THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE has been on my radar for the better part of a decade. The book is on many lists on Goodreads, ranking at #21 on 100 Historical Romances To Read Before You Die and #25 on Favorite Historical Romance Novels. The fact that it boasted a hero with Asperger's disorder made TMOLIM even more compelling, especially with a price drop that brought the book down to $1.99 on Amazon.
Now that I've read TMOLIM, I'm not sure what to think. There were aspects of the story that I liked a lot, and there were aspects that I think could have been done better.
Things I liked:
+ The relationships between the Mackenzie brothers. It was obvious they all cared about one another, even if they had difficulty expressing that. I also liked how they never felt interchangeable.
+ Ian's Asperger's was handled very well, for the most part. He has trouble looking people in the eyes and grasping humor and metaphors. He enjoys patterns, numbers, and has obsessive interests.
+ Beth was a step up from most romance novel heroines. She doesn't stomp her foot or pout. Even though she's a widow, she's not one of those stereotypical "virgin widows" and she loved her late husband, who was - gasp! - an engaged and attentive lover and not gay/impotent/abusive (as the trope often is).
+ Isabella was an AWESOME character. I'm hoping she stays awesome, seeing as how the next book is her story and sometimes characters I liked in previous books undergo curious personality changes so that they fit the plot of the story, but in this book she was great. Wish she'd had more page time.
Things I didn't like:
- The relationship between Ian and Beth was almost entirely sex- and attraction-based. I didn't really see why they liked each other, apart from each thinking that the other had pretty eyes.
- Beth wasn't an awful character, but she didn't seem fully realized, either. I would have liked to have seen her portrayed with more complexity and compassion.
- At time, Ian's character seemed a bit cliche. He has a near-perfect memory - can recall entire discussions exactly for weeks, can play songs after hearing them once, is amazing at calculating the odds for gambling, etc. I know that there are people who are like this, but the savant trope tends to walk hand-in-hand with most representations of autism or autistic spectrum disorder, so it was a bit disappointing to see TMOLIM succumb to this cliche.
I felt ambivalent about the murder mystery. On the one hand, I never guessed whodunnit. On the other, I found the guilty person(s)'s reasons for committing the murder in the first place circumspect and lame.
TMOLIM wasn't a bad book. I wouldn't say it lived up to the hype, but it still manages to stand out in a genre that tends to be overrun with wallpaper historicals that all end up looking alike after a while. Would I read more by this author? Yes. Absolutely.
2.5 out of 5 stars.