Locus Focus: Take Forty-Three!
Welcome to Battlegrounds Day!
Today we advance from love to war! (Sort of.)
Just when I thought I'd finally get out of Romancelandia . . . It might be a romantic paradise, but inasmuch as it is a copy of our own world, it has its share of war. How else to account for all the dashing officers and battle-scarred solders? Not to mention the spies! =P
Sometimes war is all just part of the "wallpaper" and isn't worth a comment. But I can think of at least one love story which depends not on the romance of war, but on its grim realities. Sometimes courtship is another kind of battlefield.
My Lady Notorious
by Jo Beverley
"I remember a battle," he said soberly. "It was the most damnable weather. Icy sleet. It wasn't too bad during action, but when night fell we were stuck in the open with no shelter." He looked down at her, watching her. "We built a shelter of corpses, ours and theirs, and slept very snug . . ."
Chastity swallowed and tried not to show the horror she felt.
His eyes met hers. "That's my life. Could you share it?"
"Sleep among corpses?" It came out rather squeakily.
He laughed shortly. "They're actually more peaceful than rats or fleas . . ."
I wish I could be more specific about which battle the hero of this novel means, as I'm fairly certain it was a real one. Jo Beverley has a degree in History and is one of the few writers of Historical Romance who both delivers on the rich details and evokes a true sense of the past. I'd say that she "takes pains" to make sure her stories fit neatly into the web of events, customs and influential people of the times and places in which she sets them . . . except that the effort doesn't seem to put her out at all. She has that gift of making everyone fit--and fit plausibly.
Well, almost everyone. Beverley's record with historical Catholics is scandalously spotty. You might remember that that's why I don't "like" her any longer. (Remember?) But never mind that now! The main thing to note is that if Cyn Malloren says he built a house of corpses after a battle, it's far more likely that Beverley based that on an actual account of the history of the 48th Regiment of Foot than that she made it up. It's as if she didn't want to risk being read by a war historian for whom the whole experience would be spoiled if she wrote about something the 48th never did.
And that's why I just spent the last half hour doing research on the 48th, trying to pinpoint the regiment's geographical location during the battle alluded to--one which would have taken place between 1755 and 1762. But I'm afraid that "Quebec, Late 1950s" is the best I can do without actually writing Beverley to ask her. (She answers her e-mail, you know! And she's very gracious.) And at this point, I don't know if I want to do it, because if this detail is part of the 1% she has made up, I'll feel very silly.
But now back to the setting itself . . .
I've long been haunted by the image of Cyn's "house of corpses." It says so much about the kind of man he is--and because it is the one story of his campaigns that he chooses to tell the woman he wants to marry, it also reveals what kind of husband he will be. She can bet that he will shield her from the storms of life--even if all he has to build a shelter are the bodies of their enemies. The only question is whether she is willing to share such a home with him.
The best part is that it's neither idle braggadocio on Cyn's part nor imagery that goes nowhere on Beverley's. For these two lovers do have powerful enemies who don't want to see them together, and it is only after the latter are dead--and dead by careful, ruthless design--that Cyn and Chastity have any hope for a home.
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and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D
This Week's Other Locus:
Tom La Fleur's Houndhaus @ Birdie's Nest
Image Source: My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley