Oh, oh, oh what a lovely war…

Legolas_1
Jo here, following up on political correctness. The closest I could come to a CBK soldier was Billie as Legolas for Halloween a few years ago. 🙂

About war. When writing about the regency, up to 1815, at least, it’s hard not to have a few soldiers wandering in and out of the pages. Over a body of work — say, about 30 books — it’s hard not to write a few heroes who are or have been in the war. I resisted pretty well for quite a while, but eventually the force of reality made me do it.Threeh
I have not, however, set any scenes in action in my regencies, and hardly ever in my Georgians. (One novella, in fact, and it’s on a battlefield after battle is done.)

I won’t get into the medievals, which are a whole other thing.

Why this avoidance of military action? Mainly because I find war too weighty to blend with the sort of love stories I want to tell — or read. When I’m reading a romance and find the hero on the battlefield the love story has gone AWOL and I hunt through the pages until I catch it and tell it to jolly well get on with the job. (If I sound a bit strange, I’m listening to Wodehouse and he’s infectious.) I suppose the hero and heroine could be in battle together, but I don’t think I’ve ever read that in Regency, though

I’ve read a through when she’s “following the drum.” That can work.

I’m totally different when I’m reading a historical novel, BTW, whether that makes sense or not. Battle scenes are fine then.

So what are your feelings about romances which include active battle scenes, and how realistic do you like them to be? What about historical novels? Is it different then?

Vittorio
It’s that realistic bit that really interests me. I’m happy to avoid some of the less pleasant aspects of the past. My characters have wonderful teeth and generally robust constitutions. Their infants do not die. They do get rid of bodily waste and, in the case of women, have menstrual periods because I don’t find those unpleasant aspects of life.

But what do we do about war? Seems to me war is an area where it’s particularly easy for the modern, western writer to be, well, very modern and western. This means grim resolution on the field and harrowing memories off it. First person accounts, however, tend to be a lot more upbeat about things, and positively gleeful about killing the enemy and riding off with plunder. Certainly there are gruesome parts, duly recorded and sighed over, but then it’s on to more action. Give us action! they call.

Yes, we can say that they were putting a bright face on it for the recipients, but I wonder. An Arthur Kennedy wrote long letters to his mother describing the actions. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that she might not want them, and perhaps he was correct, but I have trouble imagining her opening the letters at breakfast and declaring to all, “Listen. Arthur’s been in another engagements. He was almost killed and in fact one of his friends was. It was a tremendous slaughter with corpses littering the ground, but he captured five horses!”

Did she really rejoice to know that, “I was so fortunate as to be the first personally engaged with the Imperial Guard.”

From another letter — about Orthez. “Sir Rowland Hill now got around this left flank and, their right being also seriously attacked, about 3 o’clock they gave way in all directions while our guns played among the retreating columns with very great effect and the field was literally strewn with their dead and dying.From one hill to another they retreated and it was a considerable time before any opportunity was offered for the cavalry to take part in this scene of blood and slaughter.

Obviously much to be lamented.

Another man from the same regiment, the 18th Hussars, who kept a diary, records much the same and ends with, “I was able to have my tent pitched and all the officers came to shelter there. I gave them a good dinner and most slept under cover.”

(All quotes from CHARGING AGAINST NAPOLEON, by Eric Hunt, published by Leo Cooper/Pen and Sword.)

I have found most first person accounts of war from the past much the same. Clear details of the slaughter, but lots of enthusiasm and exhilaration.

So I’m now writing an ex-soldier who is one of these men. Overall, he thoroughly enjoyed his war. I think he’s realistic. But will he be acceptable to the modern reader? He doesn’t actually talk about it much, but it’s clear enough, I think.

As I said, I duck a lot of things in my historicals, but I try to deal with the things I include as honestly as possible and it seems to me that war is one of the most important. I am very interested in the soldier, the warrior, and I think it’s taking away from the courage of soldiers everywhere not to include the zest with the dark.

What do you think?

JoTrarfrsm_3

54 thoughts on “Oh, oh, oh what a lovely war…”

  1. Intriguing topic. I think men tend to think in terms of actions and goals set and accomplished, which is why their war letters sound like a score card. And especially in earlier eras, soldiers weren’t encouraged to question their actions and men weren’t encouraged to contemplate how they felt about what they were doing.
    I think, as a reader, I can understand your hero. I would probably be more put off if he didn’t reflect a man of his times, unless he’d done something so heinous that he ought to reflect on it if he’s going to be hero material.

    Reply
  2. Intriguing topic. I think men tend to think in terms of actions and goals set and accomplished, which is why their war letters sound like a score card. And especially in earlier eras, soldiers weren’t encouraged to question their actions and men weren’t encouraged to contemplate how they felt about what they were doing.
    I think, as a reader, I can understand your hero. I would probably be more put off if he didn’t reflect a man of his times, unless he’d done something so heinous that he ought to reflect on it if he’s going to be hero material.

    Reply
  3. Intriguing topic. I think men tend to think in terms of actions and goals set and accomplished, which is why their war letters sound like a score card. And especially in earlier eras, soldiers weren’t encouraged to question their actions and men weren’t encouraged to contemplate how they felt about what they were doing.
    I think, as a reader, I can understand your hero. I would probably be more put off if he didn’t reflect a man of his times, unless he’d done something so heinous that he ought to reflect on it if he’s going to be hero material.

