I'd really, really like to think that this book was supposed to be a stealthy deconstruction of abusive relationships, shuffled into exotic parts because it would have been easier to present a "barbarian" than an Englishman as an abuser;(show spoiler)
a look into what pushes a woman to persuade herself into caring for the abuser and consequently a very fine presentation of how Stockholm is developed preceeding the incident that defined the syndrome by decades. And then, unfortunately, Poe's Law struck and the lowest common denominator took it seriously.
The above paragraph proves that I'm an idiot who can't learn better even after everything that came to pass. (Yes, unfortunately, I'm 99.999% sure that the author played "The Taming of the Shrew" straight and saw nothing wrong with it.)
I'm not sure what made this book easier to go through than more modern entries. Maybe it's that I knew what was coming. Maybe it's the lack of standard purple prose or, thankfully, period-imposed censure that left us without graphic scenes of rape that our heroine "enjoys despite herself". Maybe it's just my brain refusing to believe a woman would write this, grasping at the straws that spawned the first paragraph of this review.
If you can stomach the idea, read it ironically. Or read it to see how little (<0.0000000000000000000000000000000001%) has the Romance genre improved even after three waves of feminism. And then let's weep for the humanity together. You bring the tissues, I'll bring the Belgian finest.