Updated: May 4, 2020
Beth Ackerley is a widow who has recently inherited a fortune. Ian Mackenzie is the “Mad Mackenzie” of the infamous Mackenzie family. However, Beth cannot fight her instant attraction to this intriguing man. Ian has never really been able to read people’s emotions, cannot help but feel drawn to this woman. She grounds him in a way nothing else can. However there are secret’s to Ian’s past and loved ones to protect, will this budding romance make it through such adversary? We loved this book from beginning to end so cannot wait to share with you The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. **Spoilers are being uncovered** TW: child abuse
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We chose this book in honor of National Autism Awareness Month but by coincidence, it is releasing on World Autism Awareness Day, April 2nd. If you’d like to learn more about autism and the celebrations this month, we recommend you visit http://autism-society.org to learn more about their #CelebrateDifferences campaign.
In this episode we cited the following sources:
Wikipedia: "Savant syndrome"
"The savant syndrome: an extraordinary condition. A synopsis: past, present, future." by Darold A. Treffert
We know this episode is a bit longer, so if you're looking for a particular segment, here are some handy times for you:
Intro/Author Facts: 0:00 - 5:22
History Facts: 5:22 - 14:45
Tropes/Synopsis: 14:45 - 1:15:16
Parlor: 1:15:16 - 1:17:26
General Discussion: 1:17:26 - 1:54:45
We are now including our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie Synopsis:
Lord Ian Mackenzie is a highly respected collector of ming bowls, and today he’s looking at a bowl available for purchase from Sir Lyndon Mather.
Mather is engaged to be married, and the sale of this bowl will fund his wedding present. Mackenzie offers one thousand guineas and Mathers is displeased. He paid fifteen hundred for it! Ian must explain himself! quote
“There was nothing to explain. Ian’s rapidly calculating mind had taken in every asset and flaw in ten seconds flat. If Mather couldn’t tell the value of his pieces, he had no business collecting porcelain. There were at least five fakes in the glass cases on the other side of Mather’s collection room, and Ian wagered Mather had no idea.
So Ian stays firm, even when Mather explains the need for the marriage gift. Ian wonders why not give her the bowl itself? But Mather laughs at that - for women don’t know the first thing about porcelain! Besides, she is a beautiful woman and rich in her own right.
Ian wonders what would bring a woman like that to marry Mather - for he is a bounder of the first order, with a house of kept women who assent to his rare proclivities.
And perhaps thinking it would sway Ian to a better price, Mather invites Ian to meet his fiance at the opera that night - but of course it doesn’t work. Ian stays firm and they finally agree on one thousand guineas.
And then, as the deal is finalized quote
“Ian set aside the brandy and dipped his pen in the ink. He bent down to write and caught sight of the droplet of black ink hanging on the nip in a perfect, round sphere. He stared at the droplet, something inside him singing at the perfection of the ball of ink, the glistening viscosity that held it suspended from the nib. The sphere was perfect, shining, a wonder. He wished he could savor it’s perfection forever, but he knew that in a second it would fall from the pen and be lost. If his brother Mac could paint something this exquisite, this beautiful, Ian would treasure it. He had no idea how long he’d sat there studying the droplet of ink until he heard Mather say, “Damnation, he really is mad, isn’t he?” The droplet fell down, down, down to splash on the page, gone to its death in a spatter of black ink. “I’ll write it out for you then, m’lord?”
And so Curry, Ian’s faithful valet, helps Ian seal the deal and they leave with the box. However, in the carriage, Ian has a task for Curry: quote
“Find out everything you can about a Mrs. Ackerly, a widow now betrothed to Sir Lyndon Mather. Tell me about it tonight.”
“Oh, aye? Why are we so interested in the right bastard’s fiancee?” Ian ran his fingertips lightly over the box again. “I want to know if she’s exquisite porcelain or a fake.”
Later that night at the opera, Beth Ackerly herself is having a nice time. Her fiance is handsome and charming, and an excellent choice for a second husband. She’d had love, and she’d had drama in her life, and while Lyndon Mather wasn’t terribly exciting, he promised to be mellow, which was ideal for her.
And in her box, Beth is first introduced to our hero, as a very close friend of Mather’s and a brother to the Duke of Kilmorgan, and as she first glances upon him quote “her entire world stopped.” For Ian is big, muscular, and hard, but quote “his eyes set Ian Mackenzie apart from every other person Beth had ever met.” And she knows instantly, recognizes from the way her body responds to his, that with this man quote “there would be drama aplenty. She sensed that in the restlessness of his body, the large, warm hand that gripped her own, the eyes that wouldn't quite meet hers. Should she pity the woman those eyes finally rested on? Or envy her?”
Their conversation is brief, their eye contact non-existent, and Ian soon takes his leave. But he deftly slides a note into the elbow of her glove and whispers “Read it out of his sight.”
And after he does leave, Mathers gives us some background on Ian. He professes him “mad as a hatter,” and tells Beth (and the reader), that Ian had lived in a private asylum most of his life, and his brother the Duke had sprung him. In fact though, the entire family is scandalous!
Beth mulls this information over, because Ian had not seemed entirely mad to her. And finally, once Mather takes his leave, Beth is able to read the note. And it is shocking to the extreme. It reads:
I wish to tell you that Mather keeps a house just off the Strand near Temple Bar, where he has women meet him, several at a time. He calls the woman his “sweeties” and begs them to use him as their slave...the letter then concludes with ``I have listed five of the women he regularly meets, should you wish to have them questioned, or I can arrange for you to speak to the duke.
This news isn’t something Beth can take sitting down, and she escapes the box for the hall. What purpose could Ian have had to tell her this? What motivation? Why should he care about a lowly man like Sir Lydon?
And as she hurries down the hall, a hand snakes out and pulls her into another box with a “Careful, come with me.”
Of course, it’s Ian, and once she’s gathered her wits and had a sip of whiskey, she asks “What did you mean by this my lord?”
Ian insists he meant what he wrote, and Beth returns that perhaps it’s a collectors dispute? Ian replies that Mather isn’t much of a collector and there is no envy there. He tells her that Mather is a “blind idiot who sees only her fortune,” and that Mather is actually quite in debt. So Beth now admits that she is in an untenable position.
“Why?” Ian asks. “You are rich. You can do whatever you like.” But, after a moment of silence Ian continues abruptly with “You could always marry me.”
Beth blinked. “I beg your pardon?” “I said, you could marry me. I don’t give a damn about your fortune.” “My lord, why on earth should you ask me to marry you.” “Because you have beautiful eyes.” “How do you know? You’ve not once looked at them.” “I know.”
So they argue lightly for a bit longer, until Beth finally concedes that it was all very nice of him to offer, and Ian keeps insisting that it’d be a good idea. So she tries another tactic:
“If I said yes, what would you do?” she asked in true curiosity. “Balk and try to talk your way out of it?”
“I would find a bishop, pry a license out of him, and make him marry us tonight.”
Beth laughs this off, but Ian asks again “yes or no” and she argues that he knows nothing about her!
But of course, he knows everything about her. His extremely resourceful Curry has been researching. He knows of her aristocratic French father, to her mother who was the daughter of an english squire. Their elopement, her mother’s disownment, and their eventual fall into poverty. She and her mother were forced to work in a workhouse since she had been ten. She met her vicar husband when she was nineteen and he died a year later of fever. Then a Mrs. Barington had hired her as a paid companion, and upon her death, had left Beth her fortune.
Beth blinked as the drama of her life unfolded in brief sentences. “Is this Curry a Scotland Yard detective?” “He is my valet.” “Oh, of course. A valet.” She fanned herself vigorously. “He looks after your clothes, shaves you, and investigates the pasts of obscure young women. Perhaps you should be warning Sir Lyndon about me instead of the other way around.” “I wanted to discover whether you were genuine or false.” She had no idea what that meant. “You have your answer then. I’m certainly no diamond in the rough. More like a pebble that’s been polished a little.” Ian touched a lock of hair that had drifted to her forehead. “You are real.”
The heat between them is real, and the conversation continues as Ian asks if she loved her husband.
“With all my heart.” “I wouldn’t expect love from you. I can’t love you back.” Beth plied her fan from her hot face, her heart stumbling. “Hardly flattering, my lord, for a woman to hear a man won’t fall in love with her. She likes to believe she will be the center of his abject devotion.” “Not won’t. I can’t love you.” “I beg your pardon?” “I am incapable of love. I will not offer it to you.” Beth wondered what was more heartbreaking, the words themselves, or the flat tone of voice with which he delivered them.
And after that admission, Ian admits he wants to marry her because he wants to bed her. And Beth knows that a true lady should swoon or call him out, but the tension between them is palpable, and she instead leans into his touch and asks “Do you?”
And she realizes that he thinks that she is a respectable lady, and therefore he should marry her to get her in bed.
“She gave a half-hysterical laugh. “My dear lord Ian, do you think that is a bit extreme? Once you’d had me in your bed, you’d still be married to me.” “I planned to bed you more than once.”
By now, Beth really knows she should excuse herself, but she just can’t. She knows she shouldn’t enjoy passion and sex so much, but she is a sensual lady, and this man is awakening parts of her. So they continue with her denying, and Ian continuing to ask her, until finally, she does try to take her leave. But Ian can’t let her go and asks her to stay and watch the opera with him. And when one aria finishes, he pulls her into a ravishing kiss, which continues with much gusto until they are interrupted by his brother Cameron entering the box.
Cameron is looking for his son Daniel, and once he learns that Beth is Mather’s fiancee, he corroborates Ian’s story saying “Good on you, Ian. Absconding with Mather’s fiancee. You do the lass a favor.” He looked Beth over with bold eyes. “You don’t want to marry Mather, love. The man’s disgusting.”
And while Beth adjusts to these brash Mackenzies, who say things in front of a lady that are hardly proper, and adjusts to the fact that her fiance isn’t the man she thought he was, and adjusts to the feelings that Ian has brought out in her….the Mackenzie men plan on a way to get Beth home safely and secretly in Cam’s carriage.
The next day, while Ian is in the bath, Mather comes barging in in a rage, because Beth has thrown him over, which means that Ian has swindled him out of her 100,000 pounds! He’s threatening to sue Ian or ruin him, but Ian isn’t plussed at all. In fact, after he’s thrown Mather out, he goes back to thinking about what had his attention in the first place, the letter he’d received that morning from Mrs. Ackerly herself.
In it, she had thanked him for his kind intervention, and also for “condescending to propose marriage to [her]” which, she had realized, was to save her reputation. But she has decided that instead, she simply will avoid marriage and travel as a rich widow is entitled to. She’s off to Paris in fact, bon voyage!
And so Ian makes a decision. He’s off to Paris too.
