36. LaurieF
    May 04, 2009 @ 22:53:10

    Loved this book. Beth was a wonderful heroine but Ian made the book for me.
    You just wanted to take him home with you from what I call “Make-Believe Hero Land” and make him happy the rest of his life. Oh, if only that were a real place, because you see I have a list….. :)
    Hopefully we’ll see the brothers in their own books soon. It has the potential to be an incredible series.

    ReplyReply

  37. Lara
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:48:28

    So all I keep seeing and reading are good things about this book! I’m so spun tight hoping it will be on borders ebook by today.

    ReplyReply

  38. GrowlyCub
    May 05, 2009 @ 22:09:21

    I just finished reading this book and while it was interesting it didn’t engage me at all emotionally, which is too bad, because I really wanted it to. I’m not really sure why, because it has all the elements I usually go for and I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t connect because so many others obviously did. :(

    I’m slightly curious about Mac and Isabella, but I’m not sure I’ll remember by ‘mid-2010′.

    In a way I feel guilty about expecting series books to show up one after another after another, but then publishers have spoiled us with back to back releases for series in recent years so that it seems incredibly annoying to me to have to commit 4 years of one’s life to finish reading 4 books in a series.

    ReplyReply

  39. GrowlyCub
    May 05, 2009 @ 22:24:42

    Oh, there was something that I can put my finger on that irritated me. The words used to describe his male appendage! Not only does he think of it as his ‘organ’ originally, not two pages later the heroine also thinks of it this way. Later he thinks of it as his ‘staff’ and voila a few pages later the heroine does so, too. And last but not least it’s referred to as ‘stem’. Ehm, no… that really didn’t work for me at all.

    ReplyReply

  40. Web Marketing and Book Awareness | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    May 12, 2009 @ 04:01:23

    [...] get me over an initial reluctance.  Sometimes it is a combination of both.  For example, the book The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie turned me off because I worried I wouldn’t really be able to like a rainman-like hero.  [...]

  41. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie – Jennifer Ashley « My Thoughts On Nothing Much At All
    May 26, 2009 @ 19:44:34

    [...] just a note to anyone who might be reading and wondering about the impact of the internet on book sales, one of the reasons that I did deliberately go looking for this book to read was because of the [...]

  42. Very Accurate
    Jun 26, 2009 @ 09:34:44

    I don’t think without a full battery of tests even a modern doctor would know if Ian suffered from Autism (high functioning) or some other disorder such as Asperger’s.

    Asperger’s is wide spectrum disorder and he certainly didn’t seem to be too high functioning to fit into it.

    Some doctors even claim that it is “Touch of Autism Disorder”. It all depends on how much you are touched by it and how well you function with those particular traits.

    In this book Ian does seem to have many “quirks” that are easily labeled as Austistic, but he seems to be very high functioning. Most of his problems seem to have stemmed from not being truly understood or accepted for eccentricities within his social circle.

    All in all I found this book very realistic from that point of view.

    ReplyReply

  43. interim July book log « Jules Jones
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 03:29:14

    [...] Jennifer Ashley — The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie Bought this one on the strength of the review at Dear Author. Historical romance with a hero who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Very, very well done, and the [...]

  44. July 2010 book log « Jules Jones
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 14:32:06

    [...] Jennifer Ashley — The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie Bought this one on the strength of the review at Dear Author. Historical romance with a hero who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Very, very well done, and the [...]

  45. Review – The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 08:44:30

    [...] Janet from Dear Author had the following to say: “It strikes me that these novels will all investigate the line between passion and madness, and that they will all offer a new perspective on the concept of “normal,” which is itself a welcome addition to the genre, as far as I'm concerned.  I was definitely entertained enough by The Madness of Lord Ian to recommend it and to look forward to Mac and Isabella's story. ” [...]

  46. The Mackenzies (aka Highland Pleasures): Saving a Series by Jennifer Ashley and editor, Kate Seaver - Dear Author
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 13:53:25

    [...] I’m thrilled to announce the August 2 release of The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, the third book in the Mackenzies series, which began with The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (reviewed here). [...]

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