Proof of Life (Scars And Stripes Trilogy Book 1) by Raquel Riley

Grab your tissues and prepare your Proof of Life for this emotional and powerful friends to lovers romance. Raquel Riley writes a gorgeous co-dependency between two retired military vets who learn just how deep their bond goes.

High, high stakes and emotional turmoil with every turn of the page. Kleenex time. Best service buddies have the worst happen and then have to somehow figure how to live again. Heartbreakingly Beautiful

From the blurb:

Love heals even the deepest wounds.


After giving twelve years of my life to the service, I didn’t just lose my leg. I lost everything, including my career. When the dust settled, the only person still standing by my side in the rubble was Brandt —the single lifeline I had left to a world I didn’t want to live in anymore.

With painstaking care, he healed my body and my mind. When he eventually started healing my heart, I realized I didn’t just need him in my life, I needed him in ways I’d never wanted him before.


Watching West struggle every day was tearing me apart. If he could only see what I do, he wouldn’t see flaws and hopelessness. He’d see a courageous, selfless, brilliant leader. A guy with no filter, who always makes me laugh. Someone who never asks questions before offering to bail my ass out of trouble.

He’d see the man I’ve come to love as more than just my best friend.

Proof of Life is a double bi-awakening MM romance between best friends, with a heavy dose of healing and angst. These courageous vets prove that when all is lost, love heals even the deepest, most painful wounds. Book one of the Scars And Stripes Trilogy.

Molly Otto's review:

Mind the trigger warnings before you dive into this book. They are their for a reason, and Raquel writes this pain powerfully and beautifully. These two men have been each other's everything since boot camp, and just because they leave the Army doesn't change that. Instead, it buries in deeper to the point that one can not survive without the other. Codependency is not my usual niche, but with these brothers in arms, it just works. They need the other to triumph and fail, the constant feeling they at least have someone watching their back.

This may not be an easy read, but it's a powerful read and shows respect to these life altering events. It takes time and effort to build yourself up again, along with a beautiful support system. The guys of BALLS I truly hope all vets have a system like this when they return home. For all their sacrifices, the least they deserve is this type of support system and camaraderie when trying to go back to civilian life. I am looking forward to seeing what this trilogy has to offer us next.

Nedra's review:

𝓘𝓽 𝔀𝓲𝓵𝓵 𝓪𝓵𝔀𝓪𝔂𝓼 𝓫𝓮 𝓳𝓾𝓼𝓽 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓽𝔀𝓸 𝓸𝓯 𝓾𝓼. 𝓝𝓸 𝓶𝓪𝓽𝓽𝓮𝓻 𝔀𝓱𝓪𝓽.

I have to start this off saying Raquel is a horrible, horrible human for putting me through so many emotions from joy to sadness and everything in between. The feelings of anger at the world for the rollercoaster of emotions West experienced during his recovery to the overwhelming loss of himself as a person. I understood every moment of his grief and sadness that he felt during his difficult time, because finding yourself while recovering is tough. The fashion of which Raquel depicted his life in detail was spectacular!

Brandt was the most beautiful man I have ever known in a book. His sacrifices made for West were so special and never gone unnoticed. Everything he did was done in love, regardless whether his feelings were reciprocated or not. His patience with his own body and West while their bodies sought out each others, like they were seeking fulfillment from their missing piece. The space he allowed West (or lack thereof) was monumental and I can never look at personal space the same again. But, I am hurt that Brandt didn’t get to perform his song because Maverick singing is hands down the best performance ever!!

“𝚃𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚜. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝 𝚏𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚕𝚎𝚐𝚜.”
“𝙽𝚘, 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚞𝚌𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚌𝚊𝚗’𝚝.”

Very excited for Nash and Brewer’s turn! Cannot wait to see what their future holds and hopefully we’ll have cameos with the bitches!!

Reed Kaye's review:

I don’t know where to start nor do I feel qualified to write a review for this story. It is so intense and both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It tore into my emotions where sometimes it was hard to read. I love this story.

