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REVIEW: Broken Wing by Judith James

Dear Ms. James:

Kristie J. emailed me not too long ago and asked me if I had read your debut release, Broken Wing.   She was so enthusiastic about the book that even though I hadn’t yet read it, I made sure I did ASAP.   And it is a very promising first novel, reminiscent of many books in the genre I love, from Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and The Star to Laura London’s The Windflower, even to Christine Monson’s Rangoon, but also compelling in its own vision.   While I was not as blown away by Kristie by Broken Wing, I did enjoy it quite a bit, can certainly recommend it, and most definitely look forward to your next book.

Gabriel St. Croix has been raised – if that is the proper term – in a Paris brothel, a child abandoned to the darkest desires of human nature and grown into a man almost resigned to serving them for the rest of his days, however many there may be.   Numbing himself through alcohol, relieving his despair through self-cutting, Gabriel has two jobs:   playing the roles demanded by the wealthy men and women who purchase him and protecting young Jamie’s innocence as long as possible.   Although the boy is sibling to one of England’s peers and heir to a peerage himself, he has mysteriously ended up at Madame Etienne’s and would certainly face a life like Gabriel’s if not for the young man’s surprising protection.

When Sarah Munroe and her half-brother Ross, the Earl of Huntington, finally locate their brother at the brothel, they are shocked that he has not been harmed or debased and are more than a little grateful to Jamie’s stalwart friend, honoring Jamie’s insistence that he will not leave the brothel without Gabriel.   Reluctantly but resignedly, Ross strikes a deal with Gabriel, securing his agreement to help James for a year to transition back to life as an English peer in exchange for ten thousand pounds.   Gabriel has already begun to wonder if his own life will be worth protecting after Jamie leaves:

Gabriel’s breath stilled in his chest.   Miraculously, he was being offered another chance, and despite his best efforts to strangle it, hope was born again.   He knew he shouldn’t trust it.   Vile temptress, she betrayed him every time, leaving him weak and wounded in ways too cruel to endure without the familiar palliatives of brandy and blood.   He also knew, deep in his soul, if refused her now the offer would not come again.

It is no easy transition to life beyond the brothel, however, and Gabriel suffers terribly under the weight of his own past, his own conviction that he is not worth the respect and growing affection Ross and Sarah show him.   But as the months progress, as Gabriel experiences life beyond the brothel, Sarah’s unconventional manner, along with her mannish dress and startling beauty, attract Gabriel, but her blunt interest in his past, along with her habit of pushing on Gabriel’s most painful spots, makes their relationship prickly.   The young widow finds Gabriel similarly alluring, although her own experience with her husband has not left her with much desire for further romantic attachment.   That she and Gabriel grow closer and closer is not surprising considering his unacknowledged hunger for affection and acceptance and Sarah’s own experiences with loss that have made her adept at assembling a ragtag, makeshift family for herself.

What is surprising is that Sarah and Gabriel’s initial love story is only half the novel, setting the stage for the adventure story that follows, a story driven by Gabriel’s need to prove himself to Sarah and the slightly more conventional Ross, who is none too thrilled that his sister finds her soulmate in a former “catamite and a whore.”   The young man who once believed that his life was worth no more than the money people paid to degrade him grows into an accomplished privateer under the tutelage of Sarah and Ross’s “cousin,” the colorful pirate Davey, who pledges to help Gabriel earn his fortune for the fair Lady Sarah.

Plenty of dangerous escapades ensue, and eventually Gabriel ends up halfway across the world, presumed dead by his adopted English family, enslaved on the Barbary coast in circumstances that draw him back to his early years, slowly deadening almost all the signs of life his adoptive family had allowed him to hope for and realize.   How he and Sarah work themselves back to each other consumes the last part of the book, which finds Gabriel improbably but decidedly back in Paris and London, wealthy beyond his imaginings but deader perhaps than he was before his initial bargain with Ross.