Next, we get to meet our villain, Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows, who seems to have a real bone to pick with the Mackenzies. He’s had a tip from a Lyndon Mather, who was following Ian, that Ian Mackenzie was seen exiting the house of a woman, Lily Martin, that had been found murdered later that day. And then Ian had immediately left for Paris….and this all is eerily similar to a situation that had happened a few years back, where a whore was murdered bloodily and Ian had been immediately removed to Scotland. And of course, as Fellows had been the inspector on that case, he is extremely happy for this information. Quote “After five long years, he at last saw a chink in the armor that was the Mackenzie family. He would put his finger in the chink and rip their armor to shreds.”
Meanwhile in Paris, Beth’s quest to become an artist is going quite poorly. Though she has the supplies and the inspiration in the form of a lovely view from a park, she doesn’t actually have a clue how to paint or draw. So for a couple days she’s just sat and stared.
But this day, Beth’s eye is caught by a man….who looks mightily familiar. But as she looks harder she realizes that it is not Ian, but as this man looks so strikingly similar to him, she surmises that it must be his brother Mac, who is a famous artist.
Eventually her staring catches his eyes, and they strike up a conversation where she quickly admits that she has recently met his brother Ian and had a good interaction with him. This is interesting enough to capture Mac’s attention, and he ends up offering to help her learn to paint. So they are to meet the next day at two o’clock to begin.
However, two the next day comes and goes without Mac arriving. While grumbling to her maid, an exceptionally beautiful redhead (whom they’d noticed the day before) comes up to the pair to offer some advice about Mac. quote
“If you are waiting for his Lordship Mac Mackenzie, I must tell you that he is extremely unreliable. He might be lying in a meadow studying the way a horse gallops, or he might have climbed to the top of a church tower to paint the view. I imagine he’s forgotten all about his assignation with you, but that is Mac all over.” “Absentminded, is he?” Beth asked. “Not so much absentminded as bloody-minded. Mac does as he pleases, and I thought it only fair that you know right away. “Are you his model?” Beth didn’t really think so, but this was Paris. “No, my dear, I am not his model. I am very unfortunately his wife.”
And we learn that Mac and Isabella Mackenzie are estranged, and suffered a very public spectacle of a breakup and a long scandal three years past. Beth can see that Isabella is actually hurting despite her strong facade, and hurries to explain that she is a friend of Ian’s lest Isabella continue to think the wrong idea. And the ladies find immediately that they like each other quite a bit, and so begins their friendship.
Ian, meanwhile, has arrived in Paris and is staying with Mac, who, after his meeting with Mrs. Ackerly must know who she is to Ian. Ian, as usual doesn’t mince his words and explains that he asked her to marry him - but she refused. Mac is relieved at that, for he remembers what it was like for him when he had eloped with Isabella and their brother Hart, the duke, had disapproved. But Ian isn’t concerned, and he intends to persevere and persuade her.
And then, the plot gets decidedly thicker. Curry and Ian catch up a bit, and we learn that Lydon Mather hadn’t been lying about seeing Ian at Lily Martin’s house that morning - for Curry and Ian are discussing that morning and her murder. Curry had stayed behind after Ian had left for Paris to try to see if he could figure out who had done it, but his inquiries had not been successful. He’s only learned that she didn’t fight her attacker, and he also has gone all the way to Rome to check up on someone….and that someone has been there for a month and never left.
Later that week, Beth is up at her normal hour in her new lodgings, although her roommate, Isabella, never arises before one. She hears someone playing Chopin (shoh-pahn) downstairs, and investigates to find Ian. He is a musical prodigy - he mentioned this before at the opera, that he can play a piece note for note after hearing it, but he does not feel like he can “capture it’s soul.” But Beth is enamoured with his playing, and impressed, she tells him so when he finishes.
“I learned it when I was eleven,” he said. “Quite a prodigy. I don’t think I’d even seen a piano when I was eleven. I’m sure your teachers were quite impressed.” “No, I was beaten for it.” Beth’s smile died. “You were punished for learning a piece perfectly? Rather a strange reaction, isn’t it? “My father called me a liar because I said I’d only heard it once. I told him I didn’t know how to lie, so he said ‘Better be thought a liar, because what you’ve done is unnatural. I’ll teach you never to do it again.” Beth’s throat tightened. “That’s horrible.”
“I was often beaten. I was disrespectful, evasive, difficult to control.” Beth imagined Ian as a boy, his frightened gold eyes looking everywhere but straight at his father. While the man shouted at him. Then closing his eyes in pain and fear as the cane came down.
And after that revelation, Beth reflects inwardly while Ian plays another piece. It’s a sad one, and it moves her. She feels he is wrong about capturing its soul. He notices that she is sad, and he asks her if she is okay, to which she says she is, but could he play something happier? Quote
Ian’s gaze skimmed past her, like a beam of sunlight. “I don’t know whether a piece is happy or sad. I just know the notes.”
So together they work to find a happier one, and they have a real moment together on the piano bench learning a piece from The Pirates of Penzance, which leads to a very steamy kiss, of course, some dirty talk, and ….. Then they’re interrupted by Isabella.
And while she’s more than accommodating, this breaks the mood, and Ian delivers the message he came here to deliver. Mac would like to begin Beth’s drawing lessons in three days after he finishes his painting. But before they part Ian tells Beth he wants to see her again, and she says she wants the same.
In fact, that evening, Beth forgoes any entertainment to instead write a torrid passage in her journal about what she wished she and Ian could have gotten up to that day if they hadn’t been interrupted - and what she hopes they’ll get to do in the future. She finishes her entry with
I want to unbutton my frock for him. I want to unlace my stays and ease them from my body. I want him to touch me as I haven’t been touched in years. I ache for it. I do not think of him as Lord Ian Mackenzie, aristocratic brother of a duke and well beyond my reach; not as mad Mackenzie, an eccentric people stare at and whisper about. To me, he is simply Ian.
