Monday, July 13, 2015

Romance and the Great War

There is a reason why in 2012 so many novels about the sinking of the Titanic were published and sought after by readers. That year was the 100 year anniversary of the event. As news and history articles spurred interest, readers picked up novels about the Titanic, its tragedies, its romances and its aftermath.

The 100 year anniversary of the start of World War One, also known as The Great War, is also past. It began June 28, 1914. Although centered in Europe, battles took place across the world. The citizens of the United States, for the most part, spent the early part of this war being their isolationist selves. Only a relatively few Americans joined the French Foreign Legion, or the Canadian and the British military forces. Even the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania also passed on May 7, 1915. This is one event that served as a catalyst for pulling the United States into this war.

However, savvy writers who want to get some timely romances published about the United States soldiers and their sweethearts by important century anniversary dates still have a chance if their publisher will work with them. The 100 year anniversary for the United States entering World War 1 is a little less than two years away. That event took place on April 6, 1917.

Another related event with a 100 year anniversary date coming within the next few years is the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

Here is an abbreviated timeline of events as they apply to U.S. involvement in World War 1 and the outbreak of the Spanish Flu:

  •   May 7 - The sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania, by a German submarine, resulted in 1,198 deaths including 128 Americans.
G. F. Hobusch, U.S. Army WW1
  • April 6 - United States declares war on Germany.
  • June 26 - American troops begin landing in France.
  • December 7 - United States declares war on Austria-Hungary
  •  January - Start of the Spanish Flu pandemic. It actually started in Fort Riley, Kansas, but news throughout the U.S., Britain and France was suppressed, so it was attributed to neutral Spain.
  • June - Americans' first important battle role at Ch√Ęteau-Thierry—as they and the French stop the German advance. 
  • November 11 - Germany accepts the armistice terms demanded by the Allies. Hostilities ceased on the Western Front (trench warfare area).
Americans in Champagne-Marne offensive- courtesy of Don Troiani
  •  June 28 - Treaty of Versailles signed
  • December - The flu pandemic finally subsides.

Between all those dry dates and events you had real people with real hopes and dreams that were either achieved or disrupted because of this war. you have the heroism, achievements, illness, injury and death associated with it. In other words, the stuff of which romances are made. 

It was a time when the weaponry, battle techniques, and technology of the nineteenth century were still relied upon even as they were fading from use. At the same time, the armies and navies  struggled to move into the  modern world of mechanized warfare.

It was a time of the development of tanks, submarines and motor vehicles, yet the military still relied heavily on horses and mules.

(U.S. Army horses and mules pulling caissons)

 British soldier transporting pigeons
To read about a monument in tribute to the war horses and  mules (many of which died) used in World War One that was recently erected in the United Kingdom, click HERE.

Other animals played vital roles in this war. This was the age of airplane battles, yet it was another winged wonder that proved essential for effective communications. Homing pigeons were trained to carry messages between the command centers and the front lines.

Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" used in U.S to train fighter pilots

U.S. Navy Nurse uniform 1917-1919
And then there was the expanded role of women due to the war. We associate the "Rosie the Riveter" phenomenon with World War II, but even at the time of the first world war, many women stepped in to do many jobs in the place of the men to went off to fight the war. Whether or not everyone admitted it, it became apparent that women could perform many of those jobs just as well as the men. 

Unlike fifty years earlier during the American Civil War when most of society frowned on women serving as nurses to wounded soldiers, by World War 1 and the flu pandemic that followed, women nurses were in high demand. The use of chemical weapons in this war required a lot of medical care beyond battle wounds.

Now is the time to think about this challenging and exciting period of time in North American history. For more images about this time period, I invite you to visit and follow my Pinterest World War One board by clicking HERE. Start a World War One Pinterest board of your own if you haven't already.

With all these elements, blends of the old with the modern, what a host of possibilities for exciting and interesting romance stories. 

Red Cross Nurse - WWI
Readers, what kind of hero of this time period would you enjoy reading about? The soldier or sailor fighting the enemy? One of the soldiers working with the horses and mules? An airplane fighter pilot? A doctor helping soldiers recover from battle wounds, mustard gas poisoning or the flu? 

 How about your heroine? Would you like her to be the faithful sweetheart waiting and working back home? The foreign girl the soldier falls in love with and brings home to the United States or Canada as his wife? The Red Cross or navy nurse who works to heal and comfort the fallen?

Now is your chance. Leave a comment about what kinds of heroes and heroines you would love to read about in your World War One / Spanish Flu pandemic romances.


Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. The first two novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine and A Resurrected Heart, are now available.

The author is a member of Women Writing the West, American Night Writers Association, and Modesto Writers Meetup. She currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” She enjoys any kind of history including family history. When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.

Please visit the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

Zina Abbott Author Links:

Website  |  Blog     |  Pinterest  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

 (Bonus for family historians: If you think you may have Canadian, British, Scottish, Irish or United States ancestors who fought in or may have died in World War One, under my real name I wrote a few short articles for The Family Snoop, the newsletter of the Merced County Genealogical Society, about resources available for finding records on these soldiers. You may access back issues of The Family Snoop by clicking HERE. Scroll down to the September 2014, October 2014 and November 2014 issues.)

1 comment:

  1. Yes, WWI is a fascinating time period. I don't know which hero or heroine I'd pick--maybe one on the front and one at home to show both sides?