Review and a Giveaway: Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley

Posted July 8, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 46 Comments

Holly‘s review of Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Highland Pleasures, Book 2) by Jennifer Ashely

Six years ago, eighteen-year-old Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized all of London by eloping the night of her come-out ball with the notorious rake, Lord Mac Mackenzie. After three turbulent years of marriage, she scandalized London once again–this time by leaving him.


Now the reformed Mac has returned, and he wants one thing: Isabella back in his life, his house, his bed. He’ll do anything he has to, play any game, as long as he gets her back. Isabella resists, but when she agrees to pose for erotic paintings he’s been working on, she realizes her body has never stopped craving her husband’s very skilled touch. Mac is determined to show Isabella that he’s a changed man, but three years without her has only increased his hunger for her.


When an ingenious forger with designs on Mac’s paintings, and Isabella herself, comes dangerously near, Mac sets himself up as Isabella’s protector and vows to never leave her side, whether his independent and proud lady likes it or not.

This is the second book in Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series, but I read this book first. Since this is the first book I’d ever read by Ashley, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The buzz about The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie made me think I wouldn’t be disappointed, however, and I was right.

Isabella and Mac Mackenzie have been madly in love since the first time they met, at Isabella’s come out ball 6 years ago. Unfortunately, the “madly” part drove a wedge between then. Their relationship was very volatile, filled with extreme highs and lows. If they weren’t fully absorbed in each other, they were at each other’s throat. After 3 years of going back and forth, and after a tragedy befalls them, Isabella leaves Mac and asks for a formal separation.

3 years later, after having not spoken once during that time, Isabella goes to Mac because she’s found proof that an impostor is selling paintings using Mac’s name. This is the opportunity Mac has been waiting for. He realized, too late, that Isabella was the best thing that happened to him, and he got is life in order as soon as she left him. He knows if he doesn’t get her back now, there’s a chance he never will. So he launches a sensual attack on her, determined to make her his once and for all.

This novel is refreshing because it explores the adage that “sometimes love isn’t enough”. There’s no doubt that Isabella and Mac love each other. But early in their marriage, that wasn’t enough to over come their personality flaws. Mac’s loud personality often eclipsed Isabella, causing her to withdraw. Which would then cause major fights between them, leading Mac to believe she needed a break from him. He’d disappear for weeks or months at a time, sometimes without a word about where he’d gone or when he’d return. Then he’d return and Isabella would forgive him, and they’d be deliriously happy for awhile, until the cycle would start again.

I loved the intensity with which Mac loves Isabella. He’s an ‘all in’ kind of guy. Once he gave his heart to Isabella, that was it for him. He may not have known what to do with his debutante wife at times, thinking she needed to be protected from his wild nature, but his love was never in doubt. It’s obvious in everything he does. But he realized the cycle must be broken in order to make things work between them, and determined to prove to Isabella that he was a changed man.

Isabella has ached for Mac for years, but she knew she’d go mad if she stayed in that drama-filled relationship with him. I understood why she left him. Being in a volatile, madly passionate relationship sounds wonderful, but the reality of it is so much more taxing than it seems. To constantly be pushed and pulled and filled with excitement. To have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s exhausting.

Not only that, but Mac doesn’t understand Isabella. He doesn’t know how to give her what she needs, how to fulfill her. Her sadness and indignation allowed her to leave, but they’re cold companions 3 years later.

As much as I could understand and sympathize with Isabella’s reasons for leaving, however, I didn’t – and still don’t – understand why she continued to fight Mac throughout the book. She was willing to go to bed with him, contemplate having children with him, but would push him away when he tried to talk about their future together. Her constant waffling, and the way she led Mac on about their future eventually became very frustrating. Especially because Mac would always shoulder the blame for it.

Yes, he hurt her. But she hurt him, too. It didn’t make sense that she was ready to accept him back in her life, but only on her terms and never fully.

That aside, I really did enjoy watching them come back together. I was really rooting for them, hoping they’d find some middle ground and be able to be happy with each other. There was such tenderness and joy in their relationship, it was easy to fall in love with them both.

