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This is not a Regency Heyer, it's about William the Conqueror, hence the title. As verified by Wikipedia, before the whole "sail across the Channel and start the Norman occupation of England" he is historically known for publicly beating Matilda of Flanders when she turned down his marriage proposal. They later did marry, successfully by medieval royal standards (there were kids that succeeded him on the throne, no bastards, no obvious plots to assassinate each other.) It seems difficult to me to reconcile a woman who was about as powerful as they were allowed to be in that culture (born noble, widowed by a rich man so she had her own money) being into an asshole who is fine with not just violence, and public violence, and violence against women, but violence against her rich, noble self. No matter how much power she had, clearly he had more. In this book they write her as attracted to him but turned off by his low birth. Which back then wouldn't have just been a meaningless prejudice- they really did believe that birth made the man! I personally would have preferred an analysis of all the completely valid possibilities Matilda may not have wanted to marry again: less freedom, first marriage was unpleasant, didn't want to die in childbirth. Then even if she could get past that, her fears of marrying a bastard were completely realistic by the time's standards. Nobility and commoners were completely believed to be different and she would be not only debasing herself but risking having children less attractive and intelligent than her, and at risk for who knows what. This is not a culture that even paid lip service to fundamental equality of all people. Those were revolutionary ideas literally hundreds of years later. But Ms Heyer seems to have dedicated more time to researching oaths, not character's motivations.
So...Ms Heyer dedicates this book to a friend who works "in the historic manner dear to us both." For historical accuracy, it seems it was famous enough that Ms Heyer couldn't leave the beating out. I'm actually grateful that by the romance novel standards of the time (1960s) they couldn't make it sexy, cause yuck, really hard to sell a thousand year old public beating as consenting. Ms Heyer may have flirted with that at the end of her imagining of the beating, when William the Bastard kisses Matilda of Flanders and her eyelids flutter. I feel she veers back into "this was a shitty thing to do" territory by describing Matilda crying piteously that he hurt her to her sister after he takes off.
I do want to keep reading, I've quit books for less than the male hero beating the female hero, but it really did happen and I'm curious about reconciling the history to a love story. Quite likely I'll rage quit later, but I'm not at that point yet.