If you haven’t finalized your Valentine’s Day plans this close to the big day, chances are you’re either very secure in your last-minute logistical skills ... or you’re in trouble.
For those still scrambling, Military Times went to the experts: A half-dozen veterans who’ve transitioned into the world of romance writing.
Get some intel from their tips below. Need further reading on romance? Click the links to find their latest works.
MAKE ‘MORE TIME FOR LOVE’
“The best gifts are the ones that make life easier so there’s more time for love, and when you serve in uniform, every second counts,” writes M.L. Doyle, a former Army Reservist who now works as a civilian at Maryland’s Fort Meade when she’s not writing romance novels, mysteries and memoirs.
“Try a year’s worth of boxed meals so dinner isn’t a chore. Give gift certificates for Uber or Lyft so driving everyone here and there doesn’t eat into an already tight schedule. And I don’t know a single woman who wouldn’t jump for joy if given a year’s worth of maid service.
“Imagine the extra time you’d both have if your hands weren’t busy scrubbing and were free for other, more pleasant things.”
LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH DUTY
“Having your sweetheart on duty on Feb. 14 is a blessing in disguise, as you’ll be able to take a rain check for a romantic night on the town and instead take it on an evening that is not plagued with Valentine’s Day crowds,” writes Megan Westfield, whose five-year stint as a naval surface warfare officer included a deployment to Iraq with an Army unit.
“In the meantime, consider delivering a special meal to your sweetheart’s duty station and, if you are allowed, eat that meal together on-site,” Westfield writes. “Or, you could treat your sweetheart’s entire duty section by bringing some homemade valentine goodies to share or some fun valentine touches for the break room, like a bouquet of red-and-white balloons.”
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
“He’s never been the sentimental type,” writes Scott, now a professor at the U.S. Military Academy. “The first Valentine’s Day he was deployed, he sent me an email with the subject line: ‘happy valentine’s day.’ It’s the middle of the night but I was constantly checking my computer looking for emails from him.
“I open it and it’s the [’Saturday Night Live‘] video for ‘D*ck in a Box.’ It’s two o’clock in the morning and I am absolutely crying with laughter because I miss him so much and him making me laugh the absolutely perfect Valentine’s Day gift. I’ve always appreciated the fact that because we’re two soldiers, we both have the same warped sense of humor. Laughter is the best gift he can give.”
SEE THE WORLD
“When my husband and I were dual active-duty spouses, the best romantic gifts we gave to one another on holidays like Valentine’s Day were quick overnight trips that also gave us more appreciation for wherever we were stationed,” writes Geri Krotow, a Naval Academy graduate who left service as a lieutenant commander in 1995 and published her first romance novel (of 20, including five due out this year) in 2007.
“Yellowstone, skiing in Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Napa Valley were all overnight trips from our duty stations in Northern California,” Krotow writes. “When he remained on active duty and were at SHAPE in Belgium, he whisked me off to Champagne, France, for lunch! Since it was only a bit over an hour away, it was not only incredibly romantic but affordable, too.”
TRY SOME HOME COOKING
“My favorite gift to give — and receive — for Valentine’s Day is a home-cooked dinner for two,” writes Susan Grant, an Air Force Academy graduate who served seven years as a pilot and began her romance-writing career in 2000. “It’s the most personal of gifts, and arguably the most unique, because no matter what your culinary skill level is, every recipe will yield results as unique as a snowflake. (At least that’s my excuse if the meal doesn’t turn out quite exactly as planned!)
“In my 2017 release Star Hero, the military hero struggles with PTSD. When the woman he’s fallen for cooks him a dish called Puttanesca, the scents and tastes and the love she puts into making this special meal begins the process of healing — proof that good food nourishes the heart and soul as much as it does our bodies.”
GET THOSE FLOWERS THROUGH SECURITY
“When you have a sweetheart who works for a DoD or DHS agency, having flowers delivered to her place of work is not as simple as handing her office address to the florist,” writes Westfield, whose second novel, “Leaving Everest,” drops Monday. “But it is still possible, and that extra effort makes it all the more romantic!
“If you’re a military spouse or service member, you can skip most of the delivery complications by stealthily delivering the flowers to her quarterdeck yourself. For sweethearts who are dating or engaged and do not have base access, see if you can get the flowers to one of her colleagues the night before so that person can bring them to work the next day.“
WARDROOM ROMANCE? YOU NEVER KNOW ...
“I met my future husband at a party in Norfolk,” writes Heather Ashby, a Navy veteran, Navy spouse and Army mom. “As the next day was Valentine’s Day, he said, ‘You probably have plans for tomorrow, but, if you’re free, would you like to have dinner with me on my ship? I have duty or I’d suggest some fancy place.‘
“I considered dinner in his wardroom pretty darn fancy. I failed to tell him I was enlisted in the Navy before enjoying that meal. I hadn’t planned on falling in love.”
Her situation would become the plot of “Forgive and Forget,” the first book in Ashby’s “Love in the Fleet” series.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.