What I’ve been reading lately – books with wounded military heroes

I’ve been doing these “what I’ve been reading lately” posts lately because (1) I’m lazy and can’t seem to write more than one post in a given 10-day period; (2) I read waaaaayyyyyy too much, and if I tried to write about every book, you’d be like — Whoa. Stop it with all the posts about these books I’m never going to read. Just stop it, Kelly; and (3) I tend to get into reading moods, and sometimes it’s more interesting to discuss the themes that occur across multiple books. So, in June and July, I read a bunch of books that had military heroes, and I just realized (because I’m slow on the uptake sometimes), that all those heroes were wounded in combat. In some cases, the hero’s military status is a huge part of the book (i.e. it really does fall in the military romance subgenre), and in other cases the hero retired or was medically discharged, and his service is just part of his back story (and identity).

One theme that unites the books that I’ll be discussing in this post is that a large portion of each story focuses on the wounded hero’s search for identity and vocation in light of his injury. All three books are new releases, and (it seems to me) it’s yet another indication of how the romance genre responds to modern culture and current events and remains relevant. In the U.S., at least, war is everywhere. Do you know anyone who hasn’t been touched by it in some way? Do you know anyone who doesn’t mourn a classmate or friend, who hasn’t seen a loved one change and struggle after too many too-long deployments? Do you know anyone who isn’t heartsick to think of the welcome we offer the veterans who are lucky enough to return: poor health care, few career options, and the continuing stigma of mental health issues? I don’t. So it doesn’t surprise me that (more than) 3 new romance novels deal with this subject. (To be clear: I picked these three books to write about, but I could have expanded this post to talk about six books that I read in June/July that feature a wounded military hero, and I’m not really a reader of military romance novels. I’m guessing there are a lot more books out now that deal with the wounded hero trope.)

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family—so he deployed again. And again. And again . . . until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs . . . if she’ll have him

. . . to win back his only love.

Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried—and a love that won’t be denied. But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

Back to You is definitely a military romance novel — and I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t read very many of those — but its story stays fairly focused on Trent, Laura, and their chance for reconciliation. I love reconciliation stories (mostly because I hate instalust), and this one was right up my alley. I loved quite a few things about this book.

  1. This book has fantastic primary characters who are very nicely fleshed out.
  2. The emotional narrative of Trent and Laura’s story is so well wrought. There is a weight to their encounters early in the book, and that weight lightens with each new bit of trust forged (and earned). I particularly enjoyed how Laura’s anger is supported and validated by the narrative, yet her forgiveness is allowed to grow naturally.
  3. The interactions between Trent and the kids — who are pretty much strangers to him — are beautifully done. My favorite of these interactions involved Trent getting super-duper overwhelmed by his kids’ madness and then feeling like a failure for not being emotionally prepared for it. I just might love Jessica Scott forever for having Laura reassure Trent by telling him about the time that she absolutely lost her shit with the children. Parenting isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s downright horrifying. I loved that this book showed how messy parenting can be and gave Laura the chance to act with compassion, to share the story of her own failures, and to validate — for every parent — that those failures are not the whole story, that it’s the successes, added up, that tell the real story of a childhood and a family. That was neat.
  4. The women soldiers in this book are soldiers.

And, of course, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much. The secondary characters (two couples who are friends of Laura and Trent) were distracting, possibly because I read Back to You as a stand-alone and was not invested in the secondary characters from having read their books. Another character seemed to be introduced in the narrative only so readers could feel sympathy for Trent later on (and so Trent could learn to confide in Laura), and that was unfortunate. There’s a lot of military jargon that I just didn’t get. “Down stream” seems to mean a lot of things, but I could not identify them from the context. Finally, I wanted a little more closure from the ending. I’m not much for epilogues, but — since so much of the story dealt with Trent’s adjustment to a new normal and his search for identity in the wake of his injuries and experiences — I wanted a clearer idea of where he and Laura ended up.

But the bottom line is that I enjoyed the book and am very glad that I read it.

Fighting for his country gave Jake Taylor’s life shape and meaning. Now as an injured war hero he struggles to find purpose, until he runs into the gorgeous woman he dated briefly—and disastrously—before being deployed eight years ago. Turns out Jake doesn’t just need to figure out how to be a civilian . . . he also needs to learn how to be a dad.

