What do those two words mean, anyway? Strong, stalwart, dependable, intelligent, good in a fight. Oh, and definitely an alpha male – at least to a romance author! In fact, it sounds like an good list of things I’d want to find in a hero, doesn’t it?
But when politicians talk about citizen-soldiers, they’re usually speaking about citizens who are about to leave their day jobs and go off to serve their country, probably to fight. That’s an extremely noble calling and I honor anyone who has done it. But hasn’t any such citizen-soldier also been changed – even hardened or scarred – by what he’s seen and done while he served his country?
What interests me, as an author, is what happens when that citizen-soldier comes home and becomes more of a citizen than a soldier. I want to know how his military skills and personality blends into his peacetime world – for example, how he takes the strength and discipline he gained in the military into the civilian world, how his loved ones temper his cynicism, how he learns to sleep quietly at night again. It’s reassuring to know than an ex-soldier can still grab a gun and save his beloved from the villain – but heck, I’d almost expect that of him. It’s far more satisfying for me to hear of someone who was tortured but who has learned to trust again.
The American Civil War left behind many men who knew far, far too much about fighting. Some of them had a home, while others didn’t want to go home. Many of those men headed west beyond the Mississippi.
I knew when I plotted The Irish Devil, the first of my Devil books, that my hero had to run a big freighting company. I was certain that William Donovan was a very dangerous fellow, to have survived and profited hauling dynamite through the heart of Apache territory during the worst years of Arizona’s Indian wars.
I certainly didn’t know anything about the sort of men that post-Civil War freighting companies hired. I soon found out those firms were famous for their almost-military discipline which deterred nearly attack from hostile forces – such as Apaches. They managed that trick by hiring primarily military veterans, preferably Confederate veterans.
Shortly afterward, I saw a TV show about a modern-day trucking company which hauls hazardous freight for the Defense Department. It also carries interesting items for museums and other folks who don’t want to talk about where their expensive treasures are. Every one of their drivers was ex-military and looked very dangerous indeed. Hmm…
William Donovan must have hired the Old West’s equivalent of Special Forces’ operators for Donovan & Sons. But in his case, they were citizen-soldiers, men who were ready to settle back into civilian life. Okay, so they weren’t watching grass grow on Main Street but they had turned their backs on the military for a new life. When I write about Donovan & Sons’ men in my Devil books, I can explore the issues that a citizen-soldier faces. By setting it in the Old West, I can up the stakes even more, since my heroine’s life can be at risk.
Lucas Grainger, The Northern Devil, is such a citizen-soldier. He will always do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves, no matter what, especially since he has no hope of reward, let alone joy. His military career didn’t encourage joy but it did give him honor, strength, and discipline. His sense of honor is what drives him into his marriage of convenience with Rachel Davis. The question is whether his strength and protectiveness will drive her away, since his discipline prevents him from sharing all of his secrets with her.
THE NORTHERN DEVIL – August 2007
“Caught by the Tides” in BEYOND THE DARK – December 2007
BOND OF FIRE, volume 2 of the Texas vampire trilogy – January 2008