That same evening, Beth has another gentleman visitor, by the name of Detective Inspector Fellows. Beth can immediately tell that Fellows is a bad-sort and has it out for the Mackenzies, so after a tense meeting, she sends him on his way. But during their conversation, he does inform her of the murder of Lily Martin and how Ian was seen exiting her house. And oh, does Beth know about the murder five years ago that Ian was also-maybe involved in? And oh again, did you know that Lily Martin had actually worked in that brothel too at the time? Fellows also seems to have done his research on Beth - and knows that her father was no aristo but rather a fraud, and he knows about that one time her mother had resorted to prostitution and had been caught. So threats laid, and pieces of the puzzle haphazardly given, we forge onward.
But not too far forward, because Ian happens to be at Beth and Isabella’s house when Fellows is on his way out. And he sees red knowing that Fellows had told Beth everything and has shoved him up against the wall. quote
“Accosting a police officer is an offense!” “Everything about you is an offense.” Ian shoved the man away. “Get out.”
“Ian.” Beth’s voice made him turn. She stood like a flower, fragile and vulnerable, the only color in a world of grey.
He’d wanted Beth to remain apart from the sordid business at High Holborn and everything he had strived to hide the last five years. Beth was unsoiled by it, innocent. Fellows had ruined that. The bloody man ruined everything he touched. Ian didn’t want Beth looking at him and wondering what others did- whether Ian had plunged a knife into the warm body of a courtesan, then smeared the walls with her blood.
And Ian’s thoughts let the reader know that he doesn’t think he did it- but wonders sometimes that perhaps he had done it in a blind rage. But he also remembers other things from that night - secrets he’d never revealed...so we know there’s more to this mystery.
After Fellows is gone, the pair begin to talk. Ian is so upset that Beth knows these things, and she’s simply waiting for a denial or for him to explain that he’s got a valet or a coachman who can vouch for him. But Ian is lost, and starts to pull away, insisting she really shouldn’t have anything to do with the Mackenzies, because quote “we break whatever we touch.”
Beth doesn’t give up that easily, though insisting that she believes him.
“You’re afraid that Fellows has turned me away from you. He hasn’t. He obviously has a bee in his bonnet. He said himself he has no evidence, and there will never be a case against you.”
But Ian can’t forget anything - literally, he has a perfect memory - so it is very hard for him to let things go. But Beth has calmed him, and so he does make some admissions. He admits that he did not see the first courtesan, Sally Tate, die. And he didn’t drive the scissors into Lily Martin. And he knows it was scissors because he had gone to visit her that night and found her dead. But he had failed her - because he had been trying to protect Lily all this time, and now he’s afraid he won’t be able to protect Beth from Fellows using her. But Beth is a strong woman, and she continues to gently persuade Ian that she will be fine. And we get some more backstory. quote
“You’d take the word of a madman?” he asked. “You’re not a madman.” “I was put into the asylum for a reason. I couldn’t convince the commission I was sane.” Ian turned away from her, forcing her to let go of her arm. “When I was first released from the asylum I wouldn’t speak for three months.” He heard her stop behind him. “Oh.” “I hadn’t forgotten how - I simply didn’t want to. I didn’t know it distressed my brothers until they told me. I can’t read hints from others. A person has to tell me things plainly.” She gave him a shaky smile. “Which is why you don’t laugh at my little jokes. I thought I’d lost my knack for it.” “I learn what to do by watching others. Like applauding at the opera when the rest of the audience starts. It’s like learning a foreign language. And I can’t follow a conversation when I’m with a crowd.”
But Beth is far from deterred. In fact she replies with
“My dear Ian, then we are birds of a feather. Mrs. Barrington had to teach me how to behave in society from the ground up, and I still don’t know all the rules. For instance, do you know it’s considered vulgar to eat ices with a spoon? One must use a fork, which seems rather ridiculous. The most difficult is to leave a few morsels of food on the plate, so as not to seem overzealous in eating. I had so many hungry days in my youth that I consider this beyond perplexing.”
And with the mood diffused, Beth gathers her courage to ask a question that she must know the answer to……... Would Ian be interested in having a liaison with her? Of the carnal relations kind? On occasion? When they mutually agree?
Um….. Ian says yes. In fact, they’ll start now, before she has second thoughts. And they DO NOT HAVE ENCOUNTER NUMBER ONE but they have an INCREDIBLY steamy makeout sesh that includes one of the sexiest hickies I’ve ever read. (perhaps the only sexy hickey on the page?) And though Ian wants to continue, he’s also playing the long game here, so he somehow separates them gently and takes his leave, of course letting her know that he’ll get her a message soon. But he is far from unaffected from their kiss quote
He would soon arrange it so he never had to leave. He’d marry her for a very basic reason: to have her with him every night, every day, every afternoon, and every time in between. He walked down the boulevard, something in him awakening and breaking free.
After this scene, we have some development about Isabella and Mac that we’re going to breeze over a bit, for they do have their own book - but Isabella had left Mac because she loved him too much and she still loves him. So they obviously have much to work out, and we’ve seen already that Mac is definitely not unaffected by Isabella.