    Reply
  4. Interesting topic, Jo! Unlike you, I’ve a solid interest in Napoleonic military history, so my Regencies are rife with soldiers. In fact, in one sense, my 7 book Fallen Angel series is about the Napoleonic wars, from the Peninsula to pying to denouement.
    But the only book where battle really appeared on the pages was SHATTERED RAINBOWS. Given all the fascinating material available, I was very proud of keeping the actual battle of Waterloo to one chapter. 🙂 Even there, it cut between Lord Michael in the midst of the black powder and Catherine back in Brussells.
    In fact, this book -does- have them both on the battlefield, but Catherine plays the traditional female role of nurse. The first time Michael meets her, she’s nursing wounded soldiers on the Peninsula. After Waterloo, she goes onto the battlefield with some of Michael’s friends to see if they can find him, dead or alive.
    Nonetheless, I agree with your general point that too much war definitely interferes with a romance. My soldiers are more tempered by battle than exhilarated. The one hero who was really tormented by his actions had been a spy and forced to do things that he felt were dishonorable.
    As for Arthur Kennedy–maybe those letters were meant more for his father and brothers than his mother. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  5. Interesting topic, Jo! Unlike you, I’ve a solid interest in Napoleonic military history, so my Regencies are rife with soldiers. In fact, in one sense, my 7 book Fallen Angel series is about the Napoleonic wars, from the Peninsula to pying to denouement.
    But the only book where battle really appeared on the pages was SHATTERED RAINBOWS. Given all the fascinating material available, I was very proud of keeping the actual battle of Waterloo to one chapter. 🙂 Even there, it cut between Lord Michael in the midst of the black powder and Catherine back in Brussells.
    In fact, this book -does- have them both on the battlefield, but Catherine plays the traditional female role of nurse. The first time Michael meets her, she’s nursing wounded soldiers on the Peninsula. After Waterloo, she goes onto the battlefield with some of Michael’s friends to see if they can find him, dead or alive.
    Nonetheless, I agree with your general point that too much war definitely interferes with a romance. My soldiers are more tempered by battle than exhilarated. The one hero who was really tormented by his actions had been a spy and forced to do things that he felt were dishonorable.
    As for Arthur Kennedy–maybe those letters were meant more for his father and brothers than his mother. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  6. Interesting topic, Jo! Unlike you, I’ve a solid interest in Napoleonic military history, so my Regencies are rife with soldiers. In fact, in one sense, my 7 book Fallen Angel series is about the Napoleonic wars, from the Peninsula to pying to denouement.
    But the only book where battle really appeared on the pages was SHATTERED RAINBOWS. Given all the fascinating material available, I was very proud of keeping the actual battle of Waterloo to one chapter. 🙂 Even there, it cut between Lord Michael in the midst of the black powder and Catherine back in Brussells.
    In fact, this book -does- have them both on the battlefield, but Catherine plays the traditional female role of nurse. The first time Michael meets her, she’s nursing wounded soldiers on the Peninsula. After Waterloo, she goes onto the battlefield with some of Michael’s friends to see if they can find him, dead or alive.
    Nonetheless, I agree with your general point that too much war definitely interferes with a romance. My soldiers are more tempered by battle than exhilarated. The one hero who was really tormented by his actions had been a spy and forced to do things that he felt were dishonorable.
    As for Arthur Kennedy–maybe those letters were meant more for his father and brothers than his mother. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  7. Last winter I visited an exhibition in the war museum in Delft (in the Netherlands, where I live). The exhibition was about individual Dutch people who fought in the Napoleonic wars, ranging from the Prince of Orange, the later King William II, to ordinary soldiers. Some of them enjoyed the life, at least the officers, the ordinary soldiers not so much, I think. But others were scarred for life.
    One example was Adriaan Blussé, who in 1813 was conscripted into the Garde d’Honneur. In 1810 the Netherlands were made part of Napoleon’s empire, and Dutchmen became eligible for conscription. This was in the form of a lottery, and if you could afford it, you could sell your ticket to someone else if yours was drawn, and he would go in your stead. Adriaan and both his brothers had been drawn before and had sold their tickets to workers in their father’s publishing firm. Adriaans replacement died in battle. But you couldn’t send a replacement to the Garde d’Honneur. In October 1813 Adriaan was present at the horrific battle of Leipzig. He wasn’t wounded, but he never recovered, and he died in an insane asylum in 1834.
    I got all this info from the catalogue (there’s also an English version: http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/general/c_dutchinwar.html), and it does prove that not everybody enjoyed war. Of course Adriaan didn’t choose to go, but I don’t believe most ordinary soldiers on either side joined up voluntarily, either. There was of course conscription in France, and I’ve read about men being press-ganged into the navy in England, was there something similar for the army?

    Reply
  8. Last winter I visited an exhibition in the war museum in Delft (in the Netherlands, where I live). The exhibition was about individual Dutch people who fought in the Napoleonic wars, ranging from the Prince of Orange, the later King William II, to ordinary soldiers. Some of them enjoyed the life, at least the officers, the ordinary soldiers not so much, I think. But others were scarred for life.
    One example was Adriaan Blussé, who in 1813 was conscripted into the Garde d’Honneur. In 1810 the Netherlands were made part of Napoleon’s empire, and Dutchmen became eligible for conscription. This was in the form of a lottery, and if you could afford it, you could sell your ticket to someone else if yours was drawn, and he would go in your stead. Adriaan and both his brothers had been drawn before and had sold their tickets to workers in their father’s publishing firm. Adriaans replacement died in battle. But you couldn’t send a replacement to the Garde d’Honneur. In October 1813 Adriaan was present at the horrific battle of Leipzig. He wasn’t wounded, but he never recovered, and he died in an insane asylum in 1834.
    I got all this info from the catalogue (there’s also an English version: http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/general/c_dutchinwar.html), and it does prove that not everybody enjoyed war. Of course Adriaan didn’t choose to go, but I don’t believe most ordinary soldiers on either side joined up voluntarily, either. There was of course conscription in France, and I’ve read about men being press-ganged into the navy in England, was there something similar for the army?

