Lovely War by Julie Berry is the romance novel I NEEDED for Valentine’s week. This book is simply breathtaking. What initially put it on my radar was a review from one of my favorite booktubers, ReadwithCindy. In her video, she said this book made her cry like seven times and then showed a picture of her tear soaked shirt; that’s honestly all the information I needed to buy this immediately, lol. I can’t say that I soaked my shirt with tears but I would be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up multiple times. This review will be spoiler free. Let’s get into the synopsis!
A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.
It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.
Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.
Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.
This book has such an interesting and unique premise. It’s romantic historical fiction with a little bit of Greek mythology mixed in. Initially, I was skeptical about reading a story that takes place primarily during the first World War but is narrated by the deities of an ancient religion. The story line does work but I feel that the Greek mythology aspect doesn’t add much to it.
Lovely War follows two couples who are connected by the war. Both love stories were wonderful, unpredictable and so romantic BUT they were a bit instalove-y. This is where the Greek gods and goddesses really play into the story line. I mean, it’s easy to give the instalove trope a pass when you can just blame it on Aphrodite. I think the book could have been just as great, if not better, with that cut out. I also feel that the Greek mythology added an element of fantasy that slightly took away from the overall story but I wasn’t bothered by it enough to dislike the book.
While the addition of Greek mythology wasn’t my favorite, everything else was perfect. Berry tackles some very gritty subjects in this novel, such as: PTSD, racism and the general horrors of war. This is first and foremost a romance but adding in those deeper topics helped to create a more impactful story. I feel this novel is an excellent portrayal of what life during World War I might have been like and it’s made me want to read more books in the genre.
If you love romance and historical fiction, you’ll love this book. It’s a beautiful story that is filled with hope. Does this book sound like one you’d enjoy? Let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!