Sunday, April 19, 2009

Armed and Fabulous

by Nancy

A friend of mine once said that the two types of garments most flattering to almost every man were the tuxedo and the military uniform. I think she had a point. Uniforms and tuxedos square the shoulders and frame the body as other garments just don't quite. Even the less dynamically built characters on shows like JAG or China Beach looked good in a uniform. And proficiency with weapons is another plus. So for today, we'll leave the tuxedos to the spies and focus on warrior heroes (in and out of uniform). For the writers among us, we'll also touch on resources for creating and equipping these guys.

Vikings seem to be enjoying a resurgence lately. My favorite Viking film, which I discovered because Gerri Russell assured me I'd love it, is The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas. It's the role in which I like him best because of the challenges his character faces and the ways he grows as a result. He isn't a Viking, but he's surrounded by them. They're the other twelve warriors. This film has noble purpose and lots of swordplay. Banderas' character isn't a warrior hero at the start of the film, but he is at the end.

If you're writing a Viking hero, how do you know what he wears or carries? Or what his world is like? There are a lot of terrific books out there about Vikings and their culture. My favorite source for information about warriors of all eras is Osprey publishing. Click on the appropriate country, and prices will appear in your currency. The books are not cheap, but they're aimed at military history buffs, so they contain fabulous details that can be hard to find elsewhere. When I needed to know how much a medieval archer earned, I found the information in an Osprey book.

Moving forward, there's the medieval period with its knights and dragons and derring-do. I'm seriously biased in this regard, but I don't think you can beat the Plantagenets for pure flash and dash in the whole spectrum of British history. Medievals also seem to be having a resurgence, especially ones featuring Knights Templar. Claudia Dain's The Marriage Bed and Christina Dodd's Candle in the Window (a medieval, not a Regency, despite what the cover implies) are wonderful medievals. So are all of Gerri Russell's Scottish medievals, which start with The Warrior Trainer.

Equipping the medieval hero is easier than it is for warriors of other eras. There are many, many medieval histories available, and there are probably enough books in print about castles to built one out of them. Dorling-Kindersley's children's books about medieval life and about knights can be a great resource to get a feel for the era. Osprey, of course, has terrific resources for various medieval periods. Some of these books are available in libraries, though not all. It's always worth checking since books can become a huge expense.

The American Revolution doesn't seem like a very popular period, but the Regency, with its popular veterans of the Napoleonic Wars makes, up for that. I've always wished there were more naval heroes in Regencies. It's hard to set a Regency on a ship, of course. You'd lose lots of the period's fun conventions. Major Lucas Winter, in Sabrina Jeffries' wonderful Never Seduce A Scoundrel (School for Heiresses series), is an American Marine, a veteran of the campaign against the Barbary Pirates, and a wonderful character and one of the few American military heroes I've seen from this period. While Victorians seem to have a strong market presence, I haven't seen any Crimean War heroes. Maybe someone can recommend one.

I'm hoping World War I and World War II begin to gain market share because I love those stories. The Vietnam war doesn't seem to have produced many romance heroes, either. Maybe it's too recent to be historical and too remote to be contemporary. I do love all the current and former SEALs who keep turning up as heroes. My parents were in the Navy, so I'm naturally biased. I loved the TV show JAG, even though the primary weapons utilized were legal briefs. Veterans from all service branches seem to be appearing in a lot of romances, and I enjoy that.

Cassondra tipped me off that YouTube can be a gret resource for video of weapons in use, so I've been consulting that site from time to time. Osprey has great contemporary source material, including several books on Special Forces, and there are many, many excellent memoirs out there. The U.S. Navy website has a special section on SEALs with video of their training and interviews with trainees. The conflicts in Iraq and Iran have produced excellent memoirs by soldiers, such as Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson (SEALs), Chasing Ghosts by Paul Reickhoff (infantry in urban warfare), and The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell by John Crawford (National Guard in various settings).

