Thief in a Kilt
by Sandy Blair
(Zebra Books, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-7996-6
****
The year is 1411 and Scotland and England are at war. Young King James is locked in an English tower and only one woman knows the havoc he may wreck on his own people once released. Katherine Templeton, daughter of James's tutor, has had a vision of the bitter man the boy King will become. Knowing the youngster is feeling abandoned by his people she sets out to Scotland to find some proof that he is still in their minds, and hearts. Posing as the wife of James's guardian Sir Gregory's late son, she hopes to befriend the villagers and gather proof of the Scottish effort to rescue the heir.

Ian MacKay is instantly suspicious of the young "widow." After all, her deceased husband of whom she speaks fondly was a known wastrel. And she speaks a bit too English for his tastes, after all, what Scottish lass says "bullocks?" But Kate's ample charms distract him from pushing the issue too far. After all, he has the makings of civil war on his hands, it should be enough trouble for him without drawing a woman into it all. But how can a man renowned as being the Thief of Hearts resist making a play for the only woman who doesn't fall at his feet?

Kate's mission becomes harder when she realizes her ally to be, her "mother-in-law" has passed and that her "brother-in-law" will do anything, including murder to keep her from contesting his inheritance. Faced with a trial for property she doesn't want, Kate's detecting time is cut short, as is her flirtation with Ian. Especially when Ian discovers her stealing a memento of James's and immediately thinks she's an English spy. After knocking him out, she does what any sensible woman would do steal his horse and make her way across the countryside, with Ian hot on her heels.

Once I got caught up on my medieval history, I found myself drawn into the story. Kate's a fascinating character. She's living a lie, afraid to tell anyone of her visions. And her mission felt very real to me. She isn't a woman set on betraying her country; she's simply trying to save a young boy from turning into a very ugly man. Of course, this means aiding the Scots and deceiving her own people, but she's following her heart. It was a believable course of action, based on very real emotions.

Her "courtship" with Ian varies from witty and cute to incredibly sensual. While not explicit, Blair writes some very hot scenes. Ian's a well-known scoundrel of a lover and Kate's a very willing subject.

Hot sex aside, the two sparkle with chemistry. Both intelligent headstrong people, they're very engaging in their arguments. By the end of the book, I truly believed that Ian not only loved Kate's body, but her intellect. Readers will find them easy to relate to and a joy to read.

Thief of Hearts is the fourth Highland novel and teases us with references to previous stories. Fans will find a series with returning to, and newcomers, such as myself, will be eager to be in on the jokes. Blair's fast-paced style and sharp wit makes this one a must read!

--Amanda Waters


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