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Tag Archives: military heroes

Let’s face it. I’m in this business for the heroes.

What could be better than spending your days with some hunky gentleman in pantaloons, Hessians, and a coat by Weston, who says things like, “You’ve bewitched me, body and soul.”


The Regency gives us such wonderful heroes. Wealthy marquesses and dukes. disreputable Rakes (as opposed to my Reputable Rake, on sale in May, shameless self-promotion here), corinthians, gamblers, impoverished vicars, and my favorite–

The soldier.

I’m with Mrs. Bennett when, in Pride & Prejudice, she says, “I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well—and, indeed, so I do still at my heart.”

That’s me. Show me a man in his regimentals and I’ll show you a potential hero.

Take a look at these fellows:


Maybe I love military heroes because my father was an Army colonel. I grew up with that whole military mind-set of duty and honor and country. Woke up to reveille. Went to sleep hearing taps. Or maybe it was listening to all those Chivers audiotapes of the Sharpe series, hearing William Gaminara read, “Sharpe swore.”

Writing a soldier for a hero gives so much dramatic potential. The hero faced hardship, faced death, experienced scenes we would find horrific. He’s honed his body to be strong. When he returns to England from war, he must look on the society to which he returns in a whole new light. I think it makes for lots of interesting possibilities.

I have a brazillion books on the Napoleonic war. Three of my favorites are:

Waterloo: Day of Battle by David Armine Howarth. It tells the story of Waterloo from the soldiers point of view.

Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket by Richard Holmes, This book covers everything about being a soldier during that time period.

Galloping at Everything: The British Cavalry in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo, 1808-15 by Ian Fletcher. This covers all the major operations engaging the cavalry and discusses some of the controversy around them.

I have another book that makes me sad: Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula, Julia Page, editor. These are the letters and diaries of Major the Hon. Edward Charles Cocks, a man who loved soldiering with a passion that makes the journals occasionally boring. It makes me sad because the war takes his life. Even Wellington grieves his loss.

I’d love to write a series of Napoleonic war love stories, sort of Bernard Cornwell-style but with a really satisfying romance. A lofty dream.

Okay, let’s face it. I just want to spend my days with some hunky officer in regimentals.


Okay. It’s not Regency but it is Gerard Butler as Spartan King Leonides at the Battle of Thermopylae 480 BC. Hey, he’s a soldier, too, right?

The hero in MY LADY GAMESTER was a cavalry officer before he became an earl. Military heroes are quite common in Regencies, aren’t they? And I love to read about them.

So — what is the appeal of the military man in historical romances?

Is it the physical courage?

Is it the gorgeous uniform? Is it the honor, the selfless dedication that such service implies?

Jane Austen had military men in her novels too, of course — she particularly liked the navy, as she had two naval brothers. In her novels, PERSUASION’s Captain Wentworth is a naval officer…as is the heroine’s brother in MANSFIELD PARK.

In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Wickham is in the Militia, seducing the hearts of women everywhere with his red coat. In SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Colonel Brandon is a retired army officer.

And of course, there are the 20th century military novels set during the Napoleonic era — Bernard Cornwell’s SHARPE series, C.S. Forester’s HORATIO HORNBLOWER series, and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels (such as MASTER AND COMMANDER.)

Do you like military heroes? If you like to read them, what’s the attraction? If you like to write them, what are the advantages to a scarlet coat? Which are your favorite romances featuring military or ex-military heroes? On the other hand, do you think these heroes are overdone, and approaching cliche?

All opinions welcome!

Cara King,
MY LADY GAMESTER — out now!!!!

Last week, Janet likened the prevalence of PTSD heroes in historical romance to war profiteering. I have to agree. But her words scare me too, because I’m writing a war-scarred though not classic PTSD hero myself and always worry that I will not do him justice. I feel it’s important to respect history and the real people who suffered through similar events. I hope that respect comes through in my work.

But what makes the difference between Artificially Injected Angst and the real thing?

Looking at both our current projects and our backlist, many of us Riskies have written military heroes. We’re also writing or have written stories about emotional and/or physical abuse, addiction, loss of close loved ones, and other issues that we may or may not have experienced personally. I’ve always been suspicious of the adage “Write what you know”. I’ve since heard “Write what you love” or “Write what you care about” and that’s what we do.

I think that makes all the difference. If a writer cares about an issue enough to make it a central theme in a story, she ought to do the necessary immersion. If she’s content with Wikipedia level research or less, it shows. (I put down a romance when I realized, just a few pages in, that the author thought the British were fighting the Portuguese in the Peninsula, not the French.) This is why we Riskies and friends regularly break our research book budgets or become good friends with librarians.

I also think it is AIA when a tortured hero (or heroine, though they seem less common) is defined by his issues. As a reader, I want to know what makes the character different from others with similar problems. Is he naturally an introvert or an extrovert? Impulsive or cautious? What are his strengths and passions? Most importantly, how does he deal with the problem? People don’t all react the same way and that’s exactly why yet another story about a scarred military hero or any other flavor of tortured character can still be interesting.

What do you think makes the difference between the tortured and the merely trite?


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