The Duke's Perfect Wife

By: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Mackenzies & McBrides

Book Number: 4

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Hart Mackenzie, the Duke of Kilmorgan, is a powerful and wealthy man with a reputation as a legendary lover. Many women desire him, but only Eleanor Ramsay ever genuinely captured his heart. He let her get away, though, and didn't realize how much he loved her until it was too late. Over the years since, Hart has sacrificed much to protect and care for his younger brothers, first keeping them safe from their abusive father and then ensuring their happiness. Now that they're all settled with wives and families of their own, Hart has been contemplating marriage for himself and the only person he can imagine proposing to is Eleanor. Before he can make plans to travel to see her, she shows up on his doorstep bearing scandalous nude photos of him and making him a proposition he can't refuse. Being near her again, reignites all the passionate emotions Hart once felt for her. However, he still has strong political ambitions that include becoming Prime Minister, an aspiration that could lead to him or someone he cares about being harmed by his enemies, and he also fears that revealing his darker proclivities to Eleanor could drive her away.

Lady Eleanor Ramsay fell hard for Hart when she'd barely come out and even succumbed to his passionate seduction. But when Hart's mistress paid her a visit, Eleanor became concerned with the casual cruelty with which he appeared to treat the other woman and feared that he might someday turn on her as well. She broke off their engagement and retired to the country to play assistant to her eccentric scientist father, where they've lived in genteel poverty ever since. When a mysterious person begins sending her nude photos of Hart, she worries that someone might be out to destroy his political career. Even though things ended with Hart, Eleanor still cares about him and doesn't want to see him hurt, so she goes to him with a proposal that he hire her to investigate who is sending the photos in exchange for a small salary that will help her and her father survive. Hart not only hires her but insists that they stay with him until the culprit is found. Soon all the feelings she had for him resurface and she begins to wonder if they might rekindle what they once had. But Hart's political enemies may not allow them to find out.


The Duke's Perfect Wife is the fourth book in Jennifer Ashley's Mackenzies & McBrides series. This one features the eldest Mackenzie brother, Hart, the Duke of Kilmorgan. A decade ago, he was betrothed to Eleanor, but she ended it after his mistress came calling. Hart has never forgotten Eleanor and never found anyone who was more perfect for him than her. Lately Hart has been considering marriage again and had intentions of seeking out Eleanor to see if she would forgive him and allow him back into her life, but then she shows up on his doorstep with a proposition. Someone sent her nude photos of Hart that could be damaging to his political career if they were made public, so she wants him to hire her to investigate the source of the pictures. She still cares for him and doesn't want to see him hurt, but living in the same house with him as she works on this problem reignites all her feelings for him. As they grow closer once more, neither of them can see a future without the other, so they again reach an agreement to marry. However, Hart is still consumed by his political ambitions and recently he cast a vote in Parliament that has angered Irish activists who appear to be out for blood, which could lead to Hart or Eleanor or someone close to them getting hurt or even killed. Not to mention, Hart is reluctant to reveal his darker passions to Eleanor for fear that she might see him differently.

Each of the MacKenzie brothers is a tortured genius in their own right, and Hart's talent is an aptitude for political maneuvering. What makes him so good at it, though, is his ability to anticipate other's needs and a strong desire to fulfill them, which has also made him a legendary lover. Eleanor was once his fiancee and the only woman he was ever truly able to be himself with. She knows far more of his secrets than anyone else in his life, including his brothers. Although that ended badly, they still remained friends of a sort. Hart married another woman and they had a son, but she died in childbirth and their son followed just days later. Hart's long-time mistress who blew up his relationship with Eleanor also died two years earlier after betraying him in additional ways, so he's remained celibate since even though he harbors what he thinks of as dark sexual inclinations. Years ago, he also killed his own bastard of a father to stop him from killing his beloved brother, Ian, so given all the tragedy in his life, he's a rather tortured soul. When Eleanor shows up at his door with the nude photos, asking for a job finding the person who sent them to her, he readily agrees in order to keep her close. He hopes that by doing so, he can win her back since she's the only woman he can see himself married to. Meanwhile, Hart is trying to maneuver Parliament into casting a vote of no confidence for the current Prime Minister, so that Hart can fulfill his own ambitions of leading the nation, which includes independent rule for Scotland. However, in order to drum up the votes he needed, he had to vote against a bill that would have granted independent rule for Ireland even though he supports it, which has pissed off violent Irish activists who come after him and those he loves, putting everyone in danger.