Who's your favorite military hero in books or on film? Why does this particular hero appeal to you? If you're a writer, what are your favorite sources?


limecello said...


limecello said...

Random note- has anyone else heard that youtube will no longer be free? (At least for posting videos, I think?)

Heh. I didn't think I'd get the GR because I'd just gotten home... yes @ 3 AM :P

I LOVE a man in uniform - as in military; and suits. In college there was one swanky mall where the security guards walked around in suits - and yes, that made them infinitely more interesting.

As for my favorite military hero in a book? Oh... gosh... Isn't it horrible I'm blanking on them? I know there are gads of SEAL heroes I love. (And even the retired/ex-military heroes.) For film... heh. Is it a cop out to say 300? I mean I spent a LOT of time studying the classics... so when I got surveys about the film trailer I said I loved both that it was about the Spartans and it had Gerard Butler... ;)

PinkPeony said...

Congrats Limecello!

I've been on Youtube more than usual over the past few days but I haven't heard anything about them charging a fee. I figured they made their money from the web ads on the site.

Men in uniform...major hubba! I have to think about this some more. Gerard Butler...sigh...

limecello said...

PinkPeony - It was on the news last night... I haven't really bothered looking into it - but I'm sure the policies will come out sooner or later.

Helen said...

Congrats limcello enjoy your day with him

I love this post Nancy and I gotta say I too love a man in uniform there is just something about them.

I too love medieval books one series I really loved was Mary Reed McCall's The Templar Knights this has 3 books in the series and are a must read for lovers of medieval books. I was lucky enough to win one of Gerri Russell's books and I am waiting to get the first two in the series so as I can read them together I hopefully will be ordering them this month and am looking forward to reading them.

I too loved that Sabrina Jeffery's book Nancy and also Anne Gracie has a series called The Devil Riders which is about heros back from the war and these are a must to read there are 2 out already and more to come I think if I remember correctly there will be 4 in the series and one of her books from the perfect series is about a soldier The Perfect Stranger.
I haven't read many contemperies so I don't have a favourite there.

As for movies Braveheart comes to mind I love that movie and Mel Gibson did look fantastic in his "uniform" the Kilt.

Have Fun

Nancy said...

Limecello, congrats on snagging the rooster. Have fun with him.

I like the ways guys look in suits, too. There's something, though, about the cut of a uniform that's transformative.

No, it's not copping out to pick the guys in 300. They weren't in uniform, but they were certainly military. The Spartans were the first recorded super-warriors.

And yeah, there's always something to be said for Gerard Butler. *g*

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, I hadn't heard that about YouTube. Interesting. I wouldn't go if it weren't free, so I hope Susan Boyle isn't going to their heads, so to speak.

Your vote for Gerard Butler is noted and logged, as Mr. Spock would say. :-)

Minna said...

Favorite military hero? It's just impossible to answer that question. There are just so many...

Minna said...

And speaking of World War II... Renny Harlin is making a movie in Finland for a change (if they now manage to get enough money for it) about Marshal Mannerheim. Evidently it's been his dream for a long time to make this movie. And considering what kind of movies he usually makes (Die Hard II, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Cutthroat Island), I really want see what it's going to be like, considering they get it done, of course.

Nancy said...

Helen, those Templar books sound interesting. I think you'll like Gerri's, too. She also has a Templar series coming out and will be back in August to talk about the first one.

Braveheart was a huge hit. Gotta love those Scottish warriors!

Nancy said...

Minna, that WWII movie sounds interesting. It'll be nice to see something with a different focus. I'm still hoping to see Defiance before it leaves the theaters.

Nancy said...

I'm in Atlanta this morning, and my friend is graciously letting me use her laptop to comment. I'm about to hit the road and will back with y'all when I get home.

Minna said...

Well, even though Renny Harlin is directing it, it's highly unlikely you'll be seeing it in American movie theaters.

Christie Kelley said...