Brandt and Wes are best buddies and service members. They have gone through so much in the years since they met and have enjoyed the friendship as only besties can. When on a mission the worst happens. Both survive but what does it take to make them really live again.

This story follows personal strength and friendship. I love the unconventional way knitting is brought into it. Friendship is a big part of this story and I felt the support given by the group was fantastic. I enjoyed the snippet of the granny race. Mostly I was overwhelmed by the letters. I don’t know what the rest of the series can bring but it will be hard to top this.

Chaoskay's review:

They broke together and now has they manoeuvre their broken pieces so they can become whole together again. Such a beautiful but tragic story I loved every minute of it loved West & Brandt especially Brandt who was there to catch West every time he gave up and wanted to end his life. West knew he was selfish for keep putting Brandt through that but he couldn’t see past his own failure to protect those under his command and he just wanted the hurt to go away. Some of the quotes in the book were perfect especially “Can’t fall with three legs.” “We’re a fucking tripod, baby. We’re never gonna fall, and we’re never gonna lose our way” and “Wes, I need proof of life,” he says in a rough whisper. “I haven’t asked in a while, but I need to know you’re in there.”

Do yourself a favour grab the book find somewhere quiet to read and sit back and get ready for the emotional rollercoaster that is West & Brandt journey of healing.

Angel's review:

This book grabbed onto me and did not let go. Upon starting this book, I was completely enraptured by Raquel's writing. The way she wrote this book immediately drew my attention and I did not want to put this book down. Raquel not only spectacularly wrote this book, but she also wrote characters that you can't help but feel and root for.

This book is full of trigger warnings that I strongly suggest you listen to if any of them might be triggering. This book is not a light book to read, this book is full of heavy, and serious topic matter, and if you don't think that you'll be able to read that, or if you don't like books that has heavy topic matter, then this book might not be for you.

I personally like books that have heavier topics, cause for me, it's more relatable. I can't relate to West and Brandt in an exact way, however, I can relate to different things that were discussed. That's what I love about books, .. even in fiction, you can see something that you can relate to, you can read something that makes you feel seen and heard. That's what happened with this story.

Brandt and West's story was... A rough one. It was hard to read at times because it was so heartbreaking, and so devasting to read about these characters experiencing so much turmoil and anguish. These two men went through so much pain, but they stood by each other's side even when it was difficult to do so. I feel like West's character was someone who, at times, could be a bit selfish. He got lost in his own pain and grief, which makes complete sense, but he forgot about Brandt during those times. How... Brandt lost people too, and that Brandt had to continuously watch his best friend lose more of himself each day. But, having said that, West's character grew.

He started acknowledging his trauma and grief, he started accepting help and talking about what was causing him the most pain, he started letting Brandt in completely. I liked how his character grew, how his growth was written. It wasn't sudden, he didn't all of a sudden start doing those things, he gradually grew.

The relationship these two men share is so special, the love they have for each other is so big and all consuming. I found their relationship development to have a nice pace as well, they had a lot to work through and discuss, but they eventually got there in the end.

The aspect of the Knitting Circle was such a profound and inspiring addition to this story. All of those men who had been used and discarded by the military all came together to listen and support one another. To be that shoulder to lean on, to be that ear to say how a situation is not okay. The scenes where all these men showed up for one another were beautiful! The side characters added so much dimension and personality to this story, and I am so excited for the next book to come out!

Heather's Review:

I rarely gravitate towards books that will wrench me emotionally and spit me out the other side, but last week Raquel asked me if I'd read Proof of Life yet and mentioned just how profoundly the characters spoke to her that I had to round up a couple of boxes of tissues and dive in...

and I'm glad I did... what emerged from a place of trauma and pain became such a remarkable and sweet HEA that was so hard won... with a slow building best friends to lovers story that triumphs over hurt, loss and incredible pain to get to a place of more than just Proof of Life.

Please heed the trigger warnings and know that this book is gritty, real and sometimes painful to read, but the heavy topics and pain are integral to the story and interspersed throughout.

Proof of Life is currently available as an e-book and paperback and can be read as part of your Kindle Unlimited Subscription