Genre: historical romance.
Lady Eleanor Ramsay is the only one who knows the truth about Hart Mackenzie. Once his fiancée, she is the sole woman to whom he could ever pour out his heart.
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.
Hart MacKenzie is determined to have Eleanor Ramsay as his wife, and has made some careful plans to achieve that. He is on the verge of becoming prime minister of England, and he will need a wife by then. But he is not prepared when she appears on the streets in London, among a bunch of reporters calling his name. He has his bodyguards pick her up, and take her home with him. What is she doing in London, when she almost never leaves her father and her house in Scotland? Her father is an impoverished earl, who spends his life in studying obscure things and writing books about them. Hart and Eleanor were engaged once, when they were very young, but Eleanor ended that when she found out some disturbing things about Hart. Not even him threatening her and her father would change her mind. But somehow, they did stay friends for all those years, writing to each other now and then. Hart married someone else, and became a widower when his wife died in childbirth, his son a day later.
Hart is not ready for Eleanor to reappear is his life right now, but he will not let this chance go buy. When Eleanor asks for a job, as one of his secretaries, and his support in finding out who send her an anonymous letter with a picture of a young and very naked Hart, he agrees. But he also insists she and her father stay under his roof, and under his protection. His brothers and sisters in law are also very happy with this, as they think El is perfect for Hart, and can defrost him a bit. And perhaps keep Hart from meddling in their own lives so much.
The fire between Hart and El is still hot, and they cannot help but give in to it. And Hart discovers that El is naughty herself. She not only refuses to give him the pictures she has found (his former mistress made them) she wants to make new ones of the mature and very masculine Hart as he is now! El is one of the very few people not afraid of Hart and his power, and refuses to listen to him and obey his wishes. She will do as she pleases, and as she thinks best. Hart is afraid that if she discovers too much of his shadowy past, she will refuse to marry him, so he leaves her no choice this time. After compromising her in public, she has no choice but to agree.
Becoming the next prime minister comes with a price though. To defeat Gladstone, he needs to kill a bill that would have been a little benefit for the Irish, and Hart becomes a target for the Fenians. He gets shot at, but doesn’t think it very important. He just doesn’t want to have his family in danger.
I really loved this book, and it was such fun to see Hart and El together. She stands up to him, she makes him unsure, and she never ever does what he wants her to, or expects her to. With her, the might Duke becomes more human. El is a great character; she has never fallen out of love with Hart, which is why she never married after she broke of their engagement. She is good friends with his brothers and their wives, and knows everything about his servants.
Hart MacKenzie had a very difficult childhood, being born rich does not equal happy. Their father was mad and a tyrant, and Hart learned from a young age that he had to protect his brothers. Especially his youngest brother, Ian, who is different. But he could not protect him when his father send him to Bedlam, and did not mind him being tortured there. Only when he got older he could stand up against his father, but at a huge price. He still feels guilty about what happened. He swore never to be ruled again, so he set out to control everyone and everything he can, including the nation. And he is good at it too, and almost had achieved his goal now.
The love scenes between them are hot and really different from other books. I liked that.
Jennifer Ashley has a great writing voice, the book is easy to read and very fluent. Filled with great characters and unique twists that makes a familiar trope seem brandnew. The ending of the book was especially surprising, and full of suspense. The only thing I had trouble believing, was that Hart could let his family think him death for so long. I could understand the why, but not the time.
All of the MacKenzie brothers and their wives have a nice role in this book, but especially Ian. I very much want to re-read his book, The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie.
I am looking forward to the next book and the spin off series with the McBride brothers.
If you have not yet read this historical romance series, you are missing out on something really good.
© 2012 Review by Aurian