Posted On November 11, 2015 by Print This Post

Military Romance 101 – More than Tales of Soldiers and Sailors by Willa Blair

Our Visiting Professor today is award-winning historical author Willa Blair.

Welcome to RU, Willa! 

It’s Veterans Day

Although November 11 was once known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of WW1, in 1954 President Eisenhower dedicated the day to honor all of America’s military and changed the name to Veterans Day. In 1968, the day fell under the purview of the Uniform Holiday Bill, which had nothing to do with military uniforms and everything to do with Monday holidays and three-day weekends for federal employees. But in 1975, President Ford moved the official commemoration back to November 11, where it remains today.

Veteran’s Day is the Perfect Day to Talk Military Romance

Since it’s Veterans Day, let’s examine several things an author should know about military romance. Many readers—and writers—think military romance is a separate genre, populated by novels about modern-day military personnel and the people around them. I contend that the definition has broadened.

Perhaps the most popular heroic type in romance fiction today, the military hero or heroine, appears in all genres. Readers love Willa Blairtake-charge, experienced, inventive heroes who use their military training and experience to resolve conflicts and win love. Suzanne Bockmann’s SEALs and the disgraced Special Forces unit in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series are just two examples.

Military-style organizations include everything from contemporary private security companies such as Roxanne St. Claire’s Guardian Angelenos to dark paranormal armies of vampires and other ghouls, such as in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, to elite historical Scottish soldiers in Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard. The hero may operate independently, but has a clan, company, or army backing him that adheres to a command structure, military-style rank structure, or hierarchy.

A glance at the current Amazon bestseller list for Military Romance illustrates the changes occurring in the genre. Some books have heroes and heroines on active duty on a base, in a war zone, or home on leave. But many depict former military in small town romances, as cage fighters, bikers, shape-shifters, cops, and cowboys, to name a few. Add to those the warriors in any historical romance subgenre, whether they’re part of an army or a clan, and you can paint military romance with a very broad brush.

Who are the Heroes—and Heroines—of Military Romance?

Heroes in military romance are not all alpha males. They inhabit the entire spectrum of heroic archetypes—and are of both genders. As today’s romance readers demand stronger heroines in all genres, a heroine with a military background is a popular choice to portray physical strength as well as grit and determination.

Cowden, LaFever and Viders The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: 16 Master Archetypes describes heroic character archetypes, male and female, singly and in interaction with each other. Military romance heroes (and for simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the male definitions here) often fit in the “dangerous” Warrior archetype. But you can write yours as a Chief—a goal-oriented decision maker. Or a Bad Boy, who has a chip on his shoulder and joined the Army or Marines as a last chance for a future. Imagine the Lost Soul who relives his mistakes inside the hell of post-traumatic stress disorder. Or the problem-solving Professor archetype finding ways out of impossible situations and training others to think and act as he does. They all share in common extensive training, acknowledgment of authority (including respect or contempt for it), a strong sense of duty and honor (which they may have violated), and often both physical and psychological wounds. You can substitute gender and any personality type or combination of primary/secondary types that fit the character’s arc and your intent for the book.

Let’s Get Contemporary

We can’t discuss modern military heroes without mentioning Special Operations Forces. The U.S. Navy SEALs get a lot of space on romance bookshelves, but they’re not the only U.S. Special Forces. U.S. Army Green Berets, Rangers, Delta, Marine MARSOC/Force Recon, Air Force Pararescue, Air Combat Controllers, etc., all fall under the Special Operations Command’s purview.

For a wealth of information on types and responsibilities of Special Operations forces, visit SOCOM’s website: Plenty of story ideas are just waiting to be found there. And keep in mind that other nations have potentially swoon-worthy military heroes and often cross-train and perform joint operations with U.S. forces.

Do Your Military Heroes Ring True?

Your modern military heroes must sound authentic when they speak. Military slang adapts to the current conflict. Many terms become passé very quickly. But some move into common usage outside the military.

