Romance novels about heroes returning from war damaged and in need of soul repair are a dime a dozen.

And thank gawsh for that.  Because the perhaps-shocking truth is that lots of chicks dig romances - especially historicals -- filled w/ war maneuvers, bloody hand-to-hand combat scenes, political intrigue that moves men and nations, and the aftermath of all that man-made destruction.  Just like in real life, that's where the heroines - and we, slipped into their placeholder roles -- always step in and help clean things up for the boys.

One of those "things" is dealing with heroes' trauma and, as unhealthy as it is in our relationships, in romance it's really appealing to romanticize emotional damage.  Unlike the "Beauty and the Beast" construct when dealing with the visible war injury in romance fiction ("We Got the Bea(s)t," UB 05.05.09), the hero with PTSD is more complex, and our need  the heroine's need to help him heal is not about teaching the outside world about looking deeper than skin layer. It's rather more about the heroine's learning her strengths in contributing to -- instead of trying, to or expecting she should be able to control -- the emotional health of those around her.

Fans of historicals featuring heroes with PTSD welcome the darkness that attends the man, as well as what made him thus; they know the pay off will come as the author builds the arc toward healing and relational stability.  So we're pleased when an author like Anna Campbell creates for us a gorgeous book like "Captive of Sin  ," a brilliant depiction of the wages of war turned to triumph - and, ok, a sexy little romance, to boot.  

Sir Gideon Trevithick of "Captive" survived war-related torture, isolation, deprivation and captivity so inhumane that he naturally has become England's most famous hero and the object of reams of lurid gossip pages.  In reality, he's gained only enough strength of psyche since his ordeal to make it home to his country estate, but is waylaid by the need to protect a battered, nameless young woman.  

When he learns Charis Weston is the wealthiest heiress in England and has run away to escape her stepbrothers' brutality and plan to steal her fortune, Trevithick conveniently marries her.  Inconveniently, Trevithick's ghastly experiences left him unable to become close to her physically or emotionally.  And Charis won't buy either for a second, or at least not for a lifetime, when she clearly can see how Trevithick desires her.  Charis simply won't accept less from Trevithick than he deserves to give of - and receive for -- himself.  

Today during wartime, one sees more romances featuring heroes and heroines struggling to overcome PTSD.  Certainly, there's nothing romantic about the pain involved.  Yet the actuality of the disorder experienced by so many is what makes it easy to empathize with - and an important piece to add to a novel meant to connect us to our humanity, at the same time it gives us a little escape from reality.

What are some romances you've read in which heroes or heroines have learned to deal w/ or overcome PTSD?

Get more of what's hot in romance daily w/Michelle @ Heart to HeartClick here for all of Michelle's UB romance columns.
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-11-2009 07:48 PM
Comments
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎08-11-2009 03:13 PM
Well Michelle, even paranormal heros have that nasty affliction take Z from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, he comes back very scarred from a crazed Vampiress who keeps him chained and just near death for well for a long time. And it takes his beloved Bella to start the healing process. A lot of Suzanne Brockmann's contemporary romance novels deal with either Navy Seals or the ex Seal teem 16 featured in her Troubleshooter series and she give equal PTSD to women and men, we have Gina who is kept hostage in the Middle East and awful things are done to her and we have Sophia who is part of the Troubleshooters organization who watched an enemy kill her husband in front of her and then was kept as his sex slave for a long time until Decker rescues her w/Troubleshooters. She's had many early novels some of which have been re-issued by Harlequin about troubled sould coming home from war. We of the weaker sex sometimes like to be the ones saved too you know. We even have Harry Bosch a famed detective in Michael Connelley's series of crime/mysteries who's a Vietnam Vet who was a Tunnel Rat and still has nightmares about it.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-11-2009 03:26 PM

I haven't had a chance to read an ARC of this book yet (HINT!) but, if it's anything like Anna's other books, she is going to torture the heck out of her hero, and do a fair job on her heroine, too. I don't know why they makes me root for them so strongly, but it does. Her books always reach me on a gut level that makes them memorable.

 

The other hero that came to mind after reading this was J.R. Ward's Zsadist, although now that I think of it, pretty much all of the Black Dagger Brotherhood qualify as tortured heroes. Zsadist was just the closest to a war-torn vet, although his trials were somewhat different. 

by Stacy1 on ‎08-11-2009 03:55 PM

I just finished reading Hot Pursuit by Suzanne Brockmann, and one of the big issues these men - her SEALs - deal with is PTSD.  Most times the guys try to ignore it, or deny know, believing that it's just cause for being let go from the Teams.  It's sad how unprepared we are to take care of these brave men and women who defend our country.  We don't understand, or we want to push it under a rug and pretend it doesn't exist.  Usually I like to read romance to escape the harsh realities of life, but I commend Suz, and other authors, for bringing this issue to light.

