Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Broken Wing by Judith James ****

This is the debut novel for this author, and it got a lot of buzz from the romance readers with blogs, making it highly coveted on PBS! I finally, after 5 months on the waiting list, got to Number 1 and got it, and have now read it. At last!

I must say, I liked it a lot, but I'm a little baffled by the buzz. It didn't make it to my keeper list. It didn't get me worked up, or make me cry or even get me choked up. I found it an enjoyable story, with unusual protagonists and unusual situations. The book needed a good proofreader - the author seems to like commas a lot, but they are not always where they should be - often in the wrong place, and sometimes needed where they are not. There are some grammatical errors that really should have been caught by someone before it was printed. All in all, it wasn't as perfect a love story as I was hoping for, as the buzz made me anticipate, and grammar errors popped me out of the story regularly. (When the story is good, I think maybe I don't notice these things as much...)

The hero, Gabriel, is a truly wounded and tortured fellow. He was raised in a brothel in Paris, used as a prostitute by both men and women. As an older teenager, he protected a young child sold, as he was, to the brothel, for 5 years, at which time the boy's family located him. The boy refused to be parted from Gabriel, so his older brother paid the Madame for Gabriel, paid Gabriel to be the boy's companion, and took him back home to England.

The boys' sister is Sarah. She's an unconventional woman - she wears pants and rides horses astride and all manner of odd things like this. She was married to a decrepit old earl - she escaped from the earl after 1 week of marriage, and took to the seas with her erstwhile cousin Gypsy Davey, looking for her younger brother. The earl died, leaving her wealthy in her own right.

Sarah and Gabriel have an immediate attraction, but Gabriel is too wounded to know how to treat a lady, how to be with women in any other way than as a paid gigolo. Sarah befriends him, and slowly helps Gabriel out of the hard shell he has built up to protect what is left of his soul. As their friendship grows, slowly, over time they fall in love. Sarah is willing to take it further but doesn't want him to feel used - for Gabriel, sex is something sordid, done for pay, and he needs to learn how to relate to a woman as a lover.

Eventually he is able to do that, and they do become lovers - something too shocking for her older brother, who threatens Gabriel with death. Gabriel realizes he needs to make something of himself before he can marry and support Sarah, and goes off with Gypsy Davey privateering, to earn enough to be worthy of her.

Well - you know it can't just be a bed of roses, and when Gabriel is knocked overboard in a storm, you realize there's more hardship ahead for him. Will he ever make it back to Sarah, as a whole person, worthy of her love? This is what keeps him going and motivates him for months. But he feels he's lost his soul in the process. So not only is he battling physical foes, he has to battle himself and find his own redemption.

I read this anticipating a truly emotional, heart-wrenching story, and because it didn't meet those expectations, I rated it 4 stars. OK, maybe 4.5 - there was a lot of swashbuckling adventure. I also read it for the Spring 2009 Challenge, as something rated 5 stars on Cindy W's shelf. I know it's her new favorite book, and the favorite of several who read and reviewed it! It also fits my A To Z Challenge, for author J.


Cindy W said...

4's are still good, so I'm glad you enjoyed it!!!

Kristie (J) said...

*laughing* I have my Broken Wing radar still working.
Well - as probably the one who started the buzz on this book, it's hard to explain exactly what it really is that hit me so hard about this book. I think part of it was the dichotomy of Gabriel. On the one hand he was this hardened and jaded prostitute who had spent most of his life pleasuring men/women/couples. But at his core being he was such an innocent when it came to the basics of love and compassion. It was this intriguing combination that just "got" me in the gut. I'm a big picturer when I'm reading and can easily put myself as a silent observer in a book. The easier it is for me to get into that picture, the more I'm going to enjoy the experience of reading and I was solidly inside this one. I could really get into his head and understand him. The same with Sarah. I loved that she was a rebel and she didn't act like normal heroines. She accepted Gabriel as he was and though horrified at his confessions, she rarely let him see that.
And though not everyone reading this book experiences it quite like I did - still there are a number who just seem to 'get' it. And even those who don't quite see the same thing still enjoy it. As Cindy says - a 4 or 4.5 is still pretty good. I haven't seen one negative review on this one yet although there are a number who don't hold it on the same pedestal as some of us *g*

aunt rowena said...

It's hard to say if I would have rated it higher if I had not had any expectations, since I can't go back and do it otherwise. But the prose didn't pull me into the story the way it did Kristie and Cindy, and it didn't produce the same feelings for me. I would rate Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers much higher on the angst scale, and for a tear jerker, nothing made me cry as hard as Cry No More by Linda Howard. I didn't even tear up during Broken Wing... I hope that doesn't make me cold and uncaring!!

So while I enjoyed the story, no, it didn't produce those same feelings that have Kristie on her 4th re-read!!