Eighteen, pregnant, and totally lost, Mira Shipley couldn’t track down the soldier who fathered her child, so she put college on hold and focused on making a good life for her son. Now she’s determined to be something more than Sam’s mom, her parents’ daughter, or Jake’s girl—as hot as she finds her old flame’s take-charge attitude in and out of bed. Soon Mira and Jake realize that their passion didn’t disappear when Sam was conceived—and that instead of running away, sometimes it’s better to hold on tight.

Yep, it’s a secret baby book. It’s one of my favorite tropes because it is so rarely done well (and yet so often done… I mean, I’m just going to make up some titles, here, but I bet some of them exist as actual books: The Rancher’s Secret Baby; His Baby, Her Secret; Triplets for the SEAL; The Firefighter’s Surprise Family. Yeah… I just looked those titles up… they totally exist.). Anyway. I’ve read a few of Serena Bell’s stories before, so I was really stoked to hear that she’d written a secret baby story. And do you know what? I loved it. Some of my favorite things:

  1. Mira. She’s gutsy, principled, intelligent, and she recognizes the value of finding and maintaining an identity separate from “mom” and “daughter” and “girlfriend.” An equal amount of narrative time was spent on Mira’s journey of self-discovery as on Jake’s, and I loved how interesting her journey was. Mira gets the best dialogue in the book, lines of acerbic wit and frank humor. Finally, Mira’s sexuality and self-confidence are so refreshing.
  2. Computer science gets a shout-out, and it’s not the typical nerd locked in a room writing code about how to get chicks variety. Instead, Mira discovers in computer science a language she can relate to, a framework through which she can develop and express her other interests (in this book, shoes.). Since that’s what computer science actually is but is so rarely shown to be, I was thrilled. (And I’m not a computer scientist…. just a CS enthusiast, I guess.)
  3. I found all the interactions between Sam and Mira and Sam and Jake to be heartwarming, at times poignant, and often very amusing.
  4. Jake’s angst. I am actually a sucker for a wounded hero story (so, you know, grain of salt and all that), but Bell’s handling of Jake’s internalization of his injury and his resulting identity crisis was powerful and felt authentic. So, too, was his journey towards healing, self-acceptance, and love. Jake’s angst about sex was really interesting (because usually romance novel heroes exhibit unassailable sexual confidence) and endearing.

And, of course, there were some things I didn’t like so much. While Jake and Mira have a past relationship that helps to explain some of the strength of their physical attraction for one another, it *almost* bordered on the insane chemistry of instalust. Maybe it’s just me, but it pissed me off that Jake, after he had his Aha! (Aha! I’ve been an asshole. OOPS.) moment, waited three weeks to make things up to Mira, because it was so important that he get himself sorted. It further annoyed me that he orchestrated this big production to surprise her. Nope. Love doesn’t need everything to be just so, and love doesn’t leave someone in suspense just for the sake of one’s pride. (As for the big production… those just annoy me in general.)

But the bottom line is that Hold on Tight is still one of the best secret baby stories I’ve ever read.

After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.
 
Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

Some of my favorite wounded hero romance novels are historical romances. (My favorite, in case you’re wondering, is England’s Perfect Hero by Suzanne Enoch.) I was poised to love this book — it’s about a widow who intends to go her own way, eschewing propriety, even, and a wounded hero — but, sadly, The Escape isn’t on my list of favorites.  It was still an enjoyable read…eventually.

It’s just that the beginning is so awkward. Part of that awkwardness may be attributed to the book’s position as the third in a series of six Survivor’s Club novels about the romantic antics of five wounded veterans and one lady quasi-spy. (I haven’t read the first two books in the series.) The Escape opens with all six Survivors gathered at the estate where they all convalesced some years before. That opening chapter reads like a strange prologue that sets up the stories of all the Survivors but otherwise does not pertain to this story. And the introduction of all those characters who don’t feature in this story is kind of awkward… so much name dropping, so little happening.

The story actually begins in chapter 2 (so it’s not a long, strange prologue), but the awkwardness continues in some truly odd lines of dialogue. Consider this line, delivered by Ben’s sister:

“…But — you jumped a hedge, Ben? Where is my hartshorn? Ah, I have just remembered — I do not possess any, not being the vaporish short, though you could easily make a convert of me.”

