My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of World War I doesn't seem like a winning combination, particularly when there are graphic descriptions of war and war injuries. Yet Ms. Young makes it work.
There are class-conflicts as Riley, a "downstairs" boy, is befriended by Nadine's "upstairs" family. In the trenches, his rise from Private to Captain is due as much to his personality as it is to his having learned a posh accent and posh manners thanks to the Waveneys. His feelings for Nadine Wanveny are, he realizes, not going to be allowed to be fulfilled because of those class differences.
However, the war changes everyone and Nadine rebels against her family's expectations by becoming a nurse and later shipping to France. Her feelings for Riley are reciprocated, but his injury (jaw shot off at Passchendale) leads him to reject her.
There's also Peter and Julia, a married couple affected by the war. Peter's experiences in as Riley's Captain lead him to virtually rape Julia and contribute to his drunkenness and visits to prostitutes as he tries to forget the horrors he's seen. Julia, trying to remain beautiful while she waits for Peter's return, turns to tatooing, make-up, compulsive shopping and potentially dangerous beauty treatments (carbolic facials???!).
>Ultimately, of course, everything works out, so no surprises there. Riley's injury and the descriptions of his treatment may be a little gross for some readers, but these scenes are interspersed with the love stories so there is some let-up. If you're interested in early surgical methods, however, you won't be disappointed.
Overall, decent historical fiction with a predictable romance at its center.
ARC provided by publisher.