The Conqueror is the third book from the "Knights of the Black Rose" series, each written by a different author. Each book details the events surrounding the return home from the Crusades of one of the knights. The story of Bernard Fitzgibbons and Lady Claire is the sweet tale of a kind, but powerful man and a bright, courageous woman.
Bernard knew what was waiting for him when he returned to Dassett, the estate of Lord Setton. Bernard was sent to the Crusades with the promise of land of his own and Lord Setton's daughter, Lady Claire as his wife when he returned. The thought of his own home with Claire at the hearth and their future children at her feet gave him the strength to endure many desperate days.
When Bernard arrives at Setton's court to receive his due, Setton declares that no such promise was made. When Bernard protests, Setton throws him in the dungeon. The only other person who had heard Setton's promise to Bernard was Bishop Thurstan and the Bishop had died a few months earlier. Setton has betrothed Claire to another man who has money and power.
Lady Claire had not known of the promise to Bernard, but she knows and likes him. He had grown up at the estate after his parents were killed by thieves. She tries to talk her cruel father out of imprisoning the knight, but only enrages Setton. Fearing for Bernard's life, she helps him to escape. He decides to kidnap her and use her to get enough ransom to buy land elsewhere.
The adventures of the two take them back to the Faxton, the deserted home that Bernard had not returned to after the night his parents were killed. Information from the neighbors and friends begin to convince both of them that some treachery pointing to Lord Setton may have been involved in his parents' death. He also discovers that Setton is physically cruel to Claire and that she will probably suffer when she is returned to Dassett.
The love between Claire and Bernard develops naturally as they get to know each other better. She is not being forced to marry the man her father wants. Eustace Marshall is wealthy and an honorable man. Claire had always dreamed of living in an elegant court and she would have that with Marshall. But spending time with Bernard makes her realize that falling in love with a man is enough. Bernard tries to tell himself that Claire deserves more than he will ever be able to give her and tries to be chivalrous, but decides he can't give her up.
Lord Setton's evil gives the two plenty of obstacles to overcome. Bernard gets help from three other Knights of the Black Rose and their characters add to the story. The medieval time period is detailed with a joust and the happenings of the village of Durleigh.
So, enjoy a rousing story of a valiant knight and his lady and an evil Lord. You get to cheer and boo in all the appropriate places.
--B. Kathy Leitle