Issue #115 (April 15, 2001)

Following the Drum

Her Husband was a Souldier, and to the wars did go,
And she would be his comrade, the truth of all is so.
The Gallant She-Souldier - 1655

A few weeks ago, I had one of those terrific reading experiences that make you glad you read romance. After a long period in the romance doldrums I picked up a copy of new The Officer’s Bride anthology, which includes three stories with military men as heroes of the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars. After greatly enjoying the first two stories The Major’s Wife by Merline Lovelace and The Companion by Deborah Simmons I thought it was too much to expect that third would be as much fun. But, by the time I had finished the first page I knew I was probably going to love the final story, An Honest Bargain by Julia Justiss. Why? Because it is set, not in the drawing rooms of London or the estates of the English countryside, but in Spain, at the heart of the war against Napoleon.

Maybe it is because I love books with military heroes that flash back to the Peninsular Wars and other parts of the war against Napoleon, but I am always hungry for a book that is actually set there. When men write of war they often write of the strategy of battle, the strength and the courage of the soldiers and the brutality of war. When they write of relationships it is most often the relationships between the soldiers that come to the fore. But when women write a historical set in a war, they are just as likely to write of the marriages, the food and the day-to-day stress that came when a woman was a camp follower and therefore part of the army. The lives of these women fascinate me and, I think provide an incredible opportunity for romance. In The Spanish Bride, Georgette Heyer describes many of the women who followed the British army in Spain. She writes that many of them married three and four times, taking on a new husband whenever an old one died. Though in reality this was probably very unromantic, it does provide an incredible opportunity for a romantic story.

But there are few such books. The first I ever read was Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows, which is probably the eight-hundred pound gorilla in this category. Much of this book, which tells the story of Catherine Melbourne, an unhappily married wife who “follows the drum” and Michael Kenyon, a Rifleman in the British Army takes place while the hero and heroine are on or near the battlefield. Though Catherine is married this is not an adultery story. Instead it is the story of two people who love each other and strive to do their duty.

In addition to being a wonderful love story, Shattered Rainbows is a fascinating portrait of the way men and women lived when both went to war. The portrait of Brussels just before Waterloo is described as teaming with soldiers and their families. Catherine Melbourne finds her husband a billet, struggles to pay bills and cooks dinner for her spouse when he has spent the day in battle. Such a life today, is virtually impossible to imagine, but, in the 19th century, wives really did pack up their belongings, and sometimes their children, and accompany their husbands to war.

The heroine of Julia Justiss’s story, An Honest Bargain, is just such a wife, though she has no children. Heroine Audra Saybrooke begins the story in deep trouble. Up until recently, she faithfully followed her soldier husband though Spain trudging along with the troops and following the drum. Now, suddenly, she is a widow, and this situation has left her unprotected and in danger. Her husband has left enormous gambling debts and no money to take her home to England. His army buddies are swarming around Audra like cats playing with a wounded bird and one in particular offers her carte blanche almost immediately. Even the prospect of returning to England holds few comforts, as it will mean living with in-laws who have disliked her from the start.

To Audra’s rescue comes her husband’s old friend Lieutenant Bryan Langford. Bryan has loved Audra for most of his life, but when he proposes to her he knows better than to confess his love to a woman so recently widowed. Instead, Bryan proposes a marriage of convenience, which will not be consummated, but will get Audra across Spain with her reputation in tact. The two are married in a hasty wedding and soon must march. One night they become stranded together when Audra insists on staying with a dying wounded man who would otherwise have been left behind.

I found this story fascinating, in part because I could easily envision the circumstances. A woman alone among so many men would have been nervous, and would have been made an instant object of speculation. It is not hard to believe that such a marriage could have taken place.

I wondered why there seem to be so few stories with this setting. Given the popularity of Shattered Rainbows it seems surprising. Do writers and editors worry that female readers will shy away from stories about the violence of war? This is understandable. I personally believe that women dislike most war stories not because of the violence but because they tend to be populated solely with male characters. Also, women love to read about relationships and, I think, avoid stories where action comes at the expense of character development.

Julia Justiss does not write a graphic story in An Honest Bargain, but there is no cleaning up little details such as the fact that the British soldiers sometimes left their wounded behind. To me, this kind of story, where a hero and heroine face danger and hardship together, presents real drama. There is no need for a convoluted external plot with a manufactured villain. Napoleon and the hard circumstances of war easily supply the kinds of obstacles to a couple’s future happiness that any romance novel needs.