Military slang has a wealth of expressions that are either derogatory or a term of grudging respect, such as “trigger puller” for combat troops, or “snake eater” for Army Special Forces. There are hundreds, many of which are also highly profane. So do your research, check your sources, and remember that a Viet Nam vet will use some different lingo than today’s Iraq War vet, and some terms are unique to a particular branch of the service.

To get you started, here are a few terms I’ve heard frequently from my active-duty and retired acquaintances:

BFO – Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Birth control glasses (military issue – think Buddy Holly black frames)

Blue on Blue – Friendly fire incident

Broke-dick – Out of commission (people or equipment), also broke-dick tits-up

Cluster – Also clusterf*** – see goat rope, refers to a situation with many players, any or  all of whom have contributed to the mess

Death by PowerPoint – Never-ending presentation, common to any bureaucracy, not just the military

First Shirt – First Sergeant – Does not apply to officers or others in charge

FUBAR and SNAFU – Fouled Up Beyond All Repair and Situation Normal All Fouled Up (substitute the other f-word for more common usage)

Gedunk – Navy term for snack food, or where food can be acquired, mostly used to refer to a snack bar or other limited operation, not a cafeteria/chowline

Gig Line – The line formed by the shirt, belt buckle, and pants placket edges, when properly aligned for inspection

Goat Rope – Futile activity, destined for failure, especially an irritating waste of time and effort

Got Your Six – Got your back

High speed, low drag – Any cool gear

Hooah (Army), hoorah (Marines) – My all-time favorite term. May have originated as short for Heard, Understood, Acknowledged. The Army version is infinitely malleable, and I’ve heard it inflected to convey any number of nuances or outright declarations, from enthusiastic agreement to violent disagreement, from approbation to utter contempt. I’ve never met a more flexible term, with the possible exception of the f-bomb.

Klicks – Kilometers

Ranger Candy – 800mg Motrin pills, taken as needed. Don’t try this at home without a doctor’s guidance. That’s a lot of medication in just one pill.

Sea Daddy – Navy term for a senior advisor/mentor to a junior person, I’ve also heard it used to imply a sugar daddy relationship resulting in gain for or promotion of the junior person.

Sh** on a shingle (SOS) – Chipped beef on toast

Zero dark thirty – Extremely early in the morning (my least favorite time of day)


The U.S. Military Phonetic alphabet is also commonly used to ensure communications are clearly understood:

Bravo Sierra – BS, bullsh**

Bravo Zulu – Well done, good job

Charlie Foxtrot – Clusterf***

Mikes – Minutes

Oscar Mike – On the move

Tango Mike – Thanks much

Whiskey Delta – Weak dick – incompetent

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – What the F***

WTFO = WTF, Over

For more, Google “military slang,” or check these links:


Over to You!

As you can see, the possibilities for writing military romance are endless. I strongly recommend you find someone in the branch of the service that interests you and pick their brain. Even if you write paranormal or historical romance, having access to an expert on military protocol and procedure will help you. Then decide on your favorite genre, archetypes for your hero and heroine, and enjoy your research into the fascinating world of military romance.

What is your favorite military romance?



WHEN HIGHLAND LIGHTNING STRIKES [Wild Rose Press – October 2015]

A Man who would be Laird

Angus MacAnalen fully expects to succeed his dead brother as Laird. But on the day of the Clan Council’’s vote, a new lass steals his breath and his heart, making him question the ambition that drives him. When he begins to suspect she has a hidden talent that could help his clan, he must overcome the painful disappointment of the past before it costs him the future he desires.

A Lass in Exile

Because of her strange ability, Shona’’s village banished her to live with a distant uncle after her parents died. When she catches the eye of the prospective laird of her new home, she fears the clan’’s scrutiny may cause her to be expelled again, or worse. But Angus seems determined to win her heart, and Shona can’’t help wanting to give it to him, despite the risks.

A Love Lifted out of the Ruins

Broken promises and broken dreams litter their pasts, and their present. Can they build a future from the ruins?


