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Sunday, November 22, 2015

'A MacKenzie Clan Gathering' MacKenzies & McBrides 8.5 by Jennifer Ashley

From the BLURB:

Ian Mackenzie is awakened at Kilmorgan Castle one night to find robbers stealing the priceless art collection of his oldest brother, Hart. Since Ian and Beth are the only ones in resident at Kilmorgan at the moment, Ian decides he must find the art and the culprits before the family shows up for Hart's birthday gathering. With Inspector Fellows and Beth, he investigates, though Ian is somewhat worried by Beth's late husband's brother, a retired missionary, who decides to visit. Does John Ackerley hold the "cure" to Ian's madness? And can Ian discover what has happened to Hart's treasures, and who is targeting the Mackenzies before the enemy strikes again?

‘A MacKenzie Clan Gathering’ is book 8.5 in the ‘MacKenzies & McBrides’ historical romance series by Jennifer Ashley.

This book is set in 1892, and though I had to catch-up on my reading with books #7 and #8, I followed the story of ‘Clan Gathering’ just fine, though others may be wary of spoilers for who ends up with who.

The book takes place in the lead-up to Hart Mackenzie’s birthday celebrations at Kilmorgan, with Ian and his family staying at the castle home when it’s broken into and a number of Hart’s priceless artworks stolen and Ian attacked when he confronts the thieves. This event triggers an investigation, with half-brother Mackenzie Inspector Fellows on the case of who is causing problems for the family.

The other storyline centring on Ian is the arrival of John Ackerley for a visit; he’s Beth’s brother-in-law from her marriage to deceased first husband, Thomas. When this book takes place, Ian and Beth have been married ten years and have three beautiful children – but Ian is still a little discombobulated by the arrival of someone from Beth’s past. Even more so when John – a missionary who has travelled to a variety of exotic locations – tells Ian that he is hoping to go into the mental health profession, and wishes to try his treatments out on the famously “mad” Mackenzie himself. This triggers Ian’s memories of growing up in a mental asylum, though John assures him such institutions have changed and improved since Ian’s torture at the hands of such “doctors”.

What’s really heartbreaking about this book is that a lot of it sees Ian questioning the life he has built with Beth, all because John dangles the promise of a “cure” for his madness;
 Help me do what? Be normal? Give Beth a husband she doesn’t have to apologize for, change her life for, be ashamed of?
It’s a fascinating time to touch base again with Ian, the lodestone of Ashley’s series and undoubtedly the most beloved of the Mackenzie clan. On the one hand he is thoroughly happy, content in his marriage and fatherhood – but even after ten years with Beth who has seen his socialising improve, he still questions and doubts himself as “good enough” for her.

I really loved this book though, for the way that Jennifer Ashley makes abundantly clear that Beth loves Ian in spite of nothing; she just loves all of him, always.
 The clarity of the numbers, the equation that existed in eternal perfection started to penetrate the fog. He was Ian Mackenzie, husband of Beth and father to Jamie, Belle, and Megan. Children with no madness in them, and clever, all three of them in different ways. Children to make a man proud.
Ian remains a real outlier in historical romances, for Ashley choosing to write a hero who is on the autism spectrum. ‘A MacKenzie Clan Gathering’ is a fun book to touch-base with all the Mackenzie families (though I always want more mention of Cam and Ainsley, my personal favourites) but it’s Ian who shines a little brighter in this delicious series, and a book so focused on him and his many happy years as a family man will be a lovely salve for fans of this series.


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