In preparing this column I wrote to Julia Justiss and asked her to tell us about what interested her about the setting of short story. I also asked her about the research that she does and about what books have inspired her in writing about this time and setting. Here is Julia's response:

"I, too, love military heroes and military settings. (Growing up near US Naval Academy and then marrying a naval officer helped ) Having discovered Georgette Heyer at college, I devoured all her books and the war-set ones were among my favorites - An Infamous Army is fabulous, and so well-done historically that its Waterloo battle scenes have been quoted by military historians. When we were invited to contribute stories to The Officer's Bride, the three of us tossed around ideas and Merline hit upon having heroes all belong to the same unit at different historical times. I love the peninsular war period, so I asked to do a story set there.

"Since with 3 jr high/high school kids involved in everything and a part-time teaching job, time is always scarce, I generally write the story first and double check the facts afterward, altering as necessary. Heyer's The Spanish Bride was one source I reviewed while revising my contribution. The book quotes, often extensively, from Harry Smith's memoirs and those of several other peninsular-serving officers, and gives a very accurate "flavor" of the period. Another source is Elizabeth Longford's Wellington biographies, Wellington's "Dispatches," and several period memoirs. I spent a few hours at the US Naval Academy library last summer happily delving into details of peninsular army organization as presented in several specialized out-of-print histories. And I'm always on the lookout for more books on the period, particularly memoirs.

"Contemporary writers whose military settings and characters I enjoy include Merline's romantic suspenses (her January release, Dark Side of Dawn, was excellent,) all Vicki Hinze's books, and of course Suz Brockmann's SEALs, both the series books and the single titles. What better hero than a SEAL, who really can do all the superman stuff she describes? Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney (especially all their early classic Regencies) are all on my keeper shelf as well. Gayle Wilson covers both contemporary and historical settings with equal aplomb - most all of her Regencies have heroes with military backgrounds, and Honor's Bride is set in the Peninsula. And her RITA-winning Romantic Suspense last year was one of her Men of Mystery series featuring her brand of superheroes, an ultra-secret and closely-knit team of CIA black ops experts. They're all great!

"I have several of the Sharpe series videos, though I haven't read the (Bernard) Cornwall books. In the video series it seems to me Sharpe is a man's fantasy character, always there to do the most heroic deed and always with woman falling all over him, though his loyalty to them is questionable (witness the episode where his Spanish guerrilla lover is killed trying to rescue him just after he's finished trysting with an aristocrat's wife who just happens to be a former lover and prostitute(!) There's also a strong anti-aristocrat prejudice, though Wellington is good and the period costume details are wonderful."

When I finished An Honest Bargain, I was in that mood so well known to romance readers. I wanted to read another story like it! But, I realized that, though I had read many books with relatively short flashbacks to the battlefield; I had read very few books that were set there for a significant part of the story. Where could I find some recommendations for great romances with heroines who followed the drum? I asked my fellow AAR reviewers for their recommendations of romance novels that are set on or near a battlefield. I was looking for stories set anytime before World War II where the heroine was located near the action.

Interestingly, even the AAR reviewers had trouble coming up with names. Many of us had read and enjoyed Mary Balogh’s One Night for Love. In that book the heroine is a “daughter of the regiment,” who loses her father on the field. The hero marries her to protect her and after their wedding night (the infamous “one night”) they are separated. The heroine reappears, years later, at the church on her husband’s wedding day to another woman. I enjoyed this story a great deal, especially the part of it the takes place during the war and I particularly liked the fact that Mary Balogh did not sugarcoat the war itself. In fact, the heroine of this book goes through some truly terrible times before she finally escapes to England. We hear about them in flashback but they are sad and horrifying nevertheless.

But even though books set near the battlefield were hard to think of, the memories of them sparked some thoughts. Mary Novak wrote that “Christina Dodd's Move Heaven And Earth has a more-interesting-than-usual take on what it means to have followed the drum - the heroine suffers from massive social stigma because she cared for the wounded on the battlefield, which polite ladies Did Not Do. Somewhat the same in Carla Kelly's With This Ring.” And both Blythe Barnhill and Laurie Shallah remembered that Red, Red Rose by Marjorie Farrell was a good book of this kind.

