Friday, October 7, 2011

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley (Check out those abs!)

So I mentioned in my August reading list that Jennifer Ashley writes really hot, emotional, beautiful romances. This is very, very true. A lot of what I like about the Mackensie series is that none of the ladies are virginal ingĂ©nues (at least at the point that we are introduced to them). Beth, Isabella, and Ainsley all have real sexual agency and that is both refreshing and rare in a historical romance. In many of the romance novels I’ve read, the sexually experienced women tend to be portrayed as man-eaters or evil bitchez who would sell their mamas for a dollar.  Also, the dudes, while very typical romance-dudes on the surface (unrepentant rake, profligate wastrel, general douche-canoe), have very real personalities and motivations.

Encapsulate This

When Ainsley Douglas, a lady-in-waiting for Queen Victoria, is caught sneaking around Lord Cameron Mackensie’s bedchamber (again) by none other than Lord Cameron himself, he decides to use the situation to seduce her (sort-of again). While Ainsley was only looking to recover some potentially embarrassing letters that have been stolen from the Queen, she knows that after their first meeting six years ago (wherein she was first caught sneaking around his room) she is dangerously susceptible to his wiles. And no matter how much she wants to succumb, she can’t afford to risk a scandal. Cameron is willing to lure her but he may end up caught in his own trap… (I don’t know how cover copy writers do this, it is so annoying)

Ruminate on That

So, the writing is lovely, the characters are sympathetic, the romance itself is (mostly) believable, and the sexy bits are steamy (Lord Cameron and his lady like the dirty talk). But what is best about this novel is the characterization of the main protagonists. Both Cameron and Ainsley have had some traumatic events in their lives that give them real emotional depth. Even though I thought Cameron was being weird with his “You are the only good thing ever, in the history of everything” attitude towards Ainsley (before they really came to know each other), the story just felt emotionally authentic.

What made TMSoLC intellectually interesting is a common theme turned sideways. While many authors have made use of the distressed damsel, this time it’s the dude who was the victim of domestic abuse and the wife who was the tormentor. I’m not fond of violence as a catalyst in a story, but I think that Jennifer Ashley managed to cover DV and what is essentially PTSD with real sensitivity. (The three Mackensie books to date feature Asperger’s, alcoholism, and domestic violence and the subjects are treated seriously and not sensationally.) 

The story isn’t perfect, there are a few sub-plots that distract from the romance and emotional connection, and the story wrapped a little too neatly. I also think that the portrayal of the first lady Cameron was heavy-handed. She was described as promiscuous, psychotic, violent, and then seemed to be suffering from post-partum depression. I would have liked a more nuanced view of her character because, but since it was the Cameron/Ainsley show I guess it made sense not to spend a lot of page space on tertiary characters.

Final Reckoning

Read this, yes, but even the happy bits are a little heavy. If you prefer light and fluffy romances, go read a Julia Quinn book.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, Highland Pleasures, Book 3

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