Aug 16 2013 10:00am

Seduction in Prose: A Jo Beverley Appreciation

Seduction in Silk by Jo BeverleyEnglish-born Jo Beverley has written medievals, Georgians, Regencies, science fiction and oh-so-au-courant, a trilogy featuring three young men all bearing the royal baby name of the summer of 2013, George.

So the overarching question is what do all these different romantic sub-genres have in common? What is the quintessential takeaway from a Jo Beverley book? Commenter Marleen, at an All About Romance blog discussing this very question, says “They all share this hint of blackness, lurking evil and decay in the background.” That. Exactly that. Jo Beverley writes romance, so never fear there won’t be an HEA, but the back stories and the travails of her heroes and heroines are never trivial or wallpaper.

This August Jo Beverley published the latest in her Malloren Georgian series, Seduction in Silk. For such a methodical writer (it’s a rare year that sees more than one Beverley novel), she has quite a backlist. So what to read while you’re waiting for the next JoBev, as she’s fondly referred to?

In her Rogue series, Beverley writes about intelligent, vulnerable, sometimes compromised women living in Regency times. Their perils are real, often dancing along the precipice of reputation and pounds per annum (here noting the exception—that independently wealthy women from aristocratic families had choices that were available to very few). Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas, Madeline Hunter, Susanna Fraser, Joanna Chambers, and Cecilia Grant are authors who address similar conflicts in that time period. Intertwined families and friend circles are a hallmark of Jo Beverley’s Regency world—the authors listed above excel in presenting a complete, believable world beyond the august doors of Almacks.

An Arranged Marriage by Jo BeverleyI would be remiss if I did not share the wonderful news that at long last the earliest Rogue World books are available in e—a reader should start with An Arranged Marriage, move quickly to An Unwilling Bride and then, pretty much guaranteed, a new fan-for-life is born. And, after a pause of quite a few years, Jo Beverley has decided to delve back into Regency times. She tweeted recently: “Next April, A Shocking Delight, Rogues series. Now David Kerslake is Earl of Wyvern he needs to marry money.”

David Kerslake, former smuggler aka newly discovered earl—all title, no money—sounds like a needs meets wants trope tailor made for the Rogue canon.

Beverley’s Georgian Malloren world, loosely headed up by the enigmatic and all-powerful Marquess of Rothgar, is set in a time when noblemen wore make-up and strode through the darkened nights of the ton on red-soled heels —shoe-magician Christian Louboutin has acknowledged his debt to this era—but their jeweled blades adorning their attires were no affectation. No, their skill at swordsmanship was deadly and often called upon. Men and women rightly feared pestilence and ignorance, but also poison, intrigue and the Machiavellian machinations of the court of King George III. High intelligence is a hallmark of Beverley’s characters; it’s the sharpest weapon in their scabbards. Intelligence, deft plotting and subtle humor are their building blocks as they walk the line between their fierce loyalty to their extended families and their responsibilities in the wider world of the court and the shire. Some authors who deftly inhabit that world are Miranda Neville, Jane Feather, Mary Balogh, Julia Ross, Eloisa James, and Elizabeth Hoyt.

Lord of Midnight by Jo BeverleyThe gritty, no-holds-barred medieval landscape is one that Jo Beverley owns. In a time before the Magna Carta, 1066 is no faraway memory but a pulsing reality in everyone’s world—all hail King William, the Norman Conqueror. His power was absolute and you were either for him or agin him. Rebuilding a war torn land, retaining one’s heritage while forging new ties of fealty to a marriage, a cause, a sense of an emerging “United Kingdom” – this is the backdrop of every Beverley medieval. Also worth noting was that the bond between medieval brothers-in-arms and their fealty to the king was, if not the object of their paramount devotion, certainly did not fall second to the love they might have for their wives. Many noble lords wed for dynastic and territorial reasons, reserving their deepest affections for their mistresses. So in these stories, a wife fought for the love of her husband in a courtly world where marital fidelity and love was not the norm.  Authors like Jude Deveraux, Madeline Hunter (Hunter’s intertwined medieval series is justifiably praised to the skies), Penelope Williamson, Shannon Drake, Judith McNaught and Elizabeth Lowell have written books that also allow the reader to inhabit the roiling medieval times, as are more old-timey Bertrice Small, Julie Garwood, Anya Seton, Phillippa Gregory, and Johanna Lindsey.

Jo Beverley appeals to readers who are not afraid of turbulent times and unconventional love stories. If you are open to stories in which relationships are tested against the bonds of friendship and loyalty to causes, you will embrace Jo Beverley. All her conflicts go hand-and-hand with a journey to a happily-ever-after, so you're always rewarded at the end of the pathways she leads you down.


Janet Webb

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Thili Abuna
1. Thili
Jo is one of my favorite writers in romance. What do all of her works have in common? Quality. She writes with intelligence and thoughtfulness and, so important to romance, passion. I started reading her and many others in the early 90s, and she is one of the few I still stick with. She has managed to grow in her writing and change in ways that interest and challenge me, not something that typically happens with writers I read over the years.

And I love her sf and wish she would take the time to write more, because she is one of those rarest of creatures, someone who does both sf and romance well. But then, the publishers would probably try to push her into the urban fantasy area with everyone else because of her background in romance, when I tend to see think she would do well in the Bujold area writing real sff.

At any rate, I wanted to throw in here because her novels and shorts have given me so much pleasure through the years.
Jo Beverley
2. Jo Beverley
Thank you, Janet, for that insightful analysis. And for putting me in the company of such excellent writers!

And Thili, thank you.

Jo Beverley
3. MaryK
I second the more SF sentiment. :-)
Jo Beverley
4. Karenmc
There may be a Beverley book that I don't have in my library, but I can't think of one. The ebook releases are much appreciated, and I picked up the first two Rogues books yesterday for my Kindle.
Jo Beverley
5. hww
I have been reading Jo Beverley from way way back when and have loved every single book. The rogues were great and the Mallerons the greatest.
Wonderful writing and great plots as well as the one great thing, absolutely believable stories with great genuine backgrounds. Her historicals ser the gold standard with me and I reread them frequently. More, more and more.
Mary Lynne Nielsen
6. emmel
I am now at the point where the Beverley reading in my household is generational. My 16 year old has discovered Beverley, and she now adores reading her books as have for these many years!
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