Jennifer Keirans remembered Beatrice Small's A Memory of Love, though she could not recommend it. She recalled that that book has “a heroine who goes on crusade with her husband. They make it to North Africa, where lots of people start dying of dysentery, and the heroine gets, well, you know, kidnapped into a harem. But before that she actually sees a little bit of action.” Jennifer also remembered By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter, “which has scenes in which both hero and heroine get mixed up in the 100 Years' War” and Jane Feather's The Hostage Bride, which takes place during the English Civil War. Though Jennifer had not actually read that book, our own LLB has - it's her review of the book at AAR. She recalls that the heroine, while able and worthy enough as any man to serve in an army, was not a woman with whom she could relate at all.

Jennifer reminded all of us of Judith O'Brien's Ashton's Bride, set during the U.S. Civil War, and of Karyn Monk's The Rebel and the Redcoat, set during the U.S. Revolution.

Nora Armstrong had just finished reading Marsha Canham's new release, Midnight Honor, and she suggested it as a good example of a war-set romance of the mid-eighteenth century. There are not many of these. Nora could think of only one other - Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber.

I checked our review of Midnight Honor, and it occurred to me that Marsha Canham would be a good author to ask about using war in romance. War in Marsha Canham’s books is not a flashback or even a device to enhance character. It is a critical part of the story itself and provides a lot of the drama and excitement in her stories. I wrote to Marsha and asked her about her use of wartime settings in her books. Here is what she wrote back:

"I do tend to use war - battles on the ground and on the sea - a great deal in my writing, and I suppose it's the sheer, hair-tingling adventure that appeals to me. I have always been a fan of movies where wars or jousts or great cinematic battlefields had the characters up to their eyeballs in danger and excitement. It started way back when I watched the old black and white afternoon matinees, when pirates came swinging out of the rigging with daggers between their teeth, or when John Wayne was riding hell bent for leather, blasting his guns at everything that moved. Even though I always knew from the opening titles that the hero was going to emerge victorious at the end, it was the adventures, the trials, the perils he went through to get there that made the whole movie rock. Even looking at the movies today, what would Braveheart have been without the battlefield scenes? Or Gladiator without the fights in the arena?

"I try to put some of that same tension, danger, and excitement in my writing, and while I give full credit to all the authors out there who enjoy writing character driven stories, I find it nearly impossible to satisfy my own sense of adventure staging a debate in a drawing room sipping tea with Lady Pillsbury. It is sooooooo much easier and soooooo much more fun to turn my hero into a true Hero if chaos is erupting around him. When I used the Jacobite rebellion, for instance, as I did in the three Scotland books, it gave me many opportunities to place not just the hero and heroine at risk, but to create perilous circumstances where everyone's safety was put in doubt. Moreover, because I've become known for my tendancy not to follow the rules of fair play, I am hopefully able to keep readers a bit on edge not knowing if I'm going to kill off a popular character or not. While they're wondering, worrying, trying to outguess me and duck each slash of the sword, I get to play with the full range of their emotions along with the emotions of the characters: anger, cynicism, doubt, despair, rage, hatred, as well as relief, laughter, and heartfelt satisfaction. To that end, I look at the war or the battle as a character in itself, and sometimes it becomes the ultimate villain that the hero and heroine must both confront to emerge victorious.

"Editors and reviewers alike have sometimes been critical about the amount of violence I put into my books - one editor said it made my writing "too realistic" for the average reader. I countered by saying I don't write for the average reader, I write for me. I write the kind of stories I enjoy reading, and if a writer can't be free to do that, then every book out there would read like every other book out there and what would be the point? In reality, I'm not a violent person at all. I'd rather catch a fly and chase it outside than smash it into pulp with a shoe. But I get the same freedom from constraints through writing my books as readers do reading them. I get to vicariously strap on that sword or that gunbelt, and I get to charge onto the battlefield with Mel Gibson in blue face paint beside me! I get to guard his back and feel his arms around me when we both stagger off the field alive and triumphant. And all from the safety of my office chair!

"Augh! Where else can you get a job like that?????"

In addition to Midnight Honor, Nora Armstrong had some other suggestions . Nora, who describes herself as “unabashedly fascinated with the Peninsular War,” wrote that this is one of her favorite story types. Of this type, she most loves Heyer - The Godmother's - The Spanish Bride and Gayle Wilson's Honor's Bride. Nora told me that TSB is the true story of Sir Harry Smith and Juana, the child bride he found in the wreckage of Badajoz. (She also taught me that Ladysmith, South Africa, is named after her.) She added that Wilson's book tells a story similar to Shattered Rainbows, in that a bachelor harbors a tendre for an army wife married to a lout. When the lout dies under questionable circumstances, hero and heroine are forced into marriage, since they're the only two survivors of an ambushed patrol and have been in hiding together for a number of weeks. Then she asked, “Does Heyer's An Infamous Army count? Barbara does some nursing in the aftermath of Waterloo, and there's almost a minute-by-minute account of the battle.” And , “then there's Dragonfly in Amber, and I think The Fiery Cross (yet to be published) is going to have more of Claire-as-battlefield-doctor in it.”