The mystery of who was impersonating Mac was interesting as well. I liked that it wasn’t the sole focus of the novel, but kept the main storyline moving forward. And the resolution was interesting, if a bit predictable.

After reading this, I immediately started The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. While I enjoyed the latter more, I’d still highly recommend this book. I do recommend reading them in order, however. I believe you’ll have a better understanding of all the characters – both primary and secondary – if you do.

4 out of 5

The series:

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Leisure Historical Romance)Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage (Berkley Sensation)

If you’d like to win a copy of Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage, leave a comment on this post telling me how you feel about married couples reuniting (it’s one of my favorite tropes). Contest ends Thursday, July 15 at 11:59 p.m.

This book is available from Berkley Sensation. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

And be sure to come back later, because Jennifer Ashely will be guest blogging and we’ll be giving away more books!


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46 responses to “Review and a Giveaway: Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley

  1. I just finished ‘The Pirate Next Door’ by Jennifer Ashley. On eo f her older historicals and LOVED it. She has defintely landed on my auto-buy list.

  2. I think couples reuniting is a great theme. The stories usually show the emotional growth of both characters which enables them to get the relationship right the second time around. Two of my favorite books with this theme are Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas and Second Thyme Around by Katie Fforde.

  3. Hum, I think it is an ok theme, I have read a few and so far they have been great books. But the author really needs to make sure the solve the outstanding issues without grazing over them as though they don’t deserve some sorty of firm resolution.

    bookjunkie@ymail.com

  4. The married couple thing is a wonderful theme. I think it allows the couple to get right into the relationship. I think it’s harder to pull off on a stand alone book but I have seen it done very well.

  5. Kim

    I enjoy the married couple theme. The characters usually have an unhappy past together and a talented author can really explore the issues.

  6. I like the reunited married couples theme. This book sounds good. I am reading The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer which is a reunited married couple story and I am enjoying it.

  7. I was intrigued by Mac and Isabella’s estranged marriage when I read THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. I love the reunited couples theme, so I am anxious to read how Mac and Isabella overcome their estrangement in this book. It sounds like it is going to be a wonderful story.

  8. I have never really thought about it but I do really like the reuniting couples theme – there is something about them already knowing each other and the tension that zings between them that I really like.

  9. Married couples reuniting is a wonderful theme for a romance read. There is the lingering pain and passion along with new possibilites. Can be quite intense and very, very satisfying. The first love is the deepest. I believe in first love and second chances.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  10. ranearia

    I adore married couples reuniting, there’s something about having these married coupls going through their troubles and having to grow up more in order to fix their marriage- and I think that’s a great lesson for real life

  11. Anonymous

    It’s one of my favorites too, which is why I’m really excited to read this one, even though I was not one of the big fans of the first book.

    This review makes me wonder if Ashley had some other trait in mind for the brother? It’s very common for the family of people with autism to have related conditions, or what is called “shadow traits.” He sounds possibly bi-polar, which is often co-morbid with autism. — willaful

  12. @willaful – it’s possible. All four brothers have lingering issues from growing up as they did. I think Ashley meant for those issues, along with Mac’s drinking, to explain his behavior.

  13. I think its odd for a divorced couple to get back together. Marriage is a sacred thing thats not always easy to say the least. Its worth every thing you’ve got. If a couple could get back together after the fact I don’t think they gave it their all in the first place. But I AM interested in reading this book! lol.

  14. @*Holly* (it was very strange typing that lol) – I think it depends on the circumstances. The theme especially works for me if the couple was young when they married, and are reuniting after they’ve grown and matured.

    In this case, however, the couple never divorced, only separated. I think I’m more forgiving because of it.

  15. maered

    I do like reading about separated couples reuniting, if written well , of course. While I think that it’s a hard thing to do for a real-life couple, I do admit having a soft spot for this theme.

  16. I enjoyed the review very much. I love stories of married couples getting back together, I’ve read several great ones lately, and they’re always fun.

