When he was only twenty, Cameron Mackenzie married an older woman with whom he'd fallen madly in love. However, she was only looking for the prestige of a union with a man who might be in line for a dukedom, and ended up abusing him, repeatedly cheating on him, and eventually committing suicide. Since she'd been alone in the room with Cam at the time, rumors have abounded ever since that he actually murdered her. After such a fraught marriage, Cam has no interest in repeating that experience, so he's instead found solace in training his horses and entertaining a never-ending parade of mistresses. Then one night, he discovers Ainsley Douglas lurking in his bedchamber for the second time. The first time, six years ago, he'd stolen a kiss he's never forgotten. This time, she says she's searching for letters that another woman is using to blackmail the queen. Cam agrees to help her find them, and as they work together, passion flares between them. He finds himself desperately wanting to make her his mistress. When she surprises him by agreeing, he finds he cares for her enough to offer marriage instead to avoid a scandal. But sharing passionate interludes with her is a far different thing than sharing a bed or his heart.
As a mere eighteen-year-old who'd barely come out, Ainsley Douglas married a man nearly three times her age, something that baffled her peers. Now a widow, she acts as a lady-in-waiting to the queen, who is being blackmailed by another attendant who stole illicit love letters from her and she has entrusted Ainsley to get them back. Ainsley has tracked them to a woman with whom Cameron Mackenzie is currently having an affair and thinks that she may have hidden them in Cam's bedroom. That's where Cam finds Ainsley in a very awkward position. The first time he discovered her in his room six years ago, she was trying to help a friend, but tricked Cam into believing that she was there for an assignation, which she couldn't go through with out of loyalty to her husband. She, too, never forgot his smoldering kiss. This time, though, she reveals enough of her situation to earn his help, which leads to her falling in love with him and agreeing to be his mistress. When he offers marriage instead, she's over the moon, but will he understand when he finds our about her own past, and will she be able to earn his trust after what he went through in his horrible first marriage?
The Many Sins of Lord Cameron is the third installment of Jennifer Ashley's Mackenizies & McBrides series. In this one, we have Cameron, the second-oldest Mackenzie brother. Just like his siblings, Cam is a tortured hero. Years ago, his wife went mad and attempted to kill their infant son, Daniel. When he tried to stop her, she slashed his face with a knife and then took her own life. Since they were alone in the room together, rumors have abounded ever since that he killed her. Cam has been living a colorless life ever since, with one of his few pleasures being the training of horses, something he's extremely good at. One night, while in attendance at his brother's house party, he discovers Ainsley hiding in his bedroom. She'd been there searching for a letter that another woman is using to blackmail the queen, and as one of the queen's trusted ladies-in-waiting, Ainsley was tasked with recovering it. Cam recalls another occasion six years earlier, when he found Ainsley in his room and very nearly had his way with her until she backed out of their passionate encounter. He's never really stopped thinking of her since, so he offers to help her recover the missives. As they work together, passion flares between them again, but after his disastrous marriage, he thinks that all he can offer Ainsley is a position as his mistress. Ainsley is sorely tempted by his offer, and eventually accepts, only to find Cam offering marriage after all to protect her from scandal. But even though they share a sensual fire, Ainsley will have her work cut out for her, convincing Cam to fully trust her with his heart.
At the young age of twenty, Cameron married a woman who was a little older than himself. He'd been starstruck by her and it wasn't until after the union that he discovered she was merely a gold-digger who wanted the prestige of marrying a second son who might have a chance at the dukedom if anything happened to his older brother. From the beginning, she repeatedly cheated on him with numerous other men. Then she found herself pregnant. Not wanting to be a mother, she made threats to rid herself of the child, and even after Daniel was born, she often tried to harm him. It was on one of these occasions that she finally took her own life. Since Daniel was just an infant and no one else witnessed the act besides Cam, he very nearly went to prison for murder, but his oldest brother, Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan, lied on his behalf to keep that from happening. However, virtually no one outside his family knows just how much abuse he took from his wife. Ever since, he's lived in a world devoid of color and light, trying his best to raise his son who seems to be constantly getting into one scrape or another and only finding joy in training horses, something that he seems to have been born for. He only takes mistresses for a short time, never long enough for them to start wanting more from him, and he never shares a bed with any of them, because he doesn't trust them.
Then along comes Ainsley. He'd briefly met her six years earlier, when he caught her in his bedroom after she stole a necklace he'd gifted to one of his mistresses. During that encounter, he kissed her, which led to a flare of passion between them, but one that she stopped out of loyalty to her husband. Now Cam finds her under similar circumstances, but this time, she's trying to recover a letter. At first, he thinks it's one that she wrote, but he eventually figures out she's doing it for the queen. Intrigued by Ainsley, he offers to help her, and the more time they spend together, the more he comes to desire her. He proposes that she become his mistress, and when she agrees, he springs a surprise marriage proposal on her. Cam never thought he'd marry again after the torture he endured the first time, but he cares for Ainsley enough to want to save her from scandal. However, he still has difficulty with fully letting her into his life, trusting her enough to share a bed with her, and that she won't betray him, all things that will take time and patience to heal.
