3 out of 4 stars
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As the name of this work implies, Seasons of Love and War by Brenda Ashworth Barry is a mix of a few genres. Readers are treated to a tale that I would categorize as one-quarter historical fiction, three-quarters romance, and with a healthy handful of war-fiction sprinkled throughout. Taking place at the zenith of the Vietnam War, this tale of love at all costs takes the reader back to America in the early seventies. Between the public sentiment on the war, the music mentioned, and the mindsets of the characters, this recent history acts as the ideal backdrop for Beth Ann’s tale of love and hope.
The story opens up on the battlefields of Vietnam where Kaylob is fighting with his unit. Kaylob’s unit is attacked, his best friend is shot, and although his tour is almost up, he vows to return and be there for those still fighting. As a bonus for signing up for another tour, he is able to return home for a week where his love-struck fiancé is anxiously waiting for him. Although ecstatic to see her, he is dreading telling her that he will be going back to Vietnam. Beth Ann Rose, our gorgeous and doting protagonist, is absolutely furious that he has unilaterally decided to reenlist and leave her behind again. Despite her anger, she is unable to convince him to change his mind. They talk things out, pass a passion-filled week together, and she sees him abandon her for Vietnam once again. Months later she gets the phone call that lurks in the deepest recesses of a military spouse’s nightmares; her fiancé is missing in action and presumed dead.
Seasons of Love and War is the story of Beth Ann’s inability to accept her fiancé’s death, her recurring dreams and visions of the jungle, the sound of Kaylob’s voice still echoing in her mind, her struggle to move on from this tragedy, and her guilt for doing exactly that. How will Beth Ann cope with the announcement of her Kaylob’s death? Are her dreams a sign of something more or simply the figment of a grieving widow’s imagination? Will Beth Ann succumb to the numerous suitors out for her hand (including Kaylob’s rival) or will she stay true to the memory of Kaylob? All of this and more await the reader in this novel of passion, war, and everlasting love.
The overarching theme of this book is love beyond all doubt, distance, and hardship. What I liked the most about this book is that it takes a very real and powerful theme and makes it approachable to the everyday reader. War has been a piece of humanity throughout the ages and ever since soldiers have been leaving for war, they have been leaving loved ones at home. Many of these soldiers never come back and those loved ones left behind never stop loving them. Brenda Ashworth Barry portrays that unconditional love beautifully with the character of Beth Ann. She never quits loving Kaylob despite everything else going on in her life. Next, I loved how Barry didn’t shy away from depicting the horrors of war, albeit only in short snippets here and there throughout the book. It takes a brave glimpse into reality to force the reader to feel even more deeply for the characters involved. Finally, I loved the internal conflict the author has created in the heart of her protagonist. After more than two years have passed since she was told her fiancé was dead, it is understandable that she be ready to move on. Her fight to stay loyal to her childhood love versus the fight to continue living her life is excellently displayed in this book.
As with many novels, there were a few things I found that fell short in this one. First, the character of Beth Ann was portrayed as a little too naïve at times. I understand this was meant to show her innocence in the book, but her ignorance could get slightly annoying. Several times throughout the novel her friends end up laughing at her for not understanding a joke or two with sexual connotations. These situations seemed to be unnecessary and in conflict with some of the other themes of the novel. Next, the dialogue, particularly between the deployed soldiers, seemed a bit forced and unnatural at times. Whereas Barry is a literary ninja with internalized monologues, I find some of the dialogues lacked realism. Finally, and what I liked the least, was the never-ending declarations of love between couples. Although this is understandably the theme, when Kaylob and Beth Ann are together it is rare to see more than a couple of sentences without a declaration of how much they love each other. Similarly, affectionate terms like “sweetheart”, “love”, “darlin”, and others are a dime a dozen in couples’ dialogues. As a side note, there were a handful of grammatical and spelling errors that I came across, but not enough to significantly affect my enjoyment of the story.
This book incorporated some very powerful themes and told an excellent tale of how love never stops fighting. For the potent message and the thought-provoking story Barry brings to the reader, I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. Due to the awkward dialogue and some of the pet-peeves I mentioned above, I removed one small star. I have no qualms whatsoever recommending this book for lovers of the romance genre and for those that enjoy the theme of “love overcoming all challenges.” If you aren’t a fan of the romance genre or if you are a bit squeamish when it comes to descriptive scenes of war, you should probably pass on this one. For those that do end up enjoying Seasons of Love and War, Brenda Ashworth Barry promises the reader that the second installation is coming soon!
Seasons of Love and War
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