Kilts and Daggers
Kilts and Daggers by Victoria Roberts is the second book in the author’s Highland Spies series, and although not by any means a terrible book, it lacks substance and that je ne sais quoi that makes for a truly memorable read.
Lady Grace Walsingham is attending her elder sister’s wedding to a Scottish laird, but really doesn’t understand her sibling’s decision to leave the civilisation of England for the wild, untamed highlands of Scotland. The weather is dreadful, the food is horrible, the language is impenetrable and the men are too large and unsophisticated – in short the place has nothing to recommend it, and she can’t wait to get back to England, where she will marry her handsome, refined betrothed.
Our hero is Fagan Murray, captain of the guard, and he and Grace most certainly don’t see eye-to-eye. Their antagonistic verbal sparring is one of the things I enjoyed most about the book, not least because I’m a sucker for romances in which the protagonists start out disliking each other. Fagan is detailed to escort Grace back to England following her month-long stay in Scotland, and during the journey, the pair become closer to each other and eventually act on their mutual attraction, but then find themselves enmeshed in a kidnap plot which ultimately threatens both their lives.
I enjoyed the book for the most part, although it’s nothing to write home about and not a read to which I’m likely to return. Grace is a difficult character to warm to – she’s only eighteen and I’m not a fan of very young heroines – and her continual disparagement of her host’s nation is discomfiting and makes her come off as snobbish and overly self-important. That’s not to say that the Scots don’t similarly disparage the English – after all, the book is set in 1610, just a few years after the two countries were united under the rule of King James I – but the constant criticism left an unpleasant taste in my mouth regardless of who was doing the insulting. Grace is also one of those heroines whose decision to refuse the hero’s proposal of marriage after they’ve slept together makes me want to spit. Throughout history, women have been judged – and one might say, still are – according to their “purity,” so that whole “no strings” thing just doesn’t fly. On the plus side, however, she does mature during the latter part of the story, as shown by her admission that perhaps her idea of becoming a spy for the crown (like her sister before her) is not such a great one after all, and this character growth meant I liked her more by the end of the book than I did at the beginning. Fagan is an attractive, but somewhat stereotypical hero – brave, honourable and gorgeous, and while the secondary spy/kidnap plot is well integrated into the romance, it’s a little superficial and the villain is very much a one-note character.
Kilts and Daggers is a well-written, entertaining and easy read, which might suit if you’re in the mood for simple brain-candy.