Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed, Jo Beverley’s first novel, was published in 1988. A Shocking Delight, her most recent novel was published in 2014. In the first, Beverley gives her heroine a father prone to tedious lectures and very much under his wife’s rule and a hero whose father managed to mold his heir in his own image to a degree. In A Shocking Delight, the heroine’s father is loving and protective, but also sexist and ignorant, of who his daughter truly is. The hero, through clever maneuverings in an earlier book, has two fathers, each quite scandalous, although for different reasons. In between, Beverley has given readers more than forty novels and novellas in which fathers—loving, abusive and indifferent, wise and foolish, controlling and indulgent, powerful and ineffectual—play their parts. To examine all these fathers would require a dissertation, so I shall limit this discussion to the five novels that contain the characters I find Jo Beverley’s most interesting fathers.
Emily and the Dark Angel (1991) is one of my top-ten traditional regencies, and the protagonists’ relationships with their fathers are among the reasons it holds that place. Piers Verderan (The Dark Angel) has been shaped in large part into the man he is by the magic of his father’s presence and the contrast between his memories of his father and the reality of life under the control of his crazed and cruel grandfather. Fittingly, it is his father’s will, along with Piers’s own courage and ingenuity, that frees him from that control. Emily Grantwich’s father is still among the living, but a foolish duel has left him paralyzed. Emily tries to hold on to the fact that her father “had been a good landowner and a good father. A rough, bluff, old-fashioned squire. . .,” but his present flaws make remembering past virtues difficult. In the present, he is a querulous, demanding old man, “all twisted by his misfortune,” who finds fault with Emily’s administration of the estate, a task she’s forced to perform given her father’s incapacity and her soldier brother’s missing-in-action status. It is actually work at which she is quite skilled, although her father neither understands her gifts nor appreciates her efforts. Piers, on the other hand, not only appreciates what Emily does well but also sees all that she can become. He wants to see her soar.