I lovehate Jennifer Ashley. I went on about my feelings at length in an earlier review and yet I still read the next novella, A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift, and novel in the Mackenzie series.
The Seduction of Elliott McBride may be the book that cures me of my love and brings me down solidly on the side of hate, or at the very least never, ever paying for one of Ashley’s books ever, ever again. The novel opens with very proper Juliana St. John being left at the altar as her fiance has married his piano teacher. Quelle horreur! Taking a moment alone in a chapel, Juliana SITS ON her childhood friend Elliott McBride. He has recently returned from India a shattered, but appealingly bronzed, man, and, since they have always loved each other from afar, they decide to marry right away, like, RIGHT AWAY, in the next 15 minutes, and so begins the story.
As with all Ashley men, Elliott McBride has a histrionically torturous back story. He wants Juliana to ground and heal him, so after impulsively marrying, they go straight to the manor he has bought in a remote area of Scotland. With the patience of a saint and the personality of a handkerchief, Juliana passively endures all manner of ridiculous subplots including Elliott’s blackouts and unpredictable violent rages (which are never directed her and that somehow makes them okay); accusations of murder; a stalker; a home in complete disrepair; the home’s violent and irascible existing resident; a culturally patronizing portrayal of Elliott’s Sikh servants; a mixed-race lovechild; Elliott’s random disappearances; his history of imprisonment and profound abuse up to, and including, brainwashing; and hostility from the locals, all while isolated from her family and any semblance of the life she has known. Juliana is fine with it. All of it. She only wants to help. She makes a lot of lists to help organize things. None of the lists seem to include the following:
- hide all knives
- hide all guns
- install stout padlock on bedroom door
- have doctor secretly examine husband
- have husband committed
- make conjugal visit to asylum
A laundry list of plot ridiculousness is typical of Ashley, but she usually balances it with a love story sufficiently charming to counteract said ridiculousness. That is not the case here. The book is awful and NOT because of everything I’ve already mentioned, though it certainly helps. The fundamental problem is that it’s not a romance novel: Elliott and Juliana start out in love. They stay in love. Their love does not waver. They get busy from the get go. There is nothing actually keeping them apart. The story doesn’t build to anything in their relationship. That is not a romance novel. It’s Ashley attempting to hit all the highlights of her most popular book, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, and skipping the sincere love story part that endeared her to me in spite of her farcical plotting. She completely missed the point.
I will be resetting my romance reading summary, The (Shameful) Tally for the New Year. I’m under the impression I’ve read everything decent in the historical romance genre and now I have to wait for the good authors to publish new work, so I am anticipating far less shame and a proportionately reduced tally. I may have to read a
real, proper book work of literature.