I hardly read any historical novels, much less post-regency romance, and a hero with Asperger's Syndrome in 1881 may very well be a cliche in this genre (is it?) but I found the idea intriguing. Add to the equation an heiress widow with humble beginnings and this was pretty much a sure thing for the occasional reader like me.
This had insta-love. Like second chapter levels of insta-love.
"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."
But what made it worse was that the story was between a hero whose depth is pretty much borne out of his family connections and his condition (his obsession with Ming bowls, his photographic and phonographic memory, his mathematical acumen and so on) and an inconsistent heroine who is supposed to be a smart, compassionate and independent (because Jennifer Ashley tells me so) but also locks up her mentally unstable, agoraphobic husband in their room so she can do the sleuthing he expressly forbids her to do. Ian was a bit more tolerable for me but Beth was just strikingly irrational and utterly charmless.
He has a mental condition, what's Beth's excuse?
The book was readable enough and I did like the relationship between the Mackenzie siblings even if it expectedly took the backseat in this installment in favor of the out-of-control sex between Beth and Ian (because they can't be in one scene together without taking their clothes off or atlas macking out, vociferously). I found Hart the most intriguing of them and of course, he's the only one who doesn't have a book in this series yet. There's a mystery to be solved about whores going dead behind Ian's tracks and the tenacious detective out to have a Mackenzie hang for it. Save for Super Beth being the one who unlocks the mystery (why? Well because she's super, duh) I found that story line more engaging than Beth and Ian's affair turned to marriage.
I feel something about Jennifer Ashley's writing just flows unnaturally. For some reason, she likes to bring the story towards the path of MOST resistance.
"Each of us has a wing of the house. If we invite guests we put them in our wing and take care of them."
"Do you often have guests?"
"No." Ian led Beth back to the dressing room in which she changed for dinner. She'd thought the little room grand, but Ian now showed her that on its other side lay a bedroom the size of Mrs. Barrington's entire downstairs."You are my first."
Instead of capitalizing on the emotional stock that exchange is laden with (which i wanted), Ashley prefers to divert the exchange by making Beth break out a joke, move on and explore another possibility of the bom-chika-wow-wow (which I'm already tired of at this point). This happened a couple more times throughout the book that only left me more frustrated with the sterile dialogue between the characters where the length of the exchange requires me to backtrack and recall who's saying what.
Again I've only ever read Judith McNaught's historicals and my two cents on this book may very well be worth less, but more than the dull characters and the frustrating story, I think my disappointment over the wasted potential of this book overrides the small amount of good that I found in it.