The Conquest
by Edith Layton, historical (2001)
Harper, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81863-9


This is my fourth Edith Layton novel, and I think I have sufficient experience to sum up a general picture of my experience reading this author's books: long periods of rigor mortis followed by self butt-pinching (to see if I'm still alive), interspersed with some interesting scenes. The Conquest is no different.

It's an upper-class/lower-class love story, sort of like a Bollywood musical minus the musical part and the obligatory scene where the heroine simultaneously writhes and rolls down the grassy hill as she sings about throbbing hearts (not a feat to be scoffed at - it takes great skill and coordination, if you ask me, to wriggle sexily as you are rolling down a slope while making sure your saree is unfurling like a red carpet behind you). Anyway, our heroine Alexandria Gascoyne is dead serious in being a virtuous healing/save the world/kiss my guy's toes sort of woman. One day she gets an unexpected visitor - a badly injured guy called "Drum".

Cue music, "Does My Beside Hunk Have An Erection For Me? (The Boo-Hoo Honky Tonk Tune)", as Drum turns out to be the Earl of Drummond. What's his real name again? Never mind, I'll just call him Drummie. Drummie predictably sees Alexandria as the innocent, virtuous sweet angel she is, and when they part ways, Drummie can't get her out of his mind. She is like, you know, not one of the Ton's insipid ladies (except maybe the heroines of The Cad, The Choice, The Chance, and The Challenge). Alexandria is innocent! Virtuous! And she's also a cool lap dog who will never ever challenge Drummie's decisions and all (although he and the author and we all prefer to call this mutt-like obedience 'maternal kindness'). Banter, yes, but never challenge, because in Alexandria's eyes, Drummie can never do anything wrong.

So the story goes. Drummie checks in at Alexandra's Motel of Love. They talk. They try to convince themselves that they have sexual tension, but oh, Drummie can never marry Alex because Alex is not a titled lady. Next day, they talk. Maybe a kiss. Talk. Repeat for the next day. And the day after the next. To elevate the tedium, the cast of the above mentioned previous books make many appearances, say hi, try convince me that they are still going strong, and then flee this boring soap opera for - I hope - some more fun bedroom Regency tic-tac-toe.

I'm not kidding when I say The Conquest is a lethal bore. Everything is predictable - Drummie will wake up from his injuries and think Alexandria an angel, they can't marry, Alex is willing to give everything up so that Drummie will be happy (but I must say that doormat looks good on her), bedside loving, bedside grooving, bedside chatting, but none of the kinky sex fun to stop my eyeballs from permanently glazing over.

I don't know, maybe some readers - Regency fans, no doubt - will find such endless, interminable Regency goo-goo ga-ga non-happening happenings fun. If reading about how a virtuous heroine makes a martyr out of herself according the Regency Nitwit Codex, patiently standing by, passive and in the shadows until finally the hero deigns to want her - at last, reward for one's feminine perseverance! - makes your world turn faster, go knock yourself out. Me, I'm conquered by boredom. Excuse me, I've to find some way to get rid of the pins-and-needles in my bum.

Rating: 57


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