~ 1 star ~
This was a 3.5 star, maybe even a 4 star read for me, until the last chapter.
Apart from the never-ending discussion about whether a love story that doesn’t have "an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending", or in other words: a happy ending (HEA or HFN) can be labelled as a "romance" or not (personally, I think: NOPE), I prefer my MCs at least to be ALIVE at the end of my books. I DON'T want to witness them being slaughtered on the battlefield, historically accurate wartime romance or not.
You also might want to check out this blog post, which perfectly sums up my feelings regarding this issue.
Update: Just to clarify (because I feel awful to give such a low rating to such a nice author):
- as a "romance" novel: 1 star
- as a "(tragic) gay love story": 3.5 - 4 stars
The writing was good, the research was well-done, and the MCs and secondary characters were all very likable.
But I finished this book today with a heavy heart and it left me sad, and that's not what I am looking for when I choose to read a romance novel.
"One thing that they don't tell you is that fires can't burn bright forever."
All the reviews for this book are like "OMG, I'm a blubbering mess." and "OMG, don't read any spoilers.".
So yeah, you REALLY shouldn't read any spoilers and just go along for the ride.
But there are two things that I just want to point out anyway:
1. TJ Klune has always been a great writer, but he outdid himself with this one. The writing quality is excellent, and given the heaviness of the story, it was beautiful, tasteful and one of the best-written books I've ever read.
2. Since everyone is recommending to avoid spoilers at any costs and go in blindly, I still feel like this book could have used a trigger warning, given the main target of M/M readers:
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Trigger warning: abduction of a family member, with no final conclusion or explanation to the disappearance or the whereabouts
So while a romance this is NOT, the writing and the revelation of bits of information a little at a time totally worked for me. This has been one of the darkest and most depressing books I've ever read. But I'm glad that I did, because not everything in life is just rainbows, kittens and sunshine.
Oh, and just to be clear: there's a tentative HFN, so this can still be considered as a romance. Though just barely.
Thanks to Elsbeth and Cinna MMon for the BR.