Ian Mackenzie is awakened at Kilmorgan Castle one night to find robbers stealing the priceless art collection of his oldest brother, Hart. Since Ian and Beth are the only ones in resident at Kilmorgan at the moment, Ian decides he must find the art and the culprits before the family shows up for Hart’s birthday gathering. With Inspector Fellows and Beth, he investigates, though Ian is somewhat worried by Beth’s late husband’s brother, a retired missionary, who decides to visit. Does John Ackerley hold the “cure” to Ian’s madness? And can Ian discover what has happened to Hart’s treasures, and who is targeting the Mackenzies before the enemy strikes again?
Return to Kilmorgan Castle to visit the Victorian branch of the Mackenzie family, and catch up on the brothers and friends, their children, and their lives.
A Mackenzie Clan Gathering is an enjoyable story – a bit longer than a novella but shorter than a full-length novel, in which readers get to spend some time with Ian MacKenzie some ten years on from his first appearance in The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. He and Beth have been married for eleven years and have three children – a boy and two girls – and are staying at Kilmorgan Castle prior to the arrival of the rest of the clan for the celebration of Hart’s birthday.
Ian wakes up suddenly in the wee small hours one night and rushes downstairs where he discovers that thieves have broken in and are ransacking Hart’s priceless art collection. He can’t stop them alone however, especially if it means leaving his family unprotected, so instead he abandons the chase and brings his considerable and unique intellect to bear, mentally cataloguing the missing items, and inspecting the site of entry for clues.
He sends immediately for his half-brother, Chief Inspector Lloyd Fellows, as well as notifying his brothers, and when Lloyd arrives, they start to piece together the clues to see if they can work out what happened and how to recover the treasures. I enjoyed watching them work together, and seeing how far their relationship has come since their earliest encounters.
While this is happening, another visitor arrives at Kilmorgan, Beth’s late husband’s brother, John Ackerley, a former missionary. He is keen to meet Ian and tells him that he has learned of a possible cure for Ian’s “madness” – which as readers know is not madness at all, but rather a form of Autism or Asperger’s – yet Ian is so taken with the thought that he could be “normal” for his beloved Beth, that he agrees to the treatment Ackerley proposes, which is bound up with mesmerism and regression. There is a true poignancy in the way in which Ian, while thoroughly happy with his life, still doubts whether he is good enough for Beth and wonders whether she would prefer a husband she doesn’t have to change her life for, apologise for, be ashamed of…
The story is well-written and engaging, and while it’s not absolutely necessary to have read all the other books (I admit that I haven’t) it’s probably a good idea to have read at least the first in the series. Ian is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable and popular heroes in historical romance, and I certainly appreciated spending more time with him. I loved seeing how he has progressed over the years, that he has learned to respond in certain ways to certain situations, even though, given his condition, such responses will never make sense to him. For instance, he now knows that men like to shake hands, and that it would be churlish to refuse to do so – but he doesn’t really understand why they do it. Yet he is still recognisably Ian, sometimes prone to “muddles” when things get too much for him but otherwise brilliant, a devoted husband and father and, of course, a spectacular lover 😉 And the important thing that we readers know, and that Ian eventually remembers is that Beth loves him exactly as he is and wouldn’t want to change a thing about him.
A Mackenzie Clan Gathering is a gentle, entertaining read, and definitely one the fans will appreciate.