Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review: Mad for the Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #3)

Mad for the Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #3)

by Karen Hawkins 

The third captivating, sizzling Scottish historical romance in New York Times bestseller Karen Hawkins's Princes of Oxenburg series. Fans of Julia Quinn, Monica McCarty and Julie Garwood will be enchanted by this dazzling read.
Prince Nikolai Romanovin is bored out of his bejeweled crown with London's society scene. If he has to make inane small talk or dance with one more tongue-tied virgin, he might actually run off. So when he gets word his beloved grandmother might be in danger back in his homeland of Oxenburg, Nik is all too willing to rush to the estate she's been staying in in the snow-capped mountains of Scotland. Arriving in secret only to find his grandmother missing, Nik devises a plan to switch identities with a member of his honor guard so he can move around freely without the pomp and circumstance that comes with the Crown Prince title. He relishes the freedom that comes with losing his title, until he spots her...
While her five older sisters all enjoyed seasons, got married to men of high station, and had children of their own, Lyssa, the baby of the family, was left at home to be raised by her absent father and her sharp-witted, but ailing grandmother after losing her mother in childbirth. Now twenty-nine years old, the sole caretaker of her grandmother, and the entrenched mistress of the castle, Lyssa has resigned herself to living at the castle and enjoying the amusements offered - spending time with her grandmother, copious amounts of reading, wild rides through the moors, and the occasional ball in the local town. All in all, it's a satisfying, if sedate, life... But when she meets a guard more handsome, and far more arrogant and sure of himself than any man she's ever met, she's determined to figure out his secrets, no matter the cost.
Themes:  historical, Scotland
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 

The crowned-prince of Oxenburg has finally gotten his chance at love!  This series has followed the Romanovin men, all princes of Oxenburg (a small fictional country placed between Russia and Prussia) as their Romany grandmother has led them on a mad chase through Scotland and each has fallen for their own wild Scottish woman.  Fans of the series know that it is a spin-off of the previous Hawkins series Duchess Diaries and we have waited a long time now to read Nikolai’s book.  Nik’s book is full of angst, fear, danger, and love, and he and Ailsa are beyond amazing and perfectly matched in every way.  Karen Hawkins is a writer that has skills that span different countries, different worlds, and the ability to bring her characters to life in a way that makes you wonder if these people really once existed.  I can totally see Tata Natasha sitting in a Romany tent and reading fortunes for those that seek her vast knowledge and experience.  I was sad to see this particular series ending because I am a big fan of the Scottish women she has brought into her writing, but I am looking forward to wherever her next project takes her readers. 
Prince Nikolai Romanovin is working in Edinburgh to bring peace and prosperity to his country when he receives notice that his beloved grandmother, who has been visiting an old friend in the Scottish highlands, has been kidnapped.  Unwilling to leave her possibly in the hands of his enemies, Nik comes up with a daring plan to sneak away, pretending to be a commoner, in order to lead a mission to save her.  When he arrives at the home of the Mackenzie, where his grandmother was staying, he finds himself faced with the immovable obstacle of the young Lady Ailsa Mackenzie, the defacto leader of the clan while her father is away on business.  Ailsa has been handling clan affairs for a long time, but when she confronts Nik, who she knows is no mere commoner, she finds herself more than attracted to this strong and ever-changing man.  Thrown into danger as they work together—sort of—to rescue the hostages, Nik and Ailsa soon find themselves unable to resist the passion between them.  With a treacherous plot unfolding around them will this proud and alpha man follow his heart to the woman he loves, or will he give up everything for the duty of his crown?
Nik is obviously a man that knows his duty, a man that has hidden his true nature a long time in order to serve his country to the best of his ability. He has devoted his entire life to being able to protect his people and always knew it would be his duty to marry to enhance the standing of his family and country.  Meeting Ailsa throws him off his game in a big way.  He doesn’t understand his intense attraction to this stubborn and argumentative female, but there is no denying he wants her with every fiber of his being.  I loved seeing Nik get put into his place a few times, and when he finally began to understand how to work with Ailsa in order to keep everyone safe and have the best outcome of their drama, he becomes a truly great man and leader.  He was sweet too, a lot of the time, but his obliviousness was maddening more than once.  Seeing him come to appreciate those around him as more than just background noise was wonderful to experience.  I also loved his obvious enjoyment of and love for his family, Tata Natasha especially, even when they were making him crazy.  In the end Nik needed a push here and there to know just what he needed in his life to be happy, but he gets there in the end and fully understands just how lucky he is to have his happily ever after.
Ailsa Mackenzie is a throwback to clan chieftesses of the past.  Determined to be more than just the pretty adornment on some man’s arm, she wants to lead her people and prove to them that she is smart and capable.  When she ventures out on her quest to save the hostages, she knows that she won’t be able to work with Nik’s condescension and highhandedness, so she decides to leave him behind, but nothing will stop this determined prince.  Faced with the lack of choice Ailsa is not going to let the passion and heat that Nik has coursing through her body distract her from her goals or her responsibilities. She begins to believe that the strange problems they are having along the way are more than coincidences and fears for Nik’s life.  Ailsa was a woman that I could definitely respect.  I liked seeing her holding her own in arguments with Nik, leading her men, and even rescuing the prince when he is almost killed.  She is educated, sweet, and willing to get right down in the trenches with her people to get done what needs doing.  I was sad for Ailsa a few times when she felt like she didn’t have a chance with a man like Nik, but in the end she is just what he needed to be the leader his people needed.  With her by his side there will be nothing stopping this royal pair. 
Mad for the Plaid marks the final prince of Oxenburg’s love story and I will be sad not to see these characters in future novels, but the ending was enough to keep me from being too sad.  There was plenty of intrigue, drama, sensuality, laughter and tears to fill the void until Karen’s next project sweeps me away to a new world.  Lady Ailsa Mackenzie is a true highland lass and she embodies all the stubbornness and strength of the clans.  She is sweet though, too, and when she loves, she does so with every inch of her body.  I enjoyed seeing her sparring with Nik and finding a way to show Nik that his way isn’t always the only way.  Nik on the other hand needed his butt kicked a few times until he came to understand that sometimes following the advice of others is the path to success.  But, I suppose one cannot expect a crown prince, used to always being the one giving orders, to change overnight.  The love and passion between these two is interesting to watch grow and kindle.  I really think these two were the best match of all the Princes and their women.  I am thrilled to have had the chance to read this story and cannot wait for the next Hawkins masterpiece.  If you are a fan of highland lasses taking control and demanding their due even as they fall in love you cannot go wrong with this story of love and treachery, as two people find their way to one another despite all odds and even against their own understanding of what their perfect mate will someday be.  Thanks for the amazing experience, Karen.

*book provided by publisher for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.

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