From the BLURB:
Set during the chaotic beginnings of Napoleon's rule, this saga tells the story of Gabriel St. Croix, a street survivor searching for a place to belong. Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, he has never known friendship or affection. 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 has 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 professional gambler, he travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again. 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.
Sarah and Ross Munroe have been searching for their missing younger brother for five long years. Following the sudden death of their parents, and an unfortunate marriage for Sarah, little Jamie Munroe was caught up in a family revenge plot and kidnapped . . . but now he has been found.
Ross and Sarah have had privateers and investigators searching every back street for a sign of their sibling for years, and now their search has paid off . . .
Jamie has been located in a French brothel, and the Munroe’s fear the worst for their kin. But when Sarah and Ross arrive at Madame’s they are shocked to discover an educated, well-adjusted and healthy young boy. The Munroe’s can credit Jamie’s safety to his friend and protector, the whore Gabriel St. Croix.
Gabriel had a similar fate to Jamie – bought and sold to a brothel as a child. But where Gabriel was left to surrender and buckle to the life of whoring and masochism, Jamie was spared. Gabriel took the child under his wing at a great cost to his own safety - he prevented any harm befalling the child, in exchange for breaking his own will.
Sarah and Ross are undeniably grateful. For five years Gabriel has been young Jamie’s protector, and the Munroe’s intend to repay him.
They buy Gabriel’s contract from the brothel and invite him to stay, for one year, on their country estate as Jamie’s ‘companion’. After one year he is free to do as he pleases – stay or go – either way, he is a slave no more and a whore never again.
But Gabriel is unused to freedom. He has been under lock and key his entire life, forced to depravity and made to please others. He is unprepared for the Munroe’s kindness . . . especially that of Sarah Munroe. In Gabriel, Sarah sees a wounded and beautiful soul. Despite his horrendous childhood, Gabriel still found the strength to save her brother from a twin fate. And now Gabriel is experiencing the joys and wonders of a life to be lived on his own terms . . . the chance to go where he pleases, and love who he chooses.
‘Broken Wing’ is the 2008 historical romance novel from Judith James.
‘Broken Wing’ starts off as a rather sweeping grand romance. James writes a Dickensian beginning for the poor hero, Gabriel St. Croix – his life as a young whore is understandably tragic and unbelievably saddening. When he is welcomed into the Munroe’s home he is initially stand-offish and mulish as he adjusts to freedom. He keeps waiting for people to use and abuse him – assuming that Sarah wants him for his body, and Ross cannot wait for an excuse to kick him out in the street. So Gabriel is shocked and unbelieving when Ross insists on beginning an investment fund for Gabriel, with a mind towards his future away from the whore house. Gabriel is doubly awed when Sarah stubbornly befriends him – despite his acerbic wit and wounding words – she is determined to win his trust and show him kindness.
Sarah and Gabriel have a sweetly tender romance. Because of his tragic past Gabriel is a hard nut to crack, so his and Sarah’s relationship is a slow unfolding. They begin their friendship star-gazing, with Sarah introducing Gabriel to the brilliance of modern technology and the wonders of a world he has been cut off from since childhood. Slowly but surely Gabriel finds safety and comfort in Sarah’s presence, eventually turning to her when the nightmares of his past get to be too much . . . and then Gabriel falls in love with her. Sarah shows him the first kindness and patience of his life – and for the first time in his memory, Gabriel is permitted to want someone for themselves, and not for their money. But it’s not so easy to forget the pains of a past as terrible as Gabriel’s, and with his love comes great fear;
A sudden bolt of fear seized him, twisting his vitals, and clamping tight around his throat. It couldn’t be real. Such a life was never meant for him. Certainly, not such a woman. She was clean and sweet, kind and wholesome, everything he was not. He needed to take stock, to slow this headlong rush toward destruction. He concentrated on breathing until his panic receded. If he were careful, he might keep her as a friend. But he had to be careful not to reach too high, not to want too much, or he’d lost it all.
Sarah and Gabriel were incredibly adorable. I loved the slow-burn of their romance; a much-needed unhurried pace considering Gabriel’s past pains. And of course Gabriel’s experience in the bedroom means he and Sarah experience a hot and sensual eventual coupling.
I loved the first-half of this book. Judith James wrote a brilliant balance of tragedy and romance, redemption and misfortune. But when Gabriel takes to the sea for a grand privateering adventure, the plot gets a little wonky. . .
In the second-half of the novel Gabriel does something absolutely horrendous and hurtful to his beloved Sarah. I fully expected Judith James to write an additional 100-pages involving Gabriel making up for his foolish mistakes and hurtful actions. However, Sarah is quick to forgive and love again. I was utterly gob-smacked by the lack of dramatic tension and believably resolution. The lacking ending almost ruined the entire book for me – it’s just a good thing that James wrote such a fascinating beginning and wrote an incredible hero in Gabriel, or else I would have been truly upset.
‘Broke Wing’ is an epic historical romance. It’s a novel of Dickensian beginnings, high-seas adventure and reforming love. Despite a poor second-half, the character of Gabriel St. Croix was endearing enough and his story so tragically epic as to make up for the let-down finale.