Great post, Nancy. I have to admit that I'm not a big military hero girl. Weird, since my grandfather was a WWII bomber pilot, my father was in the Air Force, and three brothers in the Army. Plus I live about 12 miles from the US Naval Academy.

As far as arming my heroes, I have a few resources from the Beau Monde chapter that I go to with such questions. Plus the internet is great for getting images.

Louisa Cornell said...

Lime AGAIN??? I think he is just setting up camp at your house. Permanently. If you start to see construction on a little chicken coop bordello in the backyard watch out!

Great post, Nancy, and some great resources listed.

I love Mary Reed McCall's series. And of course Cornwell's Sharpe series is a must read for me.

The hero of my first novel is a veteran of Waterloo, but the war is over by the time my book takes place.

I am collecting books on Waterloo and Regency era military topics as I have an outline for a book centered on an event that takes place at Waterloo that follows a group of friends home and changes their lives forever. I'll get that one written one day. Sigh!

Joan said...

SEALS. No argument but SEALS. Not even for any uniform but for their prowness.

As to historical, I'm all for warriors Viking or otherwise but not so much for formal, regimented miitary types.

I want the skills, not the conformity.

Speaking of which, I'm off to continue my reaquainance with Han Solo :-)

Keira Soleore said...

Nothing beats a medieval warrior for me. Whether it's early in the Norman-English history or the late middle ages. The sheer risk to their well-bring with living life on-the-edge makes every action weighty and important and urgent.

Gillian Layne said...

I love all the Suzanne Brockmann books. And I just read Blue Smoke and Murder, don't know if the hero qualifies as military but wow was it good.

The military is so complicated. I really admire anyone who can write a good story and stay true to the realities of it all, as well.

Gannon Carr said...

I love a man in uniform, specifically Navy dress whites or dress blues. My dh is a retired naval officer and I loved him in uniform (or out-*snort*)!

Christie, my dh is a Naval Academy grad! Annapolis is a beautiful city.

Scottish warriors, Vikings, etc.--what's not to love?!

Sabrina said...

Glad you liked my military hero, Nancy! I recently read Julia Quinn's story in the last Whistledown book about a soldier back from the war, and it made me cry. I do like military heroes. I never watched Jag, but I'm a huge fan of NCIS. I grew up near both an army and an air force base, so I was around lots of G.I.'s (even dated one). My favorite military hero was another Lucas, from Amanda Quick's Seduction. I still love that book.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, Nancy!
Thanx a bunch for such fabulous resources. Even though I haven't exactly written a military hero (YET! you never know...) I have written a Celtic warrior. :-) Interestingly enough, they wore just about NOTHING into battle, not even those little speedoes the Spartans had on in 300. (AHEM!)

I don't watch a lot of war movies, but one of my favorites was "Master and Commandeer" with Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe. Really gave what I felt was a fairly honest depiction of life aboard a military vessel in the 19th century.


Anna Sugden said...

I love men in uniform - military, service or sports *g*.

There are so many great military romance writers like Suz Brockmann, Catherine Mann and Merline Lovelace. There are also a bunch of great writers of police romances. I lobed Julie Miller's The Precinct and Justine Davis' series. Clay Yeager's Redemption is an awesome and powerful book.

My favourites in the movies have to be the boys in the volleyball scene of Top Gun.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

I'm with you on the SEALs and their prowess! YOWZA!

You notice who the president sent in to free that ship captain from the Somali pirates? And notice how scarily efficient those SEALs were???

Virginia said...

Congrats limecello on nabbing the GR today!

I do love a man in uniform and I love reading about navy seals. As far as on film I love Mark Harmon from NCIS and David James Elliott from Jag. These two men speak for themself as to why I love them. Just take a good look at them. They are HOT!!!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Nancy! Great blog! I read The 13th Warrior and loved it, couldn't put it down. It's annotated as if it's a factual book, which made it even more interesting to me.

