Jennifer Ashley teases her next story in her books, and so in the last book she mentioned the title characters for this one. The McKenzie's oldest Hart, Duke of Killmorgen, and Elenor are the central characters of this story.
They had been an item before, but Harts arrogant desire for control, and inability to be honest, ended up causing her to push him away, he never really got over her and spent years trying to move on from having lost her. After Ian, the mad Ian McKezie, sets up a scheme to bring them together, they team up to uncover a "blackmail attempt" on Hart, who is going for the office of prime minister, and their love re ignites.
The story itself hinges upon honesty, control, and intimacy. There are also the repeating theme of inheriting the traits of their father, and. how truth liberates them from such a destiny.
In all the four cases for the McKenzie brothers, there's an underlying fear that they will turn as their father, or at least embody one of his character traits, and it is always through their daring to push past the fear, with the help of their objects of devotion in the shape of their wives, that they realize that their fears were real, but unfounded, that is, they weren't reality.
And that's an interesting idea I think, our fears, whatever they may be are real. We really feel how we feel, but their reality is another question entirely. And I think it's something to navigate carefully, the real vs reality of our feelings, it doesn't have to be a fear, it could also be an illusion, infatuation, jealousy, excitement.
We may feel a certain way, positive or negative, and that ought to be acknowledge if we hope to face it, but it may not correspond to reality. And it takes a lot of will power to get to that point. All of the McKenzies had to undergo that very transformation.
In Hart's case, it was very clearly depicted as a descent into hell, almost quite literally. After an attempt on his life tears a whole in the ground beneath him, he falls into a dark pit of the sewers of London. He had to face himself there, he had to face his father, he had to face an existence with none of the power of one looking to become prime minister.
As in some of the shamanic visions described elsewhere, he was quite literally stripped to the bone, no power or influence, no riches, not even his sight was there to help him out. He was alone against himself, surrounded by filth, with only one saving grace.. honesty, in the same of his brother Ian, more on that later.
That was quite an effective way to depict what life throws at us sometimes, these disintegrative proceses that have the power to level our lives, where we realize there's nothing we can do to stop the onslaught of events, no matter how much we want to, or how unfair it may seem.
For Hart, it was the realization of the world carrying on spinning despite his absence. Destiny force his had to let loose of the reins that he constantly held on anything he had influence over.
And how many of us have that tendency, maybe self important tendency, to believe that without us the world would cease to exist, or maybe not the world, but... life. Or that without our controlling designs on events, things would fall apart.
Now, the need for control in Hart, as in most of us I daresay, comes from a wound that taught him that without it, the uncertainty of life would be too overwhelming. He had placed upon his shoulders the task of protecting not only his family, but his business, his estate, his country and the world if he could have.
As explained elsewhere, these drives for control and manipulation, may come from an unfair wound, and hurt and trauma, but if left unchecked, it'll simply turn us into whatever caused us such pain. Ironically, giving up our agency to choose, in the name of wanting to feel like we can choose over everything.
Now Ian, has one of the most interesting roles in his brother's stories. He represents honesty, truth even. He's appeared in all their stories to encourage them to bare themselves to their love interest, as the only way to create a real opportunity. Ian was the only one that was down there with Hart, and that's an interesting idea, it's as if, the only thing you may carry in your disintegration processes, or the only thing that will help you, is truth.
After Hart is found, he finally relaxes the control he taught he had on the word and his life, he bares himself to his wife Elenor, and he discovers something else. Once he let go of the attempt to control everything, he became a whole being and was accepted by his wife as the whole person that he was, not as the bright creature he portrayed.
Not as the split persons that he kept at bay form one another, the controlling cold powerful man on the one hand, and the passionate, playful and kind man on the other, never touching. After his descent into hell, he came back resembled as someone who had integrated the betters aspects of both, and built himself anew.
Elenor, was always his catalyst for change, her personality is quite lovely, always curious as the daughter of a scholar, inquisitive and daring. Someone unafraid of Hart, someone who had the way to make both of his personalities mix and merge. Someone who was able to care for him, in a way only she could.
Having access to both sides of Hart, Elenor was able to care of him by not letting him forget who he actually was. And sometimes that's all care is, not an affectionate protective act, although there was some of that for sure in their story, but a reminder of who the other is.
And this was lovely shown when Hart finally admitted to Elenor, that he wasn't able to face his monsters without her, specially his father, she reminded him that his fears were real, but not a reality, and that was enough for him to anchor himself in that reality and push through those fears.