Love in Uniform: Military Romance | Collection Development, August 2016

Current trends in military romance both reflect and anticipate events in the nonfictional world. Since the takedown of Osama bin Laden, battalions of romances star SEALs, while the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has led to a spate of same-sex happy endings.

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Considering the unofficial armed services motto “no soldier left behind,” it isn’t surprising that military romances are so often found in series. One soldier finds his or her happily ever after, and then their squadmates follow where they’ve led—often with friends or relatives of the original love interest.

Current trends in military romance both reflect and anticipate events and perceptions in the nonfictional world. Although special forces members have always been the epitome of the alpha male so often found in the genre, the years since the takedown of Osama bin Laden have powered battalions of romances with SEALs and former SEALs in the starring role.

As romances in general have continued to produce strong, tough heroines who are the equal of their male partners, the genre has also seen a rise in romances featuring female military personnel—a trend that anticipated the changes in regulations that formerly barred women from active combat positions. Likewise, with the demise of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011, there has been an increase in the number of same-sex military love stories (Suzanne Brockmann pretty much established this trend with her “Troubleshooters” books).

On the home front

While many military romances have a romantic suspense subplot in which the current or former soldiers rescue their soon-to-be-mate from dire circumstances, there have many more titles of late that focus on the warrior who returns home. They might address the difficulties that veterans face in reentering civilian life, or the hard work needed for rehab with regard to the damages sustained during their service.

Because military romance is defined by one or both of its protagonists being current or ex-warriors, the genre is especially well covered in historical romance (the Napoleonic Wars have been a favorite topic of romance authors for decades) and in military sf romance. A soldier is a soldier, in the past, present, or future, and they have all earned a happy ever after.

With so many series featuring an enormous number of titles, this article will focus on the earliest and the most recent releases to provide a wide range of what’s available. Starred (redstar) works are essential for all library collections.

Marlene Harris is a librarian and founder of the book review blog Reading Reality. She has been an LJ reviewer for five years and has written the LJ Best of the Year E-Originals online feature since its inception. She is a library consultant in the Atlanta metro area

Can’t Resist anyone in uniform

Curtis, Emmy. redstarDangerous Territory. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Alpha Ops, Bk. 1). 2014. 112p. ebk. ISBN 9781455530731. 99¢.redstar

Curtis, Emmy. redstarCompromised. Forever: Grand Central. (Alpha Ops, Bk. 5).redstar2016. 240p. ISBN 9781455564125. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455535200.redstar

Curtis, Emmy. redstarRisk of Exposure. Forever: Grand Central. (Alpha Ops, Bk. 6).redstar2016. 224p. ISBN 9781455564132. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455535231.

The six stories in Curtis’s “Alpha Ops” series fall deftly into one of the signature military romance tropes. In each of these second-chance-at-love tales, a civilian female has a hot and heavy one-night stand with a ripped soldier out of her wildest fantasies. Just when they’ve both chalked the experience up as a once-in-a-lifetime memory, her job puts her in a wartime hot zone, in harm’s way, with only her fling to stand between her and certain doom. They fall in love while the bullets are flying; a great escape.

ljx160801webcd1McKenna, Lindsay. Danger Close. (Operation: Shadow Warriors, Bk. 1). 2013. 401p. ebk. ISBN 9781459253858. $2.99.

McKenna, Lindsay. Down Range. (Operation: Shadow Warriors, Bk. 2). 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780373778218. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460322543.

McKenna, Lindsay. On Fire. (Operation: Shadow Warriors, Bk. 9). 2015. 90p. ebk. ISBN 9781460382554. $2.99.

McKenna, Lindsay. Running Fire. (Operation: Shadow Warriors, Bk. 10). 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780373788934. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460380703.

ea. vol: HQN: Harlequin.

