Georgette Heyer is best known for her Regency romances such as Frederica,
Cotillion, The Grand Sophy and more. However, as well as writing several detective stories set in the early 20th century, she also wrote some historicals apart from the Regency and Georgian periods that she made her own. The Conqueror is one of these, the story of William the Conqueror, who became King of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
It's interesting reading the story with a positive view of the Norman Conquest when most latent English opinion is
probably more on the side of King Harold, who was defeated at Hastings. It's a
testament to Heyer's writing skill that she can paint a picture of an honorable and fearless man who was able to raise himself up from being an illegitimate nobody to a man worthy of the hand of Matilda, a high-born noblewoman.
Heyer adds the fictional Raoul de Harcourt to narrate much of the action,
leaving the reader somewhat distanced from William at times. Her mastery of battle scenes,
though, and the fact that she usually stays close to historical events add a great deal to the reader's enjoyment.
Heyer's research into the periods in which she sets her books is well-known, and in The Conqueror, alongside her other books, it shows.
The eleventh century was long ago, and certain aspects of the book - its language,
for example - mean it's not always an easy read. Good pacing compensates, and although the romance is a relatively minor part of the overall story, it is still well-handled, showing how two fiery and strong people can produce a genuine and deep affection.
The Conqueror, along with the other historicals
like My Lord John, Royal Escape, Simon The Coldheart and others, are harder work for the reader than the lighter, more popular romances.
Their insight, however, into life in some of the most dangerous and fierce times in history are well worth experiencing.