Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Pocket Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: historical romance.
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. 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.
I’m a Karen Hawkins fan and though I haven’t reviewed many of her books on the blog (I read most of them before I started blogging, but you can see my thoughts here, here, and here), she’s one author I keep returning to for feel-good romance. Her stories might not be ground-breaking but they always deliver when I’m looking for something sweet and funny and not too angsty (I’ve had it up to here with angsty romances, honestly).
Mad for the Plaid is the third (and last, I think) novel in The Oxenburg Princes series that follows a line of – you guessed it – princes from the imaginary East-European country of Oxenburg, who come to Scotland because of the machinations of their formidable grandmother and fall in love with Scottish ladies. I’ve enjoyed the series a lot, so I was super glad to read the ARC of this one while waiting for my due date to approach.
There’s a small matter of the name of the heroine – my ARC says Ailsa, the Goodreads synopsis says Lyssa, and the NetGalley synopsis sais Mairi. I picked the one that’s closest to me – Ailsa – since it’s the one I read in the book. But if you’re reading this and your version says something else, well, there seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding. *shrugs*
I liked Mad for the Plaid. It’s a story of two very different people coming to trust each other while they try to solve a common problem. Nik and Ailsa have completely different opinions on what should be done about it and their stubbornness is probably the biggest hurdle in their relationship.
I enjoyed the slow-burn romance, I never care for insta-love, but I could have done with a bit more fire in both of them, especially Nik. It’s understandable that he keeps his emotions to himself and that he’s more guarded than usual since he’s the crown prince and everyone wants a piece of him (or his power and money), but Ailsa put herself out there, she took a step towards him that he never reciprocated. He was sometimes very adverse to advice and help and there was a lot of talk about how strong a leader he was, yet he didn’t dare lead in his own love life, which is something of a downer.
Ailsa was a capable young woman, so I rooted for her from the beginning. It bothered me a bit that when she spoke of her ambitions and life to Nik, he thought that running her father’s estate was a waste of her life and suggested that she should get married and have children. Um. No. I’m all for romance and marriage and kids (hell, I love all those things, they’re my life), but please don’t talk down to a woman who has been running a whole freaking estate – and quite successfully, too.
I loved the setting, as usual. Hawkins has a way with putting the reader right there in the wilds of Scotland and I always end up wishing I could go camping all around that beautiful country when I read her books. It’s interesting that a lot of her novels involve travel of some sort, I never really thought of that before, but I like this aspect of her writing. So many interesting things can happen while people are on the road!
I’m definitely looking forward to reading her next book, whenever it arrives. A hint at the end of this one makes me wonder whether we’ll be seeing more of the Grand Duchess Natasha and the Oxenburgian court. It wouldn’t be the worst thing, I’d love to hear more about the courtly intrigues. But perhaps staying in Scotland isn’t all that bad, either. :)
Have you read any of Karen Hawkins’s novels? What did you think?
Do you have any other Highlands romances to recommend (preferably not medieval)?
I’d love to hear from you! :)