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REVIEW: Dark Champion by Jo Beverley

Dear Mrs. Beverley,

Since it seems you’ve settled down into writing just Georgians and Regencies, I’m afraid new romance readers won’t be aware of the wonderful medievals you used to write. With that in mind, I’m going to try and dust off a few golden oldies, flog my gray cells to remember details and maybe entice some new readers in their direction.

Imogen of Carrisford is a pampered miss who has just been hurled into the real world. An orphan since her father’s mysterious death from a festering arrow wound, she knows she’s one of the richest prizes in England. After all, she’s had eligible men lined up courting her for months but when one storms the castle, she’s forced to flee for her honor and maybe her life. With no one to help her but a loyal servant, she heads towards the nearest man who might be willing to help her, FitzRoger of Cleeves. Bastard FitzRoger.

Imogen’s rude awakening continues as FitzRoger agrees to help her but after retaking the castle, appears to take over no matter how nicely things are phrased. Realizing that she’ll soon be married off and knowing that it’s for the good of her land and people, Imogen is determined to have a say in the man she marries. After long and careful analysis, and swallowing a great deal of gall at the thought, she decides that no man would be a better or stronger lord for the lands. As to how he would be as a husband, well, he’s no worse than any other out there she might have been handed to like a prize sow at a county fair.

With his friend King Henry’s blessing, the marriage takes place but only after FitzRoger has agreed to her terms that she remain as administrator of Carrisford. But some of her thwarted suitors aren’t content to let the Flower of the West slip though their greedy hands and decide to make attempts to regain not only Imogen but also the treasure that goes with her. When faced with death and dishonor, Imogen truly grows u and together with the man she’s come to love, fights to save her world and marriage.

Your grasp on medieval times and mores is fantastic and you set me down in Gloustershire during the reign of Henry I. Life is hard, woman are not really considered capable of much beyond bearing sons and the church could make one’s life hell. Imogen starts out as a sheltered 17 year old (fair warning for those who don’t like very young heroines) who has to grow up in a hurry. FitzRoger remains more of a mystery both to us and to Imogen. Both she and I get to slowly learn of his fairness, loyalty, honor, and eventually, his tenderness. Imogen might exasperate him at times but he also comes to admire her courage and resourcefulness. There is an incident at the end of the book that is fully in keeping with the thoughts of the day towards liege lords and women that might disturb some modern readers but I felt you were being true to the times.

One of the book’s weaknesses is the paucity of the hero’s POV but I do finally learn something of what makes FitzRoger tick. All in all, I was very pleased with this one and give it an A-.

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

10 Comments

  1. Jill Myles
    May 17, 2008 @ 15:49:33

    I actually just read this one the other day! (And her other medievals)

    I thought this book was terrific. Jo Beverley really does have a way of making the setting utterly believable and realistic, and never losing the romantic core of things.

    And mmm, FitzRoger!

  2. sula
    May 17, 2008 @ 16:42:47

    Hmm. This was the first Beverly book I read, after being sung her praises on a regular basis. I was really excited to try her work, but quite frankly, I could barely finish it. And I love historicals. And especially medievals. It’s been a while since I read it, so I can’t remember all of the details that coalesced to put me off my stride, but I seem to recall being really annoyed by the heroine. She seemed quite determined to be as obnoxious and obtuse as possible. Way TSTL for my tastes. After trying several other Beverly books and having to force myself to finish each of them, I have come to the conclusion that she is one author that I just don’t “get”. Ah well.

    It is a pretty cover though. And FitzRoger was yummy. :-)

  3. Jill Myles
    May 17, 2008 @ 17:16:33

    The heroine really didn’t set off the TSTL thing for me. There’s other heroines that have definitely triggered it faster. Of course, I could have just been in love with the setting/FitzRoger (cough) so I overlooked it.

    I did love this book though. Enough that I might just read it again.

  4. (Jān)
    May 17, 2008 @ 17:21:33

    I remember loving how JB wrote it, but thinking the heroine TSTL also so not enjoying the book as much. The Shattered Rose is my favorite of her medievals.

    I love that she writes a variety of things and does them all well. Her fantasies/sf are favorites of mine too. :)

  5. Jill Myles
    May 17, 2008 @ 20:27:21

    Oh wow – I thought the Shattered Rose was my least favorite of her medievals. I loved the secondary character romance, but I disliked the main characters because they were too messed up.

    She writes SF/F? Under the same name?

  6. Anne
    May 17, 2008 @ 21:01:34

    Medievals??? With brogue? I must investigate.

  7. Jo Beverley
    May 18, 2008 @ 08:48:49

    Dear Jayne,

    I love that you’ve picked up Dark Champion, one of my favourite offspring. I remember the raw energy of writing it, with an adventure on every page, not just for them, but for me, as I figured out what to do with whatever twist had turned up. (That’s how I write. Fun, but crazy fun!)

    I don’t know how available it is right now, but supply must be running down as it’s going to be reissued again later in the years. NAL just had me do a Q&A for the back and I asked readers on my chat list and googlegroup newsletter lists for suggestions for questions. They came through with some good ones.

    For the one about why I stopped writing medievals — it was mostly the market. I was rotating through regency, Georgian, and medieval, but the medievals were selling so less well than the other two that my publisher wanted me to stop. As I had ideas for the others coming at me fast, and nothing strongly pushing me toward medieval, that was fine. I just didn’t expect it to last so long!

    I do hope to write some medievals again, but those ideas. they keep coming, dragging me Georgian-wards at the moment,

    Best wishes,

    Jo

  8. Jayne
    May 21, 2008 @ 05:52:50

    Sula, I have plenty of friends who don’t get Beverley but then there are plenty of authors I don’t ‘get’ either. Jane despairs of me because I don’t like Garwood at all.

  9. Jayne
    May 21, 2008 @ 05:54:14

    Jan, The Shattered Rose is also my favorite but it’s been so many years since I read it, I’d need a complete reread in order to do it justice in a review.

  10. Jayne
    May 21, 2008 @ 05:57:13

    Jo, with the economy the way it is, I can understand writing in an era you and your publisher imagine will sell better. Everybody’s gotta put food on the table. But if you ever decide to work on some of those ideas that keep coming your way, I’ll be all over it!

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