The Duke's Perfect Wife (Highland Pleasures, #4)

The Duke's Perfect Wife (Highland Pleasures, #4) - Jennifer Ashley As much as I anticipated this 4th book about Hart, the eldest MacKenzie, I can't believe that I'm going to say that it was somewhat disappointing. Yes, I know... and Jennifer Ashley/Ashley Gardner is one of my favorite authors, too! Of all the books, none can beat book #1 The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. But I was really hoping that this 4th book would come in a close 2nd. Alas...It's as if the author is skirting around the very issues that make Hart Hart. She continually brings them up and teases us with his "dark" desires and whispers about what went on in Mrs. Palmer's High Holborn house, and yet we never really do find out what these secrets are. Even Ian admonishes Hart to tell Eleanor the truth. But all we, the readers, get is a very small glimpse into a bit of "play" in a love scene between Hart and Eleanor towards the end of the book where he uses his cravat to tie her hands. And a few passing innuendos between them after that. WHAT? I don't need a blow-by-blow, but after all the teasing and whispers, I *did* expect more than what I got.But it's not just that... Yes, we learn why Eleanor jilted Hart 10 years ago. And it *seems* like a good reason, on the face of it. But somehow, it just doesn't hold water. Especially since we know that Eleanor is still madly in love with Hart, and after the last book, we know that Hart is determined to get Eleanor back. But why are they still so in love with one another? Because they share secrets?We learn that Eleanor has kept a scrapbook about Hart, all these years. And when she starts receiving pictures of Hart in the all-together, presumably taken by Mrs. Palmer when Hart was in his early 20s, Eleanor can't seem to get enough. She finds a way to travel to London (taking her father) and convinces Hart that he should hire her to find out who is sending these pictures and why.... and to retrieve them before the pictures can be used against him. Hart *knows* about the pictures, he even tells her there are approximately 20 of them somewhere. Here's the thing: Much is made up to this point and especially in this book about Hart's political ambitions. He's making a run at the current PM and government in the House of Commons; so WHY hasn't Hart been concerned about these pictures until now? And WHY doesn't he seem to be that concerned even when Eleanor shows the pictures she has to him? If these pictures could be used against him by his opponents, I'd think Hart would want someone *other* than Eleanor tracking them down.But Hart sees this as an opportunity to lure Eleanor back in. All he can think of is providing her with things: gowns, jewels, a safe place to live, food, a place for her father... Hart isn't quite ready to make his full assault yet; he wanted to wait until he was PM and "lay it all at her feet" in victory. Hmmmm. So when Eleanor shows up with the pictures and her proposition, Hart decides it's a way to start. Except that he doesn't give her much help or resources, and he absolutely refuses for her to visit Mrs. Palmer's house in High Holborn. WHY NOT? What's the big deal? No one is even living in that house; and while it holds certain memories for Hart and we're teased endlessly about what the memories and ghosts might be, there's nothing there! There's no threat! Even when Eleanor disobeys and gets Ian to take her there, she finds nothing in her snooping. Neither does Hart when he goes back. I don't get it.And when Eleanor starts visiting various photography shops looking for more pictures of Hart, no one thinks anything of it. Not even when she finds a shop that has 12 for sale - in the back room, of course. ONCE AGAIN, if Hart is such the meanie and on the run for PM and taking over the government, wouldn't you think the shop owner or the sleazy shop "boy" who tries to fondle Eleanor would realize the gold mine that they have with these nude pictures of Hart? They're "nice" pictures, nothing too naughty - rather artsy, in fact. But still!So you see, the premise just doesn't set well with me. After all of these lovely books, Hart's just ... falls apart.It doesn't take much for Hart & Eleanor to be kissing... and leading up to more. They're constantly interrupted, which is both funny and frustrating, for them and for us, the readers. And in one scene, Hart takes her to the laundry room and lays her on top of the clean clothes. But because he's feeling those "dark" impulses that he doesn't want to own up to with Eleanor, he leaves her abruptly. So what does Eleanor do? She stays and folds all the laundry they messed up! WHAT?That plus the assassination plot against Hart... well, it makes for some interesting reading. But in retrospect, again, it just doesn't work. Especially when Hart disappears after an explosion, and he decides to remain incognito (claiming amnesia) on a salvage boat rather than return home. His reasoning is that once he reappears, he'll be a target again - and make his family a target, too. But does it really take that long for Hart to get his head and his act together? I'm not sure that we're given the actual time in days, but it seems like a couple of weeks, because everyone's given him up for dead except Ian and Eleanor - even Cam is set to undergo the ceremony to transfer the dukedom to him! And the boat people he's staying with - he's won them around to letting him be "in charge"!Yes, Hart needs a "comeuppance" to get over himself and his ambitions. Yes, Hart has taken on the world on behalf of his brothers. Yes, Hart needs to get a life and a heart. But this story just doesn't do Hart justice.As for Eleanor... well, it makes her seem naive in a wide-eyed way and almost not very intelligent. She's been holding on to both a grudge against Hart and an unrequited love for him - almost an obsession with her scrapbook. She's likeable, and while she doesn't back down from Hart, she doesn't come across with much dimension. We know that Ainsley and Isabella have been her friends for years; and while there's a spark of that fire Hart sees in her and a lot of compassion, Eleanor just doesn't make much of an impression.Admittedly, I devoured the book in one sitting. Perhaps if I re-read it slower, I'll be more satisfied. But I'm not so sure... has the author started churning out books so quickly that she's lost touch with her characters? I surely hope not!