Lady Eleanor Ramsay is the only one who knows the truth about Hart Mackenzie. Once his fiancee, she is the sole woman to whom he could ever pour out his heart.The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley is the much awaited romance between Hart Mackenzie and Eleanor Ramsay. This is the last Mackenzie brother, and frankly after reading that first book about Ian, Hart's character was the one that most pulled at me, possibly because of all those dark places in his character that were either hinted at or detailed in the first book. I love flawed, dark characters.
Hart has it all--a dukedom, wealth, power, influence, whatever he desires. Every woman wants him--his seductive skills are legendary. But Hart has sacrificed much to keep his brothers safe, first from their brutal father, and then from the world. He's also suffered loss--his wife, his infant son, and the woman he loved with all his heart though he realized it too late.
Now, Eleanor has reappeared on Hart's doorstep, with scandalous nude photographs of Hart taken long ago. Intrigued by the challenge in her blue eyes--and aroused by her charming, no-nonsense determination--Hart wonders if his young love has come to ruin him . . . or save him.
The story begins with much potential as Eleanor Ramsey returns to Hart's life just as he's about to lead his party against Gladstone in the House of Commons, and his hopes to attain the Prime Minister post is at the tip of his fingers. She comes bearing bad news as she presents him with a photograph of Hart someone sent to her, a photograph of a young, nude Hart that was taken by his old and now dead mistress, Mrs. Palmer. Neither understands why the photograph was sent to Eleanor, but Hart informs Eleanor that there were a total of twenty pictures taken, and both fear that they are coming from a political foe. Hart takes the opportunity to keep Eleanor with him so he can begin wooing her back into his life. Later, as Eleanor investigates this matter and Hart continues his quest for power and his reconquest of Eleanor, there are assassination attempts against Hart and the plot thickens.
What did I like about this book? I loved the family dynamics as always. The whole Mackenzie clan makes an appearance in this book with some making more of an impact than others. Ian Mackenzie in particular plays a key role because of that special bond that he and Hart share. I love that Ashley features that bond in this book -- it is so important to both characters. Of course Ian steals every scene where he appears, but it also gives Hart's character strength.
I love Hart Mackenzie as a character. Well, I did from the beginning. He is flawed, a bit heartless, but also vulnerable. So, what is there not to like? And, I also like Eleanor very much. Eleanor is obviously a loving and giving woman, and not weak in any way. She loves Hart, but it is also clear that she can handle him quite well. This couple provides many beautiful moments along the way.
I also enjoyed how Ashley incorporated history into the romance. I'm one of those readers who doesn't get bored by a little history with her historical romances, so that worked for me quite well, and I didn't think that it was too much or that it took the focus away from the main couple.
Did I have problems with this romance? Yes. Hart as a character, and this story as a whole, had lots of potential that unfortunately wasn't entirely realized. Hart's character is introduced as dark, with dark desires and a very dark past full of a sexual history and sexual desires that are not the usual fare. Yet, we never really see that Hart in this novel. Never. That Hart is hinted at throughout the story, but he's never truly revealed. So that if the layers are there, he remains cocooned in them and hidden both from the reader and from Eleanor. This is a shame, because here is a man whose character was begging for exploration.
I also felt that Eleanor's characterization was incomplete. Here is a woman who loves and has loved Hart since breaking their engagement, to the point of obsession if you go by the fact that she keeps a scrap book of Hart. Yet, there is much about Eleanor's motivations for breaking that engagement, that although superficially explained and valid, are not truly explored in depth, so that in the end they are not quite convincing to the reader.
The result? An undefined character, and one that is contradictory to boot. She's a lovely, caring woman who on the surface doesn't seem to care that the man she loves betrayed her with another (other) women. Yet, she's jealous when someone else "fondles" and "flirts" with Hart in her presence. As I said, contradictory and not quite believable.
Having said all of the above. Having found problems with both characterization and some awakwardness in plotting follow through, it is quite interesting that I still read this book in one sitting, and even more interesting that I ended the story with a smile on my face. Why is that? Well, Jennifer Ashley has created a fantastic family in the Mackenzies, so that even when individual stories are not up to par (in my opinion), as a whole, this series still manages to please me immensely.
The Duke's Perfect Wife is not my favorite book of this series, believe it or not my favorite so far is The Many Sins of Lord Cameron. However, I still think it works well as a wrap up book to the brothers' romances, and I'm even more hooked on these highlanders than ever. I look forward to the next book in this series, The Seduction of Elliot McBride, and of course hope that the Highland Pleasures series continues to bring me hours of enjoyment.
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Highland Pleasures #4
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/April 3, 2012, Kindle Ed.
Visit Jennifer Ashley here.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, Book 1
Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, Book 2
The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, Book 3
The Duke's Perfect Wife, Book 4