Reviewed by Mandi
I adore these Mackenzie boys, and Hart’s book was a much-anticipated read for me. Hart is so … Hart. Arrogant, powerful, wealthy, and in love with Eleanor. I think the opening paragraph of the book explains Hart quite well:
It was said that he knew every pleasure a woman desired and exactly how to give it to her. Hart wouldn’t ask what the lady wanted, and she might not even know herself, but she would understand once he’d finished. And she’d want it again.
Hart was once in love with Eleanor Ramsay. So in love, they were engaged. But then Eleanor was confronted with Hart’s former mistress and learned of Hart’s dark, erotic ways that would take place in a separate house. Eleanor didn’t like what she heard or how Hart treated these women. It was too much, and she broke the engagement. Devastated, Hart has been set on getting her back.
Hart has much more going on, though, besides winning back Eleanor. He is working hard to become the next prime minister, setting goals for himself and achieving them as only Hart can. But when Eleanor makes a surprise appearance in his life, it throws him off track.
Eleanor has been anonymously sent a picture of a much younger Hart – naked. She knows this could spell trouble for the very public duke. She learns Hart posed for many of these types of photos with his former mistress, so she drops into his life with a proposition: She will hunt down the remaining erotic photos, if he pays her a small salary. Eleanor and her father do not have much to live on, and she needs money. Hart now realizes that Eleanor is close within his reach, and will refuse to let her go no matter what.
He actually had plans to marry her once he became prime minister. Hart is extremely goal-oriented. He plans every detail, he steers everyone in his family and he expects everything to be done according to his wishes. When Eleanor shows up, it throws him off. But he still knows he wants her above everything else.
Eleanor is a wonderful heroine who is very smart and witty, and seems happy in her life, even if she is more destitute than is comfortable. As with all the books in this series, this book is very sensual. The sexual tension is high and stays high through most of the book.
There are two points I was disappointed in. First of all, Eleanor breaks her engagement with Hart when she learns of the house he keeps where his more kinky side is explored. Now, he gave up his mistress and supposed kinky side the day he met Eleanor. But Eleanor was very disappointed in how he was treating these women, and I think his behavior might have shocked her, so she decided to leave him. I don’t think her acceptance of this type of behavior and her coming to terms with her feelings about it were explored very well. They both definitely still love each other, but I wanted Eleanor to come to terms with WHY she left Hart before she decided to have her happily ever after with him.
Also, along these lines – when I say Hart has a kinky side – I mean Hart has a KINKY side. If you have read the first book in this series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, you know that Hart likes to perform asphyxiation while having sex. This is pretty hard-core. Has he completely left this lifestyle behind? We don’t know. In this book, Hart mentions his darker needs and how he has always had to hold back with Eleanor, implying that maybe one day he would like to try something with Eleanor. I kept waiting for something to come of this. And I was quite let down by what we get (or don’t get). Hart does imply to Eleanor that he likes to be more dominant, and shows her by tying her wrists together with his cravat. The scene is somewhat lackluster. I was very intrigued by this dark, erotic side of Hart and really wish we would have dived into this. It could have been so very intriguing. Instead, it is brushed over quickly.
I still really liked this book. I love the entire Mackenize family, and they all make appearances. And, like I say every book, Ian steals every scene. In this one, Ian gets a lot of page time. Ian and Hart have a very special, close relationship, and I think Jennifer Ashley takes her time exploring it – and it is well done.
Note: This book first appeared at USA Today’s HEA Blog.