Heroes in Uniform

Beyond His Control is part of my Navy SEAL series for Harlequin Blaze—all my books are stand-alones, but they revolve around the same SEAL Team.

I remember my editor telling me that she liked the way I showed the SEALs doing SEAL things…she said that many authors make the mistake of thinking you can just say the word SEAL and that’s it—in her words, in so many stories I read, he could be a SEAL or a garbage picker, because that’s how little detail we get about his job.

For me, making the heroes SEALs (or military characters) is a crucial part of the story. Many people make the mistake of calling SEALs commandos or Rambos, but actually, SEALs function quite differently – they’re famous for saying, there’s no I in Team, and while they’re all trained to think independently and make quick decisions for themselves, teamwork is the framework on which they rely heavily.

It stands to reason that close bonds are formed both during team activities as when home, and so I tried to show how the lives and jobs of these men are so closely interrelated that if you didn’t get a glimpse into their world, you wouldn’t understand what makes them them.

What is a SEAL?

SEALs are U.S. Special Operations Command’s force-of-choice among Navy, Army and Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF) to conduct small-unit maritime military operations which originate from, and return to a river, ocean, swamp, delta or coastline. This littoral capability is more important now than ever in our history, as half the world’s infrastructure and population is located within one mile of an ocean or river.

The Navy Seals have gone from being one of America’s most elite fighting units to a mainstay of popular culture. S.E.A.L. tradition and lore has been featured in movies, video games, music and they even have their own exercise videos and navy seal apparel!
The Navy SEALs are trained to operate in all the environments (Sea, Air and Land) for which they are named. SEALs are also prepared to operate in climate extremes of scorching desert, freezing Arctic, and humid jungle. The SEALs’ current pursuit of elusive, dangerous and high-priority terrorist targets has them operating in remote, mountainous regions of Afghanistan, and in cities torn by factional violence, such as Baghdad, Iraq. Historically, SEALs have always had “one foot in the water.” The reality today, however, is that they initiate lethal Direct Action strikes equally well from air and land.

Of course, within the scope of a Blaze, space is limited and thus, at a premium—I utilize SEAL action in short spurts that highlight the romance.

In Beyond His Control, Justin’s main job is keeping Ava from harm—I’ve also brought in his best friend, a DEA Agent, thus expanding the world to show the circles the men and women of the military often move in, especially Special Forces. To further the complication, I’ve pulled Justin away from his SEAL Team friends and put him on the run with Ava.
Justin made his first appearance in Risking It All—he and Cash are the closest on the team and Justin agrees to help the woman Cash loves. So I’d already set him up as a man who would do anything for those closest to him. So for BHC, when Justin’s best childhood friend calls him and needs help because his sister—and the love of Justin’s life—is in big trouble, Justin doesn’t hesitate.

So I had the basics of the plot down but knew writing their story wouldn’t be easy. First, I’d never written a reunion story—I much prefer the premise of strangers falling in love. But I was ready to push myself as a writer, and I conceded a bit by keeping their relationship pretty chaste when they were in high school – an almost sexual encounter.

And Ava had to be as strong as Justin—in some ways, stronger. I never like pairing an Alpha hero with a heroine who’s weak—heroines can be down, but I never like to see them out. So I cast her as an Assistant District Attorney on the rise who specialized in women’s rights. She’s tough but she’s never lost her belief in love.

The subplot, which showcases Ava’s brother, a DEA Agent also introduces a social worker who helps abused women. Her character is based loosely on a concept from a lifetime movie called Stop At Nothing, in which a woman rescues abused children and their mothers by relocating them, at risk to her own life and working well outside the law. This underground railroad of sorts does indeed exist in many different forms and has been showcased on other shows, like Law & Order.

So now all my characters in are connected by the same danger, thanks to Ava’s current case. All of them are on the run, and they all believe they need to make heartbreaking choices to save one another. I always think about the O’Henry story, The Gift of the Magi, when I’m at this point in the story—to watch each character sacrifice something/someone they love to make the love of their lives happy – even if it’s slightly misguided or doesn’t always work out for the best—makes for some great twists and turns.

And that’s why I think that military men / men in uniform – and women – make fantastic romance novel heroes and heroines – because, in real life, they are heroes, making sacrifices (along with their families) to keep us safe.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell