Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Broken Wing by Judith James

As some of you may remember that Orannia of Walkabout decided that we all needed to Broken Wing by Judith James since we all bought it last year after KristieJ of Ramblings on Romance, Etc. recommended it highly. Thus the Broken Wing Challenge was started. See here for the details.

So those of us who took up the challenge had until the end of July to read and review this book. With only a few days to spare, I've completed the challenge. The following is my review.

Published: November 2008 by Medallion Press

Number of Pages: 440

Genre: Historical

Stand Alone/Series: Stand Alone (for now)

Why This Book: Orannia made me do it! And because we all live in fear of the wrath of Kristie(J) *g*

From the Author Site: Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy fa├žade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy’s family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.

Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother’s disappearance. When he’s located, safe and unharmed despite where he as been living. Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.

Becoming a mercenary, pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.

Hero: Gabriel St Croix is the very essence of a tortured hero. Abandon on the streets as a child, sold into slave to a pleasure house in Paris were he was used and abused in every way possible both as a child and as a man. But he had a deep core of strength, honor and gentleness that could not be destroyed. He was quick to anger and quick to assume the worse of everyone but with Sarah's abiding gentleness and encouragement he is able to fulfill some of his potential.

Heroine: Sarah, Lady Munroe aka the Gypsy Countess and a bit of a rebel. Sarah endured a disastrous marriage shortly after her parents death and had the gumption to leave her horrible husband shortly after their marriage. And he very obligingly died shortly there after. She was able to keep her gentleness and unwavering kindness although she had a very rough couple of years after her parents death. Even after all the turmoil of those difficult years are behind her she continues her independent way, walking about in trousers and living her life the way she chooses and not by the conventions of polite society.

Review: This was a great debut book from Judith James and I look forward to her future releases. The story is set during the Napoleonic era in England, France and the Barbary Coast. The book is excellently researched and gave just enough detail to make the places and characters really come to life. And beautifully written so that you really felt for the characters involved.

The story opens with Sarah and her half brother Ross, the Earl of Huntington, coming to rescue their long lost brother James. Somehow James was lost five years ago and has since spent his time in a Parisian brothel where he has been protected by Gabriel, the gem of the brothel. Much to the chagrin of Ross, both Sarah and James are determined to save Gabriel from the brothel. Gabriel's struggle to fit into his new life outside the brothel is exquisitely told and the reader truly feels the joys of his triumphs and despair of his relapses and the pain of his self loathing for a past that cannot be erased.

Although the story is beautifully written and was a real joy to read, I found the leading characters of Sarah and Gabriel a bit bothersome half way through the book. Sarah was just too dang sweet and nice. She gave me a toothache with all her syrupy niceness. I think I am like those kick-ass heroines a bit too much. I kept waiting for her to take a swing at Gabriel during his moping periods. And I wanted to knock Gabriel in the head for the last part of the book. His continued self disgust, though completely understandable with his background, became just too much at times for me to really enjoy his character. Even after he finds out that Sarah is waiting for him he simple keeps with the moping and "I'm not good enough" routine. Bah!

The secondary characters of Gyspy Davey, Ross, the Earl of Huntington and Jacques Valmont were wonderful. All are very different men and each has his own problems to overcome. I hope Ms James plans on writing their stories. And if she does, I will certain read them.

What I liked best: Gypsy Davey. I really enjoyed the character of Gypsy Davey. He was a cousin of sort to Sarah and her family. A flamboyant privateer with questionable allegiances. But then I do have a weakness for those bad boys.

What I least liked: Gabriel's reluctance in returning to Sarah after he regained his freedom. Still scratching my head over that subplot. I get that he is tortured but enough is enough. He spends way too much time wallowing in his past.

Keeper?: Yes

Recommendation: It was a very good read and I enjoyed it greatly. I even had a few little sniffles while reading this book (much to the bewilderment of the people sitting next to me on the plane). I still like Derek Craven from Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas better than Gabriel St. Croix. (sorry Kristie)

Grade: B+


Kristie (J) said...

*chuckle* Well - Derek is pretty dang hard to beat and if you still prefer him - I'll allow it *g*.
I've had this discussion with others (and I just love discussing it!!)but when Gabriel didn't return to Sarah made perfect sense to me *g*. He had such a terrible image of himself that it was only through Sarah's eyes that he saw anything of value in himself. When removed from her for such an extended period of time, he reverted back to self-loathing. As someone who was abused for his whole life, I don't think it would have made sense if he had been miraculously 'healed' by Sarah's love in such a short amount of time. I think it would be a life long struggle to stay on top of negative thoughts of himself. I said somewhere that Sarah was the mirror through which he could see the 'good' in him. Remove that mirror (Sarah) and he reverted back to familiar patterns he had lived with his whole life.
And I do see your point about Sarah being so understanding and everything. But for me this is essentially Gabriels story. He is the dark and Sarah is the light so Sarah needs to be the light in order to overcome the dark in Gabriel.
And as for Gabriels continuing moping - I understand your point on that too. And if he hadn't had such a tragic, horrid life until he was 'rescued' it might have bothered me too. But he has a life time of ugliness to overcome and it will take the rest of his life - and Sarah - to heal.

Ooooh - I just love discussing this book!!

Christine said...

Great review, Aymless! I'll be posting my review by the end of the week.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I thought Broken Wing was a great first novel, but it is not the best historical ever in my eyes. I thought it was sweet and beautifully written. Gabriel is a wonderful hero but he can never take the place of Derek.

Great review!

Kati said...

Nice job, Amy! This book worked on pretty much every level for me. But then, I love a heaping dose of angsty hero and I didn't mind the separation at all.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, even if it wasn't your all time favorite.

LeeAnn said...

Great review Amy! I need to write mine still. I’m glad that it worked so well for you.

Kristie your comment really has given me some food for thought.

AnimeJune said...

Aymless, I agree with you pretty much on every point. I liked the heroine for the most part but yeah, when she found out Gabriel was alive I expected her to be a hell of a lot angrier with him than she turned out to be, seeing as he'd abandoned her for YEARS.

Kristie J - while I agree that it would be unrealistic to expect the hero to have completely recovered from his horrific abuse, I was kind of expecting his experiences with the heroine to have changed him in at least some way - I was very disappointed that he ended up going RIGHT BACK TO WHERE HE STARTED with his angst once he was captured - as if the Sarah and her influence had never existed. That, I found, to be a little unrealistic.

orannia said...

Ohhh, great review Aymless!

And I can see where you are coming from with regard to Gabriel, but...I think I'm Kristie on this. Yes, Gabriel made what seemed like amazing progress while with Sarah but...he was having to look at and then change the way he saw himself...the way he (and others) had seen himself for years. And that change can't happen overnight and, like Kristie said, will be a lifelong, everyday struggle.

LeeAnn said...

I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award :o)

Aymless said...

LeeAnn: Thanks!

Cecile said...

Wow, great review Aymelss!! Wonderfully done... and you know I love the honesty!
And ladies this has been a great review session!! I admit, I like hearing what others had to say too!!!
I hope you all had a great night and have a wonderful tomorrow!

Carolyn Crane (aka CJ) said...

Hey, great to get your take on this. I appreciate also your highlights of what working and what's not.
Okay, this book has been on my radar since KJ recommended it to highly, and I really must check it out!!

M. said...

Hi, I think this is my first time here. It's really interesting for me to read what other people thought of this story because I felt so ambivalent about it. It' really amazing how people latch on to such different aspects of the story! here's what i thought: http://apprentice-writer.blogspot.com/2009/04/non-laughter-twin-reviews-historical.html

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