05 March 2011


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.

Quebec, Late 1750s
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.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
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


Lesa said...

A shelter of corpses-- makes me think of Luke staying warm in the guts of his steed on the ice planet.

this is a good one! I was almost positive I read this but thought I might be getting mixed up with the Malory series. Checked a synopsis and yep, I read it. These sort were always my faves--love when the lead masquerades as the opposite gender.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think Jack London has a similar scenario in one of his stories: someone killing a dog in order to keep his hands warm in the dog's throat. It must have been a wild dog, because I imagine it would be easier to cuddle with a tame dog and conserve heat between the two of you! Then there's the fact that a dead body doesn't stay warm for long. =P

Do you know the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters, Lesa? I'll bet they'd have a fine time busting the "myth" of Luke and the tauntaun--as long as they assume that this fictional creature is anything like our own big animals! ;-)

There are heaps of heroines disguising themselves as boys, but Beverley is the only one I know who decided to be fair about it and make her hero dress up as a woman as well. (LOL!) She is also very fond of masquerades and the idea that costumes reveal as much as they conceal. I kind of miss reading her now . . .

Birdie said...

hmmmmmm...you might actually convince me to check this one out.
I tend to read a lot of books with "war as wallpaper" because I don't understand a lot of the language (and I'm REALLY bad with geography). I do have some on my list to read this year *cough*A Farewell to Arms*cough*.

PS hope my link went through...it disappeared on me

Enbrethiliel said...


It went through! =) I've just finished commenting on it, and I must say that it puts my own choice for the challenge to shame.

If you're interested in Historical Romance with characters who are both realistic and engaging, Jo Beverley is a good bet. She occasionally descends into farce and seems to find certain, uh, kinks honestly funny . . . but otherwise, she's on the same level as the more celebrated Mary Jo Putney.

(Full disclosure: I admired the first two Putney Romances I read so much that I described her style as "a rich blend of romance and realism" . . . only to give up on her after the third book I tried, in which she has a Noble Savage virgin heroine drink a nightly brew of "birth control" tea. I mean, come on. But I also seem to be the only person in the world who has been bothered by that, so it's probably not a big deal.)