Reading this got me running down to the basement to my towering tbr pile. Yes, I was sure I had it. Somewhere I had stashed an ancient thrift shop copy of The Spanish Bride. That night, as soon as the kids were in bed, I sat down to read it.

I could immediately see what Nora had been talking about so enthusiastically. The Spanish Bride is, I suspect, the first source of anyone writing a romance based on the Peninsular. Not only does it include a lot of detail on the lives led by the troops and the camp-followers, it describes the Rifle Brigade, which seems to be every romance writers favorite choice of occupation for her soldier hero. I could not help but wonder how romance writing would have been different had Harry Smith been a Redcoat.

I had been leery of this book, which is why it had spent so much time in my tbr stack, unread. A number of avid Heyer fans had warned me off of it saying that it was not really representative of Heyer’s work and that if I did not like it, it would not mean that I didn’t like Heyer. But now, with Nora’s comment that it was a kind of mother of all regency battle stories, I sat down to read it with some enthusiasm. I am so glad that I did!

I greatly enjoyed TSB with the caveat that I admit that I skimmed some of it. Based on the true story of Harry and Juana Smith, this book is neither a Regency Romance nor an historical romance - it is a straight historical novel of the Peninsular Wars with a love story built into it. Some of the story, such as the sacking of Badajos, with its uncompromising description of the British rape and murder of civilians, is horrifying. In fact, in reading that part of the book I could not help but reflect on the present day repercussions when a modern army behaves in such a manner.

And, in some of its more mundane passages, some of the book seemed dry. Every village and road that the hero and heroine encountered is mentioned and I found this pretty dull going at times. Heyer seemed to feel compelled to tell the reader the dates on which the most mundane events occurred. As a reader who is unfamiliar with Spanish geography, I sometimes got confused. If I read TSB again, again I will find a map to go along with it.

But once I skimmed past the duller sections, I was rewarded with a description of an intriguing marriage. Harry, a twenty-five year old Brigade-Major married the fourteen-year old Juana when her older sister brought her into the English camp in Spain, asking for protection. The book describes their meeting as love at first sight and, though their marriage could be tempestuous, it seems that neither ever doubted that love underlay their relationship. Juana was so young that she seems to have taken to campaigning as an adventure, dealing with bugs, rain and exhaustion like one big camping trip. I could not help but think that such a life is far more suited to teenagers than to adults and that I, for example, would have made a very bad wife for Harry.

Indeed, the last part of the book, which deals with Harry’s separation from Juana when he is sent to America to fight in the War of 1812, (he was present at the burning of Washington) is perhaps the most affecting in the book.

So what was the basis of this “mother” of all Peninsular camp-follower stories? In her author’s note at the start of the book Heyer writes that her “most important authority” for The Spanish Bride was Harry Smith’s own autobiography. In addition to a number of general texts on the war, various autobiographies and Wellingtons’ dispatches, she writes, “I have not, to my knowledge, left any of the Diarists of the Light Division unread.” She notes that Kincaid, a secondary character in the book left a useful diary as did George Simmons. Many of the details of the rank-and-file came from Edward Costello’s Adventures of a Soldier. She writes “Rifleman Harris was useful too; and so was Quartermaster Surtees, in spite of his unfortunate habit if covering too many pages with moral reflections.”

Another source of great battlefield set stories that was mentioned by the AAR reviewers was Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s series. This is a multi-volume series of historical novels chronicling the adventures of a brigade of Riflemen during the Napoleonic Wars. The first in the series, Sharpe’s Rifles, (though there are now some prequels coming out) takes place in Spain in 1809. Jennifer Schendel said that this series, which delves deeply and thoroughly into war, following one character from Britain's India campaigns through the Battle of Waterloo, includes several romances. She added that, "It's interesting to watch the differences of how the women in the books handle war. For example Sharpe's first wife is a Spanish guerilla and fights alongside the men, whereas his second wife is a gently bred English girl and thinks of it like one grand military parade for her benefit and is upset by the dirt, the men, and the fighting.”

