“In answer, she’d looked hungrily at his mouth, released a shallow breath, then leaned forward and kissed him. Tentatively, at first, almost reverently, as though she’d been waiting a lifetime to taste him and didn’t want to ruin it by hurrying. Shock and sensation detonated through him, delaying his reaction.” - The Rule-Breaker by Rhonda Nelson
When I think of a military romance novel, I imagine that our hero will be bare-chested, wearing dog tags, jumping out of a helicopter, with a knife clenched between his teeth, holding two huge machine guns, ready to fight terrorism—before/during/after bringing his lover to orgasm. But those front covers and back synopses aren’t all the same. The factor that makes a romance a “military romance,” mainly involving a hero who is either active-duty or a veteran, can vary with each book.
Maybe our hero fought with time-travelling Vikings, or he was a brave knight in the crusades. Maybe he fought for or against Napoleon—and then he became a spy for the crown. Or maybe he’s a more modern military hero with a sun-bronzed body (from all those desert deployments), complete with battle scars and gorgeous muscles that just won’t quit. Here are a few things to note about our military romance heroes:
• If he is active-duty, then he is bound by certain rules and regulations. Some heroes love to follow these rules and patiently obey every command with extreme discipline. Some heroes love to break them and obey every wicked impulse. And it sure is fun to read the hero’s lover win him over, either by whipping him into shape or making him lose control of that vice grip he has on his heart.
• He runs straight into danger. This is what he was trained to do, and he excels at it. While this can be very admirable, and truly heroic, it can also be very frustrating for the heroine. If the house is on fire, he won’t listen to anyone begging “don’t go in there!” If chaos and danger is raining down at the most inconvenient time, he will fight anything and everything to be sure that his loved ones are safe and his mission is accomplished.
• He is alert, neat, and disciplined. Ok, this can vary, but if he isn’t neat and orderly he is, at the very least, aware of his order and methodology. If one envelope is askew on the desk, he’ll immediately suspect that the villain rummaged through the office.
• He’s got some ink. Chances are high that he’s got a tattoo (or a few). It could be a USMC bulldog, a Sailor Jerry, or a Screaming Eagle (but it’s going to be something that looks great on him).
Sometimes the military itself is not the main focus of the romance, and the book does not always have the handsome man in uniform on the cover.
The co-hero (Ty Grady) in Cut & Run (an m/m romantic suspense by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux) is a combat veteran from Force Recon (the most elite special operations unit of the Marines). Ty’s background in the Marines is not the main focus of the romance or suspense, but his strict training and stressful experiences show the reader why his character is so moody and complex, and also why his lover counters this behavior a certain way:
“Raising his eyes to look at Ty again, Zane thought he was beginning to understand. Understand why Ty was so determined to stay on this case no matter what exploded. And why he was such an ass to keep people from getting too close... Ty and his companions had lived a dangerous life. They expected to lose one another.” – Cut & Run, by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Midnight Secrets, by Ella Grace, is a small-town mystery featuring a veteran-turned-sheriff, Zach Tanner, who uses his Army combat training (many times) to save the heroine and solve crime in Midnight, Alabama.
The Rule-Breaker, by Rhonda Nelson, shows graphic detail of flashbacks and post-deployment memories for Eli Weston, an army ranger who’s also a stickler for the rules. This steamy Harlequin Blaze also highlights PTSD in the modern American military, and especially how Eli has to cope with the loss of his best friend while also falling in love with said-friend’s ex-fiancé. The fact that Eli is a Ranger is not rubbed in the reader’s face, but it is more about how his military experiences affect the couple’s HEA.
For a historical military romance, try Beatrix Hathaway, from Lisa Kleypas’s Love In The Afternoon, falls in love with Captain Christopher Phelan (the heroic soldier who unknowingly became her pen-pal while fighting in the Crimean War). This plotline mostly revolves around flashbacks of Christopher’s time in the trenches, showing his PTSD as a result of his combat heroism, and how the intensely passionate romance with Beatrix helps him to cope with his dark past.
But in case you’re looking for a much more comedic and light-hearted approach to military romances, I would also recommend Sandra Hill’s Hot and Heavy and Rough and Ready, from the Viking II series.
Do you have a favorite military romance, or a romance featuring a military hero?
Jena Briars is a California girl living in D.C., feeding her brain one romance novel at a time...When she’s not busy at work, or being distracted (sometimes ambushed) by her cat, she reviews romances on her website Throughout the Pages.