Deveraux, Jude. The Black Lyon. 1980. New York: Avon Books, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-0-380-75911-8. Print List Price: $7.99.
This is not a book I would have normally picked up. But I recently joined the Old School Romance Book Club, and this book was selected as are read of the month, and I wanted to try to participate . Also, this book was apparently author (and I assume club founder) Sarah MacLean’s first romance, at 13, and she provided a cover blurb for the 2011 reissue.
It is my understanding that if a work is reprinted due to the continued readership over a number of decades, that is one of the factors that makes it a classic, if not in literary canon, at least within its own genre. Romance has many so-called “classics” from the 1970s and ’80s, by the likes of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, and Judith McNaught, many of which depict rape and domestic abuse (as well as other problematic themes), yet continued to be praised in the romance community. Deveraux’s The Black Lyon is in a similar vein, although to my understanding, she is still writing and has since changed her style. Yet all these books receive many glowing reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and other sites (along with the occasional bad one, highlighting the troubling aspects). At one time, I considered anyone who revered these classics a bit messed up, due to the fact that these books perpetuate such awful messages. But a video about problematic media, as well as reaffirming my nonjudgmental stance as both a romance reader and a librarian-in-training, persuaded me to at least give this book a chance.
And I don’t know if this book deserved it. Some people might say that it being a medieval romance means that rape should be acceptable, as it happened all the time. But it felt more like I was reading something out of Game of Thrones than a romance novel, and I think Ranulf, the hero of this book deserves a grandiose GoT-style death, something you should not want for your romance heroes or heroines. His actions are apparently excusable because he fears (without reason) that Lyonene will betray him like his first wife, Isabel did, so in the part of the book I read, he flips out over her having contact with any man, including her childhood friend, Giles, (who is also kind of a prick), and rapes her twice. There’s also a part after the rapey bits where it states that he notices that “she was no longer eager for him, nor did she seem happy, as she had once had at her father’s house.” He blames it on the fact that she’s a fortune hunting social climber, instead of the fact that he has been a total asshole. (105)
And I didn’t get too far into the book, so I don’t know how it happens, but the tagline is just awful: “A classic love story of a fearless lord and the woman who tamed him…” For one thing, he is not fearless. He may be fearless on the battlefield, and present that impenetrable facade, but he clearly is afraid of abandonment. And seriously, “the woman who tamed him?” This just screams unrealistic. I know that the sensible reader won’t take his or her cues for how love works from romance novels, but there’s a difference between a man sowing wild oats and settling upon getting married and being a controlling and abusive partner, as the Fifty Shades series demonstrates.
In conclusion, I would just like to state I don’t have anything against Jude Deveraux or readers who love this book or any of the classic bodice rippers. If it is something you like, or are fascinated by, then more power to you. This is just something that has mystified me for a while, and I had to get it off my chest.