Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The One Where Kristie Stops Talking To Wendy

As many of you know, after reading and loving Broken Wing by Judith James, KristieJ challenged everyone and their dead grandmother in Romance Bloglandia to read the book. And since I knew I wouldn't get a moments peace until I read the darn thing ("Wendy, Wendy, Wendy!"), I read it. Kristie, darling....brace yourself.


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.

What I Liked:
  • The Old School + New School Vibe. Broken Wing has all the ingredients that made those old school historical romances so compulsively readable, without all the nasty drawbacks. So readers get a high-concept plot, a sweeping saga-like story, and a mucho tortured hero without all the mind-numbing flowery purple prose and "forced seduction." I think this is actually the novel's biggest selling point.
  • The Grittiness. I liked that James didn't sugar-coat Gabriel's past, but she also didn't beat the reader over the head with graphic, gory details. She lets the reader's imagination fill in some of the blanks, which frankly was disturbing enough.
What I Didn't Really Care For:
  • The Heroine. I didn't hate her, I just didn't "care" about her. I'm in the vast, extreme minority in Romance Bloglandia. Yeah, hunky heroes are great - but I'm all about great heroines. Oh, how I adore a well-drawn, well-thought-out heroine. And compared to Gabriel? Sarah had all the charm of a limp dishrag. She's just so...unmemorable. Seriously, ask me in another two weeks and all I'm likely to remember about this chick is that she had a telescope in her bedroom.
  • The Writing. I found it disjointed. Too much telling, rather than showing. Too many leaps ahead in time. Also, the head-hopping was distracting. Now, I actually like head-hopping (putting me, again, in the minority), but there were several instances where I had to go back and reread previous paragraphs because I wasn't sure whose head I was in. Not good.
  • Gabriel. He worked pretty well for me. I do think he probably could have been more warped, given his past - but hey, this is a romance novel and the author needs to make sure her hero is "save-able." All that said, I really started to sour on him at the end, when he morphed into a raging jackass (one with a pity complex no less!), and in turn, Sarah was forced into the role of Long-Suffering Romance Novel Heroine Martyr. Blah.
Final Thoughts:

Ultimately it's the writing style that sinks this book for me. Why? I felt that it kept me at arm's length and I never got emotionally invested in this story or the characters. I drifted along on the breeze, without truly losing myself - if that makes any sense whatsoever. I guess if you want to simplify it, I suppose I was looking for a more linear story arc. A bit more hand-holding. As it was, with the numerous leaps in time, along with the disjointed head-hopping, I found myself bored quite a bit. And distracted. To put it bluntly, under normal circumstances, this would have been a DNF for me. But then I would hear Kristie's voice lyrically ring in my ear, "Wendy, Wendy, Wendy!" - and I knew I just had to finish it. Only for you, chica.

None of this means I wouldn't recommend this book. It just means I would do so selectively. I think if you're a reader who is very hero-centric, Broken Wing is a good bet. Also, if you're a reader who takes to message boards and laments about how historical romance "ain't what it used to be" - you should check out Broken Wing. Otherwise? Meh. It just didn't do it for me. That doesn't mean it's a "bad" book. It just means it wasn't my bag.

First I give Dreaming Of You by Lisa Kleypas a C+, and now this. Tomorrow Kristie shows up on my doorstep carrying a pitchfork and torch.

Final Grade = C


Lori said...

LOL - ruh roh Shaggy.

This is in my TBR pile. (Yes, I actually have a TBR right now of about 10 books, which should probably be completed by next week). And actually, I think all the hoopla about it has sunk it down a bit further. I will get to it eventually.

Barbara said...

LOL! I doubt that Kristie will be upset. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. If we all thought the same the world would pretty much suck.
I happened to love the story, but that doesn't guarantee the next person who reads it will.

Anyway, you still did a great review, Wendy :)

Jessica said...

I also felt distant from the story and said so in my review, but I had no idea why until I read this: it's the writing style.

Although ultimately, I liked it better than you did (or maybe I just feared Kristie slightly more) ;).

Great review!

Kristie (J) said...

ROTFL!!! OK - good thing I read Stacy's review first *g*.

