This is the most atrocious of all the Woodiwiss books I have read. It was, frankly, terrible and I must detail all the offenses. Our protagonist is a Russian countess, unbelievably beautiful and amazingly learned and independent (with a stereotypical Irish maid for some reason (faith and begorra!)). She is assaulted by bandits. There is a most unbelievable lengthy scene in which she banters with the chief bandit for those who get off on witty rejoinders before being swept away on a horse against your will. Then she is saved and she runs away with her retinue without a second thought for her savior. But no worry, she meets him naked in the bath the next night. There is an awful amount of soap and breast jiggling and thighs meeting but no, the moment is inappropriate and she, shocked, makes her escape. She reaches Moscow and is essentially banished to a house with an evil stepmother and her lecherous husband. So life for the countess is a living hell and is shown in detail at length. But her savior Tyrone keeps trying to see her and this leads to more silly scenarios like the hot-day-and-I'm-wearing-only-a-wet-chemise scene and the "dressed as a peasant" scene and really it's all too stupid, especially when you consider that the characters are in Russia but are speaking English all the time (for Tyrone's convenience I suppose). When the evil stepmother commits the Countess to an undesirable marriage the Countess decides that seducing Tyrone will not ruin her standing in noble society, anger her lecherous stepfather, insult her intended suitor and his many violent sons, or even offend Tyrone when he figures out being used. In truth, it is the most idiotic plan I've ever heard. But she goes through with it and poor innocent Tyrone is given a lot of hell for her supposed deflowering. Understandably angry he is incensed when he finds himself married to her by royal decree. This results in him refusing to have sex with her. That doesn't last very long and overall the whole misunderstanding, even when extended to both parties, seems rather paltry reasoning. Finally Tyrone, sated with his Countess, goes forth to fight the bandit from the beginning . But the bandit comes to the Countess's bedroom, announces he wants her, and then proceeds to kidnap her. Rape in the bedroom seems like a smarter idea but hey, it's a romance. So then the husband is shocked to find his beloved wife a prisoner, blah, blah,blah and at the bandit's camp a mini-romance sub-plot unfurls that is the ridiculous equivalent to the main plot. Epic battle. Lovers mate. Terrible, terrible story. Motivations shaky. Character depth non-existent. And really, romance doesn't HAVE to be this bad. Is it so hard to find an intelligent plot with engaging characters that are NOT caracatures that strings some decent sex scenes together?!
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