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