I must say it's pretty hard to go past the way Sean Bean looks in uniform in the Sharpe series. I love the uniforms of that era. They were made to show men's physiques to the best advantage. I've never written a military hero, but I'm getting to like the idea the more I think about the uniform:)

Gannon Carr said...

Oh, yes, Christine! Sean Bean in the Sharpe series is so sexy!

Nancy said...

Minna, we have a great video rental place here. They stock indie and non-American films, so I'll keep an eye out for it.

Nancy said...

Christie, it wounds as though you have lots of military heroes around in real life! Do you have a favorite "type" of hero, or do you decide book by book?

Nancy said...

Louisa, thanks. Your Waterloo book sounds great. As you've probably already found, there are a lot of books about Waterloo, so you'll have a lot of choices.

Anna Campbell said...

Congratulations, Lime!

Nancy, great post! Actually see if you can grab a copy of Nicola Cornick's KIDNAPPED: HER INNOCENT MISTRESS. The hero who is delicious is a navy man and it's a wonderful story. You can tell she had huge fun writing it.

I like military and ex-military men in books. It usually gives them really high stakes backstories that increases the drama and emotion. That Anne Gracie, The Perfect Stranger, is a case in point! What a rollercoaster of emotion that story is.

None of my novels feature ex-military men. Although that doesn't mean I won't do them at some stage. Probably the closest I've come is Gideon in Captive of Sin, the new one. He's a retired spy for the East India Company. Erith worked for his country but in the diplomatic service. I do however have a short story on my website called THE RETURN which features a guy just back from Waterloo. Loved writing that!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, just in case anyone wants to read that short story - shameless self-promo here - here's the link:

Nancy said...

Also for Louisa--I know I've read Regencies with heroes who were Waterloo veterans. One of Sabrina Jeffries' books features a hero who trained cavalry officers for Wellington.

I'm working on a Waterlook book, too, but it's a singleton, not part of a series. I enjoy books about groups of friends.

Nancy said...

JT, I hope you and Han had fun.

I like SEALs, too. They're the closest thing I've read to super-heroes. Wasn't that way cool, the way they took out those pirates last week?

It does, however, surprise me that you didn't pick a Roman centurion. :-)

Nancy said...

Keira, I have a weakness for medievals, too. I saved Arnette Lamb's and Anita Mills's.

A great book about medieval armies is Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker. It discusses the raising and organization of medieval armies.

What are some of your favorites?

Nancy said...

Gannon, I also have a family weakness for the navy since it brought my parents together. I looked up Blue Smoke and Murder and found it intriguing. The hero may not be military, but he sounds terrific.

Nancy said...

Sabrina, I have that Amanda Quick book. Thanks for reminding me of it.

I'll have to check out that Julia Quinn story.

Have you seen The End of the Barbary Terror? It's about the U.S. Navy's campaign against the Barbary pirates in 1815, so it has real naval heroes. :-) It's around here somewhere, but I can't find it. Don't remember the author offhand.

Nancy said...

Thanks, AC. We saw Master and Commander and found it fascinating. Grim but fascinating.

I'd heard that about Celtic warriors. Made me cringe thinking about it.

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna S.--Police officers do make great romantic heroes and, all too often, warriors.

I'm not a hockey fan but am certainly open to hockey heroes. I'm not much into football, either, but I did like Susan Elizabeth Phillips's football heroes.

Nancy said...

Virginia, I agree with you on David James Elliot and Mark Harmon. Elliot is in a movie on the SciFi Channel (soon to become Scyfy, and who thought that was a great idea, I can't imagine!). It's a medieval fantasy, near as I can tell, so we'll see if he can wield a sword as well as he did a briefcase.

Nancy said...

In miscellaneous cute guy news, Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1) is coming to DragonCon, just for everyone's information.

And so is Michael Biehn, who has played Navy SEAL a couple of times in addition to being Kyle Reese in the original Terminator

Nancy said...

Hi, Christine--I haven't read the book The 13th Warrior. One of my students did enjoyed it a lot. I noticed Crichton wrote another historical novel, but I haven't read that either.