Who talks like that? The infodumping dialogue got to be distracting, and it was really a shame, because I liked Ben, Samantha, and their respective stories. Honestly, the only reason I continued reading the book after the fourth or fifth chapter was that it has amusing animal antics (a dog named Tramp). At about the halfway point, though, I started to enjoy myself, because the book shifted locales and became much more focused on the heroine’s story. (And either the writing got less awkward or I simply got used to it.) By the end, I was happy I’d read the book. I guess that’s the bottom line.

As in Back to You and Hold on Tight, the injured hero in The Escape must find a new identity (or, more accurately, uncover the identity that is enmeshed with his military vocation and apply it to a new vocation). The first half of the book (the half I didn’t like so much) spends a lot of time discussing Ben’s listlessness, and while some time is spent on introducing and developing Samantha, it’s accurate to say that Ben is the star of the narrative. But once Ben and Samantha arrive in Wales, Samantha becomes an active participant in the story — the second half of the story is about her just as much as it is about Ben. Overall, I would have liked the book much better if there were not an abrupt turning point where Samantha ceased to be a figure in Ben’s landscape and became her own individual, worthy of having her own story. (To be clear: Ben’s story was not diminished in the second half of the book: he still struggles to find himself, to work towards a healthy identity.)

By the way… this is the first Mary Balogh book I’ve ever read. I hear that her back list contains some amazing books… What should I read?

What do you think about the wounded hero trope? (Or about bananas… I just want to have a conversation, and I don’t care what it’s about.)

If you’re interested in any of these books, click on the cover images to visit their pages on Goodreads. Back to You was released on January 7 (e-book) and July 29 (paperback) by Forever. Hold on Tight was released on June 17 as an e-book by Loveswept. The Escape was released on July 1 as an e-book and paperback by Dell. For more information about the authors, check out their websites: Jessica Scott, Serena Bell, and Mary Balogh.

*FTC Disclosure – I received e-galleys via NetGalley from Forever (Back to You) and Dell (The Escape) for review consideration. I purchased my copy of Hold on Tight.*

16 thoughts on “What I’ve been reading lately – books with wounded military heroes

  1. Well, I just love it when one of my favourite bloggers just pops up with a review of a book that I only finished reading two days ago. And loved. That’s how it was for me and HOLD ON TIGHT. I loved it for all the reasons you state and I was annoyed with it for a few more: the waiting to sort himself out and instalust, definitely. But also for the WAY in which Mira was pregnant: that was a bit much to accept. And certain insanely chauvinistic statements by Jake. But it’s a book I forgave because of its energy and honesty and fast-paced, near breathless prose. Mostly, I loved the characters and rooted for them. I read it in one sitting. (I couldn’t review it because it hit too close to home. Because reasons, as Ros would say. But I’m so so glad you did and I could nod along with everything you wrote. I left a fangirlish effusive note on Netgalley for the publisher.)

    I’m in the process of reading THE ESCAPE, so I’ll be back for that portion of your review soon. Right now, I’m just trying to make up my mind about it and I’m not too far into it.

    Balogh has a particularly distancing style, you’re right, and it took me a long time to get used to it, but I LOVE her books. I think I have a problem with it when I don’t like the characters, but when I do, I make it work for me. She’s written so many great books and, with the backlist being re-issued, there’s so much to love. My most recent Balogh that I ADORED and LOVED TO PIECES and WANTED TO HUG FOREVER was A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL … a second-chance at love that squeezed my heart. My favourite Balogh is THE SECRET PEARL, but it has a controversial and difficult opening and I almost DNF-ed it. I love her early WEB series, but it’s makes me a bit of an outlier; the titles are GILDED WEB, WED OF LOVE, and THE DEVIL’S WEB. I love LORD CAREW’S BRIDE. I love A CHRISTMAS PROMISE.

    P.S. I don’t eat bananas and I hate banana bread. I love wounded heroes, along with marriage-of-convenience and any form of babies, secret or otherwise, I can easily be suckered into click-buying those titles that contain them.

    • I bought THE SECRET PEARL and A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL this morning, and I started reading the latter. (Because — I’m serious — when you tell me to read a book, I get right on it. I autobuy for Tasha’s (heidenkind’s) recs, too, unless it’s a mystery. Then… I think for a long time before I succumb.)

