When you wait impatiently for five months to read a book, you're may well find that it does not live up to expectations. That disappointing outcome did not occur here, however; Hart's and Eleanor's story is wonderful.
Years after their broken engagement, Hart and Eleanor are thrown together again when she begins to receive anonymous notes containing pictures of Hart naked. Eleanor and her father, a slightly dotty impoverished earl, travel to London where Eleanor proposes that Hart hire her as a secretary while she investigates the pictures. (Hart and Eleanor assume that a blackmailer is at work, but don't you suspect that just maybe Eleanor secretly hope that something might just happen between them?)
Hart has become a powerful politician, heading a coalition party that is on the verge of taking power. He finds it distracting to have Eleanor around, so he tries to keep as busy as possible. Romance, of course, ensues, and it's not really
a spoiler to reveal that they get married a little over half way into the book.
There are unexpected perils that put both Hart and Eleanor in danger, and ultimately Hart undergoes a life-changing ordeal. What I Liked
•Hart! He is just as domineering, opinionated, and handsome as in the three previous books. We always knew that he was devoted to this brothers, but we learn much more about what he's done to ensure their happiness. Especially touching is the story of Hart's relationship to Ian and Ian's reciprocal loyalty to Hart. We also learn that the late duke, the father to the four brothers, was even worse than we thought. Hart believes that he's come to be just like his father, and his self-loathing is profound.
As I mentioned, Hart experiences a life-changing event, but to say more than that would be too spoilerish. The event itself is a bit contrived, but his reaction to it is sincere.
•Eleanor. She's the perfect foil to Hart, as she simply refuses to be intimidated by him. While she doesn't regret jilting him all those years ago, she still loves him deeply and wants to protect him. She is indeed the perfect wife for him -- descendant of a brave Scotswoman, warm, outgoing, and an elegant hostess.
•The Mackenzie family. All of the brothers, their wives, and their children make an appearance, and Ian plays a particularly important role. It's fun to see them all married and becoming parents (although I did feel that my particular favorite, Cameron, got short shrift.)
•Inspector Fellows. As we know, Fellows is the illegitimate son of the old duke and half brother to the four Mackenzies. He appears in this book mostly in his official capacity, but there is one brief scene that hints of an unlikely romance in his future.
•Ian. He's even more amazing than before, but I won't go into detail.
•The teaser for the next book. The Seduction of Elliot McBride will feature Ainsley's brother recently returned from India. A stunned Elliot finds himself proposed to in the first chapter.
•The lookbacks. We learn a lot more about Hart's childhood relationship with his father, his rescue of Ian, the early courtship of Eleanor by Hart, their intimate encounters, the end of their betrothal, and the death of Hart's wife and infant son. All of this gives us a different perspective on how and why Hart became the man that he is.
•The lovin'. Jennifer Ashley can write a love scene to curl your toes, so don't be wearing tight shoes while reading this book.
•The epilogue. It ties up everything in a nice Kodak moment.What I Didn't Like
Yes, there were a few things that didn't please me.
•The reason Eleanor jilted Hart. It's finally explained in detail, but I must confess to being just as baffled as Hart about exactly what offended Eleanor so much.
•Hart's supposed perversion. For three books now, we've seen hints of Hart's sexual dark side. In this book, he's terrified that Eleanor will learn "the truth" about him and be disgusted. Repeatedly, he agonizes over this, but when we finally see him admit all to Eleanor, it's really no big deal and Eleanor is game to play along. I was truly disappointed that this potential problem was glossed over so casually.
•Hart's disappearance. As I mentioned the event leading up to Hart's disappearance was rather contrived, but it suited the author's purpose. He needed to be away from the world for a period of time to discover that things would go on without him trying to control everything. But, I really couldn't buy that he would choose
to stay away knowing that his family would believe him to be dead.
I love the Mackenzies so much that there's no way I wouldn't like this book. If we used half-points, I'd rate it at 4.5 -- not quite as intense as The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie nor as steamy as The Many Sins of Lord Cameron.
If you like those books, however, you'll definitely enjoy this one, and I strongly recommend that they be read in order.