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Heidi Hart

By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general. 

The Mackenzie Series has Jumped the Shark

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Mackenzies Series) - Jennifer Ashley

I loved the first four books of this series, the ones that focus on the original four Mackenzie brothers: Hart, Mac, Cameron, and Ian. Later books in the series focus on more distant relations (this one is about Cameron's oldest son, Daniel), and like Stephanie Laurens' Bar Cynster series, things are getting ridiculous. 

 

The main problem with this book is that the plot tries to do way too much. Part of that is a function of the series: every time Ashley brings back a character we know from previous books, she writes a summary of their backstory to remind us about them. It would have been better to forego these reminders, because those of us who know the series mostly don't need our memories jogged, and those who pick up this book as a stand-alone don't need to know the backgrounds of minor characters in order to understand this plot, and so either way, it's distracting. 

 

The other part of it is that the plot of this story is just too ambitious. Violet, the heroine, has a tortured past, and when Daniel learns her secret, he vows to avenge her. This means hunting down and revenging not one, but two men. This is a tall order, and one he doesn't actually get started on until the last 15% of the book. Meanwhile, Violet is nearly violated again by a third man, but luckily she doesn't even bother to tell Daniel about that, because if she had, surely he'd try to hunt him down, too. Also, Daniel seems to suffer cardiac arrest the way some of the women of the era suffered fainting spells, and though the story finds him twice on the very brink of death, the plot barrels along without dwelling either on his injuries or his recovery, as if restarting his heart were as easy as passing smelling salts under his nose. The plot is so inflated that conflicts arise and are left without resolution, simply because there isn't time to follow up all the loose ends. In addition to the unavenged near-rape of the heroine, there is a scene where Violet watches Daniel enter a carriage with a passel of courtesans (he has a chaste excuse, but Violet doesn't know that) and she is distraught at his faithlessness, but the next time she sees him, she doesn't give any indication that she knows or was hurt by his betrayal. Huh? I'd have thought Ashley just forgot about writing that scene, except that it does get mentioned again, in passing, near the end of the book. 

 

Finally, I get frustrated by books where the tension between the main characters could be easily resolved if they'd just have a conversation. This is such a story. Daniel decides relatively early on that Violet is The One, but he doesn't tell her, so she reasonably assumes (given that he's an aristocratic heir to a fortune and she's a lower middle-class fortune teller) that their relationship is just a dalliance on his part. I found myself frustrated by the misunderstandings that ensued, until I thought, "He needs to tell her. It's not as if she's a mind-reader." -And then I thought (since she makes her living as a spiritualist) with a chuckle, "Well, actually, she kind of is." Oops.