Monday, January 5

Broken Wing Dueling Review

Back in October, KristieJ blogged about a Very Special Book. That book was Broken Wing by Judith James. I was gnashing my teeth to get my hands on it ASAP but it wasn't available in Canada until a whole month later. But I wanted other people to read it too, so when a discussion between Nath, Chantal and I sprung up about books to read for this blog, I suggested Broken Wing.

*side note* Chantal suggested The Tin Star by J.L. Langley. LOL We ganged up on Nath on that one. *end side note*

Nath got her copy super early in the States (I was jealous about that) and Chantal and I had to wait like everyone else for a copy. But we all finally got it, and we all finally read it. So here's what we thought! And as usual, there are spoilers.

Broken Wing by Judith James
published by Medallion Press in November 2008

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.
Genre: historical romance

Chantal: I started it. I'm only on chapter nine, but already it's a very deep read. It's easy to get sucked into Gabriel's head and feel his emotions. The dude is messed up. It's interesting to read about a cutter in a historical read. Normally I think of cutters as emo teens who wear black lipstick and listen to head banging crap music. Or I think of my cousin who had a serious problem and cut herself, not for attention, but to be in control of something, anything in her life. I'm still early into the book, so I'm interested in seeing where the author goes with this cutting issue.

My only complaint, so far, is that I don't know what year this book takes place in. It's a historical, I know that, but what year? I'm constantly flipping to the first page trying to find out, but the year does not magically appear like I want it too. LOL

Nath: You'll be disappointed, Chantal, because I don't think the author wraps us the cutting issue.

So what did I think of Broken Wing...

Ames: Wait, I don't want to say anything until Chantal is finished. LOL

One floor mopped, one crying baby boy and a day later…

Chantal: I'm finished. Finally found out around which year the book takes place... on page 340.

: LOL. All right, can I go now?

I enjoy the first part of the book where Gabriel was adapting to the Huntington's household. That part was the best in my opinion. Once Gabe left to become a privateer, I don't know why, but I lost interest in the storyline. Okay, it doesn't help that once again, I read the ending and knew what happened ^_^; Overall, I really enjoyed Sarah and Gabriel's relationship.

I think that the "good" secondary characters were all likeable as well... and it was a pity that Jamie was written out of the book completely. I also think that Ms James should have given us more glimpses of Gabriel's interactions with other men; actual scenes instead of just telling us passively.

Oh, and I thought stupid that Gabe didn't return to Sarah immediately.

Chantal: It started off strong, but like Nath, I lost interest after they were married and he went to sea. This is usual for me but I also skipped to the end to find out how it ended and then went back to finish the rest of the book. I admit to doing a lot of skimming--although some parts were very entertaining, there were too many that were slow and uninteresting.

Not going to see her when he lived that close to her for so long is unforgivable. Sarah was a good heroine in my eyes until the moment she forgave the excuses he fed to her. There needed to be A LOT more grovelling before his actions were redeemed.

Ames: Like you two, I enjoyed the first half of the book more. Sarah breaking through Gabriel’s shields, letting him know he’s deserving of love.

Sarah’s brother got on my nerves, constantly bringing Gabriel’s actions into question – I mean Gabriel was forced to do what he did, he didn’t set out one day to work in a brothel. I think Sarah was great in figuring that out right away and making others see it.

And yes, it’s too bad about Jamie disappearing almost completely. If the family was so hell bent on finding him after 5 years, why would they be so quick to send him off 6 months after they found him? He still could have had normal interactions with other youth but still live with his family.

The second half of the book, where Sarah and Gabriel are separated – although it wasn’t my favourite, I still enjoyed reading about it. His friend too, the chevalier Jacques, I really liked him. And Nath, you mentioned Gabriel not having much interaction with other men, I have to disagree. He trains with Davey and then he has the chevalier.

Nath: Right, he does interact with other men, but I meant we don't get to read it. His training with Davey happened so fast, it was a blur.

I really thought it was unfortunate that Jamie was written out. I mean, he's the reason they met.

Chantal: Yes, I didn't like that Jamie was written out, and I also found it odd that there was no reunion scene for Gabe and Davey. The two became close, and according to Sarah, Davey was terribly heartbroken when Gabe 'died'. I wish the author had let us in on the two of them reuniting.

Nath: I thought that Ms James had a good thing going, if she only focused on Sarah drawing out Gabriel and making him believed. If she had focused more on all the relationships and interactions between Gabe and Sarah and all the other secondary characters. I would have liked to see a scene where Gabriel would stand up in front of Ross and ask for Sarah's hand.

That scene where Ross walked in on Gabe and Sarah having sex - it could have been very funny. Instead, Ross walks in... then walks out full of anger and Gabe runs out to become a 'privateer.' I think the whole 'Gabe was captured and killed de Sevigny' was just too much. I wouldn't have minded if he was rescued and then returned... or if he left to make his fortune and came back...