      Anyway, on HOLD ON TIGHT, yes. You’re right about the pregnancy thing, and I laughed my ass off when it became clear that the secret baby was also a MAGICAL baby, but… in a way, that just made the book better, to me. Do you know what I mean? Like, it takes a fairly extraordinary story told in an exceptionally good way to overcome the plight not just of the secret baby but the secret baby conceived from almost-sex. In a way, I think the reason I forgave the book its ridiculous conception story is that Mira went on to develop a healthy sex life… if she had stayed an almost-virgin, as I was half afraid she would, I’d have been so angry about the ingenue with a magic baby thing. But my worry was misplaced, and Bell wrote a heroine whose sexuality is a healthy part of her character in an unobtrusive way. I can forgive a little magic insemination if it’s not being done to maintain the heroine’s innocence and purity.

      • Oko, I’m very nervous now because I just realised that THE SECRET PEARL & COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL have an element in common that you might not be too keen on. I’m really sorry. I’d say, in retrospect, that COUNTERFEIT is the tighter, better narrative, but SECRET PEARL’s obvious homage for JANE EYRE is a sentimental favourite. I’ve always wanted to write a joint TSP and JE post, but I’m RUNNING OUT OF SUMMER. I’ll have to leave it for Spring Break or something.

        I think you’re much more generous about THE ESCAPE than I was in my review, maybe because I expect a lot more of Balogh. You’re spot on about the beginning, that was extraneously boring. I liked it better when he almost ran her down at the not-terribly-meet-cute.

        You make a compelling argument for HOLD ON TIGHT: I agree about Mira’s sexuality. It was healthy and she was not given to lily-white declarations of stupidity. Sam’s conception, however, you gotta admit was of the “call the bishops” near immaculate proportions. I also appreciated how their first time together was realistically awkward and not so much fun. It only made me sympathise with them even more.

      • Does it put you a little at ease to know that I really love Jane Eyre?

        I think I’m just a generous (i.e. uncritical) reader of historical romance in general… I have much lower expectations of plausibility and general accuracy for histrom (than, say, contemp) because I read it as fantasy, and I expect to suspend all the disbelief. Besides, there was a bit of a bias at play in my reading of The Escape… if the ending had been terrible, I would have been inclined to think harshly of the entire thing; instead, I liked the ending, and it softened the irritation I had with the first 50% of the book. Besides… I can forgive a book almost anything if there are amusing animal antics involved.

        I do love some bad sex thrown in a romance novel. Did you ever read Eloisa James’ ONCE UPON A TOWER? It has some issues, but I loved it for all the terrible sex. (Is that strange?)

  2. Interesting, I never usually think of historical heroes as “military heroes,” even if they did serve in the military in their own time periods. But they definitely are!

    I’m not a fan of Balough. Her books are never more than okay for me, and most annoy the crap out of me. But I’m obviously an outlier in that opinion….

    • I went looking through my library, and I discovered that I purchased THE ARRANGEMENT (the 2nd book in this Survivor’s Club series) months ago and then never read it (why do I do this all the time?). I read it over the weekend, and I liked it much better than THE ESCAPE, but I don’t think it would necessarily have broad appeal.

      Remember when we wrote our Chocolate review and I confessed my outrageous weakness/fondness for insecure heroines and the heroes who love them? Yeah… THE ARRANGEMENT was all up in my favorite things because it combined that heroine trope with a blind hero. And he might have told her at one point that he wished she could see herself the way he “saw” her. So obviously the book worked for me.

      But… readers who don’t have blind spots a mile wide for that trope might not like the book so well. In fact, they might find it kind of boring, because not much happens. :)

  3. Well, I’m absolutely fascinated by military heroes, and I was really interested in what you had to say about the way our current troop are treated when they leave the military (I’m in the UK, but we have the same issues). I’ve written quite a few historical military heroes, all damaged to a degree by their experiences on the battlefield, and what strikes me over and over in my research is how the same issues crop up again and again – though with different labels. PTSD, which was battle fatigue or shell shock at various times, for example. Survivor’s guilt. Appalling healthcare. Inability to adapt to civilian life. Isolation. On and on it goes, and whether it was the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean, WWI, WWII right up to present day, we have the same issues.