If it sounds as if this novel covers a great deal of ground – thematically and geographically – then I have accurately rendered its scope.   Indeed, that is one of the book’s greatest points of interest and its Achilles Heel, as well, signaling a profound ambition of storytelling but also a need to account for months and years passing unattended by the narrator and great swaths of on page action.   While I relished the late 18th century setting, the reach from Paris to Spain to the Barbary Coast (how many Romance novels tackle this important area, despite the fact that England was involved in the Barbary Wars on and off within fifteen years after the start of the 19th century), I also got frustrated by the voice-over narration employed to cover that ground:

Two years passed, Napoleon Bonaparte had amassed a huge force in the Mediterranean port of Toulon, sending shivers throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire.   England, Spain, Sicily, and Portugal, all potential targets, had breathed a sigh of relief when he had turned to the east, setting the French flag over the pyramids of Egypt.   Days later, the battle ships that had accompanied his transport fleet were caught at anchor by the British at Aboukir Bay, and all but two of them were lost in the Battle of the Nile.   The Egyptian debacle had given the British strategic control of the Mediterranean, and handed Napoleon his first defeat, leaving his troops stranded, cut off by sea from rescue or reinforcement.

The spring of 1802, found them in the Atlas Mountains again, fighting for their lives.   Several local chieftains, organized, armed, and led by Moroccan insurgents based in Fez, had caught them in a coordinated pincer attack, trapping them in a steep defile with no avenue of retreat.   Their captain, guilty of a gross underestimation of his enemy’s ferocity, organization, and numbers, paid for it with his life.   The vanguard had been ambushed and slaughtered, and the rear guard was struggling to join the caravan, paying dearly in blood and death each step of the way.

While some readers will likely put these passages down to “info dumping,” I did not object so much to the inclusion of the details as to the way the narrator breaks so abruptly in to the story at these points, throwing me off my reading rhythm and giving me flashbacks to Peter Falk in “The Princess Bride.”   And while I didn’t relish the idea of narrowing the scope of the novel, that awkward transitioning occurred too often to ignore, making the book feel more sprawling than grand, especially in the sections where Gabriel is trying to make his way back to Europe.   I honestly had to resist the urge to skim some of those chapters, and I don’t know for sure whether what I felt was fatigue or boredom or sheer overstimulation from everything that was happening over various clusters of chapters.   The first few chapters, especially, came across to me as so tightly and crisply written in comparison to the later sections of the book that I may have suffered from some disappointed expectations, as well.

The awkward narration contrasted with the fresher, stronger elements of the novel, especially the ways in which my jaded expectations were so often thwarted by the movement of the story.   Where I expected Gabriel to remain flinty hard he softened and became painfully vulnerable.   Where I expected Ross to transform into the evil older brother, he emerged as an honorable but protective man who cared more about his family’s emotional ties than social propriety.   When I expected Sarah to martyr herself to lost love she shows herself to be realistic and mature, determined to live her life as happily as possible.

Sarah’s passion with Gabriel is deep and believable, their growing bond faithfully following a logical character trajectory, providing dimension and authentic emotion to an age-old Romance pairing.   Much of this dimension is due to the fake-rakeness of Gabriel, and by that I do not mean that his dissolution was false, but rather that he turned out to be so much more than the whore he believed himself to be initially.   There were elements of this novel that reminded me of Laura Leone’s Fallen From Grace, especially in those places where Gabriel struggles to accept that Ross, Sarah, and Davey see a worthy human being in him, where he finds himself carried away by the strength of hope and wonder inside himself.   Those sections of the novel are among my favorites because they communicate a vast tenderness, both in the sense of pain and sensitivity:

“Hah!” she chuckled, ruffling his hair, and kissing his nose, “I always thought I could drive a man wild if I cared to try, and right now I"m inordinately proud of myself.   Oh, Gabe, I never knew!   I had no idea!   I never knew anything could feel so wonderful!”

