From Jennifer Ashley:
When I conceived the Mackenzies series (which started with The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie), the characters of the four brothers simply walked into my head. It was the weirdest experience: I just sat there, and the brothers and their histories unfolded in front of me. I love it when that happens—it’s like some hidden part of my brain does all the work, and I’m sitting back, watching a movie.
I wanted to write a series about the wickedest, richest, most decadent men I could think of, and the Mackenzies stood up and took a bow. Of course, the Mackenzies have to be romance heroes, so I let them show me how wonderfully tender and sexy they are, how dangerous and yet how loving they can be. They live for pleasure, but they want their ladies to experience the same.
Each brother is pretty tortured—they were born to an abusive father and a timid mother, each grew up not understanding what it is to be loved by a woman strong enough to handle them. Ian, the youngest is mildly autistic, but all the brothers have a bit of obsessed genius (Mac for art, Cameron for horses, Hart for finance and politics).
The exact details of each novel didn’t flood me at once—that took time. But as the years went by (yes, years: I thought of these books back when I was writing my pirate and Nvengaria series), the brothers grew and developed. I now know pretty much everything there is to know about these guys. Deciding what to put into their novels and what to leave out is more difficult than anything should be.
One thing most people don’t realize was the difficulty in casting the heroines. Isabella I got right away; she’s been there from the beginning, taking care of Ian along with the other brothers. Hart’s heroine has also been there, though she’s not shown in the first two books, only mentioned.
But Beth in Madness of Lord Ian? Dang, that woman was elusive! I went through half a dozen heroines—writing nearly 100 pages each time—before I shook my head and deleted everything. When I finally conceived of Beth’s background (grew up poor, married happily but briefly, was elderly lady’s companion, has just inherited a lot of money), she clicked. I put her with Ian, and the story tumbled out. Cameron’s heroine was nearly as difficult, believe me.
Isabella, the “sister” Ian takes to escorting about after she leaves his brother Mac, has always been part of the brothers. She nurtures Ian, tries and fails to nurture Mac, and how she’s hurt and afraid to trust, but is willing to hope that she and Mac can put their life together again.
The excerpt I’m including happens after Mac, for reasons explained in the book, moves into Isabella’s house (to his delight). The servants, happy to help shove the two back together again, have just served tea for two in the drawing room.
More about the Mackenzies, excerpts and blurbs, can be found on my web pages dedicated to the series: http://www.jennifersromances.com/NewSite/Mackenzies/mackenzie_main.html
Isabella filled the cups as she spoke. Mac’s heart skipped a beat when, without asking, she prepared it the way he liked it—two sugars, no milk. She remembered.
Mac took the cup and set it next to him, waiting politely as she lifted the cloth from a basket and laid a scone on a porcelain plate. He didn’t reach for it until she’d prepared her own tea; then he pulled the scone into two pieces, mounding its soft innards with pale yellow cream.
“One of the only things the English do right is scones and clotted cream,” he said. “The Scots invented scones of course, but the English do them well.”
“I am English,” Isabella reminded him.
“I know that, my lovely Sassenach.”
Mac took a deep bite of scone. Isabella’s gaze fixed on his mouth as clotted cream oozed over his lips. Mac licked them clean, deliberately taking his time.
“This is quite good.” He gave her a wicked smile. “Would you like to try it?”
His heart beat faster as Isabella’s cheeks stained pink. “Yes, I would, rather.”
Mac lifted the piece of slathered scone to her. Isabella took it between her lips, her tongue coming out to lift it inside her mouth. Mac’s body grew hot as he watched her chew, her slender throat moving as she swallowed.
Mac held up his thumb, showing her a bit of cream clinging to it. “I have a little here.”
He waited for her to push him away, to bathe him in scorn and tell him that the game was over. Instead, she guided his hand to her mouth, closed her lips around the tip of his thumb, and sucked away the cream.
Mac groaned. “You are a cruel, cruel woman.”
Isabella released his hand and sat back. “Why?”
“Tempting me with a taste of what I can’t have.”
“It is you who refuses to be satisfied with only a taste.”
He set down his plate and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t want a taste, Isabella. I want all of you. Again and again, for the rest of our lives. That’s what marriage means, my wife. Together forever. Bound in love.”
“In duty, you mean,” Isabella said.
He laughed. “Sassenach, if you believed marriage was for duty alone, you’d never have eloped with me in the first place. When you met me you didn’t think, Ah, here is a dashing rake. Let me run off with him so I can be dutiful. No, you wanted some entertainment instead of marrying a dried-up stick your father picked out for you.”
“Perhaps, but most marriages turn into duty and habit, from what I have witnessed.”
Mac fell back against the sofa. “Oh, God, Isabella, you’ll slay me with your pessimism. Look at Ian and Beth. They’re mad about each other. Are you saying their marriage has changed to duty and habit? ”
“Of course not.”
“Nor did yours. Don’t lie.”
“No,” she said softly. “It didn’t.”
Thank the Lord for that. He remembered the nights she’d smiled down at him in his bed, her warm body on his while she rode him. Duty, my balls.
“The proof is that when I drove you mad, you ran away,” Mac said. “A dutiful woman would have stayed and put up with me.”
“Gracious, I pity such a woman.”
“I know you do, because you are not that woman. What you ought to have done was smash me over the head, repeatedly, until I came to my senses.”
“Perhaps my leaving was meant to do just that.”
He hid his dart of pain by reaching for the bowl of cream. “You certainly got my attention, love.” He scooped a glob of cream onto his first two fingers and gave her a sly look. “Now, I dare you, my fine lady from Miss Pringle’s Academy: From which part of my anatomy would you like to lick this cream?”
Summary from author's website:
Six years ago, eighteen-year-old Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized all of London by eloping the night of her come-out ball with the notorious rake, Lord Mac Mackenzie. After three turbulent years of marriage, she scandalized London once again--this time by leaving him.
Now the reformed Mac has returned, and he wants one thing: Isabella back in his life, his house, his bed. He'll do anything he has to, play any game, as long as he gets her back. Isabella resists, but when she agrees to pose for erotic paintings he's been working on, she realizes her body has never stopped craving her husband’s very skilled touch. Mac is determined to show Isabella that he's a changed man, but three years without her has only increased his hunger for her.
When an ingenious forger with designs on Mac's paintings, and Isabella herself, comes dangerously near, Mac sets himself up as Isabella’s protector and vows to never leave her side, whether his independent and proud lady likes it or not.
Available now from Book Depository (print).