    As a writer, it’s a sort of morbidly fascinating subject, and in a romance it provides for amazing conflict. I’m not going to wave the flag for my own books here, but I’m currently writing one called The Soldier’s Dark Secret, which deals with PTSD. Researching this has been such an eye-opener – because at the time I’m writing, in the aftermath of Waterloo, it simply wasn’t recognised in any form. To have the strength of character to overcome it, without either acceptance or understanding, never mind help, must have taken a truly exceptional person – and of course, in romanceland, an exceptionally understanding heroine. Hence the brilliant potential for conflict.

    I love bananas and banana bread. My mum used to make banana crumble, which was amazing. And baked on the barbecue with a chocolate flake – what’s not to love?

    • Oh, I am so looking forward to that book, now. Do you know when it will be released? I know it’s a little premature…

      I wonder what it is about humanity that we get so swept up in the glory (or the justice) of war, in this romanticized notion of war — and we have to know, cognitively, that it’s entirely imagined and bears no resemblance to the reality of war — at the beginning stage and then feel a collective shame about it once it’s done and transfer that shame directly upon the returning soldiers whom we so glorified earlier, while we were all still hanging yellow ribbons about our trees.

      I love how nuanced the depiction of wounded heroes — as a character type — can be (perhaps especially now). I’ve certainly read books with the more cookie-cutter type military hero, a “man’s man” whose identity is 100% tied to his vocation, and those types of heroes make sense as career military officers who remain in their profession in times of peace as well as war. But war draws people of many different inclinations, passions, and persuasions into its web, and I find that I enjoy books that explore different kinds of wounded heroes.

      I mentioned in a comment reply above that I read Balogh’s THE ARRANGEMENT over the weekend. That book was interesting because its hero joined the war as a 17-year-old commissioned officer and was wounded within the first hour of his first battle. He has a whole pile of issues arising out of his injury, but I was most interested in his reticence to identify as a military man and war hero since he saw so little action and was wounded by friendly fire. Honestly, his characterization made me more likely to read the other books in the series, because I want to see what else Balogh can draw out of that character type.

      What is banana crumble? (It sounds amazing.) Also, what is chocolate flake? My husband makes a stellar banana bread with sour cream and pretty much all the butter in the world. It’s one of my favorite things. As for bananas, I like them not-quite-ripe (not green but definitely without any brown spots), sliced over a bowl of cheerios and sweetened with honey. :)

      • The Soldier’s Dark Secret will be the first part of a duo, and I think it’s out in April next year. It’s interesting what you say about the sort of collective support and ra-raing at he start of a war and the radical change at the end, when the death and destruction rather than the ‘glorious’ cause are in the forefront of people’s minds. Here in the UK we’ve had so many programmes on WWI (I’m loving it) because of the centenary, and time and again I look at the surge of men being thrown forward to enlist by wives, and mothers, and I find it incomprehensible. Yet there’s no denying it, at the start of that horrendous conflict, people were desperate to do their bit. Very different story by the end, and yes, a lot of the men ended up on the street selling toys and matches, or hidden away in hospitals, because there was nowhere else for them to go. People were ashamed of their jingoism, but it was mostly ignorance I guess, and a huge dollop of political manipulation.

        I’m going to look the Balogh up, the subject matter appeals to me a lot. My current hero is the opposite, a long-term career soldier who’s having to turn his love of the army and all the good he thought he was doing on its head.

        And I didn’t know crumble was a British thing. It’s a sort of biscuit (cookie) topping made with flour and butter and sugar that you put over fruit, usually rhubarb or apple, then back in the oven and serve with cream or ice-cream or custard A chocolate flake is just a stick of chocolate that’s made up of lots of thin layers so it sort of crumbles when you eat it. And I like my bananas the same way as you do, hate them when they go brown.

  4. I’m going to pipe in once more to recommend a non-romance trilogy that is an amazing portrait of war, wounded heroes, and all the ways that war damages and wastes lives. Maybe you’ve read it? Pat Barker’s REGENERATION trilogy: REGENERATION, THE EYE IN THE DOOR, and THE GHOST ROAD. It mixes historical with fictional characters, including the great war poet, Wilfred Owen, and the doctor who tried to heal him and others. And here is a war poem about a son’s memory of his father that never fails to make me cry, Walt Macdonald’s “My Father On His Shield”:

    http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/my-father-his-shield

    • That poem… I have no words.