 

Can't wait to read Anna's book!

 

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎08-11-2009 04:08 PM

First hero I thought about was Sydnam Butler in Simply Love. In my opinion one of the most beautiful books ever written. Beautiful as in ... well, beautiful. I can't explain it. However, that beauty doesn't hide the deep injuries Syd carries, both inside and out. And the anguish doesn't cease when he's rescued from torture, it still lives with him years after. I think I can so very well relate with how he feels because I'm an artist myself. Sydnam has been a passionate painter until he loses his right arm. I can so understand what he means when he says he can't paint with his left hand because the images flow through his right arm - I've got the same. Can't imagine what it would be like to lose my arm. I'd be as devastated as he. But I love how, at last, he overcomes that "blockade", if you want to. That's real strength, I think.

 

 

by Lisa_Kroener on ‎08-11-2009 04:09 PM

Oh, forgot to mention, I can't wait for Anna's new book, either!

 

~LisaK

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-11-2009 04:42 PM
Oh, yes - a couple of Suzanne Brockmann's books deal with this. In fact, in her new book, Hot Pursuit, Danny is suffering from this sort of trauma.
by Author MonicaBurns on ‎08-11-2009 05:18 PM

OMG! I LOVE that cover!! Bloody h*ll. Anna always has the BESTEST covers!!  Looking forward to Anna's latest. LOVED Untouched! 

 

As for the PTSD - I think it works well because it really emphasizes the overcoming of so much to get to that HEA and the love that comes with it. Gives us that great escape while emphasizing hope. 

 

Of course, I'm having fun with this very theme as my current WIP has a hero who's emotionally and physically  scarred from torture, not to mention he's a half-breed. GAWD! I love, love, LOVE torturing my characters Bwwwwwwaaaahahahaha

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-11-2009 08:23 PM

I know, she does have great covers, doesn't she?

 

Monica, is that Kismet you're talking about? 

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-11-2009 10:00 PM

Debbie, Z definitely falls in the PTSD column.  Ward did a remarkable job ***SPOILER***  taking the ol sex-slave scenario and treating it like what it is, sexual abuse, rather than making Z into the 'highly skilled lover looking for the woman to practice his skills on and love.'  Not that there's anything at all wrong with that.  But if someone were going to do the thing warts and all, Ward sure got it right.  And, oh, the way Bella just got to him from the start, and that way he longed for her when she was missing.  His is still my fave of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) novels.*** END SPOILER*** 

 

And Sophia and Gina are terrific female characters working through PTSD. Thanks for mentioning them.

becke, that's probably the highest compliment you can give an author -- or at least some -- that their work got you 'on a gut level.'  A book can be fun to read w/out it, but the ones that connect can change our lives or at least become memorable.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-11-2009 10:05 PM

Stacy1, you've said it so well about Suz' dealing with those issues, and reminding us that this stuff is going on in reality right now under our noses -- men and women of our military are coming home w/big needs.  But like you say, too, she's got that amazing ability to wrap it in escapist fiction that entertains us w/out making light of or marginalizing the big issues she writes about. 

 

Oh, LisaK, I thought of Sydnam when I was putting this together. I wanted to list old books and other new ones.  But he's my fave tortured hero, too, and I can't say anything about him more eloquently than you.  Yet I will add that Balogh teases us w/ him through the entire "Slightly" series (my fave, Slightly Dangerous, a riff on P/P) and finally gets to him, as you say, in SL.  Balogh is so great at making a love story imperfect and fumbling, just like in real life...

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-11-2009 10:08 PM
Hmmm, Mon, I'm hoping this hero's at least part Italian...  And I'm a huge Untouched fan, the hero, Matthew, being one of my top 5 romance hero crushes.  The symbolism of the PTSD really is a twofold 'triumph," no?  Triumph w/in self, then triumph over learning to work w/ and fall in love w/another person while it's goin on.  Cool.
by Author Annacampbell on ‎08-12-2009 12:10 AM

Michelle, thank you so much for that lovely mention of CAPTIVE OF DESIRE! And thank you to everyone who said they're looking forward to my new book. I like writing stories about people being pulled out of the abyss through love and this book definitely falls into that category. Poor Gideon! He really does suffer! Becke, even more than usual for my heroes, LOL!

 

Actually I love books about people coming to terms with their horrible pasts.  There's a wonderful Suzanne Enoch (I think it's England's Greatest Hero) about a man coming back from the Napoleonic Wars. Another favorite is Laura Kinsale, who as you can imagine does PTSD like nobody else. The book that springs to mind is the Shadow and the Star. Oh, man, you'll cry buckets in that one! 

by amyskf on ‎08-12-2009 01:24 AM

I think reading about PTSD in fiction can help us understand it better on an emotional level, rather than a clinical one. Fiction removes it from the newspaper and plops it in our heart.

