May 11 2011 1:00pm

You’re My Waterloo: Top 5 Napoleonic Wars Heroes and Heroines

Slightly Tempted by Mary BaloghI love the Napoleonic Wars. Or rather, I love reading about the Napoleonic Wars…I wouldn’t have wanted to live in that turbulent time, even though it does give plenty of scope for fictional conflict. There are many, many novels set in the Regency period featuring soldiers who served in the Napoleonic Wars. After considerable pondering, here are my five favorite romance novels taking place in that period, all of them involving characters who participated in the wars in some way. I especially love when an author explores aspects of the period that are less common in romance novels.

Mary Balogh, Slightly Tempted: this is the fourth novel in Balogh’s Bedwyn series, but it can be read on its own. The first book in this series, Slightly Married, involves a former soldier as well as children orphaned by the war, and the fifth, Slightly Sinful, features a diplomat injured at Waterloo; while those are excellent novels, I chose Slightly Tempted because the sheltered young heroine, Morgan, is shown right in the midst of the war, and I liked seeing events from a woman’s point of view. She travels to Brussels shortly before Waterloo, and stays there through the chaos that follows, helping the wounded as she searches in vain for her brother, who went missing in the battle. The events leading up to the battle are depicted with dense emotional detail, particularly how hard it was for the townspeople to deal with lack of information. It’s an emotionally engaging picture of how it must have felt to live in the midst of such a conflict when accurate, current news is almost impossible to come by. Morgan and the hero, the bitter Gervase, are initially at odds but become friends and then lovers amid a much greater conflict.

Tracy Grant's Shores of Desire, takes place in the months before and after Waterloo. I chose this novel because the hero, Robert Lescaut, is an officer with the French army rather than English, something that’s rare in romance (but I wish it wasn’t!). He pretends to be a British soldier while searching Scotland for the man who murdered his wife. There he meets Emma, the heroine, and though they are attracted both emotionally and sexually, he cannot tell her the truth about his identity. The tension resulting from Robert’s deception is one of the best things about the story. Later, they travel to both Brussels and Paris, mingling the events of the war with the mystery plot.

England’s Perfect Hero by Suzanne EnochSuzanne Enoch, England’s Perfect Hero: this book is part of the “Lessons in Love” series, but is much darker in tone. The heroine, Lucinda, is looking for a man who is not emotionally complicated. But she falls for Robert Carroway, who is a recluse in his brother’s house. The public was told Robert is a wounded hero of Waterloo, but in fact he was imprisoned and tortured for seven months, and did not take part in the famous battle at all. Society considers him “damaged goods.” Yes, he is emotionally complicated! The strongest part of the novel, to me, is how Robert’s post-traumatic experiences are vividly portrayed, as are Lucinda’s attempts to connect with him, which gradually help to draw him out of his seclusion.

Nita Abrams, A Question of Honor: this novel is first in Abrams’ excellent series about a family of Anglo-Jewish bankers and couriers/spies (based on the Rothschilds). The heroine, Rachel, has been trained as a spy from childhood, and uses some of her abilities in the course of the plot. The hero, Richard, is an army engineer; though not really suited for the job, he must do some spying that involves his expertise, and is wounded in the process. It’s only after he’s wounded that he meets Rachel, who is pretending to be something she isn’t and exercising her skills. The main conflict in this novel is not so much the war with Napoleon, but the conflict between Rachel and Richard as they learn to trust each other, and between the two of them and society, which is opposed to interfaith marriage.

The Wedding Journey by Carla KellyCarla Kelly, The Wedding Journey: Kelly often writes about soldiers and doctors in the Napoleonic period; her current series focuses on naval officers. But this novel is a particular favorite of mine because it’s a great and realistic adventure story. The hero, Jesse, is an army surgeon serving with Wellington. He’s been in love with the heroine, Nell, for years, but doesn’t dare approach her until she needs protection, and he offers her marriage. Nell thinks Jesse married her out of pity; Jesse is too shy to tell her about his love for her. Shortly afterward, they are separated from the army during a retreat. Their wedding journey is a harrowing, grinding slog across Portugal with only two army privates for protection. Most of the story is from Jesse’s point of view, as he is forced to uncover his own courage and leadership skills amid a series of difficult moral decisions, as Nell gradually discovers that she is in love with the man he’s become. It’s an intense, absorbing book, and one of my favorites.


Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at

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Louise Partain
1. Louise321
While I agree with the M Balogh and S Enoch choices having read and enjoyed them (although Enoch's story is set in the post Waterloo London) I regret the leaving off of two personal favorites -- Georgette Heyer's An Infamous Army, one of the best researched historical accounts of Waterloo I have read and a very realistic love story and Shattered Rainbows, by Mary Jo Putney, with the same realistic confusion of the actual battle from a civilian point of view along with a wider view of the nursing of the injured that is shown in Slightly Tempted.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
I second 'Shattered Rainbows'. While the love story therein is not my favorite of this series, I loved the first half of the novel and its vivid account of the days leading up to the battle of Waterloo.
Susanna Fraser
3. Susanna Fraser
Thirding the love for Shattered Rainbows. I still haven't read An Infamous Army, but I enjoyed The Spanish Bride.
Victoria Janssen
4. VictoriaJanssen
@Louise321 & @Bungluna & @Susanna Fraser I must admit I almost added Shattered Rainbows to this list; Putney's River of Fire almost made it, as well. Maybe I should have done a list of ten! I also considered @Susanna Fraser's novel The Sergeant's Lady because the hero is not an officer (it reminded me a little of Carla Kelly's work).

It would be interesting to see what a wide range of readers chose for their top five.

I don't consider An Infamous Army to be a romance in the strictest sense - I think of it more as a historical novel.
5. Syl
I am glad you included Nita Abrams and Carla Kelly. I really liked Abrams' The Spy's Bride.
Louise Partain
6. Louise321
@VictoriaJanssen Maybe I am from an older generation but I found the love story fit right in with the historical setting. The fact that Babs is a spoiled flirt who fights her attraction to the stalwart Col. Charles Audley across the stage of pre-battle Brussels and that the characters lose loved ones and in the end carry forth scars of battle makes the love story richer.
Of course, the extended title is "A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War" so I suppose your consideration is just.
Susanna Fraser
7. Susanna Fraser
@VictoriaJanssen I didn't want to toot my own horn by mentioning my book, but thanks for tooting it for me. ;-)

I think I could write Napoleonic Wars stories for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. I'm working on a novella set right after the Battle of Salamanca where both the hero and heroine are commoners, and my next romance project after that is going to be a Waterloo novel.

I'm also working on fantasy/alternative history, which is tremendous fun to write because it lets me go big and epic and also climb into the heads of actual historical figures. I don't have any desire to write what I guess you'd call biographical historical fiction, where a real person is the main character, because I, and anyone else who's read the history, already know how everything turned out. But throw in some magical or paranormal elements, or change the outcome of an event and try to figure out what would happen next, and I'm all over it.
Victoria Janssen
8. VictoriaJanssen
@Syl, I love that Abrams series and wish she would write more.

@Louise321, you certainly have a point! One could do a whole post just on that book, too.

@Susanna Fraser, LOL! I think it's neat that there are so many takes possible using Waterloo as a setting.
Manda Collins
9. mandacollins
Thank you for highlighting Balogh's SLIGHTLY TEMPTED. I think the emotional impact of Morgan's time in Brussels is superbly done. Though my favorite of that series is SLIGHTLY MARRIED because I love Aidan Bedwyn's gruff soldier type:)

I'm also a big fan of Nita Abrams' series, though my favorite of those is THE EXILES, set it Vienna during the congress. One of the best girl-in-breeches stories I've read. I, too, wish she would write more.
Victoria Janssen
10. VictoriaJanssen
I think @MandaCollins and I share some tastes. Mmm, Aidan. And I adore the tarnished hero of Abrams' The Exiles as well as the cross-dressing - have reread that one a couple of times.
11. Diana Fox
One of my favorites that hasn't been mentioned yet is RED, RED ROSE by Marjorie Farrell. The heroine is an officer's daughter and the hero is the illegitmate son of a duke.
12. Tracy Grant
Thanks so much for mentioning "Shores of Desire." I too love to read and write books set round the Napoleonic Wars. "An Infamous Army" is a favorite of mine as well. The book I just finished, "Imperial Scandal" (out next April) is also set before, during, and after Waterloo. It's historical fiction/suspense, though it does have two interlocking love stories. I loved writing about Waterloo again. "Imperial Scandal" starts a few days before the battle and ends just after, so I was able to explore the time in more detail than in "Shores of Desire."
Donna Watson
13. Sookie65
I too love Mary Balogh's "Slightly" series and have re-read them over and over.
However, my favourite writer for this period has got to Jo Beverley. Her "Rogues" series covers it all as far as I'm concerned.
Victoria Janssen
14. VictoriaJanssen
@DianaFox, I have not yet read that one!!! Must find. Now.

@DonnaWatson, I am a Beverley fangirl - the "Three Georges" were among those I considered including in this list.
Louise Partain
15. Louise321
@DonnaWatson -- I totally agree with the Rogue series -- especially An Unwilling Bride for showing how England was held in suspense until after the battle was over, the funny clues as to who was winning even from the financial wizs who apparently used carrier pidgeons to find out how the battle at Waterloo was going, and the general euphoria that hit London when news of victory came in and before the staggering lists of dead, wounded and missing were posted.
Linda Talamo
18. eLTe
I must also add my vote for Shattered Rainbows, and also include an honorable mention for Lord of Ice (Galen Foley). Actually, truth be told ... I applaud the authors that address the issue of PTSD during the 19th C. In present day, we are all but inured with such use of acronyms, but what we forget is that our Warriors -- in whatever century -- have been suffering in silence for a very long time.
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