The best romance books with handsome men in a parlous state

Who am I?

I grew up in a medical family, my father and brother both surgeons and my mother a nurse. My parents met while serving in WW2 and that combination of compassion and horror in the field hospitals of Europe have stayed with me ever since. In fact, my first novel A Dangerous Act of Kindness, is set during WW2. I’m also a career hypochondriac. I avoid reading about illnesses or injuries I may suffer from myself, but I am fascinated by disease and pioneering surgery, thus The Summer Fields revolves around a disease that has now been eradicated (smallpox) and pre-anaesthetic surgery, something I hope I shall never have to face. 


I wrote...

The Summer Fields

By L.P. Fergusson,

Book cover of The Summer Fields

What is my book about?

Elen Griffiths has an 18th-century superpower – she is immune to smallpox from her work with the dairy herd, but when Viscount Mordiford, heir to Duntisbourne, is struck down by the ‘red plague’, she is forced to leave her farm and nurse him. Shut away in Duntisbourne Hall she is appalled by the disease but pities Mordiford and learns to treat him. However, a far worse evil lurks in the icy corridors of the Hall, forcing Elen to flee England and join the Duke of Marlborough’s campaign against the French. Reunited with the man she loves on the morning of the Battle of Blenheim, she discovers that the pain of love is nothing compared to the pain of loss.

The books I picked & why

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The English Patient

By Michael Ondaatje,

Book cover of The English Patient

Why this book?

My mother was a nurse travelling with the Allies during the Liberation of Italy at exactly the time this story was set, so this book has a special place in my heart. Here the nurse is Hana, caring for a badly burned patient with no name in a crumbling Italian villa. As the patient recalls a passionate love affair from his past, Hana begins to fall for Kip, a Sikh sapper working on unexploded bombs left behind by the Germans. This is a beautiful and haunting story of the way that love can survive even the awful human suffering of war.


Love Is Blind

By William Boyd,

Book cover of Love Is Blind

Why this book?

Growing up, my brother and I were a pigeon pair, almost like twins. He was a sensitive boy who wore glasses and played the piano beautifully. Boarding school thumped all that out of him and forced him along a different path. The central character of this novel echoed this dynamic, drawing Brodie Moncur, the Scottish piano tuner, straight to my heart. Despite Brodie’s recurring bouts of tuberculosis and the violence of his bullying family, he gently pursues Lika Blum, a beautiful Russian singer, across 19th-century Europe. The passion and revenge meted out on this gentle soul cannot deaden his rapture for Lika. He knows that he is a man with limited time on his hands who is “trapped in a maddening cycle of strange unhappiness.”


A Town Like Alice

By Nevil Shute,

Book cover of A Town Like Alice

Why this book?

Some odd 1950s social attitudes caught me by surprise when I re-read this much-loved book from my past (what are those bruises all about?). Don’t let this put you off this wonderful story of courage and hardship as Jean Paget, an ordinary woman is swept up in the Japanese invasion of Malaya, faces terrible hardships in her group of female prisoners. Starving and sick, they are helped by an Australian, Sgt Joe Harman, also a prisoner, but his kindness results in the most terrible retribution. To say more would ruin the shock of this fabulous story, but I guarantee that Joe Harman will have your heart by the end of the book.


The Beguiled

By Thomas Cullinan,

Book cover of The Beguiled

Why this book?

You may know this strange story as a film, but the different narrators in this gothic tale of John McBurney, a wounded Union soldier being washed and nursed by a group of young girls in Martha Farnworth’s remote school is full of the same sexual tension I hoped to conjure up in my book. What could be more beguiling than the juxtaposition of sheltered women carrying out intimate tasks on a man weakened by injury?


The Moon-Spinners

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of The Moon-Spinners

Why this book?

I read this during my steamy adolescence. Written in the sixties, there are no love scenes, but when the plot forces heroine Nicola Ferris to curl up next to injured and extremely attractive Mark, pent-up eroticism bursts from the pages. The romance is magnified by the setting in the mountains of Crete, imbued with “the smell of the lemon-flowers, the clicking of the mill-sails and the sound of spilling water; the sunlight dappling through the leaves on the white anemones…all this seemed to rush together into a point of powerful magic, happiness striking like an arrow, with one of those sudden shocks of joy that are so physical, so precisely marked, that one knows the exact moment at which the world changed."


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, romantic love, and prisoner of war?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, romantic love, and prisoner of war.

World War 2 Explore 866 books about World War 2
Romantic Love Explore 360 books about romantic love
Prisoner Of War Explore 51 books about prisoner of war

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Soldier, Prisoner, Hunter, Gatherer: The Incredible True Story of Kiwi Horrie Woods, and His Battle for Survival During World War II, Still Life, and When We Were Brave if you like this list.