An entire week passes without any word from Ian after their last meeting. Beth has learned that Ian helps his brothers with their accounts and investments, so perhaps he has been busy? But regardless, she is agitated. She finally hears from Ian while she is at a ball - a note tells her “Most urgent I see you. Top of house, first door. Ian”
And when she arrives he tells her they must hurry - there isn’t much time! But what he actually means is that she can’t be away for too long or she’ll be noticed, because he’d like to continue their liaison here and now…..yes, in someone else’s house, and yes without a bed Beth. And so they have encounter number one, where Ian takes a trip under Beth’s skirts and does scandalous things with his tongue that she didn’t know were possible..twice. And Ian leaves her love-silly and doesn’t even ask her to reciprocate.
The next day, Beth is out for a walk in the park when Fellows “runs into her.” He tries again to turn her - this time with a different tactic - offering her marriage to him to save her reputation. But of course, she is having none of it, and so Fellows gets angry and starts insisting again that Ian murdered those two women and he’ll find a way to prove it. However, it’s unfortunate because Ian and Mac happen upon them, and Ian flies into a rage, so strong that Curry and Mac can barely pull Ian off of Fellows, and even once they do, Ian continues to scream at him, face purple, tears streaming down his face. A crowd has gathered to watch the spectacle, and after the Mackenzie brothers offer one more threat to Fellows to leave them alone, they leave.
And Ian is left to contemplate that he’s lost Beth now after flying into that rage in front of her. He damns the demons inside of him. And Mac morosely supplies “We’re mackenzie’s. We don’t get happy endings.”
But as usual, Beth is not dissuaded easily. And since Ian abruptly left the park, the next morning she goes to Mac’s studio to find him, and to apologize to both the brothers. Beth feels partly responsible for Fellows approaching her again. Her curiosity had gotten the better of her when he had started telling his stories, so she hadn’t shut down the conversation. So she and Ian discuss everything that Fellows said to her, including the proposal. Beth wonders if Ian will forgive her, but he insists there is nothing to forgive, and is amazed that she is here after seeing him that way in the park. And they discuss that too, quote
“It stays away most of the time, But when I saw him touch you, my Beth, it rose like a fire. I frightened you.” “You did, rather.” But not in the way he meant. Beth’s father had been prone to violent rages when drunk. WIth Ian, she’d not wanted to flee. That he could have hurt Fellows she had not doubt, but she hadn’t been afraid Ian would hurt her. She’d known he wouldn’t. She’d been more afraid that he’d hurt himself or that a passing policeman would decide to arrest him. Beth rested her cheek against the stiff white fabric of his shirtfront. “You told me not to protect you, but I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Beth also gives Ian a pin, which is engraved on the back “In friendship.” but this leads to conversations of love, with Ian asking quote
“What is it like?” his words were so low she barely caught them. “Explain to me what loving feels like, Beth. I want to understand.”
This is a ridiculously hard question, and of course the answer takes a few pages. Ian admits quote
“I can feel desire and wanting. I find you beautiful and I want you.” She warmed. “I must say, you are quite good for my pride. But when you don’t desire a woman, you feel nothing for her?” “Nothing at all.” Beth heaved a sign. “And that, Ian Mackenzie, is why I said you’ll break my heart.”
And while they’re still miles apart, they’re somehow closer than when they started as there is more understanding between them. And that emotional closeness leads to encounter number two where Beth is fully unclothed and Ian teaches her how to pleasure herself against him, again forgoing his own pleasure quote
“One night, he would have her. By then, Beth would want him so much he could make her his forever. Ian didn’t understand love, by his own admission, but he knew having Beth in his life was something worth striving for. She’d said no the first time he’d asked her to marry him; she’d explained in her sensible manner that she had no inclination to marry. But I would change her mind. Ian mackenzie had learned to be good at getting what he truly wanted.”
And in a delightful move, we jump from encounter 2 straight to encounter 3! Because encounter number three is described via a delectably torrid passage in Beth’s diary, which is an encounter in the carriage, where Beth finally gets to reciprocate by going down (her first time ever!) on Ian. They both enjoy the experience immensely.
But after this lovely reprieve, we move on to a new plot twist! It seems that Ian’s brother Hart has discovered some gossip in a French newspaper about Ian and a Mrs. A-- and Hart is immediately upset and ready to protect Ian (or perhaps Ian’s fortune and perceived vulnerabilities) as always. Plus, Hart is Ian’s family and he…...knows what Ian is capable of. So he decides that whatever motives this Mrs. A-- has, they can’t be good, and readies to be able to leave for Paris at a moment’s notice.
Also around this time, Ian reflects that it’s been a good while since he’s either heard from or seen Inspector Fellows. While Curry thinks this might be a good thing, Ian is wary…
And that week, Ian and Beth accompany Isabella on an outing to a “den of iniquity,” which turns out to be an illegal gambling hall. Although Ian doesn’t like crowds, he is calmed somewhat by Beth’s presence and by helping her bet smartly as he calculates mathematical odds for her. They’re having a delightful time learning more about each other and basking in each other's company when....the casino is raided.
Ian and Beth race out a backdoor - and while Beth worries for Isabella Ian assures her that Mac was actually also there and that he will look out for her. And very quickly it dawns on them that this must have been the work of Fellows.
It’s raining of course, so the pair are soaked and scurrying down alleys to avoid any police blockades. And to avoid Fellows, they must hide where he wouldn’t think to look - and ah-ha! Luckily they spot a pension (hotel) where they are able to secure the best room and a bath to wait out the storm.
And there’s only one bed in this hotel room, so you know we’re about to have encounter number four! Which starts with a practical bath, but for the first time they both are unclothed, so it soon moves to the bed where a very loving and long-awaited coupling finally occurs. And while there are lots of feelings between them, rest assured, there’s also plenty of steam and bawdy talk. (ian’s directness = v sexy)
And when Ian climaxes quote
In that moment, Ian opened his eyes, like twin suns coming into view, and let his gaze directly meet Beth’s.