      (because I have to contribute to your heartbreak as you’ve contributed to mine… you know, in the best way.)

      I’ve not read the Regeneration trilogy (never heard of it), but I’ll check it out. I tend to be leery these days of non-romance books… I do enjoy having my heart broken a little bit by a book, but I trust a romance novel to build it back up. Sometimes I worry that general fiction gets a gleeful kick out of breaking my heart and leaving it broken. (Maybe general fiction is funded in part by the pharmaceutical companies that want to sell more Prozac or Wellbutrin…) (Maybe I should take those medications for my paranoia….)

      • That is a beautiful song and brings everything home, doesn’t it? I’m going to use it in my Poetry of the Great War unit this year, which I usually open with, “Red lips are not so red as the stained stones kissed by the English dead” … and the connection between death and eros/agape, also homo-eroticism in Owen’s poetry. Blows their little teen-age minds. Gah, they say. But now I am a watering-pot of the first order: that poem, that song. That poem: the boy’s memory of the sleigh ride; the snow, the flag folded on the mantle; memory, past, and present melded, and the line that slays, “And I can’t bring him back” said in the present tense.

        The REGENERATION trilogy is brilliant; and, yes, there is much heart-break, but it is not cynical. It doesn’t diminish the human condition, that is what I found so difficult about general fiction. BUT it’s also not HEA, or even HFN. What I do, is read a little general fiction, just a few pages, a few times a week: dipping my toes in the water. And most of the time, I read romance, a little gothic romance, or romantic suspense, for a few frissons of fear. REGENERATION is a great motif running throughout the trilogy as it stems from the real doctor who wanted to bring the idea of the regeneration of muscle to the healing of shell-shocked veterans, to “regenerate” their psyches. The novelist read his diaries and notes and such. The second novel is about a conscientious objector: the “eye in the door” is what would happen to you, thrown in jail, stripped of your clothes, and watched. The third … well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? There’s also a great female character: working-class young woman who works in a munitions factory. The hero is bisexual. I loved him. But the novels do exact an emotional price, like the poem, so I recommend reading them in increments. :-)

    • I can totally endorse this one. I loved Pat Barker’s trilogy, and she’s actually written a whole swathe of WWI books, all of them incredibly moving. There’s so much on the tv here in the UK because it’s the centenary year of WWI. I watched a great documentary about women and the war last night based on Kate Adie’s book, Fighting on the Home Front, which is excellent – blowing away a lot of the myths about what women did or didn’t do and maybe even more importantly, the way they were forced back to the home afterwards.

      • In Canada too, where I live, there is a lot going on to commemorate our fallen in the Great War, the one that was supposed to “end all wars.” For Canada, as we often say/cliché, it was a “coming-of-age.” For a tiny country, in population if not land mass, we lost a lot of men. And it marks us still: every year, I teach a unit on the poetry of the war, including “In Flanders Fields,” that old school favourite which was, of course, written by a Canadian. In particular, I’ve been very moved by the documentary, APOCALYPSE: WWI/FURY-FEAR-HELL-RAGE-DELIVERANCE:

        http://tvo.org/program/204263/apocalypse-world-war-one/

  5. Yes, thank you, I do feel better for know that you love JANE EYRE because there is nothing in TSP or TCB that is worse than what we encounter in Brontë’s novel. Phew. :-)

    I am more and more inclined to read romance fiction as fantasy, or world-building fiction. Certainly, that is more than true of historical romance. And it depends on the romance writer’s bent and inclination too: some are minute and interested in authenticity more than others. Emma Barry had a great post and subsequent discussion about that recently. And there are plenty of contemporary romances that totally read as fantasy: I can say with some authority that the Greek billionaire and island kingdom do NOT exist by any stretch! ;-)

    I haven’t read any James! But I do have several in the TBR, so I look forward to them. I get a tremendous kick out of bad sex scenes. They endear characters to me, especially near perfect ones like Mr. Strong-And-Silent, Jackson. My favourite bad sex scene (which I listened on a recent road trip) is in Crusie’s WELCOME TO TEMPTATION. A hoot … also involving a dolphin lamp!

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