Desert Isle Keeper
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie
When you’re reading a book that is a step or two – or six or seven – above the norm, you know it almost immediately. Such is the case with The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie.
The characters here are so complex and so real that I was fascinated by their journey. Add in the fact that this story is as flat out romantic as any I’ve read in a while, and this is a book that I very much hope will be embraced by romance readers. It certainly deserves to be.
The Lord Ian of the title is a hero almost like no other. He is beautiful and brilliant as many leading men are, but that is where his standard hero qualities end. Ian suffers – truly suffers – from what seems to be some sort of savant syndrome that afflicts him in several ways and resulted in his being something of a social outcast. Though Ian occasionally loses focus and at other times the ability to comprehend conversations – both of which go over just as well as you think they would amongst the ton – his affliction also comes with several gifts, including a nearly photographic memory. Branded “mad” by his cruel and now deceased father, Ian suffered for years under the care of quack doctors and was released from an asylum only when his elder brother inherited the family ducal title.
As the book opens, the “mad” and brilliant Ian meets the fiancé of Lyndon Mather, a man he views with contempt, one evening at the opera. Widowed Beth Ackerly loved her first husband, a vicar who worked in the slums of London. Following his death, she was fortunate enough to secure a position as companion to an elderly lady who leaves Beth a fortune after her death. With her circumstances drastically altered, the now wealthy Beth settles into an engagement with Lyndon in hopes of achieving some kind of normal life. That is until she meets Ian.
Ian decides on the spot – literally – that Lyndon is unworthy of Beth and proposes to her instantly, while also revealing to her the sexual proclivities of her fiancé of which she is unaware. Beth is both intrigued and frightened by him and flees almost immediately to Paris. Ian, who is set on a course of conquering Beth, follows her there.
But a man as brilliant and challenged as Ian, of course, has dark secrets. It seems that an obsessed detective believes him responsible for two brutal murders and he soon enough calls on Beth to reveal his suspicions to her.
Quite honestly, what makes this book so very special is the author’s depiction of Ian. This isn’t one of those books in which the hero’s affliction ultimately turns out to be nothing – Ian has serious issues to deal with and they are never, ever sugar-coated. He is also one of the sexiest heroes I’ve come across in a while. I really can’t wax enthusiastically enough about the author’s careful depiction of Ian as a man who suffers both the tortures of his own mind, as well as the slings and arrows of a cruel world that will never understand him.
Beth is also a worthy heroine. She sees – and appreciates – Ian for what he is and her path from wariness to fascination to suspicion to love is equally meticulously depicted. The author also manages a rare feat these days: The love scenes here don’t feel simply tacked on and actually feature real character development that moves the story forward.
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is the first in a promised series of four, with subsequent books featuring Ian’s brothers. Each is introduced here and each is intriguing. Since the author set the bar so high for this initial entry, this is a series I am certainly looking forward to following.
|Review Date:||April 18, 2009|
|Book Type:||European Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||Mackenzies Series | neurodiverse | Top 100 Romance|
Since I loved this book – and thanks AAR for the DIK recommendation – I’m wow’d that it’s $1.99 on your Steals and Deals.
I think I’ve only ever seen it on sale once in the past decade.
I am afraid this one was not for me either. Although not a direct comparison, admittedly, I much, much preferred Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm.
I wonder if its appeal has something to do with the audio version? I believe some group awarded it best romance audiobook of the year. Maybe AAR? I’ve only read the book and liked it. Ian is the character I remember. Unlike Jessica Trent or Christine Derrick, the heroine left no lasting impression on me.
I hope not – the narrator isn’t great. The Scottish accents are wobbly, and Curry sounds like he’s Australian rather than from the East End. I know that some of my fellow AudioGals really rated the performance, but I found it below par.
