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A compelling debut novel set in the aftermath of Word War 1, exploring the complex relationships of Paul. On his return he finds himself torn between desire and duty; his lover Adam awaits, but so too does Margot, the pregnant fiancée of his dead brother. Paul has to decide where his loyalty and his heart lie.
Being the military junkie that I am, I’ve read a ton of books depicting soldiers fighting and living in war zones. I’ve read about them falling for, and fighting for love. I’ve read about them coming home to deal with the effects of war, both mentally and physically – and those are a given.
But sometimes, like in this instance, we’re lucky enough to come across something out of the ordinary. A story that feels more like real life than fiction with all it’s despair and tragedy. With shortcomings and desperation. And also chances for hope and happiness.
The Boy I Love is a sombre story depicting the life and loves of a small circle of people shortly after the end of WW1. It’s about the sacrifices people make for themselves and the people they love.
Above all, the great triumph here is in the characters Husband has created. The living, breathing, wounded souls that wade through their lives with both bravery and fear. I was mesmerised by their stiff politeness; the rigid efforts of communication between strangers trying to muster affection in awkward situations. The desperation each and every character exudes for some happiness, or simply inner peace.
The story is centred around Paul and most of the pain of the story surrounds him. There’s a looming sense of unease surrounding him and (both in present time and in flashbacks to the war zone) that adds a sense of mystery to the plot. He is plagued by grief and we wonder the whole time “what happened between Paul and Jenkins?”
It’s a fairly incestuious plot, in that three characters are interwoven quite closely. I struggled with the idea that despite the leagues of soldiers in various deployments and their respective loved ones, they somehow all happen to cross paths. But admittedly that niggle is inconsequential in the grand scheme of this plot considering this final product.
There are no bells and whistles here; there are no grunting alphas, no overbearing displays of masculinity, there are no adrenaline pumped action scenes and there’s certainly no cute-meet. This is worlds apart from every soldier themed story I’ve read. This is about recovery and reconnecting with life after war. And it’s done wonderfully.
Note: The Boy I Love is book one in a three-part series, but I get the feeling that this first book ends well enough to be considered a stand alone story. If you want more (like I do), you can simply go onto the next books.