My first Fern Michaels novel. It was probably a poor choice for a first read from this author; I feel confident saying she's got to have better books out there than this historical, written in 1978. Yet there are plenty of romances written in the '70's and '80's that have held up better than this mish-mosh.
The one thing I can say that I unreservedly liked about this story--the only thing that seemed consistently well written--is the heroine's inner conflict after being raped...the oppressive burden she carries, that she needs to keep what happened a secret (because her clan values virginity), versus her desperate wanting, needing, to tell someone what happened to her.
This inner conflict, particularly the scene where she finally confesses to her dying grandfather what was done to her, is well done. Her devotion to, and her courage in getting back, her prize white mares, is also to be admired.
I also liked that the story was set in Russia during the reign of Ivan of Terrible -- a goldmine of an under-used period of history for a romance writer-- but, the scenes of Ivan's sexual decrepitude and growing insanity became gross and frankly repetitive; after the sixth such scene I was feeling queasy.
At times I found the editing confusing - sometimes I wasn't sure which character was doing the thinking/speaking.
But I think the real reason I'm giving this novel 1 star was not merely the fact that the heroine, Katerina was brutally raped by the (so-called) hero of the tale (though that actually is enough of a reason). It's because the author just doesn't have the skills to overcome that repulsive fact (does any writer, I wonder) and redeem Banyan, the rapist/male hero character, in order to give these characters a HEA. Thus, when they do end up together, it's really rather... gross? weird? Both?
Granted it's a pretty tall order to make a rapist the "hero" in a romance novel, but then, why would a romance author try to do this?