Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jo Beverley's 'The Shattered Rose'

Many of the big name, American, historical romance authors are hard to find here. Borders only has stores in the capital cities, and they're the only place I've come across that actually has a 'Romance' section. Sadly, I don't get to the city very often. Our local bookstores have some romances sprinkled in with 'Fiction', but not a large range. However, I've managed to hunt a few historical BNA down in the past months, as I'm trying to expand my reading across the genre and at least be familiar with some of the authors being talked about on various blogs and email lists.

The romance book that's stood out for me this year is Jo Beverley's The Shattered Rose. Out of interest, I had a look recently at the reviews for this book, and discovered that it was a 'love it or hate it' book. I loved it. It's not an easy book, and it certainly isn't a light, comfortable romance - hence the negative responses from those perhaps expecting something more traditional and undemanding.

However, for those who like their romance real rather than fantasy, then The Shattered Rose is satisfyingly challenging. The historian in me really appreciated that the characters were people of their times; these were medieval nobility, with the world and religious frameworks of the period, not modern people dressed in medieval costume. I loved the way that Beverley drew both Galeran and Jehanne and their responses to the situation they found themselves in; their story was heart-wrenching and the resolution of their difficulties in keeping with both character and time - even if as challenging to the reader as to Galeran and Jehanne themselves.

The secondary romance was rather less satisfying for me; although it was fun, it felt too light for the drama and depth of the primary story. However, the book still rates as probably the best romance I've read this year.

If anyone has recommendations for more books with that level of realism, please feel free to make them!

I found Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm in a second-hand bookshop a few weeks back, and picked it up because of all the positive comments at the Smart Bitches and other places. When I'm finished with my current deadline, I'll reward myself with it.

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