    Reply
  9. Last winter I visited an exhibition in the war museum in Delft (in the Netherlands, where I live). The exhibition was about individual Dutch people who fought in the Napoleonic wars, ranging from the Prince of Orange, the later King William II, to ordinary soldiers. Some of them enjoyed the life, at least the officers, the ordinary soldiers not so much, I think. But others were scarred for life.
    One example was Adriaan Blussé, who in 1813 was conscripted into the Garde d’Honneur. In 1810 the Netherlands were made part of Napoleon’s empire, and Dutchmen became eligible for conscription. This was in the form of a lottery, and if you could afford it, you could sell your ticket to someone else if yours was drawn, and he would go in your stead. Adriaan and both his brothers had been drawn before and had sold their tickets to workers in their father’s publishing firm. Adriaans replacement died in battle. But you couldn’t send a replacement to the Garde d’Honneur. In October 1813 Adriaan was present at the horrific battle of Leipzig. He wasn’t wounded, but he never recovered, and he died in an insane asylum in 1834.
    I got all this info from the catalogue (there’s also an English version: http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/general/c_dutchinwar.html), and it does prove that not everybody enjoyed war. Of course Adriaan didn’t choose to go, but I don’t believe most ordinary soldiers on either side joined up voluntarily, either. There was of course conscription in France, and I’ve read about men being press-ganged into the navy in England, was there something similar for the army?

    Reply
  10. “If I sound a bit strange, I’m listening to Wodehouse and he’s infectious.”
    One must be careful or the beans, crumpets and eggs will take over your life. I’ve been left with a permanent dread of the Mother’s Picnic. LOL!

    Reply
  11. “If I sound a bit strange, I’m listening to Wodehouse and he’s infectious.”
    One must be careful or the beans, crumpets and eggs will take over your life. I’ve been left with a permanent dread of the Mother’s Picnic. LOL!

    Reply
  12. “If I sound a bit strange, I’m listening to Wodehouse and he’s infectious.”
    One must be careful or the beans, crumpets and eggs will take over your life. I’ve been left with a permanent dread of the Mother’s Picnic. LOL!

    Reply
  13. Jo here. Interesting, Ingrid.
    For sure, not all the men enjoyed war, but I think conscription, and conscription into a foreign army had to play a part.
    I’ve read material from non-officers which is also jovial, but of course fewer of them could write or want to write records. I don’t think Sharpe, however, is a particularly inaccurate image of the life.
    I think Bernard Cornwell does a good job of showing men’s attitude to war, in the past, at least. Times have probably changed to an extent from WWI onward. Britain has WWI, America has Vietnam.
    There was a similar lottery system for the militia in Britain where people could pay a substitute, and some of those regiments ended up in the Peninsula, though I think they weren’t supposed to, technically.
    But the officers were all to an extent willing to go — especially given that they mostly had to buy their way in.
    Some clearly weren’t keen to go to _war_, however. There’s an account in the book I cited of one young officer who managed to miss going to the Peninsula and who two months later wrote to his colonel lamenting not being in the action. The colonel made sure he was able to catch up, which wasn’t at all what he’d wanted.
    There were at least a couple of officers notorious for somehow always marching their men away from the battle, or getting a bit behind etc. Their men didn’t seem to appreciate it.
    Re the letters, Mary Jo, no, these were to Arthur Kennedy’s mother, who was a widow. There are separate ones to his brother that aren’t much different in tone.
    He survived the war to a good old age.
    And yes, your Shattered Rainbows is one of the books I had in mind as working amidst the war. 🙂
    Of my “three heroes” above, Van was a keener and overall he enjoyed the action but hated losing friends. Con regarded it as a dirty job but someone had to do it. Hawk was in the Quartermaster’s division, mainly organizing the movement and provisioning of the army and as a Regency nerd, he loved that. He knew what he was doing was more valuable that being in the middle of battle, but he pined for action and found a chance for some.
    That’s something else I’ve found in letters — officers, at least (because they’re the ones doing most of the writing), but by implication men, too, going out of their way or breaking the rules to get a bit of extra action.
    I have another first-person account called, “Merry Hearts Make Light Days.” It’s the journal of John Le Couteur, Lt in the 104th Foot. Yes, he was in the British army. From Jersey.
    He served in Canada, fighting off the Americans in the 1812. He leaves one interesting description of the emotions of war.
    “It is a strange, an awful sense, that first feeling of deadly encounter — it is not fear we feel, but a glorious sense of awe, the spirit desiring to urge the flesh to aid its fellow man. Strange to witness death and wounds on every side — still to rush into the very jaws of danger.”
    (Merry Hands Make Light Days etc etc Carleton University Press.)
    Jo

    Reply
  14. Jo here. Interesting, Ingrid.
    For sure, not all the men enjoyed war, but I think conscription, and conscription into a foreign army had to play a part.
    I’ve read material from non-officers which is also jovial, but of course fewer of them could write or want to write records. I don’t think Sharpe, however, is a particularly inaccurate image of the life.
    I think Bernard Cornwell does a good job of showing men’s attitude to war, in the past, at least. Times have probably changed to an extent from WWI onward. Britain has WWI, America has Vietnam.
    There was a similar lottery system for the militia in Britain where people could pay a substitute, and some of those regiments ended up in the Peninsula, though I think they weren’t supposed to, technically.
    But the officers were all to an extent willing to go — especially given that they mostly had to buy their way in.
    Some clearly weren’t keen to go to _war_, however. There’s an account in the book I cited of one young officer who managed to miss going to the Peninsula and who two months later wrote to his colonel lamenting not being in the action. The colonel made sure he was able to catch up, which wasn’t at all what he’d wanted.
    There were at least a couple of officers notorious for somehow always marching their men away from the battle, or getting a bit behind etc. Their men didn’t seem to appreciate it.
    Re the letters, Mary Jo, no, these were to Arthur Kennedy’s mother, who was a widow. There are separate ones to his brother that aren’t much different in tone.
    He survived the war to a good old age.
    And yes, your Shattered Rainbows is one of the books I had in mind as working amidst the war. 🙂
    Of my “three heroes” above, Van was a keener and overall he enjoyed the action but hated losing friends. Con regarded it as a dirty job but someone had to do it. Hawk was in the Quartermaster’s division, mainly organizing the movement and provisioning of the army and as a Regency nerd, he loved that. He knew what he was doing was more valuable that being in the middle of battle, but he pined for action and found a chance for some.
    That’s something else I’ve found in letters — officers, at least (because they’re the ones doing most of the writing), but by implication men, too, going out of their way or breaking the rules to get a bit of extra action.
    I have another first-person account called, “Merry Hearts Make Light Days.” It’s the journal of John Le Couteur, Lt in the 104th Foot. Yes, he was in the British army. From Jersey.
    He served in Canada, fighting off the Americans in the 1812. He leaves one interesting description of the emotions of war.
    “It is a strange, an awful sense, that first feeling of deadly encounter — it is not fear we feel, but a glorious sense of awe, the spirit desiring to urge the flesh to aid its fellow man. Strange to witness death and wounds on every side — still to rush into the very jaws of danger.”
    (Merry Hands Make Light Days etc etc Carleton University Press.)
    Jo