“Neither did I,” he said honestly.
Cupping his face in her hands, she whispered against his lips, “Thank you, my love.”

“Thank you, ma chère.”   He lay, sated and at ease in a totally unfamiliar way, amazed and wonderstruck.   He had pleased his woman, and his own pleasure had been overwhelming, and for once, free of guilt.   Hugging her tight he rocked her in his arms until exhausted, warm breath intermingling, they fell asleep in a tangle of loose limbs, silken sheets, and soft words of love.

Watching Gabriel discover and be revealed to himself was so lovely.   The small things he needed to learn and their stark contrast to the things he already knew, had been trained.   He was educated and musically gifted, not as a sign of his social freedom, but rather of his imprisonment to the whim of one of his masters, a particularly twisted and sadistic man who found entertainment in Gabriel’s more refined accomplishments.   So when Gabriel begins to explore the previously uncharted territory of his own heart, there is both heartbreak and magnanimous hope for him and for the reader.   The stargazing hobby he and Sarah share becomes a perfect metaphor for the emotional exploration they undertake.   And Sarah, who sometimes seems a bit too good to be true, is at least reliably human in her own emotional vulnerabilities, even if she shows more self-possession than I would have expected of someone who had lost so many people and who had the experiences in marriage she did.   Had she been more naïve, ironically, I would likely not have been so questioning of her emotional steadiness, because I would have seen her more as Leda from The Shadow and The Star.   Instead she reminded me more of Sydney from Gaffney’s Wild at Heart, except that Gabriel did not possess Michael’s innocence.

Nonetheless, I am very glad I read Broken Wing, and I think that readers who miss that epic quality to historical Romance and who loved the melodrama of so many of those older books will take to this story.   And while I wish the writing had been tighter and the narrative more polished, there are many things that worked well for me in Broken Wing, earning it a B- from me.

~ Janet

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells. No ebook format.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

38 Comments

  1. GrowlyCub
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 06:08:00

    Sounds intriguing, although I have to admit, not intriguing enough to overcome the 8 buck price tag and the fact that it’s not available via Fictionwise where I have Micropay dollars. I guess I’ve gotten spoiled by the Kensington Zebra program.

    I direct your attention to the Amazon review by Jane Stewart, most notably, the summary at the very end of the review. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody count the sex scenes and pages before as part of a review. :)

    On a tangent, I just re-read ‘Rangoon’ for the first time in years and it’s still as great and disturbing as when I first read it. Too bad Monson is no longer with us, she wrote some fabulous books.

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  2. vanessa jaye
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 07:01:43

    I would have totally bypassed this book in the store. It’s not released yet here in Canada, but it’s on my to-buy list now.

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  3. Victoria Janssen
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 07:48:07

    I’m in the middle of this one, and looking forward to the adventure plot.

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  4. Kristie(J)
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 08:05:21

    *laughing* I know not everyone is going to be as struck dumb I was by this book (and still am!! I still can’t really move on – Gabriel and Sarah are haunting me so much I’m going for a fourth read)so I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree with the comparisons you make. It does have an old time romance novel ‘feel’ to it. And like you I saw the comparison to Fallen From Grace, another book I loved and have read more than once.
    What stuck me was the almost innocence Gabriel had despite his sad and sordid history. And I loved that Sarah was no martyr.
    And I know what you mean about the scope of this novel. There was a lot packed into it. And since you know I took some ‘right off the wall’ steps when I read this one I can’t recommend it highly enough and I’m beyond delighted to see you’ve read and reviewed it!!!!

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  5. DS
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 08:50:13

    GrowlyCub on October 29th, 2008 at 6:08 am:

    I direct your attention to the Amazon review by Jane Stewart, most notably, the summary at the very end of the review. I don't think I've ever seen anybody count the sex scenes and pages before as part of a review. :)

    I had to go check that out. It’s kind of useful if a bit overkill. I don’t usually go into a book worrying about the number of sex scenes but I have stopped reading when the sex overwhelmed the story or stopped promoting the plot or characterization so I’m usually thankful for a comment if either of these two events occur. (I think it was Christina Skye who wrote the sex scene from hell– well over 100 pages! Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the book it was in though.)

