Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why We Love Men in Uniform - a Romantic Salute on Memorial Day Weekend

Of all the hero types abounding in romance literature, I feel that the soldier is the most alluring, intriguing, and romantic of them all. Oh, sure - I love a Highlander and pirate just the same as the next reader, and give me a sexy Eloisa James duke any night of the week! But there's something exciting about the soldier. Romances depict them in many guises - battle weary Crusaders, Civil War soldiers coming home to changed lives, patriots fighting redcoats, marauding viking warriors, and Special Ops-turned-bodyguard, to name a few.

It's not just the uniform that keeps readers turning pages and writers frantically summoning their muse to battle again. The soldier hero has seen a different kind of life than any number of Mr. Darcys or cowboys. The soldier has stared death and danger in the face. He's survived unbearable circumstances and faced an often invisible foe. His scars go deeper than the surface. His heart and soul may be touched by what he's encountered.

Some of my favorite heroes are soldiers or warriors of some kind or another, whether general turned gladiator (as shown in the film Gladiator and the new Spartacus series), knight/soldier (Clive Owen and hunks in King Arthur), Civil War veterans (Jude Law in Cold Mountain and Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma). For the modern era, Tom Cruise made a fortune portraying Maverick in Top Gun, and Pearl Harbor is still my favorite romantic movie (I skip through the fighting bits).

In the 8 novels I've completed, a surprising 5 have a hero with a soldier's past or present. Three are naval sea captains (though one leans toward pirate - but just a bit), one is a soldier in the Hungarian army pre-WWI, and my first published novel, TAME THE WILD WIND, has Jed; a Yankee captain fresh from the horrors of Gettysburg. In my stories, the military career is in the hero's past, but somehow comes back to haunt him. My current WIP features a hero who lost an arm in the Napoleonic Wars. Neither my heroine nor I see him as less than what he is, though he has his own demons to work out.

A soldier's rigorous training, loyalty, patriotism, and courage adds a lot to rounding out a hero. It brings a broader spectrum to the average knight or cowboy, prince or pirate. I'm not saying every hero should have a military background. Far from it. Maybe our fascination with soldiers is that it's a career that has mostly been exclusively male for centuries. With more females joining up, perhaps the mystique of the lover/warrior will fade. Until that happens, I'll take my heroes with a dash of fight in them!

This blog is written with great affection for the military men in my life I've been proud to have known and loved - Dad (USAF), Uncle Skip (Army), Uncle Gil and Uncle Jesse (Navy), my fathers-in-law (Army and Navy), my brother Don (Navy submariner) and my own hero husband, Walter (USMC). Thank you for your service to our country.


Celia Yeary said...

ANNA--a great tribute to our men in uniform--then and now. Reading all your descriptions makes me want to open up a new document, and begin typing--"Once upon a time there was a great war, and in this great war, there was a hero...."
Oh, I can just see it now!
I enjoyed this post very much--well done!Celia

Anna Small said...

I agree, Celia! The more I looked through photos to post on the blog, the more my mind wandered. This entire history blog is wonderful for inspiring us in so many ways! If only we could invent a device to attach to our brains, and the entire story would flow out of it!

Phyllis DeMarco said...

Love the post! Being the kind of girl who LOVES military men, your article really spoke to me. Good thing I was sitting down as you ran through the list of movie soldiers-- Gladiator and King Arthur especially make me go weak in the knees!