    Reply
  15. Jo here. Interesting, Ingrid.
    For sure, not all the men enjoyed war, but I think conscription, and conscription into a foreign army had to play a part.
    I’ve read material from non-officers which is also jovial, but of course fewer of them could write or want to write records. I don’t think Sharpe, however, is a particularly inaccurate image of the life.
    I think Bernard Cornwell does a good job of showing men’s attitude to war, in the past, at least. Times have probably changed to an extent from WWI onward. Britain has WWI, America has Vietnam.
    There was a similar lottery system for the militia in Britain where people could pay a substitute, and some of those regiments ended up in the Peninsula, though I think they weren’t supposed to, technically.
    But the officers were all to an extent willing to go — especially given that they mostly had to buy their way in.
    Some clearly weren’t keen to go to _war_, however. There’s an account in the book I cited of one young officer who managed to miss going to the Peninsula and who two months later wrote to his colonel lamenting not being in the action. The colonel made sure he was able to catch up, which wasn’t at all what he’d wanted.
    There were at least a couple of officers notorious for somehow always marching their men away from the battle, or getting a bit behind etc. Their men didn’t seem to appreciate it.
    Re the letters, Mary Jo, no, these were to Arthur Kennedy’s mother, who was a widow. There are separate ones to his brother that aren’t much different in tone.
    He survived the war to a good old age.
    And yes, your Shattered Rainbows is one of the books I had in mind as working amidst the war. 🙂
    Of my “three heroes” above, Van was a keener and overall he enjoyed the action but hated losing friends. Con regarded it as a dirty job but someone had to do it. Hawk was in the Quartermaster’s division, mainly organizing the movement and provisioning of the army and as a Regency nerd, he loved that. He knew what he was doing was more valuable that being in the middle of battle, but he pined for action and found a chance for some.
    That’s something else I’ve found in letters — officers, at least (because they’re the ones doing most of the writing), but by implication men, too, going out of their way or breaking the rules to get a bit of extra action.
    I have another first-person account called, “Merry Hearts Make Light Days.” It’s the journal of John Le Couteur, Lt in the 104th Foot. Yes, he was in the British army. From Jersey.
    He served in Canada, fighting off the Americans in the 1812. He leaves one interesting description of the emotions of war.
    “It is a strange, an awful sense, that first feeling of deadly encounter — it is not fear we feel, but a glorious sense of awe, the spirit desiring to urge the flesh to aid its fellow man. Strange to witness death and wounds on every side — still to rush into the very jaws of danger.”
    (Merry Hands Make Light Days etc etc Carleton University Press.)
    Jo

    Reply
  16. Personally, I do love a war story, in romance or elsewhere. SHATTERED RAINBOWS is one of my all-time favorite romances for that reason, and your new hero sounds like someone I could connect to with no problems, Jo.
    Of course, I don’t know how typical I am! Probably not very–I wrote a following the drum romance and read a lot of those primary source diaries and letters as I researched it, and I’m a big Sharpe fan. And I recently (as in, the day before yesterday) decided that I’m going to write historical fiction either in addition to or instead of romance, partly so I can write more war stories. I don’t know what this says about me, but researching my “following the drum” book got me completely hooked on military history and the kind of stories it inspires.
    I keep coming back to a Robert E. Lee quote when I’m reading or writing war stories: “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.” Violence and carnage are horrible things, but somehow that just heightens my appreciation of stories of courage and comradeship and adventure set in their midst.

    Reply
  17. Personally, I do love a war story, in romance or elsewhere. SHATTERED RAINBOWS is one of my all-time favorite romances for that reason, and your new hero sounds like someone I could connect to with no problems, Jo.
    Of course, I don’t know how typical I am! Probably not very–I wrote a following the drum romance and read a lot of those primary source diaries and letters as I researched it, and I’m a big Sharpe fan. And I recently (as in, the day before yesterday) decided that I’m going to write historical fiction either in addition to or instead of romance, partly so I can write more war stories. I don’t know what this says about me, but researching my “following the drum” book got me completely hooked on military history and the kind of stories it inspires.
    I keep coming back to a Robert E. Lee quote when I’m reading or writing war stories: “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.” Violence and carnage are horrible things, but somehow that just heightens my appreciation of stories of courage and comradeship and adventure set in their midst.

    Reply
  18. Personally, I do love a war story, in romance or elsewhere. SHATTERED RAINBOWS is one of my all-time favorite romances for that reason, and your new hero sounds like someone I could connect to with no problems, Jo.
    Of course, I don’t know how typical I am! Probably not very–I wrote a following the drum romance and read a lot of those primary source diaries and letters as I researched it, and I’m a big Sharpe fan. And I recently (as in, the day before yesterday) decided that I’m going to write historical fiction either in addition to or instead of romance, partly so I can write more war stories. I don’t know what this says about me, but researching my “following the drum” book got me completely hooked on military history and the kind of stories it inspires.
    I keep coming back to a Robert E. Lee quote when I’m reading or writing war stories: “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.” Violence and carnage are horrible things, but somehow that just heightens my appreciation of stories of courage and comradeship and adventure set in their midst.

    Reply
  19. Good post, Jo. 🙂
    I’ve never understood why editors turn squeamish about the mention of war in romance novels. No, readers don’t want to read a “blow by blow” account of a battle, but to ignore it entirely strikes me as misguided at best — esp. when you consider that England and (usually) France are at war for most of the time in which our books are set.
    To make our characters completely ignore what amounts to ‘world wars’ turns them into shallow creatures indeed. Surely even the silliest miss would have been aware of war — it was simply too much a part of the culture, and the time.

