The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Daniel Mackenzie is one of the infamous Mackenzie's and has all the charm of his uncles and father and a lightness of spirit that escaped them. He enjoys creating inventions, and is especially fond of crafting a brand new car that would beat any of the German models. He knows immediately that Ms. Bastien, a renowned medium's assistance, is a fraud but instead of exposing her he is more interested in the contraptions she uses to make all the "spirit" sounds she uses to fool everyone. Violet is terrified that Daniel will expose her secrets, but even more scared when he kisses her and it brings back haunting memories of her childhood. In terror, she bashes him over the head and, believing him dead, she abandons him at a hospital. Daniel is, of course, not dead and while he is upset he is eve more intrigued by the beautiful young woman who hit him over the head and has a remarkable ability to make useful inventions. He follows her to Paris where Violet is shocked to find the man she believed she had killed, alive and well. Daniel takes an interest in Violet and her mother, especially when he learns that Violet is basically her mother's caregiver and believes her mother is taking advantage of her.
When one of her mother's clients attempts to assault Violet and she escapes, he decides to press charges and she is arrested. Daniel and his well connected family manage to get her out of prison but he decides that since he has such a vested interest in her welfare that she will accompany him in England. Her mother moves into the Mackenzie mansion and Violet finds herself far too close to the handsome Daniel. But even Daniel is not prepared when Violet confides in him details of her abusive and violent childhood and while she expects him to turn away in disgust, he instead appoints himself her protector and her avenger and dedicates himself to proving her capable of having a real relationship based on respect and love. When a villain from Violet's past resurfaces to cause trouble, the entire Mackenzie clan is there to defend their newest family member and Violet realizes that she truly wants nothing more than to find her happily ever after with Daniel.
I like that this story switched around the roles of the stereotypical roles of heroines and heroes as Violet was the one who was more broody about her past and Daniel had come to accept his own past and had made peace with his relationship with his father. I did like Violet because she was incredibly brave and I liked that she was a conundrum as she was fearless and independent but also cared so much about her mother that she sacrificed herself. Reading about a survivor of rape is always wrenching and Ashley does a deft job of adequately portraying the hurt, the betrayal, the hope, and spirit that accompanies such a violent act and the feelings that come later in the future. I liked that Daniel cared so much for Violet, but I felt like I was supposed to have lots of lingering feelings for Daniel as a holdover from his appearances in other books in the series, and indeed it often seems like the Mackenzie love builds on itself instead of being really expressed in the book.
Violet and Daniel worked incredibly well together and I really enjoyed that they had so many interests in common and that they each encouraged the other's pursuits and helped each other improve and work on their inventions. I liked that they enjoyed spending time together and that a majority of the book was spent with them in the company of each other and in a wide array of activities. There was some sex between them, but given her history, it was more about the emotional aspect of the sex and helping Violet overcome her fears. It was still better than a lot of romances I have been reading and I liked that they did not make her completely sexless just because she had been raped. Daniel and Violet's relationships with their families played an incredibly important part, but while I was interested in Violet's codependence with her mother it was dropped from the book far too quickly. The Mackenzies, who I have enjoyed in the past, and continued to be well done side characters who don't take over the story.
Rating: An interesting book, but despite everything, it still managed to be a little bland with nothing super exciting to keep more interested.