Sean Bean was great in LOTR and as the Bond villain in Goldeneye. I think he played an IRA member in a Harrison ford film as well.

Nancy said...

Anna C., thanks. I do love naval heroes, so I'll be on the lookout for the Nicola Cornick. Helen also recommended The Perfect Stranger.

And I'll nip by and read your short story. You know I also love spies, so I'll be awaiting Gideon's debut (that's a name I think is way cool for a period hero).

PinkPeony said...

Hi Nancy! A man in a tux or a uniform holds a special appeal. I only wish that there was the same equivalent for a woman.

I'm a WWII history buff so I've seen lots of war movies. My earliest appreciation for a man in uniform...the naval officers uniforms from the movie "Midway". I'm not a big Richard Gere fan but he looked pretty good in "An Officer and A Gentleman." "Foyle's War", "Band of Brothers" even the dirty camo clad Marines in "Generation Kill" are all eye candy to me! Current fave military hero from a movie would be Damian Lewis' character in Band of Brothers. My fridge door is plastered with pics of my Army and Marines contacts and they've been a good source of information. Now I know an MK-19 when I see one and I'm familiar with terms like Fobbit, BDOC, TOC, CJTF, B-Hut, and! I learn a new phrase or military acronym every week.

I've also read books written by military personnel who have served in OIF and OEF. Just started "The Unforgiving Minute" and I read a few military blogs on a regular basis. Some of our warriors are fantastic writers.


Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Nancy, I have finally found something you and I don't agree on -- gasp! :) I watched The 13th Warrior and, oddly, didn't particularly like it. I was happy to see the photo of my boy Orlando from Kingdom of Heaven.

It's sad to me that Revolutionary and Colonial romances aren't popular now since it's one of my favorite periods.

Have to agree with limecello -- loved 300! One of my other favorites with warrior heroes is King Arthur with Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugh Dancy, etc.

Oh, and a fellow GH finalist from 2007 just sold her first book -- a WWII romance. Yay! I want to see more stories in that era.

Cassondra said...

Nancy, I've loved Suz Brockman's and Cathy Mann's military heroes since I first read those books. And the truth is that guys in uniforms stand up straighter. They just do. They don't slump. I think they're taught to NOT slump when they're wearing their uniform or something. No standing around with hands in pockets. No lame excuses for stuff.

Excellent posture and a ready attitude can be very sexy things.

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, I noticed The Unforgiving Minute on your TBR list a while back. Let me know how it is because I'm thinking of picking it up. I've just received God Willing, subtitled "My Wild Ride with the New Iraqi Army" by a Marine captain I saw talking about it on C-SPAN. He was, as the title implies, helping train the Iraqi army.

I've also looked at Joker One and The Sheriff of Ramadi. My students thought Paul Rieckhoff's Chasing Ghosts, about his experiences in Iraq, was very good.

You have some wonderful contacts, and I think it's great that you're learning all this.

Nancy said...

Trish, I think you just haven't watched 13th Warrior enough. That has to be the problem. Another six or seven viewings, and you'll be a major fan! *g*

Just kidding. I also love the Colonial period and wish it would come back, but I'm delighted for your friend. I'm glad she sold and doubly glad for the period.

You know I own that King Arthur film, and I thought Clive Owen was great in it. I'm not so sure the history's all that accurate, but it's a fun movie. Lots of swashbuckling and swordplay, the Dark Ages equivalent of boom!

Glad you liked Orlando's photo. In general, he needs to pick his projects with more care, I think.

After we stand in line for Michael Biehn, we should go to the demonstrate by The Crossed Swords at DragonCon.

Nancy said...

Cassondra, Catherine Mann is doing the program at GRW next month, on heroes.

I think it's attitude. The upright posture projects confidence, but to me, the attitude is the icing on the cake.

Joan said...

It does, however, surprise me that you didn't pick a Roman centurion. :-)Well, you see....I like to go for the Roman hero who is NOT a stereotypical, possibly cliche image of the time period.

