World War II Romance – Can This Be a Thing?

the_kissI’m in the middle of a World War II romance right now that I’m reading for review. It’s okay, but not anything to write home about. I’ve been seeing more WWII stories come across my desk, but few are mainstream romances. There are inspirationals galore. Small press and indy books have always had them here and there. And they pop up in fiction, often with a romantic element. Mainstream romances, though? Not so much.

I feel like the time could be ripe for it, though. It’s not all that unusual for indie publishing to start a trend that New York later gloms onto (Fifty Shades, anyone?), and there’s a lot of appeal to the WWII setting. It comes complete with a built in conflict (the hero could die! Anyone could die!) and a cause that almost anyone could feel good about. Besides, those retro clothes are so cute. I can even overlook the fact that nearly everyone smokes (although I find that less cute). 

My so-so WWII romance got me thinking about others that I enjoyed a lot more. In no particular order:

Crossings by Danielle Steel – A huge caveat here: I read this when I was fifteen, and I have absolutely no idea whether it stands the test of time. Chances are it doesn’t. But it was the first Danielle Steel book I read (a lady I babysat for loaned it to me), and though I would soon decide that if you read one Danielle Steel book you’ve read them all, I loved this one. As I recall, it had a love triangle involving the heroine, an older husband who appeared to be working for the Vichy government in France but was secretly saving priceless French art from the Nazis, and an American soldier. And it ended with the fabulous cliched line, “Strong people cannot be defeated.” Or so I remember, anyway.

The Shell Seekers and Coming Home by Rosamunde Plicher - The Shell Seekers was a huge hit of the late eighties, and deservedly so. Coming Home came later and isn’t related, but is just as good. Both are sweeping sagas full of danger, competing love interests, and homefront sacrifices. Shell Seekers is more UK set, and if I remember correctly Coming Home wanders the globe a bit (or at least the heroine’s family gets spread out). They are worth seeking out if you’ve never read them.

Black Out and All Clear by Connie Willis – I am a straight up Connie Willis fan girl. I read both of these when they came out and considered reviewing them. But since I’d already written two DIK reviews of previous books, I decided that everyone already knew I loved Connie Willis. Many of her books (including these two) are loosely connected in that they feature time traveling British historians of the future who go back to various periods to study them. Black Out and All Clear are essentially one story in two books, and they cover several different historians who all get stuck in the past as they are observing various aspects of World War II. Most, but not all, all in London during the Blitz. If you like this setting at all, these books are not to be missed.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Almost everyone I know loved this book, but it’s certainly a tear jerker. Keep a box of tissues handy for this one.

The Unsung Hero (and other early Troubleshooter books) by Suzanne Brockmann – remember how her early Troubleshooter books all had a WWII subplot woven in? That was awesome, and in some cases, better than the main plot. In Unsung Hero both plots are fabulous, and the hero is…hair challenged. You see that often in real life but rarely in romance novels.

I’m sure I am forgetting something fabulous. What great WWII books have you read? And will anyone admit to also reading Crossings? I can’t be the only one.

Reader Prejudice, or Don’t Knock It Until You Try It

daniellesteelbooks As readers of romance, we’re familiar with literary prejudice– the Fabio jokes, the scoffs and eye rolls, the shame in reading one in public. I always defend my preferred genre, and berate people for making such judgments about an entire genre that they’ve never read. Woe be they who dare disparage a romance novel without having read it.

And then there’s Danielle Steel. When talking about romance novels, I’m careful to distinguish between what I read, and her “family dramas.” I hedge when they’re lumped together. I roll my eyes. I scoff. And I’ve never read a single one of her books.

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