Lady of Conquest
When I finished reading Lady of Conquest, I hurled it through the air, and it hit my living room wall with a satisfying thwack. Believe me when I say that this was the sole satisfaction derived from this book. Unless you really enjoy books in which the hero and heroine spend the entire time hating each other and betraying each other, you aren’t likely to get much satisfaction from it either.
The hero is known as Conn of the Hundred Battles, and he has united the warring clans of medieval Ireland and become their king. All is not well in the kingdom, however; someone is murdering the soldiers of the Fianna, the king’s elite fighting force. Determined to stop this menace, Conn goes to the cave where the soldiers were killed. There he finds and defeats Gelina O’Monaghan, who has been killing the soldiers with her brother. Gelina is only sixteen, so Conn forgives her and takes her back to his castle to be his foster daughter. She stays there for some time and befriends many of the castles inhabitants, including Nimbus, who is a dwarf and a jester, but also Conn’s confidante. This part of the book isn’t so bad, although there is a complete lack of sexual tension between Conn and Gelina, and he keeps calling her a child, even during the love scenes. Since he is old enough to be her father, this is understandable, but disgusting nonetheless.
And then the betrayals begin. There are so many that I couldn’t keep up with them all, and just when I thought the characters had sunk as low as possible, they would dig a hole and sink deeper. It all starts when Gelina discovers her brother is still alive. Conn had told her he was dead, because that is what he had thought. Rather than believe Conn, Gelina immediately assumes he was lying to her. To properly punish him, she runs off and joins her brother and Eoghan Mogh, who is Conn’s rival. While in their company she pillages towns and kills another soldier of the Fianna. Eventually Conn gets her back and considers killing her. Instead he sinks to her level and rapes her, then makes her a serving wench in his castle. But he really wants to sleep with her, so he revokes her serf status and proposes. On their wedding day, Nimbus the dwarf is killed. Conn assumes, against all logic, that Gelina is responsible. He locks her in his dungeon. And so it goes on, ad nauseam, until the last page, when they achieve a reconciliation of sorts. It all ends with the worst last line I have ever read: “The waves crashed on the rocks below in giggling rhythm, like the laughter of one hysterical dwarf.”
One of the results of all the betrayals in this story is that Conn and Gelina spend most of the book apart. Even when Gelina is living in his castle, they don’t see a whole lot of each other. Gelina spends much more time with Nimbus and Sean, a soldier in the Fianna. When Gelina and Conn aren’t creating the separations themselves, others do it for them. At one point Conn is kidnaped and sold into slavery for a year. Since they spend all this time apart, it is really hard to see them as a couple. But since they almost kill each other every time they get together, perhaps all these separations are for the best.
The complete lack of trust between the hero and heroine was appalling, and it made them both unlikeable. Romances are supposed to be about a couple falling in love. Sure, the road to true love is a little rocky at times, but this is ridiculous. There never seems to be any progression toward greater trust; instead they just become more suspicious of each other. Half way through the book, Gelina says, “I love you nearly as much as I hate you.” That basically sums up the whole plot. And although the ending was supposed to be happy, I wouldn’t be surprised if five minutes later they decided to hate each other again. There was no background to suggest that these two were likely to live happily ever after.
I felt a little guilty about giving this book such a poor grade, because the writing itself is not that bad. But in some ways, that just made matters worse; I kept thinking how the author had wasted her talents on a stupid plot and terrible characters. To give this book a D would really be too generous; Lady of Conquest has absolutely no redeeming qualities. As a reviewer I realize that my tastes are my own. Someone out there may love romances where the hero and heroine battle it out to the bitter end. But for me, this book defines the term “wall banger”.