I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Ailsa has been given the heavy responsibility of running her family's estate while her father is in London. Her youth and gender are against her but through her wits and determination, she is winning the people over. When two guests of hers get kidnapped, she feels personally responsible and wants to lead the charge to get them back.
Nik is a royal prince from Oxenburg and the heir; he has always known responsibility. When he learns that his beloved grandmother has been kidnapped he advises a way to personally go and rescue her.
Ailsa and Nik have a lot in common and sparks fly when they're together but their stubbornness might just keep them apart.
"Kisses are never to be regretted."
Third in the Oxenburg Princes series, we finally get to the future king's story, Nik. He has previously been shown to be stoic, impervious, and a bit of a playboy. Here we see that he has learned to wear many faces as he is consciously aware that the fate of his country and its people rests on his shoulders. The intrigues of constant maneuvering in the Oxenburg court, along with a betrayal in his youth, have made him build a wall around himself and his trust is hard won. I liked how the author showcased his character, whether he was made aware of his privileges by Ailsa, how much he took to heart his responsibilities, or the way Ailsa challenged him and intrigued him; he felt real. Ailsa's character also had wonderful depth, if not a bit side-eyeing with how she's in charge and traveling alone with a group of men. She wasn't feisty and head strong simply to relay "strength" but wonderfully smart, capable, and willing to listen. It was refreshing and delightful to have two characters that didn't vie to save or overtake one another but worked together.
Now, he found himself intrigued by a woman. Intrigued, challenged, and interested.
The story started off with a more gradual pace as the set-up builds and we learn the characters separately. If you're looking for an opposition to the many insta-love/lust stories out there, this is it. As our couple travels together, they slowly learn one another and we the reader begin to see how good they will be for another. Ailsa has one idea with how to deal with the kidnappers while Nik has another and through their individual directions we see how, even though both have dealt with responsibility, Nik's has been more worldly and Ailsa still has a bit of overly trusting to her. This comes into play with Nik pushing her away because he doesn't want to see her crushed by his courts devious maneuverings.
She'd never wanted a man before. Not in this way. But that first kiss had haunted her nights and ruled her days. He was just so damned delicious, and she'd never been able to turn away from a dessert.
This is mostly a road romance with our couple traveling to rescue the hostages with a bit of mystery added in as to why they were kidnapped and two secondary characters being played off one another for a possible secret villain. I didn't mind the slower pace as our couple got to know one another but I can see a few readers finding the middle a bit slow, the biggest problem I had with the story was the ending, it kind of fell apart. The villain didn't make a lot of sense, it seems they could have achieved what they wanted by staying loyal and the organization of the whole kidnapping had a lot of loose ends (reason for ransom note, the people who actually did the kidnapping - who and why were they helping). While I very much appreciated the slower building of Nik and Ailsa's relationship, I would have liked to have seen more passion from them towards the end but that could be my more fairy tale drama piece of heart talking. The two sex scenes felt rushed and it almost felt like Nik had to be bullied into the decision to be with Ailsa instead of coming to it on his own.
I felt this was the best book of the series with a hero who was handsomely stalwart and a heroine who beautifully showcased the calm strength of women. If looking to escape the abundant insta-love/lust out there, this would be a lovely slow burning choice.