This is a subgenre I want to see exist, and be written more of. No, I’m not talking about how to romance a woman with tactical correctness (although there may be a hint of that) ala Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign. I’m talking about books that are about tactics first – action! Adventure! and proper trigger controls, ambush points, and E&E – and romance blooms into the story. There’s love between two practical, competent adults, with none of the lust-fueled idiocy you see so often in romance novels. Competence porn, but without the explicit sex (because frankly sex is sexier when you leave the mechanics to the reader’s imagination).
It’s Dorothy Grant’s fault. She has written three tactical romances, and I love them, and I want more but I also want Dorothy to keep liking me so I’m not going to pester her to write faster (much). But in order to find more, first we have to define what we are looking for. Then I can do a Book List, and voila! Happy Cedar reading.
Bob The RegisteredFool said it very well last week in the comments, so I swiped his summary wholesale (thanks, Bob!): ”
They are romances, HEA and all. They are not relationships of expedience, despite fairly difficult circumstances.
There are characters who are men of action, who take on those problems realistically and competently.
The hero and heroine have pragmatic virtues, face the difficulties before them with resolve. You aren’t wondering why a shrinking violet tolerates being around a man capable of violence in difficult times, or why a man with no tolerance for weakness is interested in a women who is nothing but weakness.
I’ve read a lot of romance novels over the years. Not always on purpose, mind you. When you are stuck without reading material, any book, cereal box, or soap bottle will do. Harlequin romance paperbacks are ubiquitous. You could swear up one side and down the other you’ve never bought one in your life, but yet, there they are. I was more likely to have read Barbara Cartland and oh, gosh, I’ve forgotten her name but she did several sultry ‘historical’ romances with interesting linguistics, and of course a steady diet of my mother’s favorites: Georgette Heyer and Grace Livingston Hill. So I know whereof I speak when it comes to ‘Romance’ as a genre. I’ve not read a lot of the modern straight-up romances, but I have encountered quite a few of the books that made me really, really appreciate Dorothy’s take on the tactics.
See if you go looking for romance novels, you’ll find that there is a sub-genre that is, well, let’s call it the appeal of Men in Uniform. Currently it seems the rage is for billionaires, bosses, and men in more corporate white-collar power positions, but dig far enough and you’ll find firemen, navy Seals, and the like in there, too. I can see the appeal, if I squint a little. I do very much appreciate a competent man who can make things happen with his hands. *fans self* Ok, that’s not what I meant, although hormonally speaking, in real life, there’s a reason that level of ability appeals on a biological level.
What I object to, and many other women I respect don’t like any better, is the author who just sticks a ‘competent’ dude in the romance without a real appreciation of what makes that potential sexy. As Dorothy commented when we were talking about this “”Honey, have you ever met anyone in the military, or did you just watch a couple Hollywood movies and them rewrite the men as you think they ought to be?” It’s not simply the uniform, which gets used as a trope for a shortcut. There are uniformed cads and nitwits out there. No, what I want is for the love story to take the back seat. It has to, because otherwise you can’t showcase why she should fall for this guy, and vice versa. It’s classic show-don’t-tell. So primarily what you must have is an action story, where the action hangs together and shows him/her acting in competent ways doing intelligent, practical things. But in order for the author to tell this story in a way that really satisfies a woman like me… they have to know their sh*t.
Which is part of why I love Dorothy’s books, and want more like them. She has written action adventures that are based solidly on tactically correct situations. Her characters are not superhuman, they can bleed. They can feel fear, and push through that to achieve bravery. They can accurately predict and evade a three-pronged ambush. They know how to handle a weapon, and that is written from a perspective of an author who not only knows, but knows her own weak points and gets research assistance from people who have been there, done that. The kind of people I find attractive. Like my husband. See, I’m not looking for a romance that offers me illusions. I want one that feels very real. Fantasy and science fiction aren’t real, no, but the people that inhabit those worlds can be. Should be!
A competent man and a competent woman, working together, planning tactically correct action to get out of this pickle (whatever that may be) and falling for one another on the way. Can I get this in my stories? Yes. I think I can.
What about it? I’m looking for books like:
The Spanish Bride (was used to teach at Sandhurst, Dave Freer tells me. You don’t get much more tactically correct than that)
What do you recommend to add to this subgenre, Dear Readers?