This RITA Reader Challenge review was written by Jenn. This book is nominated in the Best Historical Romance category.
The summary: Cameron Mackenzie is a man who loves only horses and women – in that order – or so his mistresses say.
Ainsley Douglas is a woman with a strong sense of justice and the desire to help others – even if that means sneaking around a rakish man's bedchamber.
Which is exactly where Cam finds her – six years after he caught her the first time. Only then, she convinced Cam she was seeking a liaison, but couldn't go through with it because of her husband. Now a widow, she's on a mission to retrieve letters that could prove embarrassing to the queen. Cam has no interest in Ainsley's subterfuge, but he vows to finish what they started those many years ago. One game, one kiss at a time, he plans to seduce her. And what starts out as a lusty diversion may break Cam's own rules – and heal the scars of a dark and damaging past.
And here is Jenn's review:
I fell hard for the Mackenzie brothers with the introduction of Lord Ian in the first book and kept falling with Mac’s story in the second. Loving the Mackenzies isn’t easy, because, well, let’s be honest. These four brothers could give JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood a run for their money on disfunctionality. However, it’s these very issues that make the Mackenzies so intriguing.
This is the third book in the series, and it’s clear that Lord Cameron – second son, father, horse whisperer trainer, virile lover of women, yadda yadda – is just as messed up as his brothers. He is an indifferent father who prefers to lavish attention on his horses to the detriment of his personal relationships, and past experience has taught him that women are to be used and to be distrusted. This perception is not helped when he discovers Ainsley Douglas searching his bedchambers for the second time in six years.
Ainsley Douglas appears on the surface to be the complete antithesis of Cameron Mackenzie. She is devoted to the memory of her long-dead husband and a paragon of virtue who selflessly serves the widowed Queen; indeed, she can be almost boring in her goodness. This doesn’t last long, however; what I adore about Ainsley is her strength and commitment to those she loves. When she gives in to Cam, she does so whole-heartedly and she connects with the whole extended Mackenzie family. She gives everything and expects the same in return, all the while knowing that trust is the most difficult of all attributes for Cam to give.
What I loved about this book was the characters and the failings they demonstrate. Cameron is a deeply flawed hero. He isn’t a particularly great father, he suffers from the traumatic experiences of his past and he allows them to rule his present. However, he loves his family – and Ainsley – deeply and without reservation. He can recognize that he places his horses before humans and he makes no apologies for this, yet he’s genuinely hurt when Ainsley has to return to the Queen.
Ainsley is also not as perfect as she appears, as at times she suffers from Too Good To Be True syndrome. Both she and Cameron suffer from a Big Secret in their past, but the reveals are a natural part of the narrative, and both characters are able to accept each other’s past in order to move forward.
Less remarkable was the blackmail plot that was meant to reunite the pair. The intended blackmailer seemed to be an afterthought, and the matter was resolved rather quickly for the seriousness implied. Much more could have been made of this scenario, but when you consider the strength of the characters, it can be overlooked.
This is a great addition to the Highland Pleasures series, and can be read as a stand alone (although, why would you want to??).