  17. I like seeing a couple reunite because of their shared history. It’s triumphant when they work through problems to get together again because of their history of always being there for each other. It’s so extra romantic.

    Great review! Loved the first book in the series and can’t wait for more.

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

  18. Chelsea B.

    I’ve never read a book with that theme but I loved the fist in this series so I’m all for it! 🙂

  19. Like that theme a lot, i never like to see couples divorce so Love to see them get back together and make it work.

  20. I do usually enjoy married couples reuniting when the reasons they separated make sense or, if they just weren’t ready for the marriage then admit it.

  21. Amy Kathryn

    I like it when it is done well (and that is very hard) since it really takes delving into characters and their souls and I love in depth characterizations. I have to second Not Quite a Husband as a wonderful example of this.

    I agree that is mostly works with marrying young, having problems, then growing up and trying again with wisdom and maturity behind you…

  22. Having been from a broken home growing up, I use to dream of my parents getting back together. I have 4 sisters, all of whom have been divorced at least once. I do NOT like reading about married couples reuniting because in reality it never happens. I’d rather read pure fantasy, like time travel or Scottish heros.

  23. gamistress66

    I don’t tend to read many seperated spouse stories although I do enjoy them and “the one that got away” stories if well written. It all boils down to the romance and interaction/love btwn the h/h.

    I enjoyed Ian’s story which I had just recently read (1st book of Jennifer’s I’ve read) and was glad I wouldn’t have to wait too long for Mac & Isabella’s story. The excerpts I’ve read so far have only made me more interested.

    Thanks for the review.

  24. Unless I’m in the mood for something a bit heavy, I usually don’t read married couples reuniting. I think the closest I come is “the one that got away.”

  25. Phyllis

    I think it works better in an historical novel, rather than contemporary. I get the feeling that the couple don’t have a lot of choice about their futures unless they get back together, while in contemporaries, it’s a lot harder to believe.

  26. Emma_I

    I’m a fan of the theme if it’s done well and there’s an understandable reason for them separating in the first place.

  27. I love the couples reuniting theme – it gives you hope in life that if both partners work together differences and difficulties can be overcome. And they really can in real life – i am living testament to that. Of course, sometmes things just don’t work out but if there is a possibility for a couple to work things out its one of the best themes to read about.

  28. Nina

    I think it really embodies one of the most romantic reasons for marriage; that two people love each other so unconditionally that they will strive to work problems out, so that they can be together forever.

    My email: xxneda(at)gmail(dot)com

    Thanks!

  29. Oh dear, this is one of those themes that I am not entirely thrilled about. Usually, they are real angsty and I have to be in the mood for that kind of thing. There is so many hurt feelings and misunderstandings that it can be hard to read. These books can be very emotional, but when they do get their happy ever after, it’s all the more rewarding.

  30. Definitely enter me in this one! After chatting with JA, I must read this book.

    How I feel about married couples getting back together: For me it will either be hit or miss. I hate when the husbands been whoreing around while the wife is coupe up in the country or something. But I love the reconciliation and the getting past past-hurts..Seeing character development like that, both parties becoming strong, warms my heart!

    email: historicalromancejunkie@gmail.com

  31. I do believe in second chances. I would love to win this book. It is my kind of book.

    Thanks for the opportunity to enter this giveaway.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  32. Whether or not this works depend on the cause of the separation in the first place and whether the two people involved have grown since then. If they are emotionally the same, then what’s the point?

    cories119 [at]yahoo.com

  33. I have been married 7.5 years and love the idea of married couples reuniting. You get married or a reason and I would love to explore the subject in a book. I have never read this type of book but it sounds like a great subject.

    aveggiemom@yahoo.com

  34. I am all for married couples reuniting if they love each other, and there has been no abuse. This book sounds wonderful, and I’d love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

  35. Couples reuniting works in books, but
    it’s more the exception than the rule in real life.

    kzupancic[at]yahoo[dot]com

  36. I like it when married couples reunite – it means the relationship was meant to be & worth fighting for.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    megalon22 at yahoo dot com

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