New Concepts Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-891020-68-4
Historical Romance, 1999
Conquest of the Heart is the third book by this eBook-pioneering author, and it is a more polished effort compared to her previous two (Taming the Lion and In Search of Amanda). Now to ditch the stereotypes and plot clichés, yes?
Trouble brews in yet another castle populated by the obligatory must-have characters – the young (17-year old) innocent but feitsy Lady Mary of Almswick, her precious confidante/maidservant Hilda, the token little girls Anna and Mae, the protective Captain of the Guards… the usual suspects. Almswick is awaiting the arrival of its new lord.
Our hero is yet another younger son given the heroine’s land by the king for some noble, courageous deed. Sir Stephen Dubois and his buddy (the wise, level-headed best friend/fellow knight Henri – both of them saved each other once, you know) saved King William’s life and now they are traveling to their new home.
Stephen charges in and starts making bossy orders. Mary, whose emotional baggage includes witnessing crazy Mommy commit suicide, is feisty and independent, and she won’t give in (or so she thinks). So it’s the usual mating politics going on in the castle.
There’s also Mary’s rejected suitor, the expectedly evil (and Saxon – you know how man and Saxon in medievals are synonymous with scum) Lord Albert. Not only that, Stephen has an enemy from his past, and of course, we can’t have Mary’s mommy actually dying of suicide, can we? No, our two intrepid lovers must also prove that Mommy was actually murdered. But by who?
Nothing is new or fresh here although I admit it is an engaging read. The author has removed the worst of clichés that plagued her last two books. Out the window goes the evil other woman plot device, thank goodness, although then again, we have the evil other man. Oh well.
Not that Conquest of the Heart is all clichés, to be fair. The ending few chapters display some rather elegant evocation of high hopes in an uncertain future and new beginnings, which gives the story an epic-like feel. And Stephen is definitely medieval in character – everything and everyone’s a possession to him to be hoarded and guarded jealously – a trait which I appreciate greatly. So here’s to high hopes and new beginnings, really.