I remember being really excited about this one and really wanting to love it, but… I didn’t. (And yeah, seeing this ranked above Kinsale, Judith Ivory, and Sherry Thomas is disappointing.) It felt to me like a book that appealed largely because it was different than because it was well-executed. I never felt like Beth had a coherent personality; to me she seemed to have whatever properties she needed to have for the plot at any given moment, so I never really understood why Ian immediately became so devoted to her. Relatedly, I could see Ian’s appeal, like, in general, but because Beth felt like a cipher, I couldn’t figure out why he would appeal specifically to her. There were other things I didn’t like as well, although I don’t remember what they were. But I know I’m in the minority on that, so.
This was a DNF for me. I have a spectrummy kid, but I can’t remember if it was the portrayal of autism that I didn’t like. I just … didn’t like it.
I too enjoyed this one quite a lot; and thought it to be quite original when I read it. I’ve even reread it and recommend it to people. But I too would not put this above Laura Kinsale, Mary Balogh, or Georgette Heyer’s best work (to name just a few).
This is my favorite by far of all of Jennifer Ashley’s books. I have reread it a few times and I really enjoy it. While I do find the heroine very charming in her own right, I think the true pull and appeal of this book is obviously Ian.
Mulling it over, it seems the charm of Ian (apart from his physical attractions) is that you believe that he is instantly, 100% committed to Beth. Not only will he not ever lie to her or deceive her, he gives her all of his devotion. (Beth in return, is genuinely attracted to this man who has been used by most of the people in his life and never understood).
In many ways it reminds me of Laurann Dohner’s New Species books where the heroes (because of their altered nature and DNA) are completely and almost instantly committed to the women they decide are their mates and are almost incapable of being deceitful like “human males”are. Like Dohner’s heroes, Ian is extremely literal. Also like them he is physically protective of his heroine, but needs her to negotiate the emotional complexities of other people and their deceits. Beth and Ian (like some of Quick/Krentz’s best duos) see their partner as virtually perfect when the rest of the world does not, which is something I find very charming. The idea of not the “perfect person” but the person perfect for you.
I am not an expert on autism however and I could very well see this book being (is blacklisted too strong a word?) for not presenting autism in a certain way or being accused of somehow “exploiting” a hero with disabilities. These are not my thoughts, I am just extrapolating based on accusations I have seen made against other novels or writers. Opinion can turn very quickly based on current trends so I am curious to see how this book’s reputation is holding up.
I do really like this book, though for some reason I never felt drawn back to it for a reread it. I’ve also unfortunately not enjoyed other Jennifer Ashley books.
I haven’t read a huge number of her books, but of those I have read, this is probably the best one.
I actually haven’t read this one yet! It’s been on my tbr pile for an age or two. Need to get on it.
I loved this book when it first came out and it was very popular, but I wonder if it will stand the test of time with the recent awareness of people on the autistic spectrum. I don’t know enough to comment, but I have heard some rumblings.
This makes me really sad.
I’m really curious how readers view Ashley’s representation of autism in this book. It’s been a while since I read this book and I do remember how unique it felt to read about an autistic hero. Autism seems to have been given more prominence in books more recently and I would love to know how people who are educated in this area interpret this particular book.
I loved that Ian loves Beth so completely and instantly, but Jennifer Ashley does such a great job that it’s not instanta-love or lust. Because the characterization is so complete and so consistent, I believed every word. Ashley was the first (I’m pretty sure) to write a hero who is on the autistic spectrum.
I enjoyed this book, I understand its high rating and think the author has yet to top it ,… but no way should it be higher in the Top 100 than Flowers from the Storm.
Kristen and I were just talking about what books will make our new Top 100 poll. I’m betting that Flowers from the Storm stays in the top ten and will certainly be ranked higher than this (very enjoyable) book.
Yeah, I came to romance when I was 30 after dabbling briefly in my early teens, and so this is the kind of book that passed me by. I read it after hearing Sarah recommend it on SBTB pod and couldn’t figure out why it was so magical.
Young readers and readers new to the genre are not reading Kinsale much or at all. And it is truly their loss. She is the best romance author of all time IMO.
Newer books always seem to rise to the surface of consciousness when these polls come about. So I am not surprised that Ashley is rated higher than Kinsale. I of course don’t agree.