Standalone tragic and heartbreaking second chance love story
Reviewed by Jenny & Gitte
4 Hearbreaking stars
‘It’s as though he wraps himself around my lonely soul and nurses it back to life with the splintered remnants of his own.’
If you’re looking for a sweet hearts and flowers romance, War Poppy by Nicole Lynne, is anything but. In fact, it’s a tortured, honest, brutal love story which carried a sense of foreboding throughout. As we read, we had that nervous, gut wrenching feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was a feeling that felt inevitable rather than probable. Such was the tone of the story.
‘As much as we pretend we aren’t alone, we are never more alone than when we are tripped in our own mind. And Brandon – the place he’s trapped, it’s a place I could never begin to understand.’
The flourishing partnership of Stevie J Cole & L.P. Lovell has shown to be a formidable collaboration, delivering some dark and downright uncomfortably gritty stories, but this time, in War Poppy, they’ve written a story that is tragically heartbreaking and they did it in their own inimitable style.
Connor Blaine, Poppy Turner and Brandon O’Kieffe were the three musketeers growing up. A trio of misfits that gelled together perfectly. They shared an adventurous childhood, leaning on one another, sharing adolescence and adulthood. Brandon would be Poppy’s first crush, first kiss, first love, though it would be Connor who would ultimately marry their childhood sweetheart.
War Poppy begins with the loss of Connor during his time in Afghanistan with Brandon. Connor was more than a mate, he was his brother in every sense of the word. Riddled with guilt and despair, Brandon goes AWOL, turning to the bottle and underground boxing bouts in an attempt to exorcise the demons living within. Brandon is only functioning physically following Connor’s tragic death. Poppy’s re-emergence into Brandon’s life gave us the hope that he can overcome his demons. Is love enough?
‘Two lost souls trying to save each other from unsalvageable events. She may be my hope, but I’m surely her destruction.’
The sense of hopelessness in this story is overwhelming, and we did experience that aspect through Brandon’s character who struck our hearts painfully and deeply. However, we felt we didn’t get to fully experience the level of anguish and sadness we would have expected from this story and feel this stems from being denied the bonding experience of Poppy and Connor’s relationship. This was such an important part of the story, yet we felt we knew very little about the man at the centre of all the pain and whose death was the catalyst for unfolding events. We couldn’t conceive how Poppy came to marry Connor, what their life was like…in fact, we knew nothing of this background, other than the snippets from childhood. Every reader is different and for us, this was something we desperately needed to experience to completely grasp the full extent of Poppy’s devastating grief and her profound love for Brandon.
“Everything in life is a risk, you just have to decide which risks are worth taking, and to me, and you are a risk worth taking because without you, without what we have, I will be existing. And I want to live, Brandon.”
War Poppy is told in dual pov between Poppy and Brandon, as well as flashbacks to their childhood and Brandon’s time at war and we can tell you, being inside Brandon’s head during those times was chaotic and unbearably heartbreaking. Witnessing him trying to claw his way out of the darkness and living those devastating moments with him broke us.
‘I’m left standing in the middle of destruction, staring at the violence that must constantly be swimming inside of his head. And when I’m finally able to draw in a good breath, I collapse to the floor, head in hands wondering when love turned into war.’
It’s clear to see these authors poured their soul into this story and it must have been an agonising love story to bring to fruition, because as a reader it was difficult reading. We applaud their courage in telling this story their way as in doing so they made Brandon and Poppy’s story feel authentic and believable. War Poppy is a gut-wrenching story of friendship, loss, courage, grief and love with the hearts of these two authors clearly visible on every page. And whilst it most certainly moved us, we just fell short of experiencing the complete decimation of our hearts we had anticipated.
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