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  6. Jill Myles
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 09:01:04

    What? Someone wrote a 100-page sex scene? What is the name of this book? I might want to read it. ;)

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  7. Diana Peterfreund
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 09:04:24

    SOLD. The scope alone, as well as the “broken” hero reminds me of the Count of Monte Cristo, which is my favorite book of all time.

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  8. Bonnie Dee
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 09:13:11

    Sold to me, too. I LOVE a damaged hero like this and can never find enough of this sort of book.

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  9. Jayne
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 09:40:05

    This sounds like it might sorta stand in for the story of “Cat” from “The Windflower” that it looks like we’ll never get.

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  10. Lucinda Betts
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 10:08:55

    Love the title of the book!

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  11. GrowlyCub
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 10:36:29

    DS, somebody wrote a 100 page sex scene? For real? And it got published? That’s mind blowing!

    I’m totally with you on the sex overwhelming the story concern, but the actual counting of scenes and pages in that review tickled my funny bone.

    As far as I’m concerned, it all depends on the story; in some books even one sex scene might be too much, in others double digits are appropriate because that’s the way the characters relate.

    I do have to admit, I’m very intrigued by this book, but also kind of turned off by the idea of the h/h being separated again for so long.

    I’m getting really allergic to people having sex with other folks once they are established in my head as a couple, regardless of whether they are actually together at that point in time or not or whether the sex is completely voluntary. Kinda narrow of me, I know, but I just read a book where a little offhand comment messed up the whole thing for me.

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  12. Review: Broken Wing, Judith James « Racy Romance Reviews
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 11:14:41

    [...] author, Janet, B- (I fully expected some soberness from the DA review. I’m not sure [...]

  13. Robin/Janet
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 11:54:10

    Wow, there’s nothing like having your review post to see all the glaring typos, lol.

    GrowlyCub: Rangoon is the only Monson I’ve read, although I’ve got Surrender the Night on my bookshelf right now. I’m afraid to read Stormfire, lol. I am still impressed with the nuance Monson brought to her portrayal of British Colonial India, her unwillingness to demonize or idealize any of the cultures represented. James isn’t really doing the same kind of writing as Monson, though, Rangoon was still in my mind as I was reading Broken Wing.

    As for the separation, it’s definitely there, but it’s really necessary for the plot trajectory and the character development. Had the book ended after the first half, I would have been disappointed.

    vanessa jaye: I would probably have missed it, too, if not for Kristie’s recommendation. For readers who miss the sprawling, epic, melodramatic Romance, this book is a great bet, IMO.

    Victoria Janssen: I appreciated the shift in focus, actually, even as I wanted a bit more editing overall.

    Kristie: Your comment about Gabriel’s innocence reminded me of the kiss subplot. That was a wonderful surprise and beautifully handled, IMO.

    DS: the one time I started counting pages during a sex scene was in one of Shannon McKenna’s books, where the thing went on FOREVER. Broken Wing, though, did not strike me as an overly sexual book, and Gabriel and Sarah don’t by any stretch jump into bed together. They know each other first far longer than many Romance couples, lol. Actually, I don’t see this as an overly sexual book, not counting the horrific experiences Gabriel faces or relives.

    Diana Peterfreund: IMO the book definitely had the same feel as those by Dumas and Orczy and the like.

    Bonnie Dee: if you like damage you’ll be wildly in love with Gabriel, lol. I wasn’t sure I could stand one more book in which the hero or heroine was sexually abused and almost broken, but the way James brings him back to life made me persevere.

    Jayne: I was likening it to TSATS Samuel’s likely story had Tess and Gryph not found him, but there are definitely echoes of Cat, too, IMO.

