Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.
Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!
After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.
Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, September 2016
Time and Setting: 1824, Scottish Highlands
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Sara
The premise of The Oxenburg Princes series always struck me as a bit unusual. Eastern European princes finding love with women from the Scottish Highlands is a strange mix of cultures and character types but somehow Karen Hawkins makes it all work. The final book, Mad for the Plaid, uses this same formula to the greatest effect by focusing on the dangerous political aspects of a prince’s life and just how strong a true love must be to overcome those challenges.
Lady Ailsa Mackenzie has been playing hostess to the Grand Duchess of Oxenburg for several weeks, dealing with her direct ways and the challenging requests for her comfort. In order to secure all the items the duchess claims she needs during her visit Ailsa, has been corresponding with the Crown Prince of Oxenburg, Nikolai Romanovin. Unimpressed by the prince’s reputation Alisa writes to him with only the barest of formalities and hopes with each letter it will be the last time they have to talk with each other. Her wish is ignored when the duchess goes missing from Castle Leod and Ailsa has to report to the prince that she is now searching for his missing grandmother.
Prince Nikolai is in Scotland to facilitate a peace treaty between his country and the Tsar of Russia while meeting on neutral ground. There is no time in his schedule to deal with the problem of his missing grandmother; however his experience with the political machinations of both royal courts makes him believe that her disappearance might be more than just a simple kidnapping. Hoping to keep Oxenburg business private from the Russians, Nik decides to travel to Castle Leod and rescue the duchess, but he will travel incognito. Nik is dreading his meeting with Lady Ailsa as he’s pictured a shrill and greying old spinster as the woman to whom he’s been writing. He is surprised when the lady is in fact a young and pretty woman who is unimpressed by his royal pedigree.
The mission deep into the Highlands to find the duchess puts Nik and Ailsa in close quarters and away from the trappings that have cocooned them for years. Alisa has managed her father’s estate and created a tentative respect between her and her advisors, yet a mission of this importance leads to self-doubts about how much they really trust her judgement. Nik’s position as a prince has always given him instant respect from those under his command but Alisa and her men don’t fall in line with that way of thinking. He has to gain their trust by showing them the man that he is beneath the title but it leaves him vulnerable for the first time in his life. Along the way Ailsa and Nik find themselves growing closer to each other, discovering little things that change their perceptions and bring out emotions neither one expected.
Mad for the Plaid is a very light and airy romance that keeps itself mostly grounded by having Nik constantly thinking about his position as the prince of Oxenburg and what that means to him. He is torn by his feelings for Ailsa because his life doesn’t belong to him alone and if she were to become his wife all of the court intrigues could change her. He stubbornly holds himself at arm’s length from Alisa to keep her from breaking down the walls he’s put up to guard himself from those who would use him for their personal gain. Fortunately Ailsa is smart enough to call him on his B.S. and openly challenges Nik’s jaded approach to living.
Ailsa is a worthy partner for a prince as she understands the sacrifices that come with leadership. She has ignored thoughts of her own future in order to secure the lands and fortunes of people that she oversees. When the duchess is kidnapped, Ailsa immediately takes control of the search efforts and feels that the responsibility of bringing the captives home safely rests on her shoulders. Over the course of their rescue mission she discovers another side of herself, one that wants more than respect from others but also to be cared for and cherished for being herself. Nik brings out the more passionate side of Ailsa and it’s up to her to convince him that he deserves that same cherished feeling.
I had my ups and downs with The Oxenburg Princes series but I enjoyed Nik and Ailsa’s road to romance. Mad for the Plaid is a cute story that closes the book on the princes but perhaps opens up more possibilities for love in Oxenburg – if the Grand Duchess has anything to say about it, that is.