    Reply
  20. Good post, Jo. 🙂
    I’ve never understood why editors turn squeamish about the mention of war in romance novels. No, readers don’t want to read a “blow by blow” account of a battle, but to ignore it entirely strikes me as misguided at best — esp. when you consider that England and (usually) France are at war for most of the time in which our books are set.
    To make our characters completely ignore what amounts to ‘world wars’ turns them into shallow creatures indeed. Surely even the silliest miss would have been aware of war — it was simply too much a part of the culture, and the time.

    Reply
  21. Good post, Jo. 🙂
    I’ve never understood why editors turn squeamish about the mention of war in romance novels. No, readers don’t want to read a “blow by blow” account of a battle, but to ignore it entirely strikes me as misguided at best — esp. when you consider that England and (usually) France are at war for most of the time in which our books are set.
    To make our characters completely ignore what amounts to ‘world wars’ turns them into shallow creatures indeed. Surely even the silliest miss would have been aware of war — it was simply too much a part of the culture, and the time.

    Reply
  22. “I am very interested in the soldier, the warrior, and I think it’s taking away from the courage of soldiers everywhere not to include the zest with the dark.”
    I agree with that. Speaking from a reader’s perspective though, I don’t really mind if a hero likes or dislikes battle as long as it’s consistent with other aspects of his character. As for battle descriptions, I don’t care for them as such. I might enjoy a battle scene in a book, but strategy doesn’t interest me, character interaction does. Which leads to:
    “When I’m reading a romance and find the hero on the battlefield the love story has gone AWOL and I hunt through the pages until I catch it and tell it to jolly well get on with the job.”
    Couple time is a big deal for me. Books lose points if I start marking time til the couple gets together again. I panned Son of the Morning my first time through because it took sooo looong for them to meet! I’m just too impatient, I guess. 🙂 I’ve become more tolerant since then, but I still want the book to be about the couple.
    It’s interesting that you don’t mind battle scenes in general fiction. My character-intensive preference seems to hold true across all genres which can be quite a handicap. It’s probably why I predominately read romance fiction. I like mystery and sci/fi, but they tend to be more plot driven than character driven so I have a hard time finding authors that I like.
    In thinking about this, I’ve just realized that my feelings about battle scenes are best illustrated by my taste in movies. I dislike war movies as a whole, but I like “buddy” or “caper” movies such as The Dirty Dozen, Force 10 from Navarone, and Stalag 17.

    Reply
  23. “I am very interested in the soldier, the warrior, and I think it’s taking away from the courage of soldiers everywhere not to include the zest with the dark.”
    I agree with that. Speaking from a reader’s perspective though, I don’t really mind if a hero likes or dislikes battle as long as it’s consistent with other aspects of his character. As for battle descriptions, I don’t care for them as such. I might enjoy a battle scene in a book, but strategy doesn’t interest me, character interaction does. Which leads to:
    “When I’m reading a romance and find the hero on the battlefield the love story has gone AWOL and I hunt through the pages until I catch it and tell it to jolly well get on with the job.”
    Couple time is a big deal for me. Books lose points if I start marking time til the couple gets together again. I panned Son of the Morning my first time through because it took sooo looong for them to meet! I’m just too impatient, I guess. 🙂 I’ve become more tolerant since then, but I still want the book to be about the couple.
    It’s interesting that you don’t mind battle scenes in general fiction. My character-intensive preference seems to hold true across all genres which can be quite a handicap. It’s probably why I predominately read romance fiction. I like mystery and sci/fi, but they tend to be more plot driven than character driven so I have a hard time finding authors that I like.
    In thinking about this, I’ve just realized that my feelings about battle scenes are best illustrated by my taste in movies. I dislike war movies as a whole, but I like “buddy” or “caper” movies such as The Dirty Dozen, Force 10 from Navarone, and Stalag 17.

    Reply
  24. “I am very interested in the soldier, the warrior, and I think it’s taking away from the courage of soldiers everywhere not to include the zest with the dark.”
    I agree with that. Speaking from a reader’s perspective though, I don’t really mind if a hero likes or dislikes battle as long as it’s consistent with other aspects of his character. As for battle descriptions, I don’t care for them as such. I might enjoy a battle scene in a book, but strategy doesn’t interest me, character interaction does. Which leads to:
    “When I’m reading a romance and find the hero on the battlefield the love story has gone AWOL and I hunt through the pages until I catch it and tell it to jolly well get on with the job.”
    Couple time is a big deal for me. Books lose points if I start marking time til the couple gets together again. I panned Son of the Morning my first time through because it took sooo looong for them to meet! I’m just too impatient, I guess. 🙂 I’ve become more tolerant since then, but I still want the book to be about the couple.
    It’s interesting that you don’t mind battle scenes in general fiction. My character-intensive preference seems to hold true across all genres which can be quite a handicap. It’s probably why I predominately read romance fiction. I like mystery and sci/fi, but they tend to be more plot driven than character driven so I have a hard time finding authors that I like.
    In thinking about this, I’ve just realized that my feelings about battle scenes are best illustrated by my taste in movies. I dislike war movies as a whole, but I like “buddy” or “caper” movies such as The Dirty Dozen, Force 10 from Navarone, and Stalag 17.

    Reply
  25. I love a good war romance. AN INFAMOUS ARMY is one of my favorite Heyer’s. As for embracing the enemy. The Atatürk Memorial for the battle of Gallipoli is, IMO, one of the most moving quotes ever written:
    “Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”
    I cry every damn time.

    Reply
  26. I love a good war romance. AN INFAMOUS ARMY is one of my favorite Heyer’s. As for embracing the enemy. The Atatürk Memorial for the battle of Gallipoli is, IMO, one of the most moving quotes ever written:
    “Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”
    I cry every damn time.

