Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jo Beverley

I didn’t want to have to write this. Jo Beverley was to me, as she was to many others, a friend and mentor. First of all, she was a great writer of historical romance.
Her first love, and the one closest to her heart, was the medieval. Her lesser-known medieval romances are well worth reading, if you can find them. There are four. I’m a “Shattered Rose” girl myself.
But at the time medieval romances weren’t selling and so Jo turned to the Regency romance. Her first books were for Signet, as were many American-based authors (Jo was born and brought up British, but moved to Canada in her twenties). “Emily and the Dark Angel” dates from this time, and is many people’s favourite.
She hit the big time with her first Fallen Angel book, “An Arranged Marriage,” which as she was often proud of saying, broke all the rules. In the first chapter, the heroine suffers a rape, (not by the hero!) Even when “rape into love” books were popular in the market, this caused a ripple through the reading community. Back then, the US and British markets were very separate, so while we were wallowing in clogs and shawls, the US had a wave of Regency romances with lashings of sex. Sometimes literally.
From the first Rogues book onwards, Jo was a premier author. She won the prestigious RITA award so often that she was put in the RWA Hall of Fame, an honour very few writers attain. She was a rock star writer, selling millions of copies and often teamed with Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh as the three at the top of the tree. They were the queens of historical romance.
I discovered Jo with her Malloren series. It’s set in my favourite Georgian era, in the first years of George III’s reign. I devoured the books. I had written the first of my Richard and Rose series, which was very different, but set in the same era, and I joined a critique forum. Two people were of inestimable help; the science fiction writer Linnea Sinclair, and Jo Beverley. She was a wonderful teacher. She taught me what a professional writer needs to do, how to go about getting published, and she wrote my first query letter for me, the one that got me published.
Jo was selfless, kind and generous, but she didn’t take fools gladly. That made her a wonderful critique partner, (yes, I had the privilege of critting her work – she was fussy about tweaking and details, but that made her even better). She would tell it like it is, but as she said, it was better than being rejected repeatedly by publishers and agents.
When she came back to the UK to live, she was already ill, but her cancer went into remission, and we thought she’d beaten it. Not quite. It lurked, came back this year and got her.
I can’t believe she’s gone. A world without Jo Beverley is sadder and a lot less fun. I’m going to miss her.
Please share your memories of Jo, and what you enjoyed about her books. I'm sure I'm not the only Beverley fan around here!


Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Jo was such a generous, friendly author: I remember sharing a table with her at Blists Hill Museum during the Romantic Novelists Association Conference a few years back - we had such fun, sharing ideas and laughs. I will miss her sadly.

Freda Lightfoot said...

Wonderful article Lynne. As I said, she was most talented and caring, and will be sorely missed.

Jane Odiwe said...

I didn't really know Jo, but felt very honoured to have a short story in an anthology that she was featured in a few years ago. I've been reading some of the messages left by her fans-I hope she knew how much she and her books were loved.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of Jo's 'A Viscount Needs a Wife' which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm glad I was in time to tell her so.

Fenella J Miller said...

I didn't know Jo but read many of her Regency books. She was a great writer and will be missed my thousands.

Joana Starnes said...

I didn't know Jo either, but it's so sad to hear that the wonderful person Lynne Connolly told us about is no more.

Amanda Grange said...

I remember Jo from RNA conferences when we chatted about Regencies, particularly the differences between the US and UK markets. She was very knowledgeable about all aspects of writing and also about the industry. She gave a lot of help and advice to many people and she will be sorely missed, not least on our blog where she was a very valued member.

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