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Saturday, December 29, 2012

'A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift' Highland Pleasures #4.5 by Jennifer Ashley

From the BLURB:

The Mackenzies gather for a clan Christmas and New Year's in Scotland. In the chaos of preparations for the celebration--the first of Hart and Eleanor's married life--one of Ian's Ming bowls gets broken, and the family scrambles to save the day. Daniel busily runs a betting ring for everything from the time Eleanor's baby will arrive to whether Mac's former-pugilist valet can win a boxing match to who will be the first of the many guests to be caught under the mistletoe. Ian begins a new obsession, and Beth fears the loss of one of his precious bowls has made him withdraw once more into his private world. 

Everyone is descending on Kilmorgan for Christmas festivities, followed by the all-important Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations to be enjoyed by the Mackenzie clan.

And, indeed, the clan has expanded in the last few years. Present at Kilmorgan this year is troubled but brilliant brother, Ian, his wife Beth and their two young children. Famous painter Mac Mackenzie  is in tow with his wife Isabella and their three children. Then there’s Cam Mackenzie  with his wife Ainsley and their mischievous one-year-old daughter, with Cam’s grown son, Daniel, arriving later in the week. And, finally, recently married Duke of Kilmorgan, Hart Mackenzie , is in a rare state as his wife Eleanor is soon to give birth to their first child and future heir.

Everyone is descending on Kilmorgan, and the estate is overcrowded with love and happiness; something the Mackenzie  men haven’t had enough of in their troubled, turbulent lives.

‘A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift’ is part of Jennifer Ahsley’s ‘Highland Pleasures’ series, instalment #4.5, before fifth book ‘The Seduction of Elliot McBride’ is released on December 31.

I’ll admit, I needed this spectacularly delicious ‘Highland Pleasures’ instalment to relieve some of the sting after Hart’s disappointing book, ‘The Duke’s Perfect Wife’. His was my most-anticipated Mackenzie  novel, and I wasn’t alone in my bitter disappointment. But Ashley somewhat makes up for that lacklustre offering with this Christmas special, which gives each Mackenzie  brother a starring role and also offers up some delicious possibilities for future instalments. . .

Ian Mackenzie  has everyone walking on eggshells after a disaster with a Ming bowl. Meanwhile, Beth is beside herself and trying to find the perfect opportunity to tell Ian that their family will be expanding once again.

Cam and Ainsley are sent into a whirlwind when their curious daughter, Gavina, goes wandering and sends the family into panic-mode. Meanwhile, Cam is reflecting on the fact that his son, Daniel, is now full-grown and becoming more independent each day.

Mac is hiding a delicious surprise from Isabella, while trying to steer clear of Nanny Westlock and her forbidding rules.

Hart, meanwhile, is beside himself with worry as Eleanor’s due date draws near – he remembers his deceased fist wife, who he lost during childbirth and his first baby with her.

Also joining the Mackenzie ’s for Christmas celebrations is Isabella’s little sister, Louisa, who has a curious announcement to make to her sister. Also tagging along is bastard Mackenzie , Inspector Fellows, whose last encounter with Miss Louisa has his blood heating in remembrance. Ainsley’s brothers are also in tow – widower Sinclair McBride with his two wayward children, Elliott McBride with his wife Juliana, eldest brother Patrick McBride, with his wife and Steven McBride, dressed in his regimentals and an instant hit with the ladies.

Hart has also invited David Fleming – old friend, forever in love with Eleanor Ramsay and soon to be recruited in a special Christmas surprise for Ian.

It’s wonderful that Jennifer Ashley lets fans catch-up with the goings-on of the Mackenzie  clan – particularly the likes of Cam and Ian, whose stories and romances with their wives have so far been the best instalments of the series. Ashley also redeems herself somewhat with Hart and Eleanor’s appearance in this book, both excited and nervous for their child to be born. Here is the sweet romance that seemed to be dulled in their actual instalment.

The others raised glasses once more.
Ian put his arm around Beth and sank into her warmth, hefting his daughter in one arm, while his son sat happily at his mother’s. This time next year, their little family would be larger, and Ian’s happiness would expand yet again. 
“They change you,” Ian said to Hart. “We’re not the same now.” 
“Bloody good thing,” Cameron rumbled. 
“Aye,” Hart said. He leaned to his wife. “Thank you, El, for saving my life.” 
Eleanor winked at Ian as she moved to kiss Hart’s lips. “You are most welcome, love.” 

With this Christmas special, Ashley is also teasing fans for upcoming instalments in the ‘Highland Pleasures’ series. Daniel remains a favourite, and his rambunctious goings-on in ‘Mackenzie Family Christmas’ will whet fan’s appetites for his book, due October 2013. But Ashley has also planted stories for Fellows and Louisa, and their instalment will be #5.5 ‘The Untamed Mackenzie’, due out August 2013. Ashley has also announced that Ainsley’s brother, Sinclair, will get a book called ‘Rules for a Proper Governess’ – we spend some time with Sinclair in this Christmas story, and he’s beautifully set up as a rather tragic hero with a broken heart.

For what it’s worth, I’m also crossing my fingers that David Fleming gets a book or novella at some point – since his love for Eleanor is still strong and unwavering, I think he needs someone new to occupy his heart.

All in all, ‘Mackenzie Family Christmas’ is a perfect little treat for fans of the ‘Highland Pleasures’ series. We get to revisit old favourites, and have our interest piqued concerning a few future heroes. Lovely, all round.


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