The Mackenzie Series: Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

Foxy Mary Poppins!

That’s as far as I got in my review last October and it does really say it all about this entry in Jennifer Ashley’s frequently overwrought, yet personally strangely compelling and habit-forming, Mackenzie historical romance series. I read ALL of her Mackenzie stories and yet I don’t recommend any of them. I lovehate them. Why both? Because Ashley excels at moments of sincere romance while simultaneously over-plotting her novels, thus turning them into melodrama. They have gotten better in time, but Rules for a Proper Governess featuring the Mackenzie in-law McBride family was forgettable. I’ll re-read my guilty histrionic pleasure Many Sins of Cameron Mackenzie instead.

Widowed barrister Sinclair McBride has a busy criminal law practice; two beloved, out-of-control children; and a chaotic home life. He’s swamped. Roberta, “Bertie”, Frasier is a pickpocket with a heart-of-gold and light speed fingers. Bertie falls under Sinclair’s spell watching him in court and when she “accidentally” runs into him later, sparks fly and a pocket watch disappears. Hijinks ensue, Bertie ends up as governess to Sinclair’s lost and motherless children (which Ashley overplays), and everyone falls in love in a manner appropriate to their respective relationships.

Why is it that in fiction there is always a Magical Caregiver who can waltz in and immediately meet all of a child’s needs, inspire loyalty, understand her/him perfectly, and – this is the most incredible part – make them behave in a reasonable and logical fashion? It’s a trope I see all the time and it just strikes me as inane. I understand that it is a short-hand motherhood audition, but I would love a governess story wherein the nanny is inept, but their besotted father doesn’t give a toss and marries her anyway. Given the time period and the certainty of replacing the governess once the marriage takes place, surely all the spousal candidate needs to be is loving, kind, and willing to be a good step-parent to the children.

A summary of Jennifer Ashley’s catalogue can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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