Just finished reading . . . Broken Wing [Broken Wing Challenge]

July 31, 2009 at 4:53 pm 4 comments

Broken Wing ChallengeBroken Wing by Judith James

When orannia suggested doing a Broken Wing Challenge at her blog, Walkabout, I was really excited. I’d had this book on my tbr for a while, after picking it up during a So Cal Bloggers book swap. Of course, I had grabbed it during the swap because of KristieJ’s devotion to it. So, truly in the “it takes a village” vein, here’s my review!

Here is the book description:

The Napoleonic era comes brilliantly alive in James’s debut adventure romance. Sarah, Lady Munroe, has traveled to postrevolution Paris with her half-brother, Ross, to find their long-lost younger brother. Young Jamie suffered few ill effects while residing at a Parisian brothel thanks to the protection of Gabriel St. Croix, a glittering catamite who returns to England with them at Jamie’s insistence. While Gabriel’s attraction to Sarah begins as an innocent shared admiration for astronomy, their sensual love scenes intensify as Gabriel reconciles his tender feelings with his sordid past. The pace never falters when the lovebirds are separated and pursue adventures on their own. The extensive historical detail goes a long way, but Sarah and Gabriel’s heart-wrenching struggle to keep their love alive is what will really keep readers entranced throughout this epic read.
—Publisher’s Weekly

Broken Wing

The book was hit and miss for me.What worked really, really worked, and what didn’t, seriously impacted my enjoyment of the book.

So, here’s what worked:

Beautiful, in-depth character development.

Gabriel and Sarah were two of the most original characters I’d read about in a long time. Gabriel was so damaged at the beginning, especially because of what he had to make himself into in so that he could survive the incredible sexual abuse that he’d suffered most of his life. I think it was an extremely risky character to write, but it was a risk that paid off beautifully!

Sarah, too, was unusual and interesting. I loved how confident and unapologetic she was about her quirky lifestyle. Her mode of dress and the unconventional things that she did never came across as self-consciously precocious, but rather that she just was who she was. I think her attitude really served her well when dealing with Gabriel’s acting out at during the first half of the book, and really helped during the second half of the book.

Original plot and compelling settings.

Gabriel’s history was fascinating, and extremely gritty for a historical romance (though, really the book feels more like an historical “adventure-romance” ala Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.) What happens to Gabriel and Sarah is such a fresh story. The plot itself is one of the things I loved most about the book.

I also loved the unusual locales, especially the Barbary Coast, post-revolution France, and life among the English demimonde. Again, these settings are not often seen in typical historical romances.

What didn’t work:

SOME of the narrative style.

The book really felt like it was written in 2 distinctive narrative styles: one great, one not so great.

The style that worked for me was during scenes when there was conversation and dialogue. The writing was vivid and really drew me into the action and made me connect with the characters. However, far too often there’d be a narrative style shift that was a lot of “telling not showing”.

2 things made this occurrence extremely frustrating: one was that what was being described was amazingly original and interesting stuff —a battle in Morocco where Gabriel and a friend fight for their lives, for example. Yet, because of this scene was told in a detached manner, all of the tension and excitement was lost.

The other frustration with this narrative tendency was that since only parts of the book was written this way, I knew that these sections had the potential to be written in a much more compelling manner. I actually had my guy read the Moroccan battle scene, for his take on it. His comment was that when he comes across this way of writing it makes him feel like he’s reading a report. I thought this an apt description.

The ultimate impact of this was that it made the book “put-downable” for me. Now, there was enough great stuff about BW, that I never considered DNF-ing it, regardless of how frustrated I was with it. But, when something else caught my attention—this week it was the Brockmann, these issues with BW made it very easy to leave in my purse, in favor of the other (audio)book.

To wrap it up:
Another thing (that has nothing to do with the book itself) really drove me crazy. The back cover description REALLY pissed me off! It told FAR too much about the story. Things which I would much rather have discovered for myself. Normally, instead of writing my own book description, I rely on the back cover description for my reviews. Instead, I used Publisher’s Weekly review for this post.

I really don’t want to end this review on a negative note. Broken Wing was a really good, original and ambitious first novel. I will definitely read Judith James’ next book, Highland Rebel, which will be released September 1, 2009. And, I’m going to hope that all the things I enjoyed about Broken Wing (and none that I didn’t) will be present.

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Entry filed under: 2009 Book Challenges, Adventure Romance, Historical Romance, Just Finished Reading (Review). Tags: , , , , .

I feel a glom coming on . . . Why It’s Not Always a Good Idea to Listen to Audiobooks While Driving

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosie  |  August 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Kristie will be so pleased. Get ready for her to stop by and discuss. I think it’s so cool so many of us read this just because of her unbridled enthusiasm for the book.

    Reply
  • 2. orannia  |  August 1, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Great review Renee! I had similar issues, but you explained them really well IMO 🙂 I too want to read Judith James’ second book – I think there are a number of positives to take from the book…and the ‘negatives’ (if I can call them that) are workable 🙂

    Reply
  • 3. Renee  |  August 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Rosie: Yes, I love how she has really taken this book on. 🙂

    orannia: Thanks! It’s funny, ’cause when I read your review (I haven’t yet had time to make the rounds commenting, yet!) I really though that some of the problem you had connecting with Gabriel might have to do with the detached narrative.
    Yes, on the whole I was happy I read it and will read her next one, too! 🙂

    Reply
  • 4. July 2009 Read Books « Renee’s Book Addiction  |  August 4, 2009 at 5:02 am

    […] Just finished reading . . . Broken Wing [Broken Wing Challenge] […]

    Reply

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