By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I've had Monica McCarty's "Special Ops in kilts" Highland Guard series in my TBR for a long time, and moved it to the top of the list in the days leading up to Scotland's September 18, 2014 vote on whether or not to remain part of the United Kingdom, because what's more appropriate on the verge of a vote for Scottish Independence than to read about Robert the Bruce's 1306-07 struggle for Scottish Independence?
The Hawk is the second book in the series, and holy moly, it is Chock Full of Crazy. If you are a stickler for historical accuracy or have a low tolerance for plot ridiculousness, this is not the book for you. There is a scene in which the hero and heroine sail across the Irish Sea in a fierce storm in the middle of the night in the dead of winter in a ten foot skiff cobbled together with scrap wood and seal grease and sailed with a freaking bedsheet, and when the mast breaks, they're all, "Oooh, this is sexy!" and they lay down in the bottom of the boat and get it on. Some people would be annoyed by this kind of thing: I just laughed and rolled my eyes so hard I nearly strained a muscle.
If you have a high tolerance for ridiculousness, though, this book can give you a heck of a ride: there are kidnappings, chase scenes, narrow escapes, hand-to-hand combat, dangerous missions, spies, and lots and lots of boats (I'm a sucker for boats). Erik "Hawk" MacSorley can sail anything and swim like a fish. He's also gorgeous and charming and basically sex-on-a-stick. He gets around, and makes no bones about it. He is trying to gather Irish soldiers to assist in Robert the Bruce's uprising against England's Edward I, and is having a secret rendezvous with Irish militants when Ellie accidentally swims into the cave where they're hatching their plans. (Yes, she's swimming. At night. In January. Chock Full of Crazy, I tell you.) Hawk can't let her go because he doesn't know what she's heard, and he can't leave her to be raped and killed by the Irish (who are great when you need a hand in a fight, but you can't trust 'em around the ladies), so he takes her with him as a captive.
Ellie mistakenly believes Hawk is a pirate, and that he'd take advantage if he knew she was the wealthy daughter of an earl aligned with the English, so she tells him she's a lowly nursemaid. This mutual mistake of identity persists throughout much of the novel.
Ellie is also (as the story keeps telling us over and over and over again) painfully plain and not at all Hawk's usual type. I know that it's supposed to be romantic when Adonis falls for Plain Jane despite her lack of looks, but whatever: all of that handwringing about how-can-anyone-so-perfect-possibly-look-twice-at-me? (on Ellie's part) and I-can't-believe-my-staff-is-rising-for-this-chick-who-barely-has-any-boobs (on Hawk's part) really doesn't reflect well on either of them.
That said, Ellie is really smart and has plenty of starch in her collar, and Hawk is funny and charming and noble, so their romance mostly worked for me even despite the annoying Plain Jane trope and their inexplicable tendency to get hot and bothered in circumstances which seem cold, wet, and uncomfortable to me. (See the infamous Boat Scene, referenced above.)
I liked the first three quarters of the book much better than the end, where the lovers were separated and the plot bogged down in the skirmishes between Robert's and Edward's battalions, but on the whole, this was a fun (albeit completely absurd) read.