Devil in Tartan by Julia London (Highland Grooms #4)
Releases February 20, 2018
Reviewed by Mandi
I won’t lie – I received a print arc of this in the mail, took one look at our hero’s luscious locks, and did a little snort laugh….and decided to give it a try. I was really hoping the heroine would play with his hair, or braid it or something but we don’t get much hair play. We do get a cute story about a woman desperate to save her clan by selling illegal alcohol, and a man whose ship gets taken…by this woman.
Lottie, the spirited daughter of the chief, and her fellow Scotsmen need to make enough money to pay their rents, and they are woefully short. They have been making whiskey on the down-low, and need to sell it to make a profit but the higher-ups in Scotland are on to them, so that rules out local sales. They hear of a trade company in Denmark that they think they could deal with, so they set sail with their whiskey hidden below deck to hopefully make money to save their clan. But shortly after they embark, they get hit by fire from another ship. Confused as to who it is, chaos erupts, and their ship starts to sink. Using quick wit Lottie and her crew appear dumb and pretend to have no sailing skills (actually they really don’t) and another ship comes over to help them.
Aulay Mackenzie wants to make his family proud by reestablishing the family’s trade business. He finds an Englishman who needs a ship to trade his goods, And Aulay offers to move the goods for him, for a fee. His family is wary, but Aulay knows he belongs on the water and this is the perfect way to make some money. When him and his crew see the rag-tag bunch of sailors slowly sinking in the ocean, they decide to help them – since they all look so innocent. But once Lottie and her crew get on his boat, they knock out Aulay cold and take over the entire ship. They have become pirates! Desperate ones at that. They move their whiskey onto Aulay’s ship, tie up all of them, and set sail to Denmark. The only problem is that they really aren’t that good at sailing. Lottie’s father was severely injured during the initial shooting, which puts even more stress on Lottie. Aulay is so angry when he wakes up, Lottie better watch out.
A lot of this book takes place on a ship and I think the author does a nice job with being at sea. We have Aulay and his experienced crew, overtaken by Lottie and her crew who really don’t know what they are doing. It’s silly but it worked since the tone of this book isn’t all that serious. There are some serious things that happen (Lottie’s father is gravely injured) but a lot of the time Aulay is fuming that Lottie has him and his crew tied up – as Lottie is doing her best to pretend to know what she is doing. Aulay and Lottie both want the same thing – to make money for their family so they have safety and security. Unfortunately, they work against each other to obtain their individual goals.
Aulay swears Lottie will hang for her pirate ways but Lottie is so busy trying to keep her new ship upright, she couldn’t care less about future consequences. And even though Aulay is held captive, he still can’t help but be a gentleman:
“Watching you shiver like a wee waif makes it feel bloody well cold in here. Take it.”
“That’s kind of you,” she said.
“’Tis no’ the least bit kind. I shall have you in good health so that I might see you hanged.”
The color in her cheeks darkened. “Hanged! I told you we’d return the ship to you! Think of it as borrowing—”
“Save your breath for your judge, lass.”
“Och,” she said with a flick of her wrist. “Your pride’s been wounded, that it has, and you’re angry now.” She took his coat from the wall and put it around her shoulders.
“Thank you,” she muttered.
Aulay’s ire increases even more when he starts to realize his crew is falling for Lottie’s charm and wit. Being in such close quarters allows time for Aulay and Lottie to get to know one another a little better. Aulay’s frustration remains, but he starts to enjoy her company. Eventually he helps her sell her whiskey, which turns into more drama before all of them make it back to Scotland.
And she does notice the hair!
She thought of his hair, streaked blond by the sun, wild about his shoulders, having come free of its queue. She thought of the dark beginnings of his beard that framed a sensual mouth, even with his lips pressed together in an unforgiving line. She thought of the way he looked at her as if he meant to put her on a spit and roast her. Was it a sign of depravity that she wanted to be roasted by him? In spite of extraordinary and challenging circumstances, the thought caused her to shiver with a mix of thrill and fear.
I wish the romance had been a little more romancy. There are sexy kisses and times when Lottie would touch Aulay or flirt with him. But the drama on the boat overshadows the romance some.
Otherwise a cute story – the first I’ve read from Julia London in a while.