Random (but not really)

Friday, September 2, 2022

Mental Health Representation in Books: PTSD

Although I cannot judge the accuracy of the presentation, I want to mention books with characters with PTSD.

PTSD has been called a lot of things over the centuries: acute mania, soldier’s heart, shell shock, gas hysteria, battle fatigue, combat fatigue, war neurosis, Combat Stress Reaction. It is not a new diagnosis, just simply a renaming of something that has been around for as long as soldiers have gone to war.

For as long as people have suffered from violence and upheaval and has been in written history since the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Consider that many people need to be taught to kill—that in conflicts, the enemy is dehumanized—seen as little more than animals and thus unworthy of life. It is a small wonder that violence can cause disorder, as one tries to understand the inexplicable.

To me, PTSD isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of our humanity.

In the list of books below, I’ve tried to give some details as to what to expect from the various stories, but it’s sometimes difficult to do without giving away parts of the stories.

Additionally, I’ve ordered the books from makes me a “little sad” to “punch in the stomach” hard to read. So as you get towards the end of the list, you might want to check other reviews if you’re leery. Because I don’t know how to compare the on-the-page violence and horror of Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police series with the on-the-page sexual assault in Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series. (I find the Shadow Police series MUCH easier to read than Iron Kissed, FWIW.)

But what all of the books do have in common is the character’s PTSD does not magically “get better”.

The Mystery of NevermoreBecause that is utter bullshit.

In the handful of series I list below, it sometimes takes several books for a character to come to terms with their need for help, and to take the steps needed to work towards getting better.

These are some of the books I like best, because they don’t attempt to sugarcoat how hard the process of getting help is (this is true for ANY mental health issue, not just PTSD). And in some of the books, even characters already in therapy have relapses, which is something often ignored in fiction—that once the character falls in love or goes to therapy everything isn’t immediately okay.

Therapy requires being honest with yourself (and your therapist) and recognizing there will be setbacks.

The reason I think these stories are important is because I am old enough to remember some of the fall-out after the Vietnam war. When veterans were harangued and worse for participating in that war—even when they often had no choice in the matter. It was our responsibility as a society to care for them, and we let them down.

It is our duty to see and acknowledge those who have served our country, and to make sure they are allowed to say what the need—feel what they need.

It is also important for us to see and acknowledge those who have gone through other traumas and are struggling.

Another important point is that one person’s “better” is not going to be the same as another person’s “better” and you can’t judge anyone’s journey to any recovery with anyone else’s. One person’s good day might be finishing a report or running a marathon, while for another a good day might be getting out of bed and brushing their teeth.

London FallingWith that, I want to give you just one quote that. I adore more than almost any other about mental health struggles.

Calvin hardly ever talked about his therapist or their sessions together. Not that I expected him to. It was his journey. So long as he sought discussion with someone who would guide him to discovering self-forgiveness and healthy coping mechanisms, I didn’t care if he never shared a word.

CS Poe, The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018)


988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call or text 988

Veterans Crisis Line Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255

PTSD and Shell Shock (History.com)

The Shock of War (Smithsonian Magazine)

History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5 (VA)

A Brief History of PTSD and How it Was Discovered



Books with Characters Dealing with PTSD

The Last Sun

Hottie Scotty and Mr. Porter (2016) R Cooper, tertiary character [war] (Contemporary Romance)

Jericho Candelario’s Gay Debut (2018) R Cooper, parental [war] (Contemporary Romance)

Lessons in Love (2008) Charlie Cochrane (Cambridge Fellows) main character [parental suicide] (Historical Mystery)

A Sanctuary for Soulden (2021) J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry (The Lords of Bucknall Club) main character [war] (Historical Mystery)

McAlistair’s Fortune (2009) Alissa Johnson (Providence Series) main character [war] (Historical Romance)

Hither, Page (2019) Cat Sebastian (Page & Sommers) main character [war] (Historical Mystery)

