From Chapter 2 of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley:
At the beginning of Chapter Two, Ian takes Beth into the Mackenzie box at the theatre. Picking up mid-scene...
The man sitting next to her couldn’t be called good by any stretch of the imagination. He and his brothers had terrible reputations. Even Beth, sheltered by Mrs. Barrington for the last nine years, knew that.
There were whispers of sordid affairs and stories of the scandalous separation of Lord Mac Mackenzie from his wife, Lady Isabella. There had also been rumors five years ago about the Mackenzies’ involvement in the death of a courtesan, but Beth couldn’t remember the details. The case had gained the attention of Scotland Yard, and all four brothers had removed themselves from the country for a time.
No, the Mackenzies were by no means considered "good" men. Then why should a man like Lord Ian Mackenzie bother to warn nobody Beth Ackerley that she was about to marry an adulterer?
“You could always marry me,” Lord Ian said abruptly.
Beth blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“I said, you could marry me. I don’t give a damn about your fortune.”
“My lord, why on earth should you ask me to marry you?”
“Because you have beautiful eyes.”
“How do you know? You’ve not once looked at them.”
Her breath hurt, and she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. “Do you do this often? Warn a young lady about her fiancé, then turn about and offer to marry her yourself? Obviously the tactic hasn’t worked, or you’d have a string of wives dogging your footsteps.”
Ian looked away slightly, his hand coming up to massage his temple, as though he had a headache coming on. He was a madman, she reminded herself. Or at least, he’d grown up in an asylum for madmen. So why did she not fear to sit here alone with him, when no one in the world knew where she was?
Perhaps because she’d seen lunatics in Thomas’s charity work in the East End, kept by families who could barely manage them. Poor souls, they’d been, some of them kept roped to their beds. Lord Ian was a long way from being a poor soul.
She cleared her throat. “It is very kind of you, my lord.”
Ian’s hand closed to a tight fist on the arm of his chair. “If I marry you, Mather can’t touch you.”
“If I married you it would be the scandal of the century.”
“You would survive it.”
Beth stared at the soprano on the stage, suddenly remembering that gossip painted the large-bosomed lady as a paramour of Lord Cameron Mackenzie, another of Ian’s older brothers. “If anyone has seen me dive in here with you, my reputation is already ruined.”
“Then you will have nothing to lose.”
# # #
More from Joy and Jennifer to come. Comment on any of these excerpts to enter our drawing for free backlist books!!