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The Heart of the Conqueror

The Chronicles of Matilda, Lady of Flanders, Book 1
Narrated by: Marnye Young
Length: 18 hrs and 14 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
Non-member price: $34.12
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Publisher's Summary

October 14, 1066. Two armies converge to decide the fate of England....  

The most famous date in English history, when the might of the English Saxons faced the wrath of the Norman invasion. The man who stormed the sands of Sussex was William, bastard duke of Normany, the man they eventually came to call the Conqueror.... 

But the heart of the conqueror was Matilda, lady of Flanders and duchess of Normandy. At the side of the most famous warlord of history, Matilda worked, not as a quiet, modest wife, but as a leader...as a ruler just as ruthless as her husband. Under her soft mask of beauty and modesty there lay the heart of a woman powered by ambition. A woman who was strong, courageous, and devious.... 

Through the eyes of one of the most extraordinary women of history unfold the events leading to the invasion of England and the battle that would decide its fate....  

This is the story of Matilda, lady of Flanders, duchess of Normandy, and queen of England.  

Contains mature themes.

©2017 Gemma Lawrence (P)2018 Tantor

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story; some detail overdone; great narration



I purchased the audio version of the book. Overall, there is much to commend the story but I found a few aspects annoyingly distracting from what is otherwise a powerful narrative. I love historical fiction and especially this period. On the positive side, the story gives a fresh slant to the momentous events of 1066 and their lead-up. The historical facts, as far as we know them, are generally woven nicely with Lawrence's imagination and well written, although I felt the depiction of Harold to be one dimensional. However, quite often, I found the narrative bogged down in unnecessary description about Matilda, eg gratuitous sex (I must be getting old) and her focus on her personal appearance and clothing. Matilda comes across to me as a narcissist. I'm not sure if that's what Lawrence intended. While one shouldn't read a book by its cover, the image of Matilda on the audio book cover doesn't help, as she looks like someone from a cosmetics commercial. If I had a hard copy, I would edit by skipping pages; this isn't as easy with an unabridged recording. Despite these issues, I really enjoyed Young's narration. She takes on a range of characters: female, male; mature, young; different socio-economic backgrounds; and many emotional contexts. Her delivery is excellent throughout; and often captivating. She brings the story to life. If the audio version could have edited out the descriptive excesses of the story; this would be a solid five-star.

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  • sandra k thompson
  • 05-12-2018

loved it

what a wonderful story looking forward to the second book in the series . you should definitely read this

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Janet
  • 24-11-2018

Courageous Heart

LOVED how the author has uniquely shown how Matilda chose to marry William despite circumstances a bride todsy would find appalling! A new and fresh look at the first Queen of England and all her struggles and human qualities as well as the great liove she had for husband and her children. Look forward to a sequal.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • C Brown
  • 04-02-2019

Romance novel/Penthouse forum w/ historical drama

I love, LOVE, historical dramas. Poldark, Wolf Hall, etc. I’m half way through this book and i’m really starting to get annoyed. I get it. Matilda was BEAUTIFUL. She craved POWER. Got it. I bet there’s been at least 1 1/2 hours of the same narration over and over again. Matilda KNOWS she beautiful. Matilda likes rough sex with her husband. Over and over again. Matilda does not have an insecure bone in her body. She manipulates William through sex which is no surprise. I understand that in those times, the ruling elite were self important and arrogant. They believed they were superior to the little people because God “favored” them through birth. The story is getting monotonous. The sex scenes are becoming more and more as it seems the author is not creative enough to find a different storyline. I will finish the novel. If my opinion changes I’ll edit this review. But I’m becoming more disappointed with this novel as it progresses. It’s more romance novel and penthouse forum than historical drama.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Bernadine Nel
  • 01-04-2019

I loved this book!

Gemma Lawrence May be a new writer but she has the old soul and complex thought of a masterful writer. If you love historical novels, based on truth, you’ll love her!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-03-2019

Well researched, lacks heart

I admire Matilda and have enjoyed reading about her for years. The author has done a wonderful job weaving an imagined tale containing authentic details of medieval life.

