BROKEN WING by Judith James

PUBLISHER: Medallion, 1/2008
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: France, 1798-1802

FROM PUBLISHER: 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 facade, 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.

MY THOUGHTS: The hero is the very wounded Gabriel St.Croix and the heroine is widowed Sarah Munroe. The story spans about four years, beginning around 1798 and begins in Paris, France.

I had high hopes for this one but was let down by it.  The hero was abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel as a prostitute. He has nothing and no one. He doesn't even know his last name so he chose to use the name of the street that he was abandoned on, St. Croix. Knowing he was all alone and forced to prostitute himself called out to me immediately and made me want to read his story. It didn't live up to my expectations at all. After about a year of him living with Sarah's family he goes off with a family friend and gets knocked into the ocean by a runaway cannon on the ship. From then, he's taken prisoner and sold. There's a lot of war and violence for a good part of the story. Once he escapes his captors he lives as a free man. I just found all of that to be very boring and hard to get through.

The synopsis from the back cover is very misleading. It says that Gabriel travels, after he's free, in a 'desperate attempt to find Sarah' and that simply is not true. He never once tried to find her or contact her via letter. He allowed her to believe he was dead for three years for no apparent reason. They find each other and he's very cold and rude toward her. They secretly married right before he left three years before yet now that he's face to face with his wife, his behavior towards her makes no sense at all and I don't understand it. Needless to say, they have their happily ever after.

One thing that really bugged me is that their ages were never given. It was said many times that he was 'young' so I'm assuming he's in his early 20s, and the same for Sarah. I feel as though I never got to know Sarah at all. We got absolutely no backstory on her. I don't like or dislike her because I simply feel as if I don't know her.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE ROAD THROUGH WONDERLAND: Surviving John Holmes by Dawn Schiller

PUBLISHING INFO: Medallion Press, 2010
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir

From Publisher: Painstakingly honest, this chilling memoir reveals how a teenager became immersed in the bizarre life of legendary porn star John Holmes. Starting with a childhood that molded her perfectly to fall for the seduction of “the king of porn,” this autobiography recounts the perilous road that Dawn Schiller traveled—from drugs and addiction to beatings, arrests, forced prostitution, and being sold to the drug underworld. After living through the horrific Wonderland murders of 1981, she entered protective custody, ran from the FBI, and turned in John Holmes to the police. This is the true story of a young girl’s harrowing escape from one of the most infamous public figures, her struggle to survive, and her recovery from unthinkable abuse.

MY THOUGHTS: Dawn was just 15 1/2 years old when she met 32 year old John Holmes in 1976. She'd moved to California with her father and younger sister after her parents recent divorce. John and his wife Sharon managed the apartments Dawn and her family were living in. Though John was married, and Dawn knew it, they began 'dating' each other and later began using drugs together.

The book tells of all the drugs Dawn used with John and physical abuse she took from him and John's decent into heavy drug use, from 1976-1981. I feel the book was very well written and detailed. Dawn definitely has a knack/talent for writing. I really enjoyed the book and rate it 4 stars.

What keeps me from giving it five stars is the story basically ends in 1981 with the Wonderland Murders then briefly jumps ahead to 1988 with John's death from an AIDS related illness. There is no mention of Dawn's life between 1988-2010. For some odd reason, she doesn't want us to know about her life after John died. I'm assuming her life from 1981-1998 was consumed with drugs and bad relationships with men but I'm just guessing.

Also, there are no updates about the people we've read about like her younger sister Terry, John's ex-wife Sharon, or John's brother and sister in law, Karen. I'd really like to know what ever became of them and was really let down by Dawn leaving all that out of the story. I'm really disappointed. I'd really like to know why in the world she'd put into writing that Sharon murdered a man, in self defense, when the law knows absolutely nothing about it...until now. Dawn is the one and only person Sharon has ever told that to, when they met in 1988 after John died, and now it's in writing. What's going to happen to Sharon now? Why would Dawn tell on her? I'm really confused by that. Puzzled, actually.

Dawn mentions her daughter and has a photo of her in the book but never mentions how the daugher came to be. We are told nothing about the girls father, when the met, nothing. Dawn is a bit of a mystery. Did Dawn ever ask her horrible father why he did drugs with his underage children and was just an overall horrible father? I guess she didn't. I've read elsewhere that Dawn didn't mention another of John's girlfriends, one he dated while married to Sharon and dating Dawn. Why/how could Dawn not mention that at all? Why did she (intentionally) leave all that out? I do have a problem with Dawn saying John forced her to prositute herself. I saw no signs of force. I'm sure she felt like she had no choice but to do it but still, the choice was her's. She never said how she felt about John getting AIDS or how she even found out about it. Did she ever want to visit him? We'll never know. I want to know why John and Sharon had such an odd relationship and why they stayed married. Did Dawn ever ask him about it? Did she not care that he had sex with other women (and men) for money? We don't learn her thoughts about any of that.

Overall, I was pleased with the book despite the lack of updates on some of the people. If you like biographies, you should really enjoy this one. It's a hefty, trade paperback. I found an online interview with Dawn that you might enjoy.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.