Nora Armstrong is also a big fan of this series; she wrote, “I'm so glad I'm not the only Sharpie in the group! I read this entire series in order. I started reading them because I figured it was a painless way to do research on soldiering during the Peninsular War, but soon was hooked on the stories and characters in and of themselves. Now I get first crack at the new ones as they come in. If nothing else, I got a real sense of how the army operated in battle. Now if I could just decide whether my hero's in a line or grenadier company. . . ."

The most riveting scene in the entire Sharpe series, according to Nora, takes place at a ball on the eve of Waterloo, with the hero "chasing that hapless lieutenant from room to room, leaping over tables (pretty spry for a thirty-something man, I thought), finally cornering him, and snarling, 'You can keep the bitch - just give me back the money.' "

Because Mary Balogh is one of those authors who has incorporated the battlefield into her romances, I asked if she would comment. To my delight, she responded with the following piece.

Romance on the Battlefield

At first thought it would seem unlikely that romance and war could flourish within the covers of the same book. But on second thought one will soon realize that the connection is a perfectly logical one. Certainly there are some very famous books that do combine both. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Rosamond Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers are two that leap to mind, though it is true that neither book takes the reader actually onto the battlefield. Let’s consider what the appeal might be.

War is something that intensifies emotions. A man (or woman) facing a battle can hardly do so with passive indifference. There is the strong possibility that he will die. There is the equally strong chance that he will see his comrades die and that he will have to kill. For the woman left behind, either at home or in camp, there is all the anxiety of waiting to see who will return from the battle - and who will not. The passion of love, so important to a romance, cannot help but flourish under such circumstances. My books Tangled and Web of Love both begin with a wife saying a poignant, stoical farewell to her much-loved husband as he leaves for battle (the Crimean in the first case, Waterloo in the second). In both books it is the "wrong" man (the hero) who comes back alive, the husband who dies. Such a scenario sets the tone for a book charged with deep emotion.

Despite our modern-day insistence upon the equality of the sexes, there is still a part of us that enjoys the picture we get in many historical romances of the heroic male. Of course, writers usually compensate for that by creating a heroine who is equally strong and heroic in her own way. A war setting gives us numerous opportunities to show both physical and mental courage in the face of great odds. In Beyond the Sunrise I was able to show this with both my hero and heroine. He is a spy during the Peninsular Wars in Portugal and Spain and is sent by Wellington to penetrate behind enemy lines in a deliberate attempt to get himself captured so that he can feed false information to the enemy and keep them from discovering a truth that could destroy the Allied armies. She is also a spy, a double agent, with the mission of orchestrating his escape from captivity while making it appear to him as if she has betrayed him. Together, as they travel back through enemy lines to the British side, where he intends to turn her over to Wellington and captivity, they quarrel and fight (both each other and the enemy) and love. Again the situation enabled me to write an emotionally charged book as well as one filled with action and intrigue and suspense.

There is something very evocative about the image of women following the drum, traveling with their men, enduring all the same hardships, waiting instead of fighting, caring for the wounded. Perhaps it is because such women are the type we admire today. They had to be adaptable, tough, courageous. They make ideal heroines for romance, especially when paired with brave warriors. And sometimes they can become directly involved in the war. My book One Night for Love takes place in England more than a year after the hero has returned there to live, but the whole of the action depends upon what happened in the Peninsula when he was an infantry major. He married his sergeant’s daughter when the man was killed during an ambush in what was expected to be a peaceful mission. He married her so that his rank would protect her should she be captured. In a second ambush the next day, the hero was nearly killed while Lily was indeed captured, became separated from her papers, and suffered every horrifying indignity Neville had most feared before he married her. Lily had not suffered the sort of wounds men suffered in battle, but she was as deeply scarred by her experiences as any man. I set the book up to show how the strength of her character and the hero’s love for her bring eventual healing and an end of the conflicts that kept them apart. Again, the war setting contributed to the emotional intensity of the book.

Even when a romance does not take place on or near a battlefield, it can still be strongly affected by war. What if a heroine’s sweetheart or husband is away fighting and she falls in love with someone else (the hero)? There are all sorts of possibilities there for powerful emotions. Or what if a man comes back from war to discover his wife married to another man, both having assumed that he was dead? This is just what happens in Tangled. The newly married couple even have a son when the "dead" husband returns. And there are all the psychological effects of warfare that can add great depth to character development and form seemingly insurmountable barriers to a developing love story.

