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

The Duke's Perfect Wife (Highland Pleasures, #4) - Jennifer Ashley 4+ stars. Read it in one sitting. An awesome book up until it fizzled out for me in the last 40 pages or so. I really enjoyed watching the characters and their interactions. I think I liked this one the best of all of the brothers' books.

The story, briefly.
Two strong personalities, a decade-ago engagement broken by the furious heroine, and a hero who wants her back by (almost) any means necessary. Mix in the means by which he can lure her into his snare (risque photographs of him that have shown up on her doorstep) and a threat to his life. Stir liberally and watch the fireworks fly.

I didn't really like the way the story climaxed, but the epilogue was a sweet ending to the four brothers' stories. Specifically, I think we needed a clearer reason for why Hart stayed away for so damn long. It looked like at least weeks or even months had passed before he even let Eleanor know he was still alive. That seemed very thoughtless to me.

The characters.
Hart was totally no-nonsense and my-way-or-the-highway with everyone, but his one weakness was Lady Eleanor Ramsay, the woman who had once told him "no." He had a lot of flaws, but they were compelling and usually stemmed from his desire to orchestrate others' lives for what he thought was the betterment of them. He saw no need to explain himself, which personally would have irked me, but which made sense for the character.

Eleanor's strength clashed with Hart's desire to have things his way. She was bold without being brassy, and Hart loved that she never feared him or backed down from him. Eleanor wasn't afraid to stand up to him. She was also thoughtful, well-liked, and she slipped into the Mackenzie family like she was meant to be there. I liked that she and Hart had a history, and she knew all of his secrets.

I had a quibble throughout the story that we don't know exactly how old the characters are. Based on random snippets of information, I had a vague and general idea. However, I never found out exactly how old they were, and that kind of bothered me. For those who are also OCD about this, take note that my calculations suggest Eleanor is ~33-34 years old, and Hart is ~40-41 years old.

The secondary characters were great to watch, too. All of the brothers and their wives appear here, along with their respective children. I enjoyed seeing their interactions and revisiting their character foibles. Fans of Ian take note - he was in this book a lot.

Romance & sexytimes.
The romance was unconventional. There wasn't much by way of courtship rituals or anything, but given their history, that wouldn't really have been appropriate. I liked seeing the flashbacks to their earlier courtship. In this story, though, the romance came more by way of their proximity to each other after Hart maneuvers it so that Eleanor will be living under his roof.

The sexytimes. *fans self* Smooookin' hottt. If you've been reading the previous books, you'll know that Hart's unusual/darker sexual proclivities first came to light in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. Well, he'd put a rein on those needs in the last couple of years, but they flared to life again when he was near Eleanor. He struggled with himself over these desires and didn't want to "taint" his relationship with Eleanor. When it became clear that Eleanor was a strong and passionate woman in all respects...including wanting to know and explore Hart's darker urges...things got really spicy. Hart's dominance and Eleanor's assertiveness - and the back and forth between the two - were really fantastic.

I loved this book until the last two or three chapters, which felt drawn out and inadequately explained in my opinion. The sexytimes are seriously caliente, and the characters were interesting and fun to watch. I'm not sure if I want to read more of this series because, with the really sweet epilogue here, it feels like the series is complete now that the four brothers have found their HEAs.