First off :-) I'm glad I don't have to do a Wendy, Wendy, Wendy on you for this one. I'm a happy camper that you read it. As for the issues you had - I can see them, I really can. If I hadn't been so emotionally drawn into the story I'd have had the same issues. But since I was totally immersed - emotionally-wise, they didn't bother me at all. It's that technical vs emotional type reader thing again. I think you have more 'techy' in you than I do. And I know we do need the techy side too :).
As for Sarah - there is no doubt this is GABRIEL'S story and Sarah is there as a mirror. When Gabriel looks into the mirror himself, he sees a distorted view. It's only when he looks into it with Sarah beside him he gets a clearer picture. So while I found her a lot more interesting than you did, and I quite liked her, I understand where you are coming from.
Where I most respectfully disagree with you though (heh heh heh) is Gabriels actions at the end. On this I must totally disagree *wink*. Going back to the mirror again - all of his life Gabriel viewed himself through the distorted mirror. It was only through Sarah's presence and love and positive affirmation that he saw himself clearly. When deprived of her by his side for so long, it is only natural that he would fall back on familiar life long patterns. It was for such a short time in his life he saw the good in himself as opposed to years when he saw the ugly. Although we, the reader didn't see what he did to save himself as a betrayal, thus leading to his actions at the end,Gabriel did. He didn't have enough time and confidence in himself to see what he did clearly - through an undistorted mirror.
So, as a survivor of sexual abuse, if he had acted any other way than what he did - that wouldn't have been true to his life experience. People who are emotionally healthy wouldn't have done what he did, but he had just barely started healing when he left to make his mark on the world. And then being plunged back into his worst nightmare with not enough healing time behind him, how else COULD he act?

Kati said...

I'm glad you read it, Wendy. And sorry to hear it didn't work better for you.

And I'm glad that Kristie didn't break up with you. LOL!

Wendy said...

WARNING - some veiled spoilers in this comment....

Kristie: I see your point. Truly. I mean, running into the villain like he does, I can understand (to a certain extent) Gabriel regressing.

It still annoyed the piss out of me though.

Especially when you factor in the love scene with Sarah prior to their separation. I mean, wake up and smell the coffee guy! She loves you! What else does she have to do to prove it to you!

But this tends to be a sticking point for me, and probably why it's a good thing I didn't read romance in the 1980s. I tend to resent heroes who can do as they please, wallow in self-pity - while the heroine is left to sit on the side-lines, wringing her hands, playing the martyr. Exactly why should she put her life on hold? For a guy who has so little regard for her - and is feeling "sorry for himself."

I don't like it. And while I never felt "connected" to Sarah - I thought the poor gal deserved a life.

But I suspect I'm being cold-hearted. While Gabriel's past in certainly no laughing matter, I felt Sarah had demonstrated her love enough to him that he should have had a clue.

Sexual abuse and crappy childhood aside - part of me wanted her to punch him in nose when she found him again LOL

Kristie (J) said...

Wendy: *laughing* That's because us women are ever so much stronger emotionally then guys are. Since for the most part anyway - we USE our emotions more, they are more exercised then most men.
And if that isn't a sexist sounding statement I don't know what is - but also somewhat true methinks ;)
And also one of the reasons women read romance a whole lot more than guys *g*

Rosie said...

You read it. Wow! What made you pick it up now? Just curious.

I'm panting to catch up again. Got a chuckle and almost choked on my morning coffee when I read about the Clark book. I guess what with a fire and in-laws coming for Thanksgiving this past month you may have had other things on your mind.

Hope you and your Man are having a lovely day. Hey, who's cooking???

Susan/DC said...

I haven't yet read "Broken Wing" so can't comment directly, but I do understand your need for a good heroine. I've liked books where I loved him and felt meh about her, but to put a book on my keeper list I have to absolutely understand why he fell in love with this specific woman. If it's simply her innocence and purity or that she loves him, that just ain't enough.

Wendy said...

Rosie: I had actually started Broken Wing pre-fire ordeal. I checked out a copy from work, so it had a due date. That was the main reason I chose to read it now.

I cooked - and let me just say my turkey turned out great!

Susan: Yeah, what you said. Exactly how I feel on the subject :)

Taja said...

I had to struggle with this book as I do with nearly all books that are written in a similar way. I'm tempted to skim, and I never know how to grade them because my dislike for a lot of telling in a story is probably more a preference thing than a "real" flaw of the writing.

I liked your review, concise and hitting all the points.

Wendy said...

Taja: With books like this one, that make the blog rounds and are fairly "well-known" in our circle(s), I tend to get lazy with the reviewing process. I figured by the time people found my review, they had likely already read 4 other reviews on the exact same book.

Yeah, this was a hard book for me to grade, mostly because I didn't hate it and didn't love it. Which means it got slapped with my all around "average" grade of a C.

Taja said...

Wendy, I didn't think your review lazy. But I know what you mean with writing a review about a book which already has A LOT of reviews.

Holly said...

Too funny. Since I'm in the minority with Dreaming of You also, I like seeing reviews like this. It takes the pressure off me.

I still haven't read this, but I will eventually. I'm just not in the mood for historicals right now and I don't think it would be fair to the book if I tried to read it anyway.