The Healer's GiftTHE HEALER’S GIFT resolves the story of one of the most tormented characters in HIGHLAND HEALER. Coira MacDugall deserves the harshest punishment for her actions in the Highlands. But her clan’s new laird, Logan, defies her expectations. And the Healer’s gift changes everything she thought she knew — about herself and her future.

Coira MacDugall paid with her life for her attack on the Highland Healer. But her victim did more than heal Coira’s fatal wound that awful night. Now drowning in the unwelcome emotions of others, Coira wonders if her new empathic ability was meant as a gift or a curse.

Logen MacDugall must discover who killed three previous lairds if he hopes to survive for long in the position. He believes Coira’s new sense can help him root out the conspirators, but after her disastrous time in the Highlands, the last thing she wants is to get involved with another laird. Logen must help Coira gain control of her talent in time to save him and their clan from those intent on destroying MacDugall.

Can Coira believe this laird truly loves her? Or will her memories lead her to madness again?


Bio: Willa Blair is an Award-winning and Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 Bestselling author of Scottish historical paranormal romance. She has been featured on and contributes to USAToday’s Happy Ever After romance blog, Savvy Authors, Romance University, and more.

Her books have won numerous honors, including Reader’s Crown finalist, NightOwl Reviews Top Pick, Marlene, Merritt, Crowned Heart; and Historical Romance finalist and Honorable Mention in InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE Award, honoring the very best books in the Indie and Small publishing industries.

Set in a pivotal point in Scottish history, and filled with men in kilts, psi talents, and plenty of spice, her popular Highland Talents series is available in ebook, print, and audiobook formats. The Highland Talents series will soon be joined by a new Contemporary Romance and new Scottish Historical series.

She lives in San Antonio, TX with her own military hero and a very spoiled cat. She’d love to hear from you! Contact her via her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, or subscribe to her newsletter.

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15 Responses to “Military Romance 101 – More than Tales of Soldiers and Sailors by Willa Blair”

  1. Wonderful post, Willa! I’m not sure why, but my heroes tend to be all current or ex-military. That’s how they come to me so I go with it.

    One of my favorite sayings (and I’ve used it in on of my stories) is Soup Sandwich.

    Posted by Carol Opalinski | November 11, 2015, 11:02 am
    • Thanks, Carol. I think heroes with a military background, whether contemporary or historical, hold a great appeal for most of us—which is why they’re so prevalent in all genres of Romance.

      Soup sandwich—yes! I have heard that one. Such a pithy, picturesque declaration. I can just see the expression of contempt or dismay that goes with it.

      Posted by Willa Blair | November 11, 2015, 1:07 pm
  2. Thank you for this! I’m one of those who write military heroes but in a small town setting once they’re “out”, so ex-military would be more accurate. I’m going to print this list out and hang on to it for reference.

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | November 11, 2015, 2:01 pm
  3. Hi Willa,

    Military blogs are a good source to gain insight into a soldier’s life. Your lingo list is über-useful.

    Thanks for blogging with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 11, 2015, 6:46 pm
  4. What a great topic! My favorite military romances are Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters featuring Navy SEALs, but I’ve read several other good ones, too.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 11, 2015, 9:31 pm
  5. Love your slang list. Death by powerpoint made me laugh out loud!

    Posted by nancy baggett | November 19, 2015, 6:51 pm
  6. Willa –

    Loved your column. I especially appreciate the glossary. And your great insight. Even if I don’t write military romance per se, it’s great to be able scope out the inner workings of the genre – in its many incarnations.

    Binnie Syril Braunstein

    Posted by Binnie Syril Braunstein | November 19, 2015, 6:58 pm
  7. Loved ths artists cle and especially the list of terms. I do agree that military members make wonderful romantic heros..Hooah!

    Posted by Elizabeth Ashtree | November 20, 2015, 9:59 am
  8. Very informative, Willa, covering information we might not even think of but the kind of detail that adds reality and shows that an author has done her/his research. Many thanks.

    Posted by Chassie West | November 21, 2015, 5:39 pm

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