Chantal: They were not having sex when Ross walked in, where they? I thought she was just straddling his lap while they kissed and fondled each other.

Nath: All right, perhaps not having sex.... LOL :) can't keep up.

Chantal: It would have been a better read, I think, if Sarah had been captured with him. For a book as long as Broken Wing, the H/H didn't spend very much of it together.

Nath: Ohhhh, you're absolutely right, it would have been much better and more powerful if Sarah has been captured with him. In all consideration, the ending was a bit rushed if you think about it.

Ames: As for Sarah and Gabriel getting captured together - it wouldn't have worked at all! First of all, de Sevigny would have tortured Sarah to make Gabriel cooperative. Or even earlier they would have been split up in the slave market. And the whole point of Gabriel going out on his own was to make himself his own man and be able to support Sarah all by himself. He had to prove to himself that he could do that for her. And he does, I mean, he's super rich by the end. LOL

Chantal: Okay, so maybe it would not have worked, but it's not like it worked how it is now. The second half was really not that good. I mean, how often do I skip to the end? Never! You know I think it's weird to do that (Sorry, Nath-LOL) I did it to see when and if something would happen to keep my attention.

Ames: I didn't mind that Gabriel didn't immediately return to Sarah. He obviously felt like he didn't deserve her anymore after all that he had done. Again, like his upbringing, he was doing things he had no choice to do. So that wasn't who he was. And despite the fact that he felt he didn't deserve Sarah, he still went to London and kind of put himself in her way. I mean, she was going to hear about him eventually.

What bothered me was him thinking that Sarah would have moved on. Sarah's character is the definition of steadfast and true.

Nath: You know, what annoys me with Gabriel's plan is that once again, Sarah had to do all the work. She had to "hear" about him then "come" to him... Poor woman!

Okay, we've been through the story... what did you think of the writing? I have to say that Ms James has a very good and engaging voice.
I enjoyed it very much... I thought it was very fluid, very gentle - despite what is happening :D Even though it's a historical, she did not focus too much on the historical facts and situations... she focused on her characters and it just flowed. I'm looking forward to read something else by her... although it'd be fun if it wasn't something as dark.

Ames: I look forward to Ms. James next book very much. I enjoyed Gabriel’s journey and triumphs very much.

Chantal: I don't think I will read anything else because I'm not fond of her writing style. At first I could look past it because the book started off so good, but once the storyline went downhill it was hard to ignore the way she wrote.

There were a lot of expectations that I had for this book. I thought it was going to be a fabulous love story with lots of entertainment and excitement... that didn't happen.

I don't want to be a total sour puss, there are things I liked about it. Like Davey. He reminded me of a good guy friend, a good gay guy friend. And I liked hearing about Gabe's exploits as a whore. Plus the first night that Gabe and Sarah spent together when they were star watching was very romantic.

Nath: True, true. I like that scene - the star watching.

Ames: I love the star watching scene too. That's a very pivotal scene for Sarah and Gabriel.

Chantal: I love alpha males, but Gabe was so far from alpha that it's not even funny. I guess that's good for girls who like guys who are not alpha, but I'm not one of them. What is the opposite of an alpha man, by the way?

Nath: Beta? However, I don't think Gabriel was a beta hero either.

Chantal: Yeah, I don't think he was beta either. There were times when Gabriel tried to act all alpha, like when he pushed her up against the wall to kiss her, but it felt fake. Like he was pretending to be macho. then at the end, when he was living with whats-his-name, he lost totally lost his persona. It wasn't even alpha, it was just mean.

Nath: The thing with Gabe is that he was used to act different persona for his clients... so that's probably why when he acted alpha, it felt fake. I think that the man was soo tortured and at such a young age that even he didn't know who he really was. Personally, I think that the way he acted with Jamie, that was the real Gabe, very deep down...

Ames: I don’t believe Gabriel was set out to be an Alpha hero.

Chantal: What was he then?

: Tortured hero.

Ames: LOL. He was who he was. You can't label Gabriel. Whore, privateer, renegados, gaming hell operator - he was those things, but he wasn't at the same time. Does that make sense?

Chantal: Yep, it makes sense. He was for sure a complex man.

For Broken Wing, I'm giving it a C-. As much as it started off strong it took a sudden turn that wasn't at all pleasant. A long with the constant head hopping the author did, I don't like being left wondering things, nor do I like the fact that I had to skim just to find some good parts. I wont ever re-read this and I do not recommend it to anyone. (Although the first several chapters were good)

Ames: I'm giving Broken Wing an A because I really enjoyed it. Gabriel was awesome, hands down. :P

Nath: LOL, I'll split in the middle and give it a B-. I did really enjoy the first part of the book. By the way, don't you girls think it's strange that Jamie was Ross' heir and there was no conversation about Ross marrying and producing his own heirs?