And Beth loses her breath. This is the first time that he’s fully looked at her since they’ve met. And too soon he turns away. But the passion isn’t dimmed and they begin again.
The next morning they begin to figure out what their next steps are, and we learn some more about Ian. He insists that Curry won’t be worried because sometimes he disappears, and Curry is used to that. Quote:
Beth studied him. “Why do you disappear?”
“Sometimes it gets too much for me. Trying to follow what people say, trying to remember what I’m supposed to do so people will think I’m normal. Sometimes the rules are hard. So I go.”
And later in the morning, Beth awakens again to see Ian standing by the window, but he motions for her to remain silent and informs her that Inspector Fellows is watching the house and he’s brought along some police.
But Ian has already been working on his plan to get them out of there, and now Curry’s arrived with fresh clothes for them both. And Beth dresses assuming that they'll be fleeing out the back then…..but she is mistaken, for shortly two new guests join them. Mac….and a priest. Because Ian won’t be having them leave out the back door - no - they will be leaving out the front and Fellows won’t be able to touch them for lewd behavior if they’re married.
And Beth immediately protests - and Mac immediately protests her protestations, saying “Why the hell not?! Ian likes you, you get on, and he needs a wife!” Beth squeezed her hands together. “Yes, but perhaps I don’t need a husband.”
Ian though requests to speak with Beth alone, and Mac agrees, exiting and saying “Sorry. I’m a little on edge. Marry him, do. We need at least one sensible person in this family.”
Ian argues that if Beth becomes his wife, Fellows won’t be able to touch her. Hart's protection - his whole family’s protection, will extend to her. Beth argues that that hasn’t stopped Fellows from harassing Ian, now has it?
Plus, Beth decides to spill that her father wasn’t actually an aristo - but Ian, of course, already knows that and doesn’t care one lick. She keeps trying to protest, she’s not good enough for a duke’s son, if the newspapers found out….but Ian perisits saying “We don’t fit in, you and me. We’re both oddities no one knows what to do with. He took her hand, pressed her palm to his, then laced their fingers through each other’s. “We fit.” He was saying We are adrift and no one wants us, not the real us. We might as well drift together. Not Please marry me, Beth. I love you.
But finally, she can’t protest any more when she remembers a certain moment, and realizes she is lost. Quote
She remembered the breathless moment when he’d actually looked at her when they’d made love. His eyes had been so beautiful, fixed on her as though she were the only person in the world. The only person who mattered. What would she give to have him look at her like that again? Everything she had. “Blast you, Ian Mackenzie,” she whispered.
And so they are married and walk out together to fend off Fellows. He is there to arrest Ian for abducting Mrs. Ackerly, but of course Mrs. Ackerly isn’t there - though Lady Ian Mackenzie is. Quote
“You lost that round, Fellows,” Mac said, clapping the inspector on a soggy shoulder. “Better luck next time!” The inspectors eyes were hard as agates, and Ian knew they’d thwarted the man only briefly. The battle had been won, but the war raged on.
The newlyweds leave immediately for Scotland and travel there by train where they briefly have encounter number 5 to try to distract Ian from his distress at confinement on the train. And while it’s a fun romp, he’s still distressed afterwards.
A day later they arrive at the family’s seat Kilmorgan which is an incredibly enormous house, if you could call it that. They are greeted and introduced to all the staff, and then Beth is told she will be led to her rooms. Oh, and Ian? The Duke is waiting to see you in the drawing room.
Neither had expected him to be here, but here is. And Ian knows Hart will want to meet Beth, so he invites her along.
Of course, this meeting does not go well. Hart is cold, and doesn’t even address Beth, instead asking
“Was there really no other way?”
“Fellows would have found some means to use her. Or turned her into an excuse to arrest me.” “The man’s a pig.” Hart’s stare came back to beth. “She was once a lady’s companion? Why did Isabella befriend her?” Beth pulled herself away from Ian and walked forward, sticking out her hand. “I’m very well, thank you so much for inquiring. THe journey was tiring but uneventful, no problems on the lines, and no Fenian bombs at any of the stations.
And Beth isn’t done. As Hart continues to address Ian, she continues to pick at him. Finally he addresses her to tell her that if she did recall, he did not send for her. And they start to bicker some more, until finally Beth is willing to relent and let Hart talk to Ian alone, however, Ian doesn’t want that - they can talk at dinner after he sees Beth settled himself.
“We have maidservants to help her.” “I want to do it.” Hart gave up, but Beth could see it rankled. “The gong goes at seven forty five and the meal is served at eight. We dress formally, Mrs. Ackerly. Don’t be late.” Beth slid her hand through Ian’s, trying to hide her nervousness. “Call me Beth, please,” she said. “I am no longer Mrs. Ackerly and have become, to our mutual astonishment, your sister.”
Dinner is fairly uneventful, and afterwards while Ian reads a treaty for Hart, Beth takes a turn around the garden. However, Hart comes there to threaten her a bit, insisting that she’s bamboozled Mac, Isabella, and Ian, but he won’t be fooled! Beth replies
I remember telling Ian quite plainly that I had no interest in marrying again. And then there I was, signing a license and repeating that I’d be with him until death do us part. I believe Ian bamboozled me.”
