Thursday, 6 March 2014

Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

Mackenzie's Mountain (1988) (Harlequin)
Linda Howard
Grade: A+
Genre: romantic suspense
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own 
Mackenzie Family: (1) Mackenzie's Mountain 

Mary Elizabeth Potter is the new schoolteacher in the tiny town of Ruth, Wyoming and damn good at her job. When she discovers that the school’s brightest pupil dropped out a month before she arrived, she’s determined to find out why and get Joe Mackenzie’s able mind back in the classroom. Blissfully ignorant of the town’s prejudices surrounding the Mackenzie’s Indian heritage and Wolf Mackenzie’s cleared – but no less forgotten – criminal record, Mary marches up the mountain to their home, completely unprepared for what she’s about to find.

Wolf Mackenzie is well aware of his reputation in Ruth and he’s not about to let the sweet and innocent new schoolteacher get burned by association. Men might trust him to breed and train their horses but he’s otherwise a pariah and the life suits him and his sixteen-year-old son Joe just fine. When Mary discovers Joe’s obsession with planes, she’s determined not to let his heritage stop him from pursuing a career in the Naval Academy, or to let others use his heritage against him.

It doesn’t take much persuasion for Joe to be back studying with nightly private tuition from Mary. Given the size of Ruth, it’s not long before the whole town knows that Joe’s truck is parked outside Mary’s house for several hours every night and for speculation and nasty rumours start their poisonous journey. While the town grudgingly accepts Joe’s extra classes once they find out that he’s aiming for the Air Force Academy, there are others who are hostile about Mary’s association with the Mackenzie’s and are determined to harm her and anyone else who has a good word to say about them …

Mackenzie’s Mountain is another thrilling read and an example of Linda Howard at her best. I originally devoured library copies of the Mackenzie Family series in late 2010-early 2011 and haven’t been able to find copies to call my own until now. Unfortunately, too many of Ms Howard’s earlier (and some of her best) novels are out of print and so it was only a coincidental search on eBay that landed me books 1 – 4. I’ve already read/skim-read them all and if that isn’t an indicator of my love (read: obsession) with this family, then I’m not sure what is.

Mary Potter was born to teach and considers it her sworn duty to help every one of her students surpass their full potential. But however much she knows, nothing prepares her for dealing with Wolf Mackenzie. Until recently, she lived with her Aunt Ardith, a spinster who was a stickler for propriety. As a result, she knows nothing of men – except that Wolf Mackenzie stokes fires in her where she didn’t know fires could be stoked. Like other Howard heroines, Mary knows her own mind and despite her diminutive stature, is perfectly able to stand her ground in a confrontation. She’s determined to change the entire town’s mind about the Mackenzie’s and she won’t let Wolf stand in her way. I love the example she sets, her fearlessness and commitment to doing what’s right, even in a society where discrimination runs deep.

Joe wants to fly more than he wants to breathe. He’s got the brains and determination to fly high – both literally and in his future career. Mary doesn’t see the colour of his skin when she looks at him and that small difference means the world to him when others have been using his heritage against him his entire life. He has a strange relationship with Wolf – more like brothers than father and son and they make a formidable pair. Even at sixteen years old, you can already see hints of the man he will become and it’s almost haunting that someone so young is so mature for his years. Joe gets his own story in Mackenzie’s Mission, almost twenty years later and it’s similarly a wonderful read.

You kind of have to mentally prepare yourself for this series because the heroes are so devastatingly alpha that too many Mackenzie’s in a short period of time sends your system into overload. Boy, do I wish that they were a real family – though choosing between my favourite would be absolute torture. They’re smart, sexy, funny and have fantastic genes, and to the joy of the romance community, have an overwhelming tendency to produce sons,.

Mackenzie’s Mountain is one of Linda Howard’s must-reads; she just doesn’t write heroes like this anymore. Sure, they’re still super-skilled in bed, have amazing bodies and an array of alpha qualities, but the heroes in her older books are thrillingly primitive in a manner that has gone out of fashion, for lack of a better phrase. Similarly, her heroines are still just as adept in handling the hero and so I think part of my love for her older books stems from the older settings. It’s the 1990s and so women as a gender are much less empowered by feminist and equality ideals compared to their contemporary counterparts. In these societies, men are still very much the breadwinners while the women stay and look after the home and so Ms Howard’s forward-thinking and confident heroines are revolutionaries in their independence. It’s old-fashioned in a way that’s not generally seen as old-fashioned and I just love the whole package. I need to read more of Linda Howard's older novels and you should try them too - starting with Mackenzie's Mountain.

Image courtesy of Wordery.

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