The effect of war on those who fight it and those who endure it is a subject that I keep coming back to in my books. War affects its participants profoundly. It’s something they can never forget, and it’s often, sadly, something they can never share. A private burden. A secret torment. Today this is a recognised condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But throughout history men have fought battles. Were they less affected by what they saw, what they had to do, in the name of, or in defence of, their country? I doubt it.
PTSD has had a number of labels through the years: shell shock in WWI (which I wrote about in my trilogy of short stories, Never Forget Me); battle fatigue in the Crimean War; and in the American Civil War in the 1860’s, it was euphemistically referred to as nostalgia. Go back another fifty years to Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign and we find that the symptoms – depression, self-harm, suicide – are still recorded, but the victims were deemed to be either cowards, malingerers or insane. A grossly unfair stigma and an opinion which, tragically, has not been completely eradicated to this day.
How would a battle-hardened soldier in the aftermath of Waterloo cope with the flashbacks, the wild mood swings, the sleeplessness once thrust back into so-called normal life? This was the question that I decided I wanted to tackle in the first book of this anthology. Would my 19th Century soldier feel guilty, angry, lost, as many 21st Century soldiers do? And what if his PTSD was triggered by a secret so dark, and so terrible that it must forever be hidden?
And so Jack Trestain, the poor tormented hero of The Soldier’s Dark Secret, was born. Jack is a fighter in every sense. He tries desperately to deal with his symptoms by denying their existence, but deep down he knows there is something very wrong with him, and he believes it will stop him ever being happy again. Then Celeste, a French artist walks into his life…
In the second book, The Soldier’s Rebel Lover, my hero Finlay Urquhart is also struggling with the after effects of the war – in his case, because he simply can’t reconcile himself to civilian life. Finlay is a career soldier, who has spent most of his adult life fighting, and knows nothing else but the army. So he jumps at the opportunity to return to Spain and reward some of the partisans who risked their lives helping the British army. Among them is Isabella, with whom Finlay spent a passionate night two years before…
Two very different heroes who require very different heroines, and who really do have to fight for their happy ever after. Regency Surrender – Notorious Secrets is out now. You can find ‘to buy’ links and read an excerpt from each story on the book page here. And you can find links to the associated free on-line read here.
I will be running a giveaway to celebrate this new release over on my Facebook page on Friday 30th November, so if you’re in the UK, then pop over there to enter. Good luck.