The second book in the Highland Pleasures series. It has been a while since I read the first book in this series, but I had no difficulty what so ever to catch up with the MacKenzie family.
Six years ago, eighteen-year-old Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized London by eloping with the notorious artist Lord Mac MacKenzie on the eve of her debut ball. After three turbulent years of marriage, she scandalized London once again – this time by leaving him.
Now Mac has resurfaced, every bit as charismatic, and with one goal: to seduce Isabella back into his life and his bed, even if it means acting like a real gentleman. But when Isabella rises to the challenge of posing nude for Mac’s erotic paintings, her pent-up hunger for the decadent rake is exposed as well, and she finds herself unable to resist the smooth strokes of an artist at work.
But someone’s been watching them – dangerously close. This ingenious forger with designs on Mac’s paintings also sets his sights on Isabella herself. Deciding to become Isabella’s protector, Mac vows to never leave her side, whether his independent and proud lady likes it or not.
Isabella was raised a proper young lady, but she had no desire to marry one of the men her father had sought out for her. So when the dashing Lord Mac MacKenzie crashed her coming out ball as the result of a wager, swept her of her feet and kissed her, she fell madly in love with him. And the dashing rake fell equally in love with the beautiful Lady Isabella. He wanted her in his bed, and he wanted her now! But he knew he had to marry her for that, as she was a proper lady, so that is exactly what he did.
And so the proper young miss was thrown in a life of debauchery, exposed to Mac’s bawdy friends, though to drink and kiss in public, exposed to his naked models in his studio, and posing for her himself. But Mac was a difficult man to live with. Obsessed with something for weeks, and then suddenly bored, and almost always drunk. She just couldn’t keep up with him. And when the fights between them got bad, Mac just went abroad and left her alone for weeks, when he went of painting in Rome or Venice or Paris. But when he wasn’t there when she miscarried, and he could not console her when his brother Ian finally found him, that was the last straw. She just couldn’t live with him anymore. She still loved him, but he was destroying her, and himself, and that she couldn’t see.
Perhaps that was the shock Mac needed to wake up from his debauchery. After weeks of waiting for her to come to her senses and crawl back to him, Mac decided he needed to change, he wanted her back, he needed her. So the long and difficult process started of stopping with drinking at all. But as a result, he couldn’t paint anymore too. For three years, he follows her where ever she goes, watching from a distance, but always there.
And now, suddenly, Isabella visits him at his townhouse. Someone is forging his paintings, and the man is even a better painter than he himself is. But Mac never cared about his paintings, he painted because he had to, wanted to, not to find out what some one else thinks about it. But Isabella does, and now she has finally come to him, he won’t let her leave his life again. When his house burns down, that is the best excuse to move his household in with Isabella’s. To pretend to keep an eye on her, to keep her safe. But who is this man who looks so much like him, who is trying to steal his life?
Then, when the family is in Scotland, a very ill French woman arrives, with a little baby, claiming it to be Mac’s. He supposedly lived with her in France for three years, and then he abandoned them. But now she is dying and he has to take care of the baby. But Mac has never seen the woman before, surely it is that imposter again! Isabella immediately loves the child, and never for a moment believes it to be Mac’s. They have both been celibate all those years, still in love with each other. And when the mother dies that same night, she is determined to adopt the child.
Mac keeps trying to get Isabella to take him back as her husband, in her life and in her bed. The bed part is working, but she still doesn’t trust him. He has hurt her so much in those early years. But when the imposter tries to abduct Isabella, the stakes are up, and their real feelings have to be declared.
A very good story, original and told beautifully. It does not lack in love scenes, but I also enjoyed the family meetings, to learn more about Ian and Beth from the first book. Jennifer Ashley has a great writing style, full of humour, and very easily to read. The pages just fly through your fingers. I am so looking forward to the books about Cameron and Hart, and perhaps Daniel as well.