Monday, March 15, 2010

The Conquered Heart - Denée Cody


When her father is dethroned by a usurper, Eve MacMurrough, Princess of Leinster, is forced to wed Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. Cursing her fate, she vows never to give her heart to the despised Norman baron who may be her destiny but will never be her desire...


Once one of the most powerful noblemen on Wales, de Clare has lost his prized lands to satisfy King Henry IIs insatiable greed. Now dispatched to Ireland to help MacMurrough regain his realm, de Clare is determined to reclaim his own pride and riches...never dreaming that the conquest of land will pale beside the rapturous passion his new bride awakens in his soul.
This is a book I first read a long time ago. I remembered enjoying it very much but since I read it in my pre-blog days I had never written a review. This week I was looking to my shelves to find something suitable for the ABC challenge when I looked at this one and thought this would be the perfect choice.

The Conquered Heart is an historical romance, the story of the marriage of Eve MacMurrough and Richard Strongbow de Clare. Readers of historical fiction will remember them as the parents of Isabel de Clare, the heroine of Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion.

On the last page of the book Cody writes:
No one knows if the marriage between Richard, Earl of Pembroke, and Eve, Princess of Leinster was happy or disastrous. I choose to believe they loved each other.

And so she writes about two people who come together with different goals, protecting Ireland for Eve and lands and wealth for Richard, who must come to an understanding to succeed. Together they must learn that their alliance has brought them enemies, on both sides there are people who dislike them for treating well those who are perceived as the enemy. For Richard it also means learning about a different law and giving women a measure of respect that he is not used to in his Norman world. But it's Eve that stands out as the main character in this story. She is Ireland, she tells Richard in one of their first meetings, and in fact she does everything to protect her land and to have him rule by Irish laws. She is a strong woman and more than his match.

In the backdrop we are treated to the war between Dermot MacMurrough and Rory O'Connor for the High Kingship of Ireland, which lead to Dermot asking for Henry of England's help and thus for Richard's arrival. And also to Henry's lack of trust if his barons, Richard being one of them, and a bit about the Thomas Beckett affair. This is a romanticised version of the events and  historical romance (as opposed to historical fiction) but Cody manages a very satisfying story that lead me to research the main characters and see that people like Dervorgilla or Lorcan, Archbishop of Dublin actually existed and had a role in the political events.

Painting of the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow by Daniel Maclise. Iconic image of the Norman Invasion of Ireland.

Denée Cody wrote 4 books in the 90s. The other 3 books are a family series and, in at least one of them, Eleanor of Aquitaine features as a secondary character. I always found her stories engaging and well researched and I wish she had written more books. A few years back there was a rumour that she was writing an historical fiction novel but I haven't heard anything in a long time and sadly there doesn't seem to be much information about her on the internet.

I would definitely like to know more about these characters so if there's any other historical fiction novels out there about them I would love to hear it.

This is my H read for the ABC challenge.

Grade: 4.5/5


  1. Ooohhh, this looks just my thing! I loved Isabel de Clare in The Greatest Knight and I just remembered now something I forgot to mention on my Roselynde review. I hated what Gellis did with Isabel de Clare, it really annoyed me.:P

  2. Uh oh I can't remember what she did with Isabel...

  3. She made her look like a silly girl (especially compared to the incredibly intelligent Alinor) who was completely under the power of her husband. This changed slightly for the better in the 2nd book, if my memory is good, but I was a bit surprised by this portrait...

  4. Ah well, our idea is completely different isn't it? I know Cody also mentions Isabel in her de Mandeville series but IIRC definitely not as a silly girl.

    I can't say I much liked Gellis portrait of Richard III in The Dragon and the Rose either but I decided that I decided to forgive her since I enjoy her stories so much ;-)

  5. Complete opposite! Yes, I prefer also not to think of that girl as Isabel and enjoy the story because it was really a good one.:)

  6. Ooh, I've been eyeing this one as well since Daphne put it on her shelf. The cover is very similar to the UK cover for Seton's Katherine.

  7. Misfit,
    yes it is similar to Katherine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, it's very easy to read as it is written primarily as a romance. Sadly it's not that easy to find nowadays...

  8. Btw since you are both familiar with Roberta Gellis maybe I should add that Cody is a bit lighter than Gellis in what concerns the historical detail...

  9. I love when you can return to a book you read years ago and enjoy it just as much the second time around (or third...or fourth!). Thanks!


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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