With the publication of Danger Close (originally released as Valkyrie) in 2000, McKenna is often considered the founding mother of contemporary military romance. Not that such stories didn’t exist before, but her signature combination of alpha males, tough females, special forces operatives, and pulse-pounding action in current hot spots became the template for the genre. ­McKenna likes to put her women in extreme danger, trusting that her heroes will be strong enough to save the day and bring the most devastated victim back from the brink. The series has eight print and ­ebooks and two e-only titles. For those who can’t get enough of this author, her “Jackson Hole” series (Night Hawk, LJ 2/15/16) focuses on a Wyoming ranch, owned and operated by an ex-SEAL and his K-9 partner, that provides jobs, homes, and happy ever afters for an increasing number of vets.

Women warriors

Buchman, M.L. The Night Is Mine. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Night Stalkers, Bk. 1). 2012. 416p. ISBN 9781402258107. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402258114.

Buchman, M.L. I Own the Dawn. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Night Stalkers, Bk. 2). 2012. 404p. ISBN 9781402258138. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402258145.

Buchman, M.L. Daniel’s Christmas. CreateSpace. (Night Stalkers White House, Bk. 3). 2012. 176p. ISBN 9781480221109. pap. $12.99; ebk. available.

Buchman, M.L. Zachary’s Christmas. Buchman Bookworks. (Night Stalkers White House, Bk. 4). 2015. 180p. ISBN 9780692608265. pap. $12.99; ebk. available.

redstarBuchman, M.L. By Break of Day. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Night Stalkers, Bk. 7). 2016. 352p. ISBN 9781492619161. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492619178. (LJ 2/15/16)

Buchman’s “Night Stalkers” series is high-octane military romance featuring the men and women of SOAR (160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment). When Delta troops or SEALs need to go in, or get out, SOAR gets them where they have to be and pulls their assets out of the fire—often while taking fire. These helicopter pilots are the best of the best, and no one gets accepted without years of medal-winning experience. When these men and women face the enemy together, day after day, the best fall for the best—and the army is smart enough to let them serve together. The women here are every bit the warriors that the men are. They all have the chance to rescue one another and find their happily ever after with someone who understands what they stand for and who they are. So far, there are 15 books and ebooks in this series. Buch­man keeps the action going as well in two spin-offs. “Delta Force” features special ops heroes still in uniform, and “Firehawks” follows the careers of the “Night Stalkers” as they transition into civilian life as a wildfire-fighting outfit.

After Their War is Over

redstarScott, Jessica. Because of You. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home). 2011. 256p. ebk. ISBN 9780345533869. $3.99

redstarScott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home). 2013. 100p. ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. $1.99. (Xpress Reviews, 10/11/13)

redstarScott, Jessica. All I Want for Christmas Is You. CreateSpace. (Coming Home). 2014. 142p. ISBN 9781502990198. pap. $8.

ljx160801webcd2redstarScott, Jessica. It’s Always Been You. Forever: Grand Central. (Coming Home). 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781455553808. pap. $8; ebk. ISBN 9781455553785.

As an active soldier herself, Scott is all too familiar with the strains that accompany serving while female. She also knows the difficulties families face when a partner or parent is in the field and then returns to a situation where the others have moved on and the challenges of reentry into civilian life. The eight-volume “Coming Home” series considers what happens when the warrior comes home, whether they face intensive rehab, PTSD, the demons of addiction, or the fear that their spouse may not want them back. While some of these couples meet and fall in love during the book, others have to find a way to continue to love each other through the stress of serving their country.

vets WHO can’t stop being heroes

Brockmann, Suzanne. The Unsung Hero. Ballantine. (Troubleshooters, Bk. 1). 2000. 392p. ISBN 9780345463395. $28; pap. ISBN 9780804119528. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780345464279.

redstarBrockmann, Suzanne. The Defiant Hero. Ivy: Random. (Troubleshooters, Bk. 2). 2001. 416p. ISBN 9780345463401. pap. $7.99. (LJ 2/15/01)

Brockmann, Suzanne. When Tony Met Adam. Ballantine. (Troubleshooters, Bk. 12.5). 2011. 60p. ebk. ISBN 9780345529879. $1.99.