 

I love everything that Anna Campbell writes, so I can't wait for this.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-12-2009 08:07 AM
I'm reading Lorraine Heath's In Bed with the Devil, and in a lot of ways, the hero of this story is suffering from PTSD.
by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎08-12-2009 08:55 AM

Of course the first author I thought of who tackles PTSD so beautifully is Suzanne Brockmann.

 

All of the heroes in Elizabeth Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers series are damaged by their war-time experiences in the Colonies. Alistair in To Beguile A Beast is physically scarred, but it's Samuel in To Taste Temptation who bears the emotional scars that force him to run through the town to escape his horrible memories.

 

What a great topic, Michelle. And like everyone else, I can't wait for Anna's book. I concur with those who admire the cover. Just a glimpse is sometimes all you need, eh?

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio ‎08-12-2009 11:36 AM - edited ‎08-12-2009 11:38 AM

I just want to state the the B&N powers that be that I am deeply shagrined by my fellow romance readers' seemingly lecherous preoccupation with the disrespectful objectification of men and male body parts within and on the covers of romance fiction novels.

 

*snork*

 

Anna, the Kinsale that comes to mind for me is one of my faves, "My Sweet Folly," with that amazing epistolary section in the beginning.  So many historicals, especially Regencies, have those marvelous heroes returning from Waterloo and the Peninsulars, Salamanca, etc., w/the wounds to prove it.  When an author goes a little further than what we'll gladly take for granted, it makes the novel so much richer.

 

Albert Rolls wrote yesterday here at UB a piece about how it's possible Shakespeare counted on his audience kinda "filling in the blanks of Hank V, for instance, in terms of  recent war issues or even battle setting.  (Don't worry, I didn't let you down and managed to comment in a totally girly way about Branagh).

 

In that same way, we hear 'wounded hero' and 'Napoleonic Wars," for instance and we kinda slap PTSD-like behaviors to the hero w/out an author having to write them in.  Which is fine, because we're active participants in our reading.  But when we get to read the whole enchilada, it's an even richer experience, and we're happy to get the grit, too. And you give us the grit, Anna, in a really meaningful way.

 

 

Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-12-2009 11:38 AM
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-12-2009 11:43 AM
Which story is In Bed w/ the Devil, becke? Is that the aristo whose parents were murdered and who grows up among street kids in Heath's Oliver Twist riff series?

Great call on the Hoyt, Melanie!  I'd written up her upcoming "To Desire a Devil" for this post, but it got too long.  That's the one that wraps the series...   Her having the hero of "To Taste Temptation" be kind of addicted to running was brilliant.  I'm so glad you brought up that book and his character for us. And as another girly aside, I always felt she based that hero's features on Nathan Kamp. Just the way she described the lips, is all's I'm sayin.
by Author AnnaDeStefano on ‎08-12-2009 02:42 PM

I love dark and angsty heores that initially fight for others the way they can't yet fight for their own need to be close to someone. And because we're talking romance, no matter how dark the hero is at the beginning of the story, we know there's always a love just for him out there to make even the deepest wounds better. Sigh...

 

Some non-war examples I can think of that deal beutifully with psychological trauma, but are books you can reread over and over again because the authors' skils at crafting love stories are that powerful are Baby Love by Catherine Anderson (the hero witnesses his wife and child die and falls into alcholoism, literally killing himself with it, until he stumbles across someone, the heroine, he realizes he needs to help more than he needs his next drink) and Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (a man loses his family and detaches from everyone and everything that he cares about because he can't feel and not feel the grief that's destroying him, again until he finds his heroine and learns from her desperate strength in the face of impossible odds how to start fighting for his own life again).

 

Authors who can take readers through a full range of dark and light emotions and bring them safely to the other side feeling like love really can conquer all are amazing things... CA and SEP are two of the best!

by Author JaniceMaynard on ‎08-12-2009 03:23 PM
Michelle - I immediately thought of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series!  And what makes Ward  such a good writer is that even though I know intellectually there will be a happy ending, the storytelling is so fraught with drama that I actually start to fear that the hero's traumas will overcome the heroine's ability to heal.  Ah... the sweet triumph of love...
by on ‎08-12-2009 04:26 PM

I think reading about PTSD in fiction can help us understand it better on an emotional level, rather than a clinical one. Fiction removes it from the newspaper and plops it in our heart.

 

Very good point.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-13-2009 12:50 PM
Yes, that's the one, Michelle. And the hero suffers from terrible, blinding headaches throughout the story. At the end, we realize those were related to his childhood trauma. Great, fabulous story! I've read one or two other books by Lorraine Heath, but I was incredibly frustrated when I couldn't find more of her "Devil" series in my TBR pile. I can't believe there are books I missed when I built that thing up!
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