Hart is definitely an alpha male who likes to be in charge and can sometimes be a bit stubborn. Over the years, he's sacrificed a lot for his brothers, so now that they're all settled with wives and families of their own, it's Hart's turn at an HEA. The only woman he wants is Eleanor who knows almost everything about him. The only thing he won't tell her at first is what kind of sexual games he liked to play with his mistress, believing it would somehow taint her. Hart loves having Eleanor near and takes advantage of every moment he can to let her know that he still wants her. In turn, she's like a balm to his weary soul. His moments of vulnerability where he begs her to stay with him and tells her how much he needs her hit me right in the heart. Hart has grown a lot in the decade since he and Eleanor were first engaged, and he goes through even more growth throughout the story, ending by making some profound decisions about his future.

Eleanor fell head-over-heels for Hart in her youth and even succumbed to his seductions more than once during their engagement, matching his passion with a fire of her own. Then her heart was broken when his mistress visited her. Being a practical woman who knew that men often kept mistresses, she wasn't so much jealous as she was concerned at the seeming casual cruelty with which Hart appeared to treat the other woman, worrying that someday he might turn on her, too. She ended the engagement, but never stopped caring about Hart. Through the years, she's kept abreast of his achievements, while retiring into spinsterhood as her eccentric scientist father's assistant. However, despite her father being an earl, they've fallen into genteel poverty. When Eleanor receives the nude photos of Hart, she comes up with the plan to ask him for a job investigating them, since she knows no one else can know about them and she also desperately needs the money. After he agrees, she and her father immediately move into his mansion where she ostensibly works for his secretary as a typist, while covertly searching for clues about the photos. Eleanor and Hart grow closer and closer until she can no longer resist his overtures anymore and finds all her old feelings for him resurfacing. But his political enemies could ruin their chance at happiness. Eleanor can be rather stubborn, too, never letting Hart fully get the upper hand. He never frightens her like he does other people even when he's fuming and storming around. I deeply admired her for how she completely accepts Hart for who he is and has fully earned his trust in return. I like that she never judges him for posing for the photos, instead enjoying studying them and wanting to take some of her own. She matches him passion for passion and is never afraid of that side of him, believing that he would never harm her. All of her qualities simply fit with Hart's perfectly.

The Mackenzies & McBrides is a pretty long-running series, so there are lots of supporting characters that we either get to revisit or who will get their own books later. Given that Hart has always been closest to his youngest brother, Ian, he and Beth (The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie) and their children are pretty front and center. I adore Ian so this made me very happy.:-) Mac and Isabella (Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage) are having their house redecorated so their rambunctious family is temporarily living with Hart, while Isabella acts as his hostess for society functions. Cameron and Ainsley (The Many Sins of Lord Cameron) aren't seen as much, but they do show up at Kilmorgan when everyone goes there later in the story. Ainsley's brother, Elliot (The Seduction Of Elliot McBride) is briefly seen at Kilmorgan, too. Cam's grown son, Daniel (The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie) visits with the family and leaves university to help when there's a need. Inspector Lloyd Fellows and Isabella's sister, Louisa (The Untamed MacKenzie) share a moment, while Fellows heads up the investigation into who is trying to do Hart and his family harm. Hart's political right-hand man, David Fleming (A Rogue Meets a Scandalous Lady) whips up votes for him in Parliament. Last but not least, through an old family portrait, we're let in on a little of the history of how Hart's ancestor, Malcolm (The Stolen Mackenzie Bride) apparently enjoyed a whirlwind romance of his own with the love of his life, Mary, nearly 150 years ago.

The Duke's Perfect Wife was yet another winner for me in this series that has definitely become a favorite. Hart is a tortured soul who finds love and healing in the arms of the woman who got away, but who he's never stopped loving. Eleanor is indeed his perfect match, a compassionate woman who gives generously of herself to Hart and understands him in ways no one else does. The two just fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, complementing each other superbly. I enjoyed seeing them reconnect after so many years apart. Their vulnerability with each other, especially Hart's, was touching. I like the way in which they tease and seduce each other. There's a beautiful level of trust and intimacy in their relationship, with them never really questioning the other's loyalty. Hart is clearly a different man than he was when they first met, and Eleanor inspires him to become an even better one. Hart's political life was nicely done, giving enough historical background on what was happening at the time to be interesting without being pedantic. The danger from the Irish separatists was woven in well, too, giving readers some suspenseful moments. The question of who was sending the photos added a touch of mystery and I have to admit that I was very pleased with how that turned out. If the book had any weakness, it might have been in the teasing of Hart's kinky proclivities that barely surfaced. We finally get a touch of it at the very end in the form of a little light bondage with some subtext that more occurs behind the scenes later on. I realize, however, that this was meant to be a steamy mainstream romance and not an erotic one, so I wasn't bothered by it enough to mark the rating down. Overall, this was a great read that has simply whetted my appetite for even more of the MacKenzie family.


Jennifer Ashley


Light Mystery
Reunion Stories
Tortured Heroes