    Reply
  27. I love a good war romance. AN INFAMOUS ARMY is one of my favorite Heyer’s. As for embracing the enemy. The Atatürk Memorial for the battle of Gallipoli is, IMO, one of the most moving quotes ever written:
    “Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”
    I cry every damn time.

    Reply
  28. From Sherrie:
    Variety is the spice of life. I don’t mind war scenes in the books I read, though in a romance the focus shouldn’t stray too far from the H/H.
    In the past year I’ve been listening to the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian and much to my surprise I find the sea battles absolutely riveting. (Especially since O’Brian’s sea battles are often about actual battles that took place on the open seas, and are meticulously researched.) The ability to maneuver those huge battleships, the strategies of sea warfare, the bravery and brilliance of the captains and their crews, the code of conduct during battle and during surrender … fascinating!
    And, as has been said, it’s pretty hard to ignore the wars when so many of the Wench books take place during those very times.
    As a romance reader and freelance editor who critiques/edits romance manuscripts on a daily basis, I find myself becoming jaded at times by the sameness of the stories I read. I would welcome a romance that included passages dealing with war and battle scenes, or had a soldier as a hero.

    Reply
  29. From Sherrie:
    Variety is the spice of life. I don’t mind war scenes in the books I read, though in a romance the focus shouldn’t stray too far from the H/H.
    In the past year I’ve been listening to the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian and much to my surprise I find the sea battles absolutely riveting. (Especially since O’Brian’s sea battles are often about actual battles that took place on the open seas, and are meticulously researched.) The ability to maneuver those huge battleships, the strategies of sea warfare, the bravery and brilliance of the captains and their crews, the code of conduct during battle and during surrender … fascinating!
    And, as has been said, it’s pretty hard to ignore the wars when so many of the Wench books take place during those very times.
    As a romance reader and freelance editor who critiques/edits romance manuscripts on a daily basis, I find myself becoming jaded at times by the sameness of the stories I read. I would welcome a romance that included passages dealing with war and battle scenes, or had a soldier as a hero.

    Reply
  30. From Sherrie:
    Variety is the spice of life. I don’t mind war scenes in the books I read, though in a romance the focus shouldn’t stray too far from the H/H.
    In the past year I’ve been listening to the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian and much to my surprise I find the sea battles absolutely riveting. (Especially since O’Brian’s sea battles are often about actual battles that took place on the open seas, and are meticulously researched.) The ability to maneuver those huge battleships, the strategies of sea warfare, the bravery and brilliance of the captains and their crews, the code of conduct during battle and during surrender … fascinating!
    And, as has been said, it’s pretty hard to ignore the wars when so many of the Wench books take place during those very times.
    As a romance reader and freelance editor who critiques/edits romance manuscripts on a daily basis, I find myself becoming jaded at times by the sameness of the stories I read. I would welcome a romance that included passages dealing with war and battle scenes, or had a soldier as a hero.

    Reply
  31. I find it interesting to read books which explore both the ‘I have to be willing and able to fight for what I care about”
    (courage) with the upset and horror at the results of fighting. (compassion.) It is explored interestingly by Dorothy Sayers (as well as many Wenches). Lord Peter Wimsey comes back from the war unable to give an order (even for breakfast) after having given orders for men to be blown to bits. He is the only character that I have read about in a mystery who gets absolutely sick when the murderer is executed. we recently rented the film Gallopoli, in which the attitudes of the families of those who join up are “good for you, I admire your courage” — war as a test of personal character, rather than a just cause or a necessary fight. I felt when I watched it, that that did reflect some of the attitude of the times. Even if there was a hero in a romance who was not wounded or horrified by war, I think I would want him to be intelligent enough to, at least occasionally, wonder at, or think about, his responses.
    Merry

    Reply
  32. I find it interesting to read books which explore both the ‘I have to be willing and able to fight for what I care about”
    (courage) with the upset and horror at the results of fighting. (compassion.) It is explored interestingly by Dorothy Sayers (as well as many Wenches). Lord Peter Wimsey comes back from the war unable to give an order (even for breakfast) after having given orders for men to be blown to bits. He is the only character that I have read about in a mystery who gets absolutely sick when the murderer is executed. we recently rented the film Gallopoli, in which the attitudes of the families of those who join up are “good for you, I admire your courage” — war as a test of personal character, rather than a just cause or a necessary fight. I felt when I watched it, that that did reflect some of the attitude of the times. Even if there was a hero in a romance who was not wounded or horrified by war, I think I would want him to be intelligent enough to, at least occasionally, wonder at, or think about, his responses.
    Merry

    Reply
  33. I find it interesting to read books which explore both the ‘I have to be willing and able to fight for what I care about”
    (courage) with the upset and horror at the results of fighting. (compassion.) It is explored interestingly by Dorothy Sayers (as well as many Wenches). Lord Peter Wimsey comes back from the war unable to give an order (even for breakfast) after having given orders for men to be blown to bits. He is the only character that I have read about in a mystery who gets absolutely sick when the murderer is executed. we recently rented the film Gallopoli, in which the attitudes of the families of those who join up are “good for you, I admire your courage” — war as a test of personal character, rather than a just cause or a necessary fight. I felt when I watched it, that that did reflect some of the attitude of the times. Even if there was a hero in a romance who was not wounded or horrified by war, I think I would want him to be intelligent enough to, at least occasionally, wonder at, or think about, his responses.
    Merry

    Reply
  34. I realize that my previous comments are off the topic of whether or not to include battle scenes. I don’t mind battle scenes in books– if there are not too many. I have much more trouble with them in movies, and there are many movies I won’t watch.
    Merry

    Reply
  35. I realize that my previous comments are off the topic of whether or not to include battle scenes. I don’t mind battle scenes in books– if there are not too many. I have much more trouble with them in movies, and there are many movies I won’t watch.
    Merry

    Reply
  36. I realize that my previous comments are off the topic of whether or not to include battle scenes. I don’t mind battle scenes in books– if there are not too many. I have much more trouble with them in movies, and there are many movies I won’t watch.
    Merry

