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REVIEW: Broken by Megan Hart

Dear Ms. Hart,

On the first Friday of each month, Sadie Danning, the narrator of your book, Broken, has lunch on an atrium bench. Joe, whose last name Sadie doesn’t know, sits down with his own lunch next to her and tells her a story, and Sadie imagines herself within that tale.

This month my name is Mary and apparently, I’m as contrary as the nursery rhyme. First I said I wanted to fuck, but now I’m refusing to come out of the bathroom.

This month, if I have a name, it’s lost in the pounding beat blaring from the speakers of the club. I’m wearing a short, tight skirt and a shirt made up of two scarves tied behind my neck.

This month, my name is Brandy, and I giggle a lot. This annoys Joe, but he pretends it doesn’t because he wants to get laid.

Yes, Joe’s stories are erotic. They are the stories of his sexual conquests, one night stands with a variety of women.

When Broken begins, Joe and Sadie have been meeting for lunch on a monthly basis for over two years. Sadie has been listening to Joe’s sexual adventures for about a year and a half. There is a lot that she doesn’t know about Joe, but Sadie also knows too much. Sadie is a married woman.

Sadie and Adam Danning had a fairy tale romance when Sadie was in college and Adam in graduate school. Adam studied literature and wrote poetry, was vibrant and wild, brilliant and just a little dangerous, and Sadie fell in love with him with her entire being. After Sadie got her master’s degree in psychology, Adam and Sadie married. They were happy together until the day Adam suffered a spinal chord injury while skiing, and was paralyzed from the neck down.

Now Adam is a quadriplegic, and Sadie’s evening and weekends are spent doing the work of caring for him. Adam and Sadie are lucky to have part-time helpers, but it also means they don’t have much privacy. Their sex life is all but nonexistent, and tension has found a home in their marriage. Sadie composes a smile on her face before she ever enters the bedroom where Adam spends all his time, while Adam doesn’t disguise his bitterness at what has happened to him.

Sadie was always considered the strong one in her family, so she does not turn to them for help, especially since she feels that they aren’t ready to hear the truth about how painful and difficult her life has become. Instead, she goes to the atrium just once a month, and fantasizes about the hot sex Joe describes to her.

One of the things I appreciated very much was that there were no villains here, just three people with human limitations. Sadie pours her heart out in the narration of her story, and confesses not only her conflicted feelings for Adam and Joe, but also her burdens and the effort that carrying them requires.

I understood Sadie and sympathized with her almost throughout the entire book. There were just a couple of brief moments in which I got tired of hearing about her difficulties, in light of Adam’s, but Sadie’s own awareness that Adam’s suffering was worse then hers defused my annoyance, and made me understand why she sacrificed too much of herself and then struggled with those sacrifices.

Sadie feels guilty for her attraction to Joe and what she calls her “emotional affair,–? but at the same time, Joe’s stories provide an imaginary escape from a life that is about keeping one foot in front of the other as her husband cannot do; holding together the pieces of a broken relationship. Joe’s stories are Sadie’s only joy, her ray of light. He is, as she says, a kind of Scheherazade, telling tales that save not his life, but Sadie’s.

For me, Joe started out with three strikes against him, since he (A) had slept with lots of women, (B) kissed and told, and (C) chose a married woman to tell his stories to. So I was surprised at just how much I came to like him.

What’s clear about Joe in all of his stories is his appreciation of women, and it quickly also becomes evident that although he hasn’t always looked for commitment, he starts to want it, and his stories become about the search for something more. As I came to know Joe through his erotic tales, I began to feel that he sensed Sadie’s need of the happiness that his stories gave her.

I would have liked to gain a better understanding of how Joe views Sadie, and what drew him to her in the first place, as well as have a better sense of just how much he knows about Sadie as the book begins, and whether he is aware that her husband is quadriplegic. I have my theories about these things, but a little more clarity would have been good.

Adam’s bitterness is completely understandable, and I loved that I was able to sympathize with him as well as with Sadie. Prior to his accident, Adam had always been confident and sure, the one whom Sadie relied on, the one who took care of her. His paralysis reverses that role, and Adam resents the fact that he now needs Sadie to feed and bathe him. Sometimes Adam lashes out at Sadie, but it’s because life has been cruel to him.

I could see that these three people were on an emotional collision course, but whenever I started dreading it, one of Joe’s erotic encounters would come along, and its sexiness and humor would leaven the book’s tough subject matter. I loved the way the women Joe was involved with were each of them Sadie (who narrated these stories to me as she fantasized about being the woman Joe was telling her about) yet each someone else (and usually an interesting someone), too. It made the sex scenes varied and several were quite hot, so my experience paralleled Sadie’s; I too looked forward to Joe’s next tale.

