Why I Write WWI Romance Novels

Stretcher-Bearing in Difficulties
Stretcher-Bearing in Difficulties © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3801)

The words seem incongruous–“Romance” and “WWI”. To many historians (academic and family), it might seem insulting to situate a “bodice ripper” in the midst of a violent, tragic, and heartbreaking war, and to many readers, it might seem too sad and hopeless a setting to believe in the fantasy elements of the genre. As I fill my hard drive and bookshelves with research books I live with the carnage and blood and despair, but I also live with the bravery and pluck and determination of WWI society, and yes, also the humor.

What attracts me most is that women have an even greater agency than before. Things loosened up considerably during the Edwardian era, but the war showed women what they were made of, whether they became a VAD nurse or ran large charities. Another attraction is the shaking-up of the class system. It wasn’t entirely demolished, but the foundations of the upstairs/downstairs life, as well as the divide between the have and the have-nots, were tested and challenged. After all, what does rank and wealth matter in death or in perilous situations?

When it comes to the actual romantic life during WWI, from the outside looking in (or rather looking back from today), it seems depressing, but do people ever stop falling in love? Does hope and joy absolutely end? I think not, and all of that–particularly wanting to honor the living, the survivors of that time–is what I hope to capture each time I write a romantic novel set during the Great War.

Author: Evangeline Holland

Evangeline is a public historian who brings her academic skills to fiction, in order to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Her love for history permeates just about everything she does, going so far as to "suffer" for this love--as the bruises and stuck fingers from fencing and sewing costumes to understand life in the past firsthand can attest.

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