But Hart thinks Ian is vulnerable, and Beth must have been after him for his money as he’s an easy mark. And he continues raging and saying he’ll have the marriage annulled. Beth gives as good as she receives, until she realizes the real problem. Quote
Beth summoned the courage to look straight into Hart’s golden eyes. “Can you not consider that perhaps I fell in love with him?” Deeply, dramatically, foolishly in love [she thought].
“No” “Why not?” Hart drew a breath but didn’t speak. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “I see,” Beth said softly. “You believe he’s mad, and you don’t think any woman could love that.”
But they remain at odds, Hart insisting that he’ll send for the solicitor in the morning, and Beth insisting that she’ll never hurt Ian.
But Ian has been listening, and he’s not happy with Hart. quote Ian took one step closer to Hart. Though he kept his eyes averted, there was no mistaking the anger in his stance and his voice. “She is my wife, under my protection. The only way I will let you do anything against this marriage is if you declare me a lunatic again.”
And eventually they part for the evening with a truce of sorts. At least for now, and head up to their quarters for their first night there as husband and wife. And after a conversation about his perfect memory, and how it’s a bit of a curse for him, Ian makes another confession quote
“You being with me makes it stop. It’s like the Ming bowls - when I touch them and feel them, everything stops. Nothing matters. You are the same. That’s why I brought you here, to keep you with me, where you can please... make...everything...stop.”
Beth stared up at him, her blue eyes wet. “Tell me how.” “Stay with me.”
Beth insists that she will - she even promises she won’t leave him, and this leads us into encounter number 6, which is hot and heavy, and is the beginning of their newly wedded seclusion.
They are brought out of their suite of rooms a few days later when Cam and his son Daniel arrive, who are full of good cheer and happy energy. And so life settles into a pace at Kilmorgan, with Cam and Ian teaching Beth to ride and having family dinners together. Hart and Beth still come to odds - especially at the way Hart seems to ‘use’ Ian’s brain, but Ian insists that he likes helping his brother.
But the Brothers have noticed a change in Ian, and in fact, Daniel lets slip that the previous night at dinner was the first time that anyone had heard Ian laugh since before the asylum. So there’s movement
One day, on a ride with Cam, Beth is able to go on on her own when Cam’s horse throws a shoe. And when she nears the folly they were approaching, she overhears Hart and Ian discussing the murder of Sally Tate. There are some juicy tidbits, but only one that hurts Beth. Ian admits that Fellows tried to persuade Beth to spy for him, and while he doesn’t think that she is a double agent, a wife can’t go into the witness box against her husband, now can she?
Beth makes it back to the house safely after hearing this, but can’t contain her grief from Ian when he asks if she is alright later. So she just has out with it: “Please explain to me what happened that night at High Holborn. Please, I need to know.”
But Ian doesn’t want to - he doesn’t want her to look at him knowing what he knows.
“Do you trust me so little?” “With this, I trust no one.” “Except Hart.” “Especially not Hart.”
And then she explains that she overheard, and overheard about the witness stand. Quote
“I heard you tell Hart you married me to keep Fellows from using me against you. Is that true?” She bleated a short laugh. “Of course it’s true. You don’t know how to lie.” “Help me understand,” Beth pleaded. “Tell me why you’re so afraid, why you'd do this to me. I want to help you find out what happened. Help you put it to rest.” “No, no, no. Leave it be.” “How can i? It’s tearing you apart; it’s tearing me apart. If you tell me, if we think about it, maybe we can decide what really happened.”
But Ian is adamant that Beth stay out of it - that’s why Lily Martin died, because she knew too much! And if Beth doesn’t stop meddling, then maybe he won’t be able to protect her too!
Ian is barely holding on and he begins down another path, wrestling with his emotions when they begin to talk about marriage.
“I can never give you what he gave you.” Ian’s chest hurt. “You loved him, and I know that can never be between us.” “You’re wrong,” she whispered. “I love you, Ian.” He pressed his clenched fists to his breastbone. “There’s nothing to love. Nothing. I am insane. My father knew it. Hart knows it. You can’t nurse me back to health. I have my father’s rages and you can never be sure what I’ll do-” He broke off, his headache beating at him. He rubbed his temple furiously, angry at the pain.
And Ian really can’t process it all. His body wants Beth, and he allows this weakness for a rough kiss, but then throws her off him and storms out of the house and into the garden, where he proceeds to force a gardener to load one pistol for him while he shoots another, over and over and over. Curry tries to get them to stop, then Cam and Hart are there too, but no one can get him to stop, until finally Beth is there. Her voice breaks his cycle and quote
Beth’s warm tone floated to him, and her cool hand rested on his. The world came rushing back. It was dimmer now, twilight having taken place of bright afternoon. The undergardener sobbed at his side, dropping the empty pistol and pressing his hands to his face. Ian’s arms ached. He slowly unclenched the pistol that Curry eased out of his hand and found his palms blistered raw. Beth touched his face. “Ian.” He loved how he said his name. She spoke the syllables gently, her voice always soft, caressing. Hart loomed up behind her, but Ian dissolved into Beth. He slid his arms around her waist and buried his face in her neck.
And while Ian is able to settle for the night, the next morning he is gone. And as he’s known to wander when things get too much for him, Beth decides to take advantage of his brief absence and get some stuff done in London that she wants to do. Curry doesn’t like this - what if Ian comes back and finds her gone! But Beth insists she will be back before he is, and leaves with her maid…..and also her new nephew Daniel Mackenzie who convinces her that he should get to go too. She does send one telegram ahead though, to one Inspector Fellows.
Ian is out in the wilds with a friend of his who used to work at the manor but has become somewhat of a hermit. He cools off quickly and can’t stop thinking of Beth. He realizes that there’s quite a pull to go back home. And after only a day, he returns.