Lori said...

OK, you guys echoed everything I liked and disliked about the book, almost exactly! I feel vindicated! Doing the happy dance, LOL!!

Wendy said...

Oh thank goodness! Chantal gave this a lower grade than I did LOL. It ended up being a C read for me. Ultimately I could not look past the writing style (too much tell, not enough show and way, way too much head hopping) and the ending where Sarah has to sit on her hands while Gabriel has his Big Ol' Pity Party. Ugh. I hate it when the hero gets to sulk while the heroine is left waiting on him. Drives me crazy.

Chantal said...

Wendy, the head hopping and tell tell tell is exactly what I meant about her style of writing. I could look past it at first, because 1)obviously her publisher allows the head hopping. 2) the story was good. However, once the story died it was impossible to forgive the technical stuff.

Brie said...

There seems to be really mixed feelings on this one. I haven't been in the mood for an epic size book, so I've been letting this one sit. But the review does make me want to pick it up... a little.

Kristie (J) said...

NOOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!! Where did my comment go?? Damn but I had a good long one. Damn, damn double damn! Crap, crap - it took me ages to compose.

Heavy sigh - I shall have to try and recreate
*rubbing my hands in glee because I love talking about this book!!*

"Not going to see her when he lived that close to her for so long is unforgivable. Sarah was a good heroine in my eyes until the moment she forgave the excuses he fed to her. There needed to be A LOT more grovelling before his actions were redeemed."

I completely disagree with this one *g*. Gabriel had lived almost his entire life hating himself. He was in such despair over his life that the only way to release that anguish was to cut himself. I think he was about 19 when the book opened so for probably 17 years he was filled with self loathing; no one cared for him, he was sexually abused over and over and over again and thought he had no worth to anyone except his body. Then he had one year with Sarah before he left to make himself feel worthy of her. So when he was separated from her for so long, it was only natural that he reverted to familiar patterns. It wasn't Sarah he doubted - it was himself. He truly felt, without Sarah's reinforcement, that he wasn't good enough for her - that he had betrayed her beyond redemption for what he did to escape. Of course we don't see that, nor did Sarah, but his was the mind set of a victim of years of abuse. I don't think under those circumstances that any groveling was needed to be done.

" I wouldn't have minded if he was rescued and then returned... or if he left to make his fortune and came back..."
That's why I consider this book a romance plus. Yes, for me it was a wonderful romance, but it was very much Gabriel's whole story. And it's the second part that set it above most romances of today and gives it that epic feel. It's journey that Gabriel took - from hell to heaven, back to hell and finally to heaven once more. I enjoyed the second part - Gabriel's story - just as much as I did the first part - Gabriel and Sarah's story. He broke our hearts at the beginning and just as they were starting to heal from the love he found with Sarah, they were broken again when he lost everything he had fought so hard for.

"It would have been a better read, I think, if Sarah had been captured with him. For a book as long as Broken Wing, the H/H didn't spend very much of it together."
I think that is the point. This is very much Gabriel's story - not Sarah's. While I loved her character, she was more of a mirror for Gabriel to see who he really was - not the distorted image he saw when he looked inside himself. And again - what set this book apart of most others for me.

" And the whole point of Gabriel going out on his own was to make himself his own man and be able to support Sarah all by himself. He had to prove to himself that he could do that for her. And he does, I mean, he's super rich by the end.
Yep!! Due to his isolated upbringing, he was still very innocent and childlike in many ways. He needed to grow as a person - to come into his own.

"He was who he was. You can't label Gabriel. Whore, privateer, renegados, gaming hell operator - he was those things, but he wasn't at the same time. Does that make sense?"
I love this description and yes!! (she said excitedly) Gabriel can't be defined by today's romance hero standards - yet another reason why this book is such a standout for me!!

Ames, I'm so glad this was an A for you!! I'm doing the happy dance.
And Nath - a B- is not so shabby seeing as you are one tough critic.
Chantal - I'm sorry this one didn't work as well for you. While I adore this one totally and would love everyone to see it the way I do and love it like I do, I know it's not going to happen *g*. Even though it ended up being a disappointment, I hope at least your curiosity is settled :-)

(And now I'm going to copy - just in case I have to paste!!!! before hitting post)

Renee said...

I'm new to this blog, and love the conversational reviews!
I hope that in the future, Tin Star is reviewed. It's one of my favorites by JL Langley. :-)

Jace said...

Great review, ladies. :-) I think it's great that you've got different takes on it. Like Brie, I'm not ready to read this one so it's sitting pretty in the TBR pile. :-)

nath said...

