This month’s TBR Challenge category was contemporary romance, but I settled for a historical romance that has a rather contemporary feel about it. I’m sure that bothers some readers, but not me. I enjoy historical romances that tackle questions that some might think of as “contemporary,” but are really more timeless than that. Such is the case here, because Lord Ian Mackenzie has an autism disorder. Not that you’d call it that in 1881, when the book is set, but the author is careful to explain Ian’s different behavior and view of the world, both from his point of view and other characters’, that it’s pretty recognizable to a modern reader. The book endorses a modern view of his disorder as well. Characters who treat him as “mad” or as less competent are unsympathetic and are proven wrong. Characters who love and respect him are validated in that choice, and characters who appreciate his special skills and abilities are rewarded.
This book caused a lot of talk when it was first released, and I have no good excuse for waiting two years to read it. It was thought-provoking, in addition to having engaging characters and a relatively involving mystery plot. I like the secondary character Isabella, Ian’s sister-in-law, especially, and I’m glad I have her book already in my TBR.
The real strength of this book, to my mind, was the way the heroine, Beth, learned to deal with Ian and to love him and value him as he is, not to see him as deficient or pitiful. Ian latches onto her because she calms him, and he’s honest with her that he believes himself incapable of love. I’ve heard that from quite a few romance heroes, but in this case it could quite literally be true; Ian doesn’t understand a lot of “normal” human emotion, and the complexity of romantic love may well be beyond him. Watching these two characters work through to a romantic happy ending was very satisfying; there are plenty of external obstacles for them to overcome, but it’s their victory over internal obstacles that really made the book rise above the general run of historical romance mysteries. I’m delighted that Berkeley has picked up this series and, in addition to releasing the sequels, is re-releasing this book with a new cover later this summer.