War settings, then, have great possibilities for romance. There are dangers, though. Many romance readers, I know from experience, do not like too much violence or gloom and doom in their romances. Hence, perhaps, the advisability of keeping the reader off the actual battlefield most of the time. Also romance readers, if the editors of my experience are to be believed, do not like their historicals set in European countries. England is fine, but France or Spain or Turkey are not. Readers will not buy such books. Whether there is truth in that fear I do not know, but if editors believe it, then they are not going to be too happy about accepting such books.

How are such books researched? By a great deal of reading! Anyone who is not fascinated by war will probably steer clear of writing war books. I surprised myself when I decided to write Web of Love, which begins at the Battle of Waterloo. I read everything I could lay my hands on, was totally fascinated by it all, and finally knew that battle with such intimacy that I believe I knew every shot that was fired and every maneuver that was made. I used only a bare fraction of my knowledge in the actual book, of course, but I believe I had to understand the whole in order to get that small part correct and believable. The same held true of Beyond the Sunrise, which takes place almost entirely in Portugal and Spain during the Peninsular Wars. Again I used only a small part of what I had learned. Incidentally, anyone who is really fascinated by the Peninsular Wars should definitely read Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe books. Don’t watch the television productions - they are vastly inferior to the books! They are not romances, though, and are very violent - be warned!

Historical romances set on or near battlefields can have all the ingredients romance readers look for and more besides. Certainly they are likely to be more emotion-packed than the average romance. And despite all the grueling suspense of seeing the hero and heroine living so close to danger and death, there is still the relaxing knowledge that because this book is a romance it is going to end happily. When all is said and done, that is what matters most to those of us who believe in the power of love!

A Fork in the Road and some Final Thoughts:

(Alnwick Castle)
When I mentioned the "following the drum" concept to Laurie, she wondered whether looking at a variant to it might be interesting and suggested medieval romances wherein the heroine is involved in defending the keep. While I thought this was a good idea, the idea has proved more difficult to provide examples for. Though Laurie was sure there were many examples, she could only come up with one good one, and from a book that was in a less serious vein - Julie Garwood's The Prize.

Laurie contacted Teresa Eckford, a long-time AAR reader whose specialty is medieval history (she's written six articles for our Historical Cheat Sheet). Teresa too thought this was an interesting concept, but also could not come up with many examples, although in Roberta Gellis' classic Alinor, the heroine is involved in attacking a holding. Even after going out and polling other readers/authors on the HistFic-HistRom and MedievalEnthusiast discussion lists, she could only provide a few titles. Here they are:

Teresa added, "I'm sure there must be others out there, but I just can't find them. I thought there might be a fictional account of Dame Nicolaa de la Haye, but there doesn't seem to be."

Whether or not the heroine from Garwood's book, whose name happens to be Lady Nicholaa, was fashioned in some capacity after Dame Nicolaa de la Haye, is unknown. Since the medieval chatelaine needed to be skilled in many areas, it seems surprising that not more romances have used heroines in this capacity. Although, Laurie seemed to recall a medieval by Marylyle Rogers that featured a heroine quite involved in defending her keep. Only problem is, the book wasn't very good.

Have we missed some titles, and, is this as surprising an oversight as it seems?


I am the kind of reader who just loves to know where things come from. When I first began reading both traditional regencies and historicals set in the regency period, I could not help but wonder where all this interest in the Pennisular Wars originated. After all, the Napoleonic Wars are not widely taught in the U.S. and many Americans would be hard pressed if asked whether our own War of 1812 was a world war. Jane Austen barely touches on the war beyond noting that silly women are attracted to military uniforms, so why was I finding books about the Napoleonic War in Spain? Reading Georgette Heyer and Bernard Cornwell has been a revelation. I'm looking forward to reading many of the books that the AAR reviewers suggested and the ones that you perhaps recommend after reading this column.

Time to Post to the Message Board:
As we've done occasionally, rather than provide you with specific questions this time around, we're going into our message board in a more open-ended fashion. We like to think that, in addition to talking about things topical to the genre, we're also "branching out" on the romance family tree concept we began last year. After you've read and reflected on the topics presented here, feel free to talk about any of them. We look forward to your comments and questions.

-- Robin Nixon Uncapher

In conjunction with Julia Justiss, Marsha Canham, and Mary Balogh

Post your comments and/or questions to our Potpourri Message Board

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