Lori - LOL, isn't that great when someone else has the same opinion as you?

Wendy - LOL :) I liked the author's writing style, I think partly, because it's so different. Yes, there was a lot of tell and little action; however, if she could balance it better, I think she'd have a really good writing style.

Brie - Let us know when you're picking it up :D By the way, it's not that epic. I think that's where the problem really was, straddling between two genres.

Kristie - Woah, that's a mega long comment :D

I'm not going to respond to it all, I'll leave that to Chantal, LOL :) See, the problem with this book, like I told Brie, is that it's straddling two genres... It is a romance, but wants to be epic and there's a real imbalance between the two parts. One is more romance, the other, more "action"... if she could have merged both parts and make one, I think this book would have been much better.

Also, you really think that Gabriel was only 19? I don't think there's any indication of age... but from the prologue, I think that Gabriel was a bit older when he was abandoned, I mean look at his thought process... He was probably closer to Jamie's age, i.e. 5 yo imo.

Renee - Welcome Renee :D I'm really happy to hear that you're enjoying the reviews :D

Jace - Thanks Jace :D Again, like I told Brie, let us know when you read this :D

Marsha said...

I'm reading this now on the recommednation of SBTB and Dear Author's going to be an obligation finish. I wanted something so badly that would be sweeping and epic and wonderfully redemptive and romantic and I'm bogged down in this faltering story that seems to have too much detail and not enough detail all at the same time (now *there's* a trick!). I want so badly to adore this book but I just can't make it work for me. I keep thinking that if Jo Goodman wrote it, it would be so much more for me.

Carolyn Jean said...

Thanks for the review. This is a book I don't own, but I've been very curious about it since the KJ quest. Also, hey, glad to see you guys back up and running. I love your fun review style.

Taja said...

I had major problems with the writing style (telling, head hopping). So much, that I took extra care too look for things I liked to balance it. I actually liked James's voice but I think I would need a better balance of showing and telling and less head hopping to really enjoy one of her novels.

Thanks for your dueling review. I like this format a lot. :)

M. said...

my first time here -
I'm half way through this book (read the review with one eye closed *g*) and still figuring out how I feel about it.
Whichever way it ends up - I think it's clear no one thinks this book is boring. So that in itself is probably an accomplishment for a debut author.

Chantal said...

LOL. Vindication is always nice.

Yes, yes, yes!

Be sure to review after you read 

I went into to this book expecting not to like it (the summery on the back cover did nothing to interest me) which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I started it and liked it. The second half just ruined it though. As you can see from the emails, Ames tried hard to defend Gabriel and the story, but I just don’t buy any of it. Sorry, gals.
Let me say this; I absolutely understand what it feels like to love a book so much and then have someone not like it. I’ll let you pull my hair if we get to meet at the next Canadian meet up. 

Tin Star is up next!

The emails were flying fast with this review. Hehe.

Coward! LOL ((hugs))
I agree with you about the age issue.

Good luck with the finish!

Carolyn Jean,
Thanks  It`s our goal not to let this place die again.

Very few authors can do head hopping well, and James is not one of them.

I did. That’s why I started skimming the second half.
Welcome to Breezing Through!

nath said...

Marsha - So sorry that you're disappointed. See, I think that this book wanted to be epic and that's what the author set out to do, but she failed. I think perhaps she doesn't have the right writing style and she lacks the balance necessary for an epic... and there's the fact that we're looking for one.

You are right though... perhaps if Jo Goodman wrote it, it might have work better.

Carolyn Jean - Yes, we're still here :) I'm glad too, we're up and running again. I was feeling guilty for neglecting BT.

Taja - Do you mean Gabriel's voice?

I'm glad you're enjoying the review style :D

M - Welcome to BT! Let us know what you think of the book when you're done.

Chantal - Yes, I'm chicken... and LOL, I don't have strong enough opinions to face someone with so much conviction as Kristie! LOL :)

Taja said...

nath, I'm sorry, that wasn't very clear. I meant James's voice as a writer.

On the level of the individual sentences, I like them (which is what I meant by "voice"). But they were overshadowed by all the "technical issues" I (subjectively) saw with the story (which is what I meant by "writing style"). For me, the voice was there, but the writing style needed a stronger focus to let the voice come through (which in turn would have let me enjoy the story much more, I think).

I know I sometimes use words or terms differently/not quite right, so please tell me if I muddied the waters further. :)

Kristie (J) said...

Chantal: LOL I don't pull hair or put people in dog houses *g*. I "do" understand a lot of the issues that people have with this one - I just don't see them myself. And *laughing* I did have fun writing my long-winded reply

nath said...

Taja - Oh no, my mistake!! LOL :) Actually, I think the distinction you're making between voice and writing style is quite good. I'll have to keep that in mind :)