His Conquest is an ambitious novel. The setup is rife for conflict, both internal and external. Unfortunately while the premise is good and the prose is not terrible, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
The year is 1297 and Seathan MacGruder has been imprisoned and tortured by Linet Dancourt’s brother and is due to hang. One the eve of his execution, Linet comes to free him from her brother’s dungeon. In exchange for his freedom she asks him to escort her to the Highlands. Left with no other choice, Seathan agrees to assist her with her journey.
Linet’s goal is to flee an arranged marriage to a notoriously brutal man who has already killed one wife, while keeping her identity and reason for requesting safe passage a secret from Seathan. She fears that if Seathan learns the truth about her familial relationship to his tormentor that he will refuse to help her. Seathan has been betrayed by both a past lover and a man he considered a friend and as a result is suspicious of Linet and her motives. Instead of escorting her directly to the Highlands, he takes her to his castle where his English sister-in-law recognizes her and spills the beans about her identity. Seathan is furious and vows to return her to her brother.
Here there is a bit of silliness involving Seathan’s deceased grandmother having had “the second sight” and an enchanted bedchamber complete with a mural depicting fairies who appear to wink and smile at the inhabitants. Even more bizarre is the appearance of a glowing piece of agate hinted by the other characters to mean that Linet is Seathan’s fated wife. To Seathan’s credit he believes this is a bunch of malarkey. Oblivious to the meaning, Linet, not to her credit, decides to strike out for the Highlands alone and does the obvious thing to repay her hosts’ hospitality: She steals the rock. As for me, I would have hurled myself from the nearest window the first time a painted fairy grinned at me.
Of course Seathan is not about to allow her to escape. He captures Linet and decides to use her as a hostage/bargaining chip for negotiating with his enemy. While on the way to the bad guy’s castle, they meet a band of his men and a bloody battle ensues. During the course of the battle, Linet is injured and Seathan begins to soften towards her.
The sexual tension between the hero and heroine was virtually nonexistent. Linet falls almost instantly for Seathan, though why is beyond my comprehension. He is surly and unpleasant for the entirety of the novel. They bicker constantly and their arguments are neither witty nor interesting. For me, this was somewhat reminiscent of those old-school romances where the hero and heroine argue until the finale. A typical exchange between the two would have Seathan issuing an order, Linet proclaiming she would not obey him, and Seathan demanding she do as he says. The dialogue was poorly done and 300 plus pages of this severely tried this reader’s patience.
The novel would have benefitted from the author getting further into the characters’ heads to explore their motives. I think if I had been able to understand, for instance, the depth of the betrayals Seathan endured and Linet’s desperation, they would have been far more sympathetic characters. As it stands, Seathan and Linet are two-dimensional and not sympathetic in the least.
I found the most annoying aspect of the novel to be the bizarre leaps to conclusions by the characters that defied logic. My favorite occurs when Linet has been brought to Seathan’s home. His sister-in-law tells her husband, “I cannot rid Lady Linet from my mind.” The husband replies, “Has she threatened you? By my sword I will –.” The reader is left with no idea why the husband would assume this from such an innocuous statement. This was jarring to say the least.
The few bits of historical detail regarding the rebellion were not well integrated into the book. The sporadic infodumps made for confusing and unpleasant reading at times.
His Conquest has an interesting premise and setting. However, the character development and dialogue cause it to fall short of its mark. It has a very old-school feel to it, complete with an injured heroine and prose just this side of purple. If you are a fan of those type romances, with a somewhat cruel Alpha male hero and a whole lot of bickering, you may enjoy it.