The titles of the books are:
There were major changes made in the TV adaptation. Most notably the focus was dramatically shifted towards the love story between Orry and Madeline. In the novel the beginning is the fight Orry and George have en route to West Point. In the TV miniseries, the beginning is the meeting of Orry and Madeline before Orry heads for West Point. In the novel he only meets her in his first holidays after two years in West Point, and has not waited two years for a reunion.
Cooper Main, Orry's elder brother and an important character from the novels, is absent in the first two miniseries episodes. However, when Patrick Swayze declined to appear in the third mini series, Cooper Main— who was not even mentioned with a single syllable in the two preceding miniseries — mysteriously appears on the scene, confusing many people who didn't know the novels.
In the novels Elkanah Bent is described as fat and even obese and coming from Ohio. In the miniseries however, he mutates into a wiry Georgian.
The Hazard men are described as short and stocky in the novels; nevertheless, the tall and lean actors James Read (George) and Jonathan Frakes were cast for these roles. Orry Main is several times described as being six feet, two inches tall, but Patrick Swayze is considerably shorter than that. In the novel, Orry is described as being taller than George by a head, in the miniseries he is considerably shorter than George.
In the book, Orry and George fight in the Mexican War, where Orry loses his arm. In the miniseries, though, he receives an injury to the leg.
Most dramatic, however, is the change made regarding Orry's fate. In the book he dies after being shot in the head by a wounded Union soldier he tries to help; in the miniseries he survives the war to return to Madeline and his plantation in South Carolina. However, this caused a problem when Patrick Swayze refused to play Orry in the third mini series. He was, at the beginning of the third miniseries episode, stabbed by Elkanah Bent.