Devil in Tartan
In Devil in Tartan, Julia London’s most recent installment in her Highland Grooms series, Lottie Livingstone finds herself in a pickle. Aulay Mackenzie’s ship is the solution to that pickle, and over the course of a few hundred pages, Lottie goes from maiden daughter to whisky smuggler to pirate to lover to wife in a journey she clearly never imagined. This book is high on swashbuckling and tepid on romance, but anyone who loves a good action/adventure story with kilts and brogues will enjoy themselves just fine.
The fate of Lottie’s small island off the coast of Scotland rests on her shoulders and all of her plans so far have come to naught. She decides to take her clan to the seas as whisky smugglers, but even that goes sideways and she’s forced to commandeer a rival ship to keep the plan afloat (pun intended). The rival ship belongs to Aulay Mackenzie, and he essentially becomes her captive. The book cover summary tells us he “burns with desire to seize control” of both the ship and Lottie herself, which is not something I really saw on the page, but that’s neither here nor there. When the stakes get higher for both of them, Aulay is forced to choose between getting his ship back and building a life with Lottie.
I have enjoyed a number of Ms. London’s books, but haven’t dipped my toe into any from this series and I wonder if that was an error. This book is full of other characters I struggled to keep track of that could well have appeared in other books, but without the foreknowledge I found myself often lost. Combine that with a heroine I found to be meh, a lukewarm romance, and the fact that I never really got into the suspense of the action, and you’ve got a book that isn’t the most compelling of recent memory.