Lady Elizabeth Walsingham pined after the same man for years. When she finally realizes the brawny Highland laird doesn’t return her feelings, she decides to leave for London and start anew. It seems that her prayers are answered when she catches the eye of a charming actor at the Globe Theatre – a man who is the complete opposite of the Highlander she once loved.
Laird Ian Monroe spends his time avoiding the bothersome young girl who dreams of their union. But when he travels to London and discovers that she has a new love interest with a dishonorable agenda, his perspective changes. Ian soon realizes that Elizabeth is no longer a child with a crush, but a beautiful woman in need of his help. He may have what it takes to rescue Elizabeth from her scheming beau, but does he have the courage to reclaim Elizabeth’s heart as well?
Kill or Be Kilt is one of those books that is like a frothy dessert – enjoyable while it lasts, but easily forgotten. It’s decently written and the central characters are reasonably engaging, but it’s ultimately insubstantial, and there are inconsistencies to some aspects of the plot that had me shaking my head at such obvious contrivances.
It’s the third book in Victoria Roberts’ Highland Spies series featuring the Walsingham sisters, daughters of Francis (Elizabeth I’s renowned spymaster) and nieces of Walter Mildmay, also a spy for the Crown. Elizabeth Walsingham’s older sisters are both happily married to highlanders, Laird Ruairi Sutherland and his guard captain, Fagan Murray and Scotland has become their home, but Elizabeth is starting to feel restless. Her older sisters are happy and her younger sister shows every sign of finding her happily ever after in Scotland, too, but Elizabeth feels as though she doesn’t belong and thinks that perhaps it’s time for her to go back to England to find a husband.
Three years earlier, she had developed a massive crush on Laird Ian Munro, a close friend of Ruairi’s. Unfortunately, everyone – including the object of her affections – knew how she felt, but now, at eighteen, she is over him and wants to move on with her life. When news of her uncle’s death in a carriage accident reaches Sutherland, Elizabeth and her sisters travel to England to pay their respects, escorted by Ruairi, Fagan and Ian, and then while Ravenna and Grace go to Apethorpe Hall to visit their aunt, Elizabeth, with the men as her guardians, travels on to Hampton Court, so that the men can present themselves to King James and Elizabeth can experience something of English court life.
Having stayed away from Sutherland for three years simply to avoid Elizabeth’s youthful pestering, Ian is astonished to discover that the girl who annoyed him to distraction has turned into a beautiful young woman. Of course, he doesn’t want her for himself – like her sisters, she’s too clever, too sharp-tongued and altogether too much trouble – but when she attracts the attention of a young nobleman and a respected actor, Ian starts suffering from a severe attack by the green-eyed-monster. And as if that weren’t bad enough, when other members of the King’s Privy Council are found dead under mysterious circumstances, it begins to look as though Mildmay’s death was not an accident, and Elizabeth and her guardians are drawn into the hunt for the killer.
Ian is a bumblingly endearing hero, a big, brawny man who has absolute confidence in his sword-arm, but surprisingly low self-esteem when it comes to his appearance, and has no idea how to woo a woman. Elizabeth is a likeable heroine and doesn’t have as many TSTL moments as Grace did in Kilts and Daggers, but she isn’t very well defined as a character and is ultimately rather bland.
The mystery element is very simplistic and while I enjoyed the banter between Ian, Fergus and Ruari, which is often quite funny, the idea of these big, brawny Scotsmen sitting around discussing women is pretty unrealistic and made me wonder when they were going to start braiding each other’s hair. One thing I found particularly problematic was the author’s use of a number of Gaelic words and phrases in the story. I don’t quibble with her using them, but each time, the phrase is immediately translated into English, which is jarring and quickly became annoying. These examples appear exactly as they appear in the text:
”Turas math dhut,”said Ian. Have a good journey.
”Tha e a-bhos an seao!” It’s over here!
I venture to suggest that there is little point in using a language few of your readers will understand if you’re going to have to translate every word. I’m sure it was done for a reason, but unfortunately, the effect is probably not the one that was intended.
Kill or Be Kilt will perhaps suit someone wanting to while away a few hours with a solidly written, but undemanding story. I didn’t dislike the book, but it’s extremely lightweight – on both the plot and emotional content – and isn’t one I can recommend without reservation.