What I Liked:
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 façade, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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