I loved the narrator’s voice. The tone and inflection was so arrogantly irritating I couldn’t complete the recorded version.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • 1doveme
  • 25-02-2019

I may have found a new favorite author

this was a fascinating look into the world of a powerful woman in a time where women wielded no power at all.
Matilda and her family came to life for me. I believe in her despite her flaws.
Thank you for creating this world and sharing your south your readers.
I'll be watching for everything you write.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Piaras
  • 25-11-2018

An exceptionally well-crafted historical fiction.

Author Gemma Lawrence weaves a captivating historical fiction with intriguing twists and turns that will easily captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning. The author paints a gripping story of power, ambition and brutality in a very vivid and convincing way. In addition, the characters are drawn with great credibility and conviction. It's a moderately fast-paced novel that will keep you engaged from the first page to the last.

The book description gives a sneak preview: 'The most famous date in English history, when the might of the English Saxons faced the wrath of the Norman invasion. The man who stormed the sands of Sussex was William, bastard Duke of Normandy, the man they eventually came to call the Conqueror... But the Heart of the Conqueror was Matilda, Lady of Flanders and Duchess of Normandy. At the side of the most famous war-lord of history, Matilda worked, not as quiet, modest wife, but as a leader... as a ruler just as ruthless as her husband. Under her soft mask of beauty and modesty there lay the heart of a woman powered by ambition. A woman who was strong, courageous and devious...

Through the eyes of one of the most extraordinary women of history unfold the events leading to the invasion of England and the battle that would decide its fate...'

Now, if that's not enough to get your whet your appetite, I don't know what will. But if you want to find out what happens, you'll just have to turn the pages for yourself! However, I will say it was well worth the read. It's my first time reading this author and I must say I was very impressed.

Captivating and commendable, this work had me immersed from the beginning. It's an impassioned historical fiction interwoven with true-life history. The story flowed from scene to scene with ease, and the author shows exceptional ability when it comes to storytelling. There are plenty of attention-grabbing moments in this page turner that will take the reader on a truly compelling and fascinating journey.

It's one of those books that comes along occasionally that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end. Although this is a somewhat 'meaty' read, it's unlikely that it could be finished in one or two sittings. Nevertheless, for those looking for an interesting, three-dimensional and stimulating read, this would be a rare find. I'm giving nothing further away here. And this, I hope, will only add to the mystery and enjoyment for the reader.

If this book is anything to go by, I'll certainly be looking forward to reading more from Gemma Lawrence in the future. It also has a distinctly cinematic feel to it and I could easily see it being adapted for the Silver Screen or perhaps follow in the footsteps of Downton Abbey. A well-deserved five stars from me.

Special mention also to Marnye Young for her excellent narration. An exceptionally talented lady with a gifted voice for storytelling.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-04-2019

Interesting story and great performance

Really fascinating historical fiction and excellent narrative performance. However, there was too much focus on Matilda’s sex life; it was excessive and not what I look for in a historical fiction (also very embarrassing when my family overheard me listening to the story while cooking). I was surprised to learn that the author is a woman, since the excessive sex scenes and pervy descriptions of her body made me almost 100% a man wrote it. Matilda’s constant, repetitive praise of her own looks and intelligence was honestly absurd. However, I admit it was amusing and that I laughed out loud several times because it seemed like a parody. I can’t imagine anyone describing themselves in the way Matilda’s character does. However, this didn’t make me dislike the character. Overall, I recommend the novel!

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  • Mary-Anne
  • 08-04-2019

Probably a good story but.....

The narrator of this book has or has effected the most annoying “upper class” accent I’ve ever heard. I managed to limp through the first hour or so in the hope the story would overtake the narration. But eventually another 16 hours of her was just too much & I dumped it.

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  • Erika
  • 14-03-2019

Obnoxious

This book was a ridiculous bodice-ripper. If you’d like to listen to constant descriptions of William and Matilda having rough sex, and hear Matilda refer to William as “my husband” in a smug tone over and over, than this book is for you. Matilda was written (and narrated) in such a conceited, haughty manner that I grew to wish the Saxons won in 1066. Garbage historical fiction.