Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Historical Romance Meets Today’s Realities

In past wars they called it “shell-shocked.” Now we hear about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This are a set of recognizable symptoms that a person might exhibit after going through a really bad experience. Many times PTSD is associated with soldiers who have been in combat, and is called “combat stress.”

So what does this have to do with my historical romance novels?

As we know, in many romance novels our characters do not have it easy emotionally. We put them through angst in order to have them grow and learn by the time the happy ending rolls around. In my Civil War romance novels, my heroes have taken part in the deadliest war in our nation’s history, leaving them with emotional scars. In SECRETS AND SACRIFICES, Confederate surgeon, Captain Daniel Reid, has guilt and shame when he can’t help the masses of wounded soldiers on both sides. Yankee Captain David Reynolds, from JENNY’S PASSION, goes through a period after his escape from Andersonville prison when he withdraws from the family he loves. And in my multi-award winning book, LILA’S VOW, cavalryman Captain Jack Montgomery not only has nightmares, but he also develops an obsession with food. These are all symptoms of PTSD, an echo from our past that parallels what can happen to today’s soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This similarity is what I believe makes my historical romances “hot” or “relevant” right now.

Wait— Didn’t I just say my hero had an eating disorder? We like our heroes buff and fit, right? Of course, so do I. But I can’t give anything away. You’ll just have to read the book to find out what Jack’s wife, Lila, does about this. Coping with the highly personal effects that combat has on a soldier is important for my characters and paramount for anyone who has a loved one in the same situation. Just as we all react differently to what we see, experience, and read, we all have different responses to stress. No symptom is too trivial to be ignored. For more information, go to www.realwarriors.net for signs and symptoms of combat stress, and help dealing with them.

Now that I have addressed the serious issue, it’s time for a little taste of my Civil War heroes in a scene from LILA’S VOW. Lila and Jack have just been reunited. You can order my books from any bookseller or go to http://www.dianewylie.com/ for more information, video book trailers, and excerpts.

Excerpt from LILA’S VOW, Copyright 2009.

Putting her arms around his lean waist, Lila held on tightly, the sobs coming more quickly now.

He stroked her hair and rubbed a hand comfortingly up and down her back.

“Shhh,” he whispered. “It’s all right, my love. A bit of a shock to you, no doubt, but you will get used to me again.”

He did feel awfully good pressed up against her like this. It was both a familiar and a strange feeling at once.

“H-how did you find me?”

At that he opened his arms and let her go. “Let’s eat while we talk, if that is all right with you?”
Sniffing, she pulled a hanky from her pocket, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Jack moved to the table and picked up one of the sandwiches, eating it in record time. Oddly, his hands were trembling, and there was an unusual air of desperation about him. Gulping down the coffee as well without sitting, he put the cup down and went to the door.

“You are leaving?”

He put his hand on the knob and turned to look at her. “Uh, we can talk in a few minutes, sweetheart, why don’t you eat while I go down and see if we can get more food?”

She looked at him closer now. Without his heavy long coat, he did look thinner than she remembered, but handsome in his black jacket, brocade vest, gray trousers, and fine white shirt. Perhaps he really was hungry. “All right. I’ll be right here waiting for you.”

Then he was gone.

With nothing else to do, Lila sat at the little table by the fire and began to eat. The ham and bread settled down in her stomach with a comforting feeling. It helped to soothe her raging emotions. Sipping at the coffee, she looked around the room. It was not a bad room, not fancy, but clean. She just hoped the bed covers were bug free.

Time seemed to drag while she waited for her long-lost husband to return. She began to worry as the minutes passed without a sign of him. Popping up from the chair, she paced around the room. Spying her bag, she opened it and pulled out her flannel nightgown. It hardly seemed appropriate for a reunion with your husband, but it was all she had. Taking her brush, she sat on the bed and began to brush the tangles from her hair, but her mind was troubled.

Suppose he changed his mind about being married again and had left her here alone. What if something happened to him downstairs? Perhaps the Rebels had come and discovered a Yankee here in Virginia!

No, that couldn’t be the case, she would have heard noise from downstairs and she hadn’t heard anything. All the same she went to the door and put her ear to the scarred wood. Nothing. She heard nothing.

“Oof!” Lila stumbled back as the door opened, hitting her in the nose. Her heel caught on the braided rug as she went backward. With a thump and a whoosh of air from her lungs, she found herself on the floor in a puddle of skirts.

A pair of shoes and pant legs attached to a huge pile of food greeted her eyes. Jack’s face appeared from around the side of an armload of bread, jars of jam, a sack of potatoes, and a big fat two-foot long sausage.

“Are you all right, Lila?”

“Um…yes…fine. Are you as hungry as all that, Jack dear?”

His face turned bright red as he came into the room, closing the door with his foot. Dropping his bundles on the bed with a grunt, he turned and held out a hand to help her up. A guilty smile spread across his face and deepened his dimples.

“Since prison I get a little…bothered when food is scarce.”

Links to buy Lila’s Vow by Diane Wylie



Barnes and Noble.com




Thanks for letting me share about my books. They are special to me.

~Diane Wylie


Tina Donahue said...

I love the depth of your characters and the situations you put them into, Diane. Those are the kinds of romances (in any subgenre) that I love to read. Your writing's amazing.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Lila's Vow is one of my all time favorite books, Diane. I felt so connected to Jack and his "little problem"--he was so human.
Loved your blog today.

Kathy Otten said...

Love the idea of an eating disorder for your hero. It's a fresh and origianl premise. Best wishes for many sales. :)

jean hart stewart said...

What a novel basis for a plot. I can already see you had lots of fun developing this one...Jean

Fiona McGier said...

What was that old slogan? "War is not good for children and any other living things"...for all of their strength and size, men are humans also. We send them into situations that are inhumane, then wonder why they come home changed.
Interesting premise for a romance.

Diane M. Wylie said...

Thanks for posting, Tina, Sarah, Kathy, Jean, and Fiona. I did enjoy the characters of Jack and Lila in this book. I already knew them from the companion book to LILA'S VOW, which is called JENNY'S PASSION. So writing about them was like working with old friends.

Kate Dolan said...

I love seeing failings and quirks in heroes, especially when it's something unexpected. Well done!