    Lucinda Betts: It’s definitely a title that actually applies to the story, which recommends it above so many others, lol.

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  14. Kristie(J)
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 12:07:08

    I do have to admit, I'm very intrigued by this book, but also kind of turned off by the idea of the h/h being separated again for so long.

    GrowlyCub: I hear you!! I’m like that too – I don’t like when the hero/heroine are separated for any length of time either – but in this case it really was different. Rather than the Big M that keeps the h/h apart for what seems like an unnecessarily long time; in this wonderous book, it wasn’t just a plot device to frustrate readers. It was almost like two stories. When Gabriel left to ‘make his fortune’ he discussed it with Sarah first. Although she wasn’t crazy about the idea; it would mean being apart from Gabriel for a while, she did support him and she ‘got’ why he did what he planned to do. I don’t want to say too much as to avoid giving spoilers, but Gabriel had lived a very limited life – first he lived in a brothel where he was used despicably. And then the next part of his life was lived on a country estate. So as well as wanting to ‘make his fortune’ for Sarah, he needed to experience more of the world in order to be a fuller person in his own right.
    But without going into detail – things didn’t turn out the way either of them thought they would, which makes for a very emotional read.
    See – I loved this book SO much – as Janet mentioned :), I’m reading it again for the fourth time!! It’s resonated in me more than any book I can ever remember reading.

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  15. EssieLou
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 12:09:15

    Thanks for the good review, it was extremely helpful! If it’s like S&S or Windflower, I’ll pass (yes, I’m one of the 7 people in the universe who was vastly underwhelmed by both books). The fact that the relationship or romance is only half the novel annoys me to no end from a writing or publishing standpoint. Don’t call it a romance, call it a novel with romantic elements, especially if the couple have relationships with other folks in the process….but it does sound like a style of story that will make some folks very happy.

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  16. Robin/Janet
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 12:37:21

    EssieLou: Just FYI — and in case anyone else has this idea — neither Gabe nor Sarah is unfaithful during their separation.

    That said, if you didn’t like The Windflower of TSATS, you may not like Broken Wing, although I don’t know if there’s a perfect correlation among all of these books for readers, or even if other readers will make those same connections while reading Broken Wing. Although I do think there’s a decided retro feel to the book, regardless of what books it recalls for people.

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  17. MoJo
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 12:49:40

    For readers who miss the sprawling, epic, melodramatic Romance, this book is a great bet, IMO.

    Okay, that clinches it. This is getting moved up in my TBR.

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  18. Robin/Janet
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 13:02:27

    What? Someone wrote a 100-page sex scene? What is the name of this book? I might want to read it. ;)

    It sounds like a Guinness World Records challenge — who can write the longest sex scene? But yeah, I second the request for the book’s name, lol.

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  19. EssieLou
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 13:12:12

    Robin/Janet— thanks for clearing the ‘other relationship’ aspect for me (a dealbreaker). Still, I’d much rather read a book where the negative or seperation or other major ‘epic-ish events’ are summed up in one sentence, paragraph, page or chapter. Slogging through sweeping stories of someone’s triumph over adversity as they find their inner whatever is why I don’t read stuff on Oprah’s list… I’d rather not, thanks. I’m getting older by the minute and time is running out. :)

    As for the 100 page sex scene— ya know, it’s something that I’d like to read also (for research, honest). I ain’t that old and I do have time for that….

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  20. GrowlyCub
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 15:22:04

    Robin,

    I love Stormfire, but it’s most definitely not PC and I don’t recommend it to anybody because the hero is absolutely not a nice guy. I read Stormfire for the first time a long, long time ago and I’m sure I wouldn’t even like it, if I had read it for the first time today, if that makes any sense.

    Let’s just say, if anybody thought Whitney, My Love was bad they wouldn’t like Stormfire.