In London, Beth meets with Inspector Fellows. She just can’t leave the High Holborn situation alone, because she knows how it’s tearing Ian apart. She has decided to take the matter into her own hands and work to figure out the truth, knowing that Ian is not the culprit. So she asks Fellows to tell her everything he knows about the murder, and leave nothing out, then she will share what she’s learned.
We learn that there were five gentlemen present at Mrs. Palmer's salon, the other three gentlemen though, Fellows doesn’t suspect because they were respectable.
“Visiting a brothel is respectable, the vicar’s widow asks with her brows raised?”
There are some conflicting stories of when Hart and Ian entered and exited from the ladies and gents and the Mackenzie servants.
And by the time that Fellows got to interview Ian himself two weeks later, Ian couldn’t remember…..but as Ian remembers everything, Beth’s heart sinks.
However, she stands strong, because Ian can’t lie, and he hasn’t admitted to the murder. So she feels that Fellows, in his vindictiveness, has let the real murderer get away.
Fellows is still puffed up about how terrible the Mackenzies are though, and how they’ll be the death of Beth, so she finally asks Fellows to leave. And decides that since he won’t do things properly, she’s going to the East End (where she used to live with her Vicar husband) to make inquiries on her own.
Meanwhile back in Scotland, Ian returns to find Beth gone, and while Curry explains that she hasn’t left him, just gone to London for a bit, Ian is terrified and sets off immediately, Cam in tow, as Daniel’s gone with her and is probably quote “making her life a misery.”
The brothers arrive in London while Beth is out detectiving and are about to follow in pursuit when Beth and Daniel return. Ian is basically beside himself at this point and drags Beth inside for a chat. She tells him everything that he asks - she met Fellows, she was making enquiries, and Ian of course is so upset. Quote
“Don’t you understand? If you find out too much, I can’t protect you. You could be transported, or hanged if you knew too much.” “Why on earth would I be transported because your brother’s friend Stephenson or his mistress Mrs. Palmer murdered a . . .” She trailed off, her face going still.
And while she contemplates silently for a moment, she realizes something important.
“Oh, Ian. You think Hart did this, don’t you?”
And that is the reason he doesn’t want to think about it. Because if he figures out that Hart committed the murder, as he suspects, he won’t be able to lie about it...and finally Ian fills in all the missing pieces. How Sally Tate had been boastinga bout blackmailing Hart….how Hart had asked him to spy on Sally…..how he’d walked in on Hart and Sally having rough sex together that night….and how Sally had threatened Hart with a knife, but then Hart had gotten the knife from her and pressed her throat with his hands. But Hart was into rough play, and Ian explains that when you cut off the air, a climax is more intense, but Ian didn’t see him kill her. He simply returned later to find Sally dead.
And Hart had also seen Sally dead, but before Ian did. Which is why he had run out of the house after that because he couldn’t risk being there when the police came for his career.
But Beth thinks that Hart couldn’t have done it, for quote “if he had decided to kill her, he’d have made certain [Ian] was far away before he did the dreadful deed. He’d have avoided involving [Ian], no matter what.”
He also had hid Lily Martin afterwards because Lily had seen too much. He wanted her to stay safe from Hart, so if he hid her, she could live. But now he thinks that Hart was the one who found her.
And Ian can’t let it go - he thinks it was Hart, because on the night Sally died, Hart had looked so much like their father. And then we learn the real horrible truth of Ian’s past. Ian had been just 9, and in the wrong place at the wrong time, when he saw his father strangle, shake, and kill his mother in a rage. His father continued to rage and shake Ian, yelling at him that he would tell no one, he had to lie. And the next morning he had been taken to London and condemned a lunatic, and been put in the asylum thereafter.
Ian worries that Hart is as ruthless as their father, but Beth still thinks that he is wrong - Hart deeply cares for Ian. Beth insists that finding out the truth would help Ian and Hart, but Ian pleads with her to stop, and Beth relents and says she’ll stop. However quote
“As he slid his lips over hers it didn’t occur to him that she’d given up a shade too easily.”
Beth wakes later that night next to Ian (after they had made love, but not much is described….so I guess it’s not an encounter?) and knows she loves him too much to stop. So she dresses and heads downstairs, and luckily, an informant she was hoping to hear from is there now. Sylvia had worked with both Lucy and Sally at High Holborn for a time. And she has two juicy pieces of the puzzle -first, yes, Mrs. Palmer had been Hart’s mistress and he’d bought her the house. She was older than he was but they’d been together for so many years, and Mrs Palmer had truly loved Hart and would do anything for him. And second, Lucy and Sally had been lovers. Plus, Sally had been a bit of a bitch and had made a lot of enemies.
When Ian awakens to find Beth gone, he realizes what has happened, and he knows where she must be. So he and Cam grab a hansom to High Holborn. When they arrive, they don’t find Beth - but they are greeted by Hart.
Beth isn’t there yet because she’d gone to collect Inspector Fellows on the way.
And Hart meanwhile, wants to finally talk about that night with Ian. They never really have, have they? But…….they end up talking circles around each other, with Hart still thinking that Ian did it, and Ian still thinking that hart did it….but finally, they get to it -
“Sally told me she could ruin you.” “She was dreaming.” “And then she was dead.” “Oh, God Ian,” Hart said in a near whisper. “Is that why you did it?”
However, we are interrupted from the full conversation because Beth and Fellows have arrived. And Beth explains that he is here not to arrest Ian or Hart, but to question Mrs. Palmer more on Beth’s request.