We were saddened to hear about historical romance author Jo Beverley’s death yesterday. (You can read about her and her passing at the Word Wenches blog.) Ms. Beverley was a giant in her field. She wrote over 40 historical romances and won five RITA awards. She is one of only 18 writers inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. Ms. Beverley was a frequent poster on our boards and several of our staff have lovely memories of her and her books.
On our own boards Jo once said, “I like my romance rich and over the top“. She certainly seemed to write to that criteria. My very first Jo Beverley novel was A Most Unsuitable Man. While I list several of her books among my favorites, this is the book that got me hooked on this particular author. I think what I loved most about the tale was the high drama and the wonderful hero. Fitzroger was strong, brave, resolute and heroic. He became heroine Damaris’ champion not by fighting a villain for her but by saving her from embarrassment. It sounds a little thing but I think all of us could use just such a hero from time to time. And the story was just how Jo described her own favorites – rich with romance and over the top adventure. I also remember Ms. Beverley as a fun and funny presence on our site. Once when we were talking about the deplorable lack of Westerns in Romance she mentioned that titles are what captured the eye of readers. Her solution to our Western scarcity was for someone to name their book “The Wagon Train Duke“, since books with Duke in the title seemed to sell well. This was years ago on the boards and perhaps I’m not remembering it perfectly but I can remember that the whole thread – and her contributions to it – made me laugh really hard at the time.
My favorite is an Unwilling Bride. I loved Beth and Lucian’s relationship. They were so obviously perfect for each other, but neither wanted to admit it. Sometimes, that kind of stubbornness is annoying, but Ms. Beverley made it charming. Ever since I devoured that book, her books have been autobuys for me.
I loved Dark Champion. Medievals were thin on the ground by the time I got into romance, and this one, with its high passions, political arranged marriage, and warrior hero, is everything I love about the subgenre. I always was grateful to Beverley for pushing the boundaries of historical settings – building the bulk of her career in Georgians when the easy, proven winner was Regency. It made our romance world so much richer.
I met Jo at RWA National in Dallas (was that way back in 2007)? When she realized I was attending, she scolded me for not telling her I was there earlier. :-) And we’d never met — she only knew me through AAR and mailing lists. (And I learned a LOT from her posts on AARlist!) She was one of the first authors I followed on Facebook, and one of the first who had to create a special group for her fans because she gained too many followers. I will certainly miss her posts.
An Arranged Marriage was one of the first romance audiobooks I bought when I tried to branch out into audiobooks — and one of the few longer books I was able to listen to all the way through. Just finding out how Eleanor and Nicholas would work through their marriage kept me listening. I loved that even in Regencies, Jo wasn’t afraid to tackle controversial topics — rape, infidelity, abuse, and more. Her characters were never perfect, and that’s what made the stories so strong. I think a writer has done something right when some people get up in arms about their hero and heroine!
Do you have a memory of Ms. Beverley to share? What’s your favorite of her many many books?