Is Purple Hearts based on a true story or book?

Everything you need to know about the hit Netflix romance film

Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine in Netflix's Purple Hearts
(Image credit: Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection/Future)

The true inspiration behind the number 1 film on Netflix

Released on July 29, Netflix’s Purple Hearts has raced to the number 1 spot on the streaming giant’s film chart. The film follows unlikely love interests Cassie Salazar and Luke Morrow as they battle adversity to triumph in love. Aspiring singer/songwriter Cassie works in a bar to support herself while she pursues her dreams. Luke is an Army trainee, about to leave for duty. Diagnosed with diabetes and with medical bills she can’t pay, Cassie proposes a way to make ends meet. Entering marriage would get her better health insurance and a chance meeting with Luke - with his own reasons to want a marriage - means she could get what she needs. Opposing characters Cassie and Luke must set aside their differences and attempt to make the marriage look real, unless there’s any chance it might become just that. We delve into the inspiration behind the film, uncovering whether the story comes from a true story, or a book. 

Not the only romantic story topping the Netflix charts, the love story of universally adored Jack and Mel has been tested right up until that Virgin River season 4 ending. With the big reveal about paternity, there’s still much discussion around who could be the father of Charmaine’s twins. As light relief from the dramatic love lives, we've also rounded up the beautiful spots where Virgin River is filmed, and the real locations fans can visit. 

Is Purple Hearts based on a true story or book? 

Purple Hearts on Netflix is not a true story, but instead is based on a book of the same name, by Tess Wakefield. The book has been likened to the works of popular authors Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes. 

The synopsis of the book is identical to that of the film, suggesting the film stays very close to the source material of the book. As Cassie is a singer/songwriter, Grammy Award-nominated artist Justin Tranter was brought on board to act as writer and producer for original songs written for the film. On July 12, 2022, the soundtrack "Come Back Home" was released by Hollywood records, as promotional material for the film’s impending release date. One day after its release, the film rocketed to the number 1 spot on the daily Netflix film popularity chart.  

The rights for the film were originally obtained by Alloy Entertainment in 2020. In November 2020, it was announced that Sofia Carson had been cast as the lead role of Cassie in the film, also acting as executive producer and assistant singer/songwriter for the film’s soundtrack. 

Charles Melton was originally cast as the male lead and Cassie’s husband of convenience, Luke. In August 2021, it was announced that Netflix has obtained the rights to the film from Alloy entertainment. In the same month, it was reported that Nicholas Galitzine was replacing Melton in the role of Luke. Filming began shortly afterwards, in the Riverside and San Diego areas. 

Purple Hearts book 

The Purple Hearts book was first released in 2017. Residing in Golden Valley, Minnesota, author Tess Wakefiled started her working life as a copywriter. She initially began writing books for children, before venturing into life as an author. 

Following a successful stint in the genre, she decided to try her hand at penning a romance novel for adults. The hugely successful Purple Hearts is her first novel for adults.

Although fans appear keen for a follow-up book, no announcements have been made about this so far. Wakefield is very quiet on social media, only being active on Twitter during the initial 2017 release period of Purple Hearts

Although asked several times for more Cassie and Luke stories, Wakefield asserted “their story shouldn’t be over”, responding “I like that idea!” to a fan looking for a sequel. However, no further comment has been made about this by herself, or her publishers. 

Purple Hearts: A Novel by Tess Wakefield £12.99 | Amazon

Purple Hearts: A Novel by Tess Wakefield £12.99 | Amazon

Read the novel that inspired the hit Netflix film, starring Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine

Purple Hearts: The true story that inspired it 

According to Netflix Tudum, although Purple Hearts is fiction, the inspiration behind the story and romance is true for many

Despite coming from different backgrounds and having opposing political beliefs, this should not stop people falling in love. Adversity can be an opportunity to realise what unites a couple, instead of focussing on what divides. Producer Leslie Morgenstein spoke about a true military love story heard by Bob Levy - he was working for Alloy Entertainment at the time they held the film rights. 

According to Morgenstein, Levy "heard an NPR story about contract military marriages. We thought it was a great starting place for a romance movie".  This inspired producers to use Wakefield’s story as the romantic military tale as the basis for an adapted screenplay.

Sofia Carson and Nicholas Galitzine in Netflix's Purple Hearts

(Image credit: PA Images / Alamy)

What is a military contract marriage?

According to a military contract marriage is the practice of a service member entering into a marriage, only to obtain additional military benefits

For service members who are married, housing allowance increases and is higher than for those living in the barracks. Civilian spouses are entitled to increased health care and commissary privileges, and also further benefits such as employment help. If a civilian spouse is not a citizen of the US, they will also be granted a green card due to the marriage. 

Contract marriages have been referred to as an "open secret", where military authorities know they take place, but do little to prevent them. They are difficult to prove, as military officials consider marriage a private decision, and are unable to question the motives behind the marriage without due cause. Even when questioned, convictions are rarely made due to the difficulty in determining motive. 

What does a Purple Heart mean? 

The Purple Heart is a military decoration awarded to US soldiers wounded or killed while serving. The badge was brought into effect on April 5, 1917.  

Prior to the Purple Heart, the Badge of Military Merit took the form of a heart - made from purple cloth. It was in 1782 that George Washington established the Badge for Military Merit, acting as the Purple Heart forerunner. 

The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still awarded to members of the US military, and has a Hall of Honor in New York. Due to Luke serving in the military, and being posted for active duty during the film, it is thought that Purple Heart is a play on the term.  

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Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.