Conor’s Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
6 years after the Civil War, Olivia Maitland is fighting with everything she has to protect the plantation she calls her home and the three orphaned girls she’s raising as her own.
Headstrong and brave, she’s good to the core and when she finds a man beaten to unconsciousness in the middle of the road, she takes him home with her.
Conor Branigan is an Irish prizefighter and behind his tough exterior he remains honest and honorable even if he has survived hell and still suffers the consequences.
He does not have dreams for his future because he’s still prisoner of the nightmares from his past.
Olivia nurses him back to health and he agrees to help her with the upcoming harvest but Conor makes it clear he’ll leave as soon as the crop is sold.
Fate has other plans for these two brave souls and Conor will discover the only thing that can help him battle his nightmares: love.
A truly beautiful romance between a woman brave enough to stand up on her own against all odds and a tortured man in need of healing.
The story is narrated in alternated chapters with flashbacks into Conor’s difficult past and chapters set in their present together.
This kind of narration is usually distracting for me but here I actually looked forward to uncover more about Conor’s past and what made him soul weary and alone.
Reading about Conor’s life in Ireland made me curious about the Irish Republican Brotherhood and their fight to establish an “independent democratic republic” in the years 1858-1924.
I enjoy a book even more when historically accurate events are woven into the plot, it ignites a spark that often leads me to new knowledge ^_^
Conor’s difficult journey leaves deep scars in his body and soul.
From his tragic childhood, when helpless he witnesses his parents and siblings die from violence and hunger, to the years fighting and surviving torture for the Irish Republican Brotherhood and his life as an irish immigrant and prizefighter in America.
Meeting Olivia and her 3 adopted daughters gifts him with something he thought impossible: a family to belong to.
Survival was his greatest talent. Famine, typhus, dysentery, bullets, knives, beatings—he had survived them all because dying would be giving in; suicide would be the ultimate capitulation.
Hate and anger were what had kept him alive. He had fed on them for so long, they were the only emotions he recognized, the only ones he still knew how to feel.
And yet, right now, surrounded by the warmth of the three precious girls who were using him as a pillow, hate seemed very far away, crowded out by things unknown and yet familiar, impossible things. Love. A feeling of belonging. A sense of peace.
He closed his eyes. It was all an illusion. He didn’t belong anywhere. He didn’t know what love was anymore. And peace … Christ, what was that?
So Conor sat listening to the rain and stealing a few moments of trust and affection he did not deserve from three wee girls who were not his. And he reminded himself at least twice that night that he was not a family man.
I loved the way all 3 girls steal Conor’s heart!
The youngest two were so precocious and cute 💖_💖
Olivia has a difficult past of her own but she doesn’t become bitter or shrewish because of it.
The Civil War destroyed her way of life and killed both her brothers.
After her father’s death she’s left alone with a plantation to defend against the local villain (that wants to build a railroad in the middle of it) and 3 orphaned children (her best friend’s daughters) to care for.
I truly enjoyed her attitude but at times, given her circumstances, she was too naive and pious for my taste.
Olivia and Conor’s relationship develops slowly and even if it happens realistically, in my opinion it takes a little too long for him to give in while the ending is a bit rushed.
Together they discover love and acceptance.
They become a family and Conor finally finds his way home.
Overall this was a remarkable read! ^_^
⭐ 4 Stars ⭐
~ My Ratings ~
Writing: 4 /5 The story is narrated in alternated chapters with flashbacks into Conor’s difficult past. This book won the RITA Award for Best Long Historical Romance (1997)
Plot: 4 /5
Hero: 5 /5 (36)Loved him and his tortured soul. Even with years of suffering and hurt weighting on him he remains honorable and honest.
Heroine: 4.5 /5 (29)Sweet and headstrong. She fights for what she believes in and the people she loves, she’s good to the core but maybe a little too pious for my taste.
Secondary Characters: 4 /5 to all secondary characters. (Great children, good neighbors that stand behind the heroine whenever she needs them and horribly judgmental town’s people under the bad guy’s control included!)
MC’s chemistry: 4 /5
Steam: 3 /5
Triggers: Explicit sexual scenes, angst, PTSD, violent and VERY tragic scenes (hero’s sister dies of hunger in his arms, he loses all his loved ones and survives torture…he also works in the fighting circuit)
Recommended to: Historical Romance Readers, expecially if drawn to stories with a bit of Irish history (1846 Fiabhras dubh\black fever – Irish Republican Brotherhood) and set post-Civil War (USA)
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