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  21. GrowlyCub
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 15:28:49

    Thanks for the clarification, Robin, I thought the part where you said

    enslaved on the Barbary coast in circumstances that draw him back to his early years, slowly deadening almost all the signs of life his adoptive family had allowed him to hope for and realize

    that that meant he was forced back into prostitution. Glad to hear that’s not the case.

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  22. Robin/Janet
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 15:34:39

    GrowlyCub: I can’t say more without revealing a major spoiler, but suffice it to say that Gabriel doesn’t have sex with anyone else while he is away from Sarah. But my sentence, as it’s written, is also accurate, if that makes sense, lol.

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  23. Keishon
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 17:27:28

    No ebook = no sale for me. Sounds good though and thanks for the review.

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  24. orannia
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 18:36:33

    …if you like damage you'll be wildly in love with Gabriel, lol. I wasn't sure I could stand one more book in which the hero or heroine was sexually abused and almost broken, but the way James brings him back to life made me persevere.

    This book sounds…amazing. Damaged, almost broken characters – something about them appeals. Not their pain, but…their journey. This book is on my TBR list and I can’t wait to read it!

    Thank you Robin!

    orannia

    PS You mentioned Laura Leone's Fallen From Grace. I’ve never heard of it (then again, there are so many books I haven’t heard of it’s scary :) Is it good please?

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  25. Marianne McA
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 19:23:31

    It is no easy transition to life beyond the brothel, however, and Gabriel suffers terribly under the weight of his own past

    I didn’t find that, and I think it was probably my biggest problem with the book. I was intrigued by Gabriel at the beginning, and did feel for the character, but once he got to England I thought he adjusted very quickly, and remarkably well.

    And I thought the explanation for his education a little thin. Truthfully, it struck me as a matter of narrative convenience – that the author was interested in how Gabriel would make the emotional adjustment, but not in how he would adjust in practical terms – so the practical issues were just magicked away.

    That was, I think, the major failing of the book for me. I could see the French Gabriel, who was trapped and in pain – and I could see the brilliant English Gabriel, but I didn’t understand the connection between the two incarnations of the character.

    Having said that, there was a lot I liked about the book. It was never predictable, and the latter half of the book took the hero to some interesting places – I’d have enjoyed reading more about his adventures.

    Also, I liked the way the author allowed the reader distance from the abuse Gabriel had suffered. I thought she did that well.

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  26. DS
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 20:12:04

    Re: The Hundred Page Sex Scene.

    I am going to find this if it takes me all day in a used book store. I’m pretty sure it was Christina Skye. It was one of the selling points of the book.

    Maybe I need to throw this out to HaBO on SBTB.

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  27. GrowlyCub
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 20:23:13

    DS,

    I just googled ’100 page sex scene’ and got a few hits, the first was to a blog entry by Ann Aguirre about one of LKH’s Merry Gentry books and a second one also referred to a LKH book. Could it be that? Inquiring minds and all that! :)

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  28. Kaetrin
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 21:56:26

    This sounds like a book I would enjoy. I really love a broken hero – Jervaulx (Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale), Samuel (Shadow & the Star) and, in slightly a different way, Ram in Rangoon.

    I have most of Christine Monson’s books and I have to say that I think Stormfire is the best, closely followed by Rangoon. I re-read Stormfire about 18 months ago and while it did not have the quite the same emotional impact of when I read it the first few times, I still enjoyed the story and engaged with the characters. I realise that it is not very PC to “like” Sean in Stormfire, but I do. He is so full of rage and hate in the beginning and his journey to opening himself up to love and to be loved was (IMO) touching and believable. What he is prepared to sacrifice for his Kit later in the book, the lessons in forgiveness that both Sean and Kit learn from each other, well, I think that is worth the journey. I also really enjoyed the lyrical writing style and – I first read Stormfire about 15-20 years ago and the story about the “idiot and the butterfly” still resonates with me today.