Cam is a classic tortured hero who is very sympathetic, especially after the full extent of what his first wife put him through is revealed. It's no wonder he doesn't trust women and won't sleep next to one or even make love in a bed out of fear that he might fall asleep after. He's also not unlike his brothers who harbor that tortured genius vibe. In Cam's case, it's a singular focus on training horses, something that is lifeblood to him. It's like he can understand and read the horses in a way others can't, and he always treats the animals, both those he owns and those he trains for others, with the utmost gentleness like they're his babies. He didn't have a good father figure at all, in fact his father was quite abusive, which has only made Cam determined not to go down that same path. He's done his best to be a good father to Daniel, even though the boy sometimes runs a little wild. I deeply sympathized with his feeling of being dead inside and that the only things that bring a spark back to his life for him are his horses and the moment of climax during sex. He's gained a reputation as a lover who is free with his favors, but he never wanted to marry again until Ainsley came along. I love how he describes being with her as bringing color back into his life. And like with his two younger brothers, I'm so glad that he found the perfect person to help him heal from his abusive past.
Ainsley was just eighteen when she married a man nearly three times her age. Although she deeply respected him and is adamant that he was a kind and compassionate husband, not even her closest friends know exactly why she agreed to the match. Six years ago, thinking she was helping a woman who Cam had wronged, she broke into his room and took a necklace. Cam caught her and stole a passionate kiss that might have turned into more except that Ainsely was loyal to her husband who has since passed away. Now she's a lady-in-waiting to the queen who is being blackmailed by another lady who stole some of the queen's letters that could cause her embarrassment if they were to be made public. Ainsley has been sent to retrieve them by any means necessary, and believing that the blackmailer may have given them to Cam for safekeeping, she once again breaks into his bedroom, where he again catches her. Her actions unintentionally draw Cam into her intrigue, and she's surprised when he eventually offers to help. He also steals several more kisses that leave Ainsley breathless and when he proposes that she become his paramour, she's deeply tempted. She knows it would cause a great scandal, which is something she doesn't want for her family's sake, but at the same time, she knows she deserves happiness after all that she's been through. Unable to resist, she finally agrees, only to be further shocked when Cam proposes marriage to save her reputation. But while he freely gives her his body, he refuses to share his bed or his heart, leaving Ainsley trying to ferret out the truth of what happened to him all those years ago, and searching for a way to help him heal.
There are lots of supporting characters in The Many Sins of Lord Cameron who have their own books in the series. Of course, the younger Mackenzies, Ian and Beth (The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie) and Mac and Isabella (Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage) play roles, as both couples eagerly await the upcoming births of their second children. Cam's older brother, Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan, has intrigued me since the beginning. We get to meet Eleanor, the one who got away. She happens to be friends with Ainsley and someone I also find interesting. We still don't know exactly what happened between them years ago to break them apart, but I look forward to finding out and seeing them reunite in the next book, The Duke's Perfect Wife. Cam's sixteen-year-old son, Daniel, is a prominent player as well. He can often get into some scrapes but underneath it all, he's a good kid who's looking out for his dad's best interests and wants to see him happy. I look forward to seeing him as the hero of book #6, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie. Ainsley is a McBride of the series title and she has four older brothers. We only get to see the oldest, Patrick, who already appears to be happily married, but her other brothers Elliot (The Seduction of Elliot McBride), Steven (Scandal and the Duchess), and Sinclair (Rules for a Proper Governess) are all mentioned. I found Elliot to be particularly intriguing so I definitely look forward to his book. Last but not least, we see Ian and Beth's son, Jamie, as an infant, and he will grow up to become the hero of book #12, The Sinful Ways of Jamie Mackenzie.
Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better read from The Many Sins of Lord Cameron. The characterizations were deep and beautifully rendered. Cam is a very sympathetic hero who, between an abusive father and an abusive wife, has been through hell. He's just simply trying to find some moments of brightness in his colorless world, and Ainsley lightens up his life in unexpected ways. Ainsley falls head-over-heels for Cam and just wants to help him find wholeness again. I like that she can, not only go toe-to-toe with Cam, but also stands up to the queen when the monarch is having a moment of high-handedness and that she won't allow the queen, or anyone else, to spoil the beautiful life she's trying to build with Cam. Just like the couples who preceded them in the series, Cam and Ainsley fit together perfectly. Their love scenes are steamy, pouring out all the passion and emotion they feel for one another. I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely and emotional story that makes me eagerly look forward to continuing the series soon.
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