This book is set in Russia and starts in August 1620. There is some kind of heat wave going on. The first few chapters all of the characters complain of the heat and the lack of rain.
Countess Synnovea Zenkovna is the daughter of Russian ambassador that recently died. The Tzar had held her father in high regard even though he had married a woman from England. Due to this regard, the Tzar gave Synnovia's guardianship to his cousin, Anna. Synnovea realizing what a great honor this is and really having no choice travels from her family's estate to Moscow. She does not like or get along with Anna and would have preferred coming under the guardianship of her family's friend, Natasha. Of course, at a full score of years (20), she didn't think she needed to be under anyone's guardianship and would have preferred to be left alone. Oh, and Anna's husband is known to be a seducer of young virgins!
Escorting her to Moscow is a troop of Russian soldiers lead by Captain Nikolai Nekrasov. This escort is due to the increase of highwaymen and robbers. Sure enough, this group is attacked by a group intent on robbery and who knows what else. This group is lead by Ladislaus, the bastard son of a Prince. While Nikolai attempts to protect Synnovea, he is shot.
Coming to the rescue is Englishman, Colonel Tyrone Rycroft. Tyrone is in Russia training Russian troops. He is out on a field exercise when he heard shots and came to investigate. Once there, his soldiers attack and over come the bad guys.
Synnovea does eventually make it to Moscow and Anna's house. There due to her beauty she has Nikolai and Tyrone trying to court her. She also has the attention of Anna's husband who is trying to get her in bed. And to top it off, Anna knowing that her husband is looking in Synnovea's direction is working on getting her married off to an old man!
The story line is pretty good if the writing does not distract you. Ms Woodiwiss likes to use words that not everyone is going to readily know. One of the first areas this is seen is in the age of her characters. All of them are score and some years. If you have no idea how many years are in a score, you will have no idea of how old the characters are. A score equals 20. Her descriptions are a bit much also. "Once again Synnovia sank in gracious obeisance before the elderly prince." In other words, she sank into a gracious curtsey? This flowery language is how the entire book is written and for me, distracts more than enhances. Her character dialogues are equally bad. All of the characters talk as though they are in England. This may be understandable for Tyrone who is English or Synnovea's maid who is Irish and maybe even Synnovea as her mother was English but not the Russian characters. Of course, this also may be a continuation of her flowery language in the telling of the story.
What amazes me is all these men who want to marry Synnovea. None of them have really talked to her but assume that because she is beautiful on the outside she will have a generous and gracious personality. They admit that they have seen her and fallen in love. I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction between the characters before having men declaring their love of Synnovea.
Throughout the book, Anna's husband continues to pursue Synnovea, she has several men trying to court or win her esteem and in the background a plot to overthrow the Tzar!
Anything Else: Some of the writing distractions may be due to when the book was published. This book was written in the early 90s when writers were attempting to write in the era of the book.
On a dark and dangerous road, a daring British adventurer saves the life of a countess of royal blood. In all his travels, Colonel Tyrone Rycroft has never encountered a woman as breathtaking, alluring, and inscrutably mysterious as the bewitching Synnovea. But his selfless bravery has drawn him into peril -- and into an inescapable web of intrigue and seduction. In an opulent and treacherous imperial court, the proud, headstrong lady's dashing champion has become a pawn in a dangerous game of power and influence -- and only his great courage and wits will enable him to survive it. But Rycroft's enflamed desire will not let him escape to the safety of his own world -- not until his dream is realized, and the enigmatic, highborn beauty has given herself to him freely, honestly, and forever.