    So, (ahem, getting back to the book the review is about!) if Broken Wing is anything like Monson or Kinsale, I think I will love it.

    Thanks for the review Janet – I probably would never have heard of the book otherwise.

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  29. Maya M.
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 10:19:18

    I’m intrigued by mention of Christine Monson, an author whose writing IMHO was always highly skillful but varied widely in how much I liked the actual story/characters. Personally, I love ‘A Flame Run Wild’ best, a story that takes place during the Crusades and does a great job of showing heroics and villany on both sides of the conflict. Also, no ‘forced seduction’ scenes. A really wonderful book. Second best I liked the one that takes place in revolutionary Hungary (title involves music somehow?), ‘Rangoon’ was uneven (great on exotic location and strong heroine, not so great on h/h interactions), and ‘Stormfire’ was just too much for me in every sense. There was also one whose title I forget that takes place in America.

    So if ‘Broken Wing’ brings Monson to mind, I’d be happy to take a chance on it with the hope of wonderful writing.

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  30. Robin/Janet
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 11:56:44

    EssieLou: I guess I don’t inherently dislike separations, and in this case it worked for me because that part of the novel was so clearly intended to be Gabriel’s ‘quest.’ But for readers who prefer a trained focus on the Romance plot, it may not work well.

    Keishon: from your lips to Medallion’s ears!!

    orannia: I loved Fallen From Grace. It’s a contemp and features a Jewish heroine (why aren’t there more Jewish heroes and heroines?) and a goyish “escort” hero whose “manager” doesn’t want him leaving the lifestyle. An unusual, sometimes wrenching story, and not for the faint of heart, IMO.

    Marianne: I had some moments where I felt the same way as you did, but then I started counting the months and the length of time that passed before Gabriel and Sarah had and substantial physical interaction, as well as Gabriel’s persistent prickliness and felt satisfied that within the logic of Romance evolution, Gabriel’s journey felt enough to me like growth and not magical salvation. But I certainly don’t think your criticism is unwarranted.

    DS: We look forward to your revelation, lol.

    Kaetrin and Maya: As a fellow-reader of Monson, may I also recommend Meredith Duran’s debut novel Duke of Shadows, which was reviewed by several DA reviewers. Here’s my review, and here’s Jan’s review for two different perspectives (and very different grades).

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  31. EssieLou
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 12:55:00

    Thanks Robin/Janet! I also think (and these revelations always hit me at 3am) that one of the reasons I dislike so many of the ‘sexually abused damaged’ characters in so many books is that so few authors get it right…. the degree and type of damage never matches the degree and type of abuse. It’s so much more complex than that therefore the books are usually so wrong and that makes them unbelievable (to me). I finally found the right way to say it :) I blogged it so I can now just say “Go— read this.” instead of writing War and Peace every time.

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  32. Robin/Janet
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 23:16:16

    EssieLou: After reading your blog post, I understand where you’re coming from on this. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to personal trauma in Romance characters, so I walk my own fine line between being able to read it and wanting it to be realistic, if that makes sense. I do get annoyed if I feel that the rules the author sets are not followed logically, but I think I may be softer about where the initial bar is set.

    Have you read Jo Goodman? She’s a therapist who works with kids, so she certainly knows about traumatic childhoods. Although her characters still enjoy some form of Romance Recovery, I always get the feeling that they still have much healing to do when the book ends, so it generally feels more authentic to me. Love is a huge gift for her characters, but not a panacea, IMO.

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  33. Kaetrin
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 00:48:54

    Thanks for the book recommendation Janet. Looks great. Reminds me a little of MM Kaye’s the Far Pavillions and/or Shadow of the Moon. Both great books, set in India, very historial, grandiose in their breadth, touching love stories.
    I think I’ll have to put Broken Wing AND Duke of Shadows on my (ever growing) TBR list! Thanks again.

