Disclaimer: I received an arc copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
After reading heavy research tomes and biographies for a whole week, I was ready to dive into something lighthearted, humourous, and romantic…and where better to look than a Karen Hawkins’ novel. Her latest novel, Mad for Plaid, is everything I could have hoped for and more…
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.
He was an imposing figure with broad shoulders, thick black hair, and green eyes so dark they appeared almost black. In public, he took the character of a man of town, charming and easily amused, flirting with women one after the other, and never speaking anything political or of consequence. Indeed, most of Europe believed him a wastrel of a sort…
Mad for Plaid is by far my favourite book in the Oxenburg Princes series! It wasn’t until I started reading the novel that I realized I was waiting for Nik’s story forever. As the Crown Prince, he is very different from his brothers. Previously we learned that he is a bit of a playboy, who can be charming, but in Mad for Plaid we learn more about his true character. He has the responsibility of inheriting the kingdom, which doesn’t allow him the same choices as his brothers, but at the same time he is shown as someone who can be witty, caring, stoic, powerful, and much more. In short, he can be whatever the situation requires and this adaptability has allowed Nik to become a skilled diplomat. But, of course, this also means that no one truly knows him. As the plot unfold, we see him begin to the true facets of his character beyond the title of “Crown Prince.”
Ailsa’s hair was a darker, less noticeable ash blond, her eyes grey, her form stalwart, while her nose could only be described as “prominent.”
Ailsa is similar to Nik in many ways. For one, her father has left the responsibilities of the estate entirely to her. And despite being young, Ailsa has shown herself capable of meeting her responsibilities. However, she is also quick tempered, creative, and has often been underestimated due to her age which has caused her to be stubborn. In part, it is Ailsa’s need to prove herself (to both her staff and herself) that she is able to run the estate, protect her people, and save Tata Natasha (who has been abducted) without the interference of her father and Nik that makes up the base of the plot.
However, eventually Nik and Ailsa do end up working together to find Tata Natasha, but that is where the mystery of her abduction takes on a plot twist…which was surprisingly well-developed with red herrings to throw the reader off track.
“My grandmother has gone missing,” [Nik] announced shortly. “Lady Ailsa believes Her Grace to have been abducted.”
Apraskin’s mouth dropped open.
“Someone took Her Grace? On purpose?” Rurik said in obvious disbelief.
And as in the other novels of the Oxenburg Princes series, Tata Natasha is necessary in bringing the two characters together…as her matchmaking antics have become a signature in this series.
However, my one quibble with this novel was the sudden “forbidden romance” angle. I found it an unnecessary subplot. For one, with Nik’s reputation as a wastrel in Europe, I hardly believe there would have been many eyebrows lifted should he have simply married Ailsa. And secondly, the story had enough intrigue and romance without the need for this secondary addition.
That said, I would still give this novel four our of five stars. It’s tone – both comedic and romantic – embodied summer!
Mad for Plaid releases tomorrow (August 30th) in bookstores and online.
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