Readers should be aware that Broken is even less like a traditional romance than your previous book, Dirty. Broken is a dark and gritty book, but for me, its very bluntness and realism made its romantic elements more compelling, and though it wasn’t always comfortable reading, I found it enjoyable throughout. I won’t give away the resolution of the triangle, but I will say I thought Broken ended on a positive and optimistic note.

Once again, as with Dirty, I was left with the feeling of having just consumed a very satisfying meal as well as a sense of having discovered something I’;ve always wanted without ever having known that this is what I’ve been missing. A- for this one.

Sincerely,

Janine

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

14 Comments

  1. JulieLeto
    May 16, 2007 @ 06:16:47

    I haven’t read the book, but I may just check it out. This reads to me like real erotica–gritty, yet emotional. Great review.

    ReplyReply

  2. Anya
    May 16, 2007 @ 07:26:40

    :)

    Megan’s books aren’t always easy reads, but they’re always meaty and always memorable.

    ReplyReply

  3. Rosie
    May 16, 2007 @ 09:40:10

    “…a sense of having discovered something I've always wanted without ever having known that this is what I've been missing.”

    I too had this feeling. Your review really captures the reading experience.

    ReplyReply

  4. Barbara B.
    May 16, 2007 @ 11:06:57

    That line Rosie cited resonates with me, too. For the past few years I’ve wanted so much more from romance than vamps, shifters, BDSM lite, kick-ass heroines, TSTL characters, etc. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool romance lover, but I need a huge dose of realism with that romance. Thankfully there are still writers who can deliver wonderful, realistic romance or stories with romantic elements, with depth and emotional power.

    Megan Hart just keeps getting better and better.

    ReplyReply

  5. Janine
    May 16, 2007 @ 13:49:13

    I’m glad you liked the review. The book was enjoyable and memorable; I recommend it and hope readers give it a try.

    ReplyReply

  6. Karen Scott
    May 16, 2007 @ 13:49:14

    I’m off to place my order on Amazon.

    ReplyReply

  7. jaq
    May 16, 2007 @ 13:57:50

    I just bought this one on my lunch hour. I’ll probably read it next. Thanks for a fantastic review. If MH’s voice hadn’t drawn me in in the bits that I skimme/read in-store, this reveiw would have convinced me I made a good choice.

    ReplyReply

  8. Janine
    May 16, 2007 @ 14:23:58

    Karen and jaq, I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

    ReplyReply

  9. kate r
    May 16, 2007 @ 19:48:12

    The excerpt at amazon was very hot so I put in my order and am eyeing Dirty. (have to love the titles)

    ReplyReply

  10. Janine
    May 16, 2007 @ 20:25:26

    I hope you like it, kate. One thing I had intended to say in the comment section and forgot to mention earlier is that Elle, the heroine of Dirty, appears in Broken. If you are a stickler for reading related books in order, then you may want to read Dirty first, since the events of Dirty take place first and Broken provides some closure for those. But Broken stands on its own and can be read first if you prefer.

    ReplyReply

  11. Read for Pleasure
    Jul 02, 2007 @ 17:16:13

    Megan Hart: Broken…

    …As I never thought JoeÂ’s single lifestyle made him a “cheater”, these judgments jolted me. I didnÂ’t understand until I read Jane\’s review at Dear Author: Aha! Apparently thereÂ’s a struggle-and-redemption arc for Joe. I thought his whole arc …

  12. Roselyn
    Jul 17, 2009 @ 21:46:11

    WOW, is all I can say. Just finished the book this second. What an amazing read. Sadie took me her journey, the sadness, happiness, torture she felt and the power of her need to want to be held. That says a lot about the writer. This was an exceptional book. All pages took me on her journey. And Joe, what can I say…he has a gift! and the writer does a fantastic job in bringing him to life.

    This is one book i’ll be reading again and telling my friends about. Hopefully they will get a chance to read it and experience it for themselves. Now I just need to order ‘Deep’ and hopefully I’ll be in the same place as I was with this. Thanks Megan Hart for the emotional ride….it was all worth the time to read it!

    ReplyReply

  13. READING LIST: Raunchy Romance Storytime -- 7/3/2012
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 04:37:33

    [...] post my review of this book in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can read a review of the book at Dear Author.This month, my name is Mary. My name is different every month—Brandy, Honey, [...]

  14. maria
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 15:17:30

    after reading fifty shades of grey, i wanted to read books that are similar to its plot. then i got to read “broken.” wow. what a book! megan hart is such a wonderful writer. the book was almost “reality-like,” so much in tuned to what is happening in real life. hopefully, megan hart goes back to this story to write an ending to sadie and joe. i want to know how they fared after that meeting by the bench.

    ReplyReply

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