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  34. Aoife
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 16:49:57

    I wasn’t going to post about this, but after reading EssieLou’s very moving blog post, I feel compelled to add my bit. I bought Broken Wing after reading some glowing reviews, and since I’m one of those readers who doesn’t mind a bit of angst, and has a weakness for characters who have overcome trauma (love conquers all, right?)I started reading. I got as far as the first scene, on the roof, where Gabriel cuts himself, and had to stop reading.

    Unfortunately, cutting behavior is a lot more common than most people realize. I’ve known several girls who did so, the daughters of two close friends, at least one family member, and an astonishing number of students I have known of or worked with. It doesn’t always or even usually go along with sexual abuse, but it always means something is seriously out of kilter in the invividual’s life. For me, that one scene broke the fantasy aspect of the romance, and made me think of the REALITY of all the psychological trauma this character, Gabriel, would have experienced over the course of years. I’m not sure I can suspend disbelief enough to believe in a HEA in this case.

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  35. Elle
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 23:01:04

    I honestly had to resist the urge to skim some of those chapters, and I don't know for sure whether what I felt was fatigue or boredom or sheer overstimulation from everything that was happening over various clusters of chapters.

    I know what you mean here, Robin. I found myself skimming ahead to try to get back to the storylines that I found more interesting, particularly during the section about Gabriel’s privateering, imprisonment and subsequent journey back to Europe. Which is odd, because one of the things that I really liked about this book was the grand scope of the story. It definitely had an “old school” romance feel to it (and I mean that in a good way.) I found the plot very engaging–perhaps that is why I got impatient at times with all the narration. The prose was a little more uneven, IMO, and some of it had more of an “old school” flavor to it (“a dance as old as time” indeed!), although there were some very nice sections. I liked the way that Sarah helped heal Gabriel with love and friendship first and foremost, rather than the usual sexual healing. I agree that she seemed almost a little bit too good to be true at times, but still she never seemed cloying. I also liked her character type better as a foil for someone with Gabriel’s traumatic past and issues of self-worth than Leda in TSATS.

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  36. GrowlyCub
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 15:10:58

    I just finished reading Broken Wing and I enjoyed it tremendously. I wasn’t even tempted to skip the separation scenes, which I thought I might be after reading your review and the comments.

    I didn’t remember what you had said exactly about the transitions, so I didn’t pay attention to them and I cannot say I noticed them particularly one way or the other.

    I was intrigued by Marianne’s reaction because I felt that James captured the self-doubt and the inability to believe that somebody could find him worthwhile very well.

    I had one moment of “oh, NO, she didn’t!” and I really wish James had not put that in there even though it wasn’t what it looked like. I’m majorly turned off by that kind of thing and so it took some of the glory away from the story for me, which I wasn’t able to recover totally even when it turned out to be solely misdirection.

    I look at the concerns raised by you all and have to say I didn’t see any of them, maybe I’m just not observant enough, although I pick up on plenty of stuff if I’m not totally engaged in the story… I really liked the book and I the only other complaint I had was that it was over too soon, which is saying quite something as it is over 430 pages long! :)

    Is there going to be another one by her soon? I hope so!

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  37. Kristie(J)
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 08:53:28

    GrowlyCub: Dropping in to say that yes, she has more coming up. Her next book isn’t related to Broken Wing, but she has said she has a story line for Ross and Jacques.
    And I’m tickled pink that you read it a enjoyed it – tremendously *g*!!!

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  38. GrowlyCub
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 09:17:43

    Kristie, I loved it until she did that one thing at the end. That really threw me off and made me come down from my high.

    I’d love to see a story for Ross or Jacques, probably Jacques more than Ross. He sounds like a ‘redeemed’ or should that be ‘redeemable’ rake. My kind of hero. :)

    I went to her website but was a bit confused about the books she lists there, because it’s not clear if they are contracted (with whom?), published, currently being written, only in her head?

    I hope she writes fast. I was definitely sucked into this story.

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