Brockmann, Suzanne. Headed for Trouble. Ballantine. (Troubleshooters, Bk. 17). 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780345521255. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780345521262. (LJ 7/13)

Brockmann, Suzanne. Free Fall. Suzanne Brockmann. (Troubleshooters, Bk. 16.6). 2014. 49p. ebk. ISBN NA. $1.99.

Brockmann’s Troubleshooters are just that: a close-knit group of ex–Navy SEALs who form their own makeshift counterterrorist team to tackle the problems that the U.S. government can’t or won’t handle—because those troubles are much too close to home. As the series continued, the stories branched out to include veterans from other services and took on more domestic problems such as gangs and drugs but always with the same pulse-pounding adventure and romantic heat. Although “Troubleshooters” seems to have concluded with Free Fall, Brockmann has returned to more military-grade action in her spin-off “Reluctant Heroes,” starting with Do or Die (LJ 2/15/14).

Drake, Piper J. Extreme Honor. (True Heroes, Bk. 1). 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781455536047. pap. $5.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455536030.

Drake, Piper J. Ultimate Courage. (True Heroes, Bk. 2). 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781455536054. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455536061.

Drake, Piper J. Absolute Trust. (True Heroes, Bk. 3). 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781455536085. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455536078.

ea. vol: Forever: Grand Central.

Drake’s series combines the stories of vets who come home from the war to face personal crises with a new trend blossoming in military romance. Each of the books features two heroes, the hot alpha vet and the canine he is training and rehabbing. There is nothing that melts hearts (and panties) faster than a big man caring for a wounded dog. The heroines, along with readers, will agree.

HellOnWheels_CVR.inddWalker, Julie Ann. Hell on Wheels. (Black Knights, Inc., Bk. 1). 2012. 384p. ISBN 9781402267130. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402267147.

Walker, Julie Ann. In Rides Trouble. (Black Knights, Inc., Bk. 2). 2012. 311p. ISBN 9781402267161. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402267178

Walker, Julie Ann. Full Throttle. (Black Knights, Inc., Bk. 7). 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781402294518. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402294525.

Walker, Julie Ann. Too Hard To Handle. (Black Knights, Inc., Bk. 8). 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781402294549. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402294556.

ea. vol: Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Sweeping contemporary romance has been the motorcycle club craze, which has its outposts in military romance. What would be more natural than for a group of men who served together to continue to work as a team, using a motorcycle shop as a cover for elite special ops? In the eight books in the “Black Knights, Inc.” series (two more titles are projected for 2017), Frank Knight and his band of mercenaries still do the kind of work they were trained for—this time only occasionally under the auspices of U.S. authorities. And while they fend off bad guys and seek out international trouble spots, they find women who see through their masks of impassive badassery to the strength and protectiveness underneath.

Not Just the Usual Suspects

Balogh, Mary. The Proposal. Delacorte. (Survivor’s Club, Bk. 1). 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780440245308. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780345533579. (LJ 4/15/12)

Balogh, Mary. The Suitor. Delacorte. (Survivor’s Club, Bk. 2). 2013. 58p. ebk. ISBN 9780345545329. $1.99.

redstarBalogh, Mary. Only a Kiss. Signet: NAL. (Survivor’s Club, Bk. 6). 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780451469687. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698156104. (LJ 8/15)

redstarBalogh, Mary. Only Beloved. Signet: NAL. (Survivor’s Club, Bk. 7). 2016. 400p. ISBN 9780451477781. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698411326. (LJ 4/15/16)

Seven survivors of the devastations of the Napoleonic Wars gather once a year to raise a glass or two to “absent friends” and celebrate (or commiserate) that they all survived. None of these survivors (six men and one woman) have had an easy time of it in the years since the war, and their peace of mind and happily ever afters are every bit as hard won as those in any contemporary military romance. This seven-book series shows that the difficulties of reentry into civilian life aren’t restricted to modern times. Balogh is never to be missed.

ljx160801webcd5redstarBujold, Lois McMaster. Shards of Honor. (Vorkosigan Saga). 1991. 313p. ISBN 9780671720872. pap. $13; ebk. available.

redstarBujold, Lois McMaster. Barrayar. (Vorkosigan Saga). 1991. 400p. ISBN 9780671720834. pap. $14; ebk. available.

ea. vol: Baen.

