Conor’s Way by Laura Lee Guhrke

Okay okay okay. Suspiciously green 90’s book cover aside, Conor’s Way is not a book to be missed. Trust me, you need this book in your life. This novel takes on everything I love about the romance genre, and Laura Lee Guhrke executes everything to perfection. This, right here, is why I read romance novels and why I love them so damn much.

So let’s lay the scene. In the postbellum south, Olivia Maitland is struggling to keep up her ancestral plantation and raise her three adoptive daughters. She was born into privilege and comfort, but now she’s struggling just to keep food on the table and mostly-leaky roof over her family’s heads. What would really be helpful would be a farmhand, so she prays that God sends her a man. Then she finds a beaten and half-dead man in the middle of the road. So she brings him home.

(Thanks, God?)

Enter Conor, a tough Irish prizefighter who’s also got a certified Epically Tragic Backstory and is a Tortured Soul. The Potato Famine wiped out his whole family; he watched his brother beaten to death with sticks and mother die in a ditch and his sisters starve in his arms. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and became a hero, but eventually the English caught him and imprisoned him. Now he’s in America fighting and drinking through his PTSD. He doesn’t want a home, and he knows he doesn’t deserve love.

Buuuuut Conor wasn’t counting on prim and proper Olivia and her kind heart and her three attention-starved daughters. Or a grouchy sheepdog.

Romance novels with cute kids are the best and anyone who says differently can fight me. And Conor’s Way features not one but three cute kids. Imagine a scarred and foul-mouthed prizefighter snuggled up with a little girl who’s scared of thunderstorms and wants to hear a bedtime story. Imagine a tomboy finally finding a father to build her a treehouse and take her fishing. Imagine a proven womanizer suddenly finding a protective streak as he watches a teenager dance “too closely” with a fresh, pimply-faced boy. It’s fucking adorable. My heart. Cannot.

And then Conor and Olivia together? They are fire. Olivia’s 29 and, due to family circumstance, never got a chance to be appreciated as a woman. It’s like that never-been-kissed, doesn’t know how beautiful she is trope, but better, because Olivia is also a supremely strong, self-sufficient, determined woman. She loves Conor, but she isn’t going to do what he says or bend her principles for him. Even if he’s super good in bed and makes her feel things she didn’t know she could feel.

Additionally, Guhrke handles Conor’s PTSD very well. Of course, nobody knows that’s what it is in the 19th century, but yeah. The book doesn’t pretend that True Love heals mental wounds or that you can just “get over” being tortured and systematically degraded all your life. Rather, this novel sees Conor come to a realization and acceptance of his past, and a choice to allow himself happiness in spite of it all. So beautiful.

So, basically: Conor’s Way is a emotional, genuine, and wonderful romance between a take-no-bullshit single mother and the tortured soul she invites into her home. Add a dash of greedy carpetbaggers and gossipy old spinsters, and you’ve got the recipe for a A+ historical romance. This book is not to be missed. For real. Don’t let the suspicious cover mislead you.

Title: Conor’s Way
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke
Published: 1996
Rating: 5/5 Advertisements Share this:
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