The Anatomist’s Wife (2012) Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby) main character [partner abuse] (Historical Mystery)

The Duchess War (2012) Courtney Milan (Brothers Sinister) main character [parental neglect, mob violence] (Historical Romance)

A Dangerous Deceit (2017) Alissa Johnson (The Thief-Takers) main character [institutionalization] (Historical Mystery)

Snow & Winter by CS Poe, main character [war] (Contemporary Mystery): The Mystery of Nevermore (2016), The Mystery of the Curiosities (2017), The Mystery of the Moving Image (2018), The Mystery of the Bones (2019)

Nearly a Lady (2011) Alissa Johnson (Haverston Family) main character [war] (Historical Romance)

Love In The Afternoon (2010) Lisa Kleypas (Hathaways) main character [war] (Historical Romance)

Hither, Page

Two Rogues Make a Right (2020) Cat Sebastian (Seducing the Sedgwicks)  [military, parental abuse & neglect] (Historical Romance)

Big Bad Wolf series by Charlie Adhara, main character [assault & injury] (Contemporary Fantasy): The Wolf at the Door (2018), The Wolf at Bay (2018), Thrown to the Wolves (2019), Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (2020), Cry Wolf (2021)

Kitty Goes to War (2010) Carrie Vaughn (Kitty the Werewolf) secondary characters [war] (Contemporary Fantasy)

An Agreement with the Soldier (2021) Sadie Bosque, main character [war] (Historical Romance)

Bayou Moon (2010) Ilona Andrews, main character [war] (Contemporary Fantasy)

Burn for Me (2014) Ilona Andrews, main character [war] (Contemporary Fantasy)

Galaxies and Oceans  (2018) N.R. Walker, main character [partner abuse (off page)] (Contemporary Romance)

Rend (2018) Roan Parrish (Riven) main character [abuse & abandonment] (Contemporary Romance)

Alpha & Omega (2007) Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega) main character [repeated abuse by pack, rape (off page)] (Contemporary Fantasy)

Bone Crossed (2009) Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson) main character [assault, rape (on page in previous book)] (Contemporary Fantasy)

The Soldier’s Dark Secret (2015) Marguerite Kaye, main character [war] (Historical Romance)

nearly a lady

Getting it Right (2015) A.M. Arthur (Restoration) main character, supporting character [assault, abuse, discussion of abuse] (Contemporary Romance)

Inspector Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd starting with A Test of Wills (1996) main character [war] (Historical Mystery)

After the Scrum (2014) Dahlia Donovan (Sin Bin series) main character [assault] (Contemporary Romance)

The Lion Tamer (2018) Dahlia Donovan (Sin Bin series) main character [parental abuse] (Contemporary Romance)

The Botanist (2017) Dahlia Donovan (Sin Bin series) supporting character [assault (rescue on page)] (Contemporary Romance)

The Onion Girl (2002) and Widdershins, (2006) by Charles de Lint main character [parental abuse, rape] (Contemporary Fantasy)

Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell: London Falling (2013), The Severed Streets (2014) main character [parental death, assault], Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (2016) main character [murder (on page in second book)] (Contemporary Fantasy)

Tarot Sequence by KD Edwards, main character, secondary characters [assault, rape, attempted murder] (Contemporary Fantasy): The Last Sun (2018), The Hanged Man (2019)

Simply Crafty series by  Lissa Kasey, main character [war, kidnapping] (Contemporary Fantasy): Stalked by Shadows (2019), Possessed by Shadows (2021)

Haven Investigations by Lissa Kasey main character [war, parental abuse, sibling suicide] (Contemporary Mystery): Model Citizen (2016), Model Bodyguard (2016), Model Investigator (2017), Model Exposure (2017)


988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call or text 988


Why Representation in Books Is Important
Mental Health Representation in Books: Depression
Mental Health Representation in Books: Anxiety
Mental Health Representation in Books: Grief
Mental Health Representation in Books: Addiction and Eating Disorders


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