    Reply
  37. In the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg one of the grandest galleries is given over to celebrating the Russian defeat of Napoleon in 1812. There is memorabilia from the conflict and full length portraits of the commanders in gorgeous uniforms but overall it conveys the sense of a people sacrificing themselves to save their country from the invader. The Russians themselves burned Moscow so the French would have no place to winter over and tore up the countryside around so there was no food or fuel. Napoleon’s retreat through the snow destroyed his experienced troops and was the beginning of the end of all his hopes of conquering Europe. That was in the heart of the Regency period.
    I think romances without reference to war in that time period don’t convey the male characters to the reader. Tolstoy’s War and Peace takes the reader through love stories and battles so they are not mutually exclusive. Why do we have to separate romance and historical?
    Jack Aubrey’s marriage and his fumbles in civilian life as well as Stephen Maturin’s romantic life create the contrast with the naval life and battles. An Infamous Army captured the Regency period social life as well as the war.
    I think the author who is writing of this time period should portray the attitudes and responses to war accurately. Please no political correctness or modern sensibility.

    Reply
  38. In the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg one of the grandest galleries is given over to celebrating the Russian defeat of Napoleon in 1812. There is memorabilia from the conflict and full length portraits of the commanders in gorgeous uniforms but overall it conveys the sense of a people sacrificing themselves to save their country from the invader. The Russians themselves burned Moscow so the French would have no place to winter over and tore up the countryside around so there was no food or fuel. Napoleon’s retreat through the snow destroyed his experienced troops and was the beginning of the end of all his hopes of conquering Europe. That was in the heart of the Regency period.
    I think romances without reference to war in that time period don’t convey the male characters to the reader. Tolstoy’s War and Peace takes the reader through love stories and battles so they are not mutually exclusive. Why do we have to separate romance and historical?
    Jack Aubrey’s marriage and his fumbles in civilian life as well as Stephen Maturin’s romantic life create the contrast with the naval life and battles. An Infamous Army captured the Regency period social life as well as the war.
    I think the author who is writing of this time period should portray the attitudes and responses to war accurately. Please no political correctness or modern sensibility.

    Reply
  39. In the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg one of the grandest galleries is given over to celebrating the Russian defeat of Napoleon in 1812. There is memorabilia from the conflict and full length portraits of the commanders in gorgeous uniforms but overall it conveys the sense of a people sacrificing themselves to save their country from the invader. The Russians themselves burned Moscow so the French would have no place to winter over and tore up the countryside around so there was no food or fuel. Napoleon’s retreat through the snow destroyed his experienced troops and was the beginning of the end of all his hopes of conquering Europe. That was in the heart of the Regency period.
    I think romances without reference to war in that time period don’t convey the male characters to the reader. Tolstoy’s War and Peace takes the reader through love stories and battles so they are not mutually exclusive. Why do we have to separate romance and historical?
    Jack Aubrey’s marriage and his fumbles in civilian life as well as Stephen Maturin’s romantic life create the contrast with the naval life and battles. An Infamous Army captured the Regency period social life as well as the war.
    I think the author who is writing of this time period should portray the attitudes and responses to war accurately. Please no political correctness or modern sensibility.

    Reply
  40. Brenda, you make good points, but we should remember that Jane Austen touched on the war extremely lightly in her novels and even in her personal correspondence. We can’t say her view of her world was inaccurate, I don’t think.
    In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with any contemporary fiction of the early 19th century that dealt with the Napoleonic Wars. Help me someone. There have to have been some, surely?
    Byron wrote some poetry on the subject, especially about Waterloo, but there I stick.
    Jo

    Reply
  41. Brenda, you make good points, but we should remember that Jane Austen touched on the war extremely lightly in her novels and even in her personal correspondence. We can’t say her view of her world was inaccurate, I don’t think.
    In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with any contemporary fiction of the early 19th century that dealt with the Napoleonic Wars. Help me someone. There have to have been some, surely?
    Byron wrote some poetry on the subject, especially about Waterloo, but there I stick.
    Jo

    Reply
  42. Brenda, you make good points, but we should remember that Jane Austen touched on the war extremely lightly in her novels and even in her personal correspondence. We can’t say her view of her world was inaccurate, I don’t think.
    In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with any contemporary fiction of the early 19th century that dealt with the Napoleonic Wars. Help me someone. There have to have been some, surely?
    Byron wrote some poetry on the subject, especially about Waterloo, but there I stick.
    Jo

    Reply
  43. Often Carla Kelly’s books cover the results of war. I read her “One Good Turn” and her description of the English sacking of a Spanish city was so painful to read that I’ve never been able to reread the book again, something I’ve done with great relish with her other books. Although I am glad I saw “Saving Private Ryan,” I cried within five minutes of the beginning and throughout much of the movie. Call me a coward, but I don’t read romances to cry about terrible, terrible violence, especially when it makes me think about all the men and women whose bodies and lives are injured and destroyed right now in Iraq.

    Reply
  44. Often Carla Kelly’s books cover the results of war. I read her “One Good Turn” and her description of the English sacking of a Spanish city was so painful to read that I’ve never been able to reread the book again, something I’ve done with great relish with her other books. Although I am glad I saw “Saving Private Ryan,” I cried within five minutes of the beginning and throughout much of the movie. Call me a coward, but I don’t read romances to cry about terrible, terrible violence, especially when it makes me think about all the men and women whose bodies and lives are injured and destroyed right now in Iraq.

    Reply
  45. Often Carla Kelly’s books cover the results of war. I read her “One Good Turn” and her description of the English sacking of a Spanish city was so painful to read that I’ve never been able to reread the book again, something I’ve done with great relish with her other books. Although I am glad I saw “Saving Private Ryan,” I cried within five minutes of the beginning and throughout much of the movie. Call me a coward, but I don’t read romances to cry about terrible, terrible violence, especially when it makes me think about all the men and women whose bodies and lives are injured and destroyed right now in Iraq.

    Reply
  46. I think that fiction in the early 19th century was considered to be for women only and was very protective of the weaker vessel. Any war accounts would have been written by officers for a male audience.
    Jane Austen’s microcosm of her society was exactly right from any commentary I’ve read about it and her soldiers were mainly stationed in an English village before being sent to the Peninsula. Her characters are presented in their immediate environment.
    I think part of the expectation of today’s reader for more depth and accuracy in the story is based on the huge knowledge base we can easily access.
    The historian Paul Johnson dates the modern age from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The huge loss of life was a precursor to the enormous conflicts that followed including WWI. Poets from 1918 onward have preached against the folly of war.
    Brenda

    Reply
  47. I think that fiction in the early 19th century was considered to be for women only and was very protective of the weaker vessel. Any war accounts would have been written by officers for a male audience.
    Jane Austen’s microcosm of her society was exactly right from any commentary I’ve read about it and her soldiers were mainly stationed in an English village before being sent to the Peninsula. Her characters are presented in their immediate environment.
    I think part of the expectation of today’s reader for more depth and accuracy in the story is based on the huge knowledge base we can easily access.
    The historian Paul Johnson dates the modern age from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The huge loss of life was a precursor to the enormous conflicts that followed including WWI. Poets from 1918 onward have preached against the folly of war.
    Brenda

    Reply
  48. I think that fiction in the early 19th century was considered to be for women only and was very protective of the weaker vessel. Any war accounts would have been written by officers for a male audience.
    Jane Austen’s microcosm of her society was exactly right from any commentary I’ve read about it and her soldiers were mainly stationed in an English village before being sent to the Peninsula. Her characters are presented in their immediate environment.
    I think part of the expectation of today’s reader for more depth and accuracy in the story is based on the huge knowledge base we can easily access.
    The historian Paul Johnson dates the modern age from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The huge loss of life was a precursor to the enormous conflicts that followed including WWI. Poets from 1918 onward have preached against the folly of war.
    Brenda

    Reply
  49. Like another poster above – I read Carla Kelly and LOVE her books. I believe almost all of her heroes have ‘seen action’ at some point or another – even the clerk for John Company in India, who becomes a hotel manager in a short story – got caught up in a battle. He recognized the exhilaration of still being alive when battle was done, the comaradery (sp?) of the ‘foxhole’, the exhaustion of survivors, etc.
    I like characters who understand the implications of French brandy while England was at war with France – who understand the Europe was essentially closed to tourists – that there may have been a shortage of farm hands and that is why some farm machines were invented.
    I also love Sharpe & the Rifles – showing how clever the ‘regular guys’ were versus the officers and the system of buying commissions. I like that bit of reality but also agree with the limited appeal of blow by blow battle scenes – some of O’Brien’s battle scenes are good but sometimes, I have to confess – to me – a little tiresome. I never read the Horatio Hornblower books but have watched – multiple times – the movies and really enjoy them!
    Personally, my father was career Navy, I dated an Army officer and an Air Force non-comm… so I may have a little more interest than the average person… but, America has been putting troops in harms way for three years now (especially National Guard troops) so I think that there may be more interest on the part readers in the impact of war. The Boston Globe just did a four-part series on two guys with post-traumatic stress disorder – or in Dorothy Sayers words, ‘they had a very bad war’.
    Real long for two cents worth. Sorry :->

    Reply
  50. Like another poster above – I read Carla Kelly and LOVE her books. I believe almost all of her heroes have ‘seen action’ at some point or another – even the clerk for John Company in India, who becomes a hotel manager in a short story – got caught up in a battle. He recognized the exhilaration of still being alive when battle was done, the comaradery (sp?) of the ‘foxhole’, the exhaustion of survivors, etc.
    I like characters who understand the implications of French brandy while England was at war with France – who understand the Europe was essentially closed to tourists – that there may have been a shortage of farm hands and that is why some farm machines were invented.
    I also love Sharpe & the Rifles – showing how clever the ‘regular guys’ were versus the officers and the system of buying commissions. I like that bit of reality but also agree with the limited appeal of blow by blow battle scenes – some of O’Brien’s battle scenes are good but sometimes, I have to confess – to me – a little tiresome. I never read the Horatio Hornblower books but have watched – multiple times – the movies and really enjoy them!
    Personally, my father was career Navy, I dated an Army officer and an Air Force non-comm… so I may have a little more interest than the average person… but, America has been putting troops in harms way for three years now (especially National Guard troops) so I think that there may be more interest on the part readers in the impact of war. The Boston Globe just did a four-part series on two guys with post-traumatic stress disorder – or in Dorothy Sayers words, ‘they had a very bad war’.
    Real long for two cents worth. Sorry :->

    Reply
  51. Like another poster above – I read Carla Kelly and LOVE her books. I believe almost all of her heroes have ‘seen action’ at some point or another – even the clerk for John Company in India, who becomes a hotel manager in a short story – got caught up in a battle. He recognized the exhilaration of still being alive when battle was done, the comaradery (sp?) of the ‘foxhole’, the exhaustion of survivors, etc.
    I like characters who understand the implications of French brandy while England was at war with France – who understand the Europe was essentially closed to tourists – that there may have been a shortage of farm hands and that is why some farm machines were invented.
    I also love Sharpe & the Rifles – showing how clever the ‘regular guys’ were versus the officers and the system of buying commissions. I like that bit of reality but also agree with the limited appeal of blow by blow battle scenes – some of O’Brien’s battle scenes are good but sometimes, I have to confess – to me – a little tiresome. I never read the Horatio Hornblower books but have watched – multiple times – the movies and really enjoy them!
    Personally, my father was career Navy, I dated an Army officer and an Air Force non-comm… so I may have a little more interest than the average person… but, America has been putting troops in harms way for three years now (especially National Guard troops) so I think that there may be more interest on the part readers in the impact of war. The Boston Globe just did a four-part series on two guys with post-traumatic stress disorder – or in Dorothy Sayers words, ‘they had a very bad war’.
    Real long for two cents worth. Sorry :->

    Reply

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