My goodreads.com friend Dhestiny began her review with this:
Elliot is to the McBrides as Ian is to the Mackenzies, except that Elliot wasn’t born as he is now. His “madness” comes from being captured, held as a slave and tortured, mentally and physically.
That’s such a perfect intro, that I had to steal it. Yes, if you wanted to take Ian home with you, you’ll need to build on an extra room for Elliot.
Full disclosure: Jennifer Ashley is one of my top three HR authors, and her Highland Pleasures series is my favorite series. The first four volumes were about the Mackenzie clan, four rowdy, passionate, hunky sons of a Scottish duke. Having exhausted the Mackenzies (and now that I think about it, doesn’t that sound like fun?), she turns to their brother-in-law Elliot McBride (whose sister is married to Lord Cameron, my own favorite Mackenzie brother). I was almost guaranteed to like this book, so stop reading now if you’re looking for an unbiased review.
Our heroine is Lady Juliana St. John, who has been jilted at the altar as the story opens. Lady Juliana didn’t actually love her fiancée, but she is humiliated and flees into a small chapel to weep. To her surprise, she finds there a drunken Elliot, her secret crush since childhood. In fact, she’s doubly surprised, because she thought Elliot was still in India, where he had spent many years serving in the Army and then amassing a fortune as a landowner. Thinking to make a dark joke, Lady Juliana suggests that Elliot should marry her and ensure that she doesn’t become a pitiable old maid. Elliot agrees, and before you can say “forever hold your peace,” they are husband and wife.
There are several things about Elliot that Juliana doesn’t know, however. First, as a friend of her older brother, he has adored her since she was sixteen. Second, he was imprisoned and horribly tortured by outlaws in the Indian hinterlands, and during that horrible year it was the thought of Juliana that kept him sane and alive. Finally, he had come to Edinburgh that day specifically to find Juliana and disrupt her wedding, believing that life with her will be his salvation.
Elliot takes Juliana to a ramshackle estate that he has purchased from a great uncle, far away in the Scottish countryside. His staff consists of four Punjabi servants who have accompanied him from India, along with a three-year-old biracial girl named Priti. Once there, Juliana begins to realize the depth of Eliot’s problems, partly from her experiences and partly from what she is told by his devoted factotum, Mahindar. Elliot suffers from what we now would call PTSD. He loses track of time and sometime becomes unpredictably violent. Occasionally he loses the ability to distinguish between the past and the present.
As time passes, Elliot begins to doubt whether he will ever regain his hold on reality. Juliana, however, is courageous and stalwart as she works to create a home out of the dilapidated house Elliot has brought her to. Things become more complicated though when it appears that someone from his past is hunting Elliot with the intent to harm him and those he loves. Or are they? Perhaps his loved ones are most in danger from Elliot himself.
Many scenes take place in the India of Elliot’s memory, and Ms. Ashley clearly has done her research to show the fraught relationship between the Indian people and their English colonizers. Elliot’s affectionate relationship with his servants and little Priti, however, is sincere and reciprocal.
Dark secrets are revealed as the story progresses, and Ms. Ashley has constructed her typically complex plot, along with a heart-rending love story and delicious sexy-times. Several Mackenzies figure in the plot, and the interaction between Elliot and Ian is especially touching; these two men understand one another better than anyone else can.
The reader need not have read the preceding Highland Pleasures books to enjoy this one, but if you haven’t read them yet, what are you waiting for? Start with [b:The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie|5981872|The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #1)|Jennifer Ashley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1322336718s/5981872.jpg|6155268] and don't dare skip [b:The Many Sins of Lord Cameron|8563824|The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Highland Pleasures, #3)|Jennifer Ashley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1300209650s/8563824.jpg|13432297]!