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-.