My heros are:

A merchant of mixed heritage...Roman and Hebrew (talk about confict) whose father was the Emperor's scholar.

A man of the equestrian class. Sold into slavery to pay his gambling father's debts, he earned his freedom only to be indebted as a spy to a Roman Senator.

A Celtic warrior who is a
EX-gladiator stuck in Rome (which he despises) He's won every match he was ever put in....until the one where he loses his heart to a plebian Roman woman.

Not gonna say I won't ever bring in a centurion as a hero (I keep getting pictures of Richard Burton in The Robe..shudder)but for now I want to explore the "everyday" people under the, rule of the Empire.

Joan said...

It's sad to me that Revolutionary and Colonial romances aren't popular now since it's one of my favorite periods.Those time periods ARE popular..just have to wait for the bold publishing house to go for it and bring more back!!!!

Remember Pamela Clare!!!! Go Morgan, go Morgan...

Nancy said...

Joanie, I think your heroes are great. And the gladiator could fit under the warrior umbrella.

The King Arthur movie Trish mentioned pulled Arthur into the Roman warrior category, too.

Nancy said...

Oh, and Joanie, you have Demetrius and his guys, who definitely count as warrior heroes.

Joan said...

Oh, and Joanie, you have Demetrius and his guys, who definitely count as warrior heroes.They know how to fight, but their motivation is not the same as a warrior's IMHO.

Warriors (as a rule) fight for a cause, for their people, for their country.

Gladiators fight to live.

Now, there were some gladiators who enjoyed the fame, the money and continued for that reason even after attaining their freedom.

But those are selfish reasons.

Nancy said...

Joan, your point re: the difference between warrior heroes and gladiators is well taken. The closest modern analog may be the soldier versus the mercenary, patriotism versus profit.

But I'd still give Demetrius's crew points for undertaking Lair defense. :-)

Joan said...

But I'd still give Demetrius's crew points for undertaking Lair defense. :-)Yes, well they have PURPOSE here...they have to protect a wonderous treasure...US!!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

OOOH!! I'm so sorry I missed commenting earlier. What a great blog Nancy. Love me some men in armor, in uniform...half a uniform...grins.

Great info: a bargain book I found at B&N on Swords. FAB book.

Best characters in Uniform: Denzel Washington in dress whites and Karl Urban in Rohan armor. SLURP!

Nancy said...

This is true, JT. They could have no higher calling than protecting wonderful us. *g*

Nancy said...

Jeanne, welcome back! I hope you had a good weekend. Doom, starring Karl Urban and The Rock, was on this afternoon. Those guys aren't half bad in combat gear, either. Though the ick factor on that movie's a bit high for me.

We do all know Karl will be McCoy in the new Trek movie, right?

Denzel Washington was also pretty terrific looking in khakis (whatever the navy calls them) in that movie about the Medal of Honor with Meg Ryan.

Tina C said...

Hi Nancy

Have to totally agree with your friend - both a tuxedo and a military uniform are just beautiful on any man.

My favorite warrior movie would have to be Mel Gibson in Braveheart... not only was he to die for, but the story was so heart wrenching too. Not technically a traditional romance - but it had its romantic elements.

From its first line: 'I shall tell you of William Wallace. Historians from England will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who have hanged heroes.' It had me gripped.

I was not a history lover at all - but this movie changed that - and gave me insight into a new world to go read and explore.

I don't write historicals, but I do read them now.

Thanks for your great blog today.

Bye 4 now

Nancy said...

Tina, glad you enjoyed the blog. I know many people who love Braveheart. As a history geek, I'm always happy when a movie or TV program turns someone on to history. Or when a movie or TV show sends people to the related books, as the LOTR movies did.

Gerri Russell said...

Fun post, Nancy! You know what a sucker I am for a man in a tux, a uniform, or a kilt! Something about a man who is man enough to wear a skirt . . .