In the first two volumes of her long-­running “Vorkosigan Saga,” Bujold creates a classic sf romance in a military setting that was never named as such. Betan commander Cordelia Naismith and her planet’s greatest enemy, Barrayaran admiral Aral Vorkosigan, are stranded on a hostile planet by his enemies. When they survive the trap by fighting and working together, they must battle planetary political intransigence on both their worlds in order to have the future that they have earned.

Jakes, S.E. Bound by Honor. (Men of Honor, Bk. 1). 2011. 232p. ISBN 9781609284084. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9781609283735.

Jakes, S.E. Bound by Law. (Men of Honor, Bk. 2). 2011. 242p. ISBN 9781609286149. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781609285081. (Xpress Reviews, 8/5/11)

Jakes, S.E. Ties That Bind. (Men of Honor, Bk. 3). 2011. 88p. ebk. ISBN 9781609286361. $3.50.

Jakes, S.E. Bound by Danger. (Men of Honor, Bk. 4). 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781609289348. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781609288341.

Jakes, S.E. Bound for Keeps. (Men of Honor, Bk. 5). 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781619216709. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9781619213784.

Jakes, S.E. Bound To Break. (Men of Honor, Bk. 6). 2014. 226p. ISBN 9781619222724. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9781619217492.

ea. vol: Samhain.

In this male/male series that also falls squarely into the erotic category, each of the twosomes (and moresomes) are ex–Navy SEALs who are still fighting the good fight, even if that fight is sometimes with themselves. Each man has too many scars from his service and a need to find a purpose and a reason for living, quite often with another adrenaline junkie. PTSD is an equal opportunity risk for anyone who goes to extremes to protect and serve.

Untitled-4redstarJohnson, Jean. The Terrans. (First Salik War, Bk. 1). 2015. 464p. ISBN 9780425276914. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698175785.

redstarJohnson, Jean. The V’Dan. (First Salik War, Bk. 2). 2015. 389p. ISBN 9780425276938. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698175792.

redstarJohnson, Jean. The Blockade. (First Salik War, Bk. 3). 2016. 416p. ISBN 9780425276945. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698175839.

ea. vol: Ace: Berkley.

In this prequel to her military sf series, “Theirs Not To Reason Why,” Johnson explores the problems of “first contact” between two species who are both more or less human and must band together to fight an enemy bent on their mutual eradication. The center of the human to human conflict rests with two high-ranking officers from their respective cultures who have forged a little bit too close of a partnership for the comfort of either of their peoples.

redstarVoinov, Aleksandr. Skybound. Riptide. 2012. 44p. ISBN 9781937551827. pap. $4.99; ebk. available.

This short story is a tiny gem from a completely unexpected point of view. In this historical male/male romance, readers see World War II from the point of view of a Messerschmitt mechanic in Berlin, on the Axis side of the war. Felix is in love with one of his pilots, and when the man suffers a near-fatal crash, the brief downtime gives them a chance to explore a relationship that is utterly forbidden in Nazi Germany.

Special Ops (web resources)

All About Romance

In addition to NoveList and Goodreads, All About Romance has an excellent list of military romances, from the Norman Conquest to the seemingly never-ending War on Terror. The recommended reads are divided into sections for each covered war or conflict, including the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War II and even a few titles for the Boxer Rebellion and the relatively recent Falklands War. For readers with a yen to read about a specific period, this list is a treat.

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