August 2011, Historical Romance (1882 [Victorian] Scotland)
Berkley, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425240495 Part of a series
After I finished Ms. Ashley’s latest Mackenzie entry, I looked up some statistics for her publishing history, and this is what I found: New York Times bestseller, numerous Bs and DIKs over four pseudonyms and a range of genres, and almost 50 books to her credit in under ten years. That’s very, very impressive. So on the one hand, the occasional bellyflop doesn’t surprise me. On the other hand, it doesn’t make it any less disappointing, especially when the expectations are so high.
In terms of details, Cameron is the second of four Mackenzie brothers, and I’ll give Ms. Ashley this: She’s writing their stories backwards, going from youngest to eldest, which is a little different, but I swear the stories are getting progressively worse. Cameron is great with horses, has a hyper-mature teenaged son, a Tortured Past (!!!), and a great butt. That’s about it.
Now let’s talk about Mrs. Ainsley Douglas. Widow with a Not-Quite-So-Tortured-Past. Handmaiden to the queen. Victim of blackmail, which was sort of why she was crawling around in Cameron’s bedroom six years ago, and why she’s doing it again. But forget her mission, because, oops! More or less instant lust rug at Cameron’s feet. She holds off as long as she can in the face of such an overwhelming...kilt, I’ll grant her that. But wham, bam, and by page 200 she has run away with him to Europe. So much for her protestations.
But why, dost thou ask, does Cameron the Luster lust after Luscious Widow Ainsley Douglas? To answer that question, I’d have to open the can of worms that is Instant Lust Syndrome, and since I really can’t bitch about the evils of ILS for paragraphs on end, I won’t. Instead, here’s a preview of the action:
Cameron lusts! Hop into Ainsley’s head – lust lust lust! Hop back to Cameron, and lust again! Do the hokey pokey, turn yourself around, and whoops! They’re in love! That’s what it’s all about.
Head-hopping, mental lusting, caricatures – there is, sadly, one more cliché to add to the pile: The Dead Evil Wife. For the record: I am bloody sick of her. Minus ten thousand points.
Poor Cameron. And you know what, poor Ainsley too. They didn’t deserve to be saddled with a story so forgettable, writing so average, and a plot so hackneyed that it took me weeks to finish. That’s the thing: The story is never overtly bad – it’s just never good.
So please forgive the moaning and whinging and whining you’ve just read – they were all, in truth, the prolonged sad sigh of a confused, befuddled, disappointed reader.
-- Jean Wan
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