"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living."
-Anais Nin

12 January 2012

'Broken Hero' by Anne Whitfield-- A Review

This is my second review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.
I am a fan of historical novels, and I always love reading romantic fiction. Broken Hero by Anne Whitfield belongs to that genre of historical novels with strong romantic elements (I hesitate to call it ‘historical romance’, as this term evokes  images of Viking romances and Regency romances—all of which, by the way, I enjoy reading, too!).

I picked this book for my next review with rather high expectations, given its interesting blurb and excellent ratings on Goodreads.com.

Audrey is a strong young woman caught up in the turmoil of the war in her home, which accommodates recuperating soldiers. She falls in love with Captain Jake Harding, an attractive yet reticent army doctor with a tragic past. Audrey uses her strength and intense passion for Jake to entice him out of his self-imposed shell and show him how to love—and live—again.

At first, I fell in love with all the characters at once, and found myself swept up in the drama of their lives. I admired Audrey's strength and passion, Jake's intense love for his dead wife and his compassion for his patients, Lucy's love of life and youthful gaiety. They were very sympathetic characters, and I enjoyed meeting them.

Unfortunately, my romance with the characters weakened with the progress of the book. 

I regret to admit that I was disappointed in this story. I suppose the overall plot and themes are typical for novels in this genre, but I expected the writing to make something more out of the clichés and come up with something unique to the book. I have enjoyed many other novels in this genre having the same overall plot, thanks to entertaining writing.

I found the beginning of the book riveting, and I couldnt wait to know the characters more deeply.  By the middle of the book, however, I began to think Audrey’s tenacious efforts to get Jake to open up a little tiresome rather than admirable.  The idea of Audrey persisting to break Jake’s shell was a good one, but at some point I wanted to tell her to give up. Or at least try a different tack with Jake.

Jake intrigued me in the first chapters and I wanted him for Audrey. But as the story progressed, he did not seem strong enough for Audrey. Even his resistance to her affections  seemed tentative rather than resolute. 

I thought the tension and drama could have been improved when Jake finally revealed what ‘horrors’ he committed during the war that he regretted. His revelation somehow seemed anti-climactic.

The dialogue could have been written to be less predictable. While the characters did not need  be witty, it would have been nice to read entertaining dialogue and enjoyable banter.  

I guess, overall, I felt the story could have used a bit more drama and conflict. The first few chapters were enjoyable to read, but the tension between Jake and Audrey soon dissipated and I could not wait for the book to end. Audrey’s injury during an air raid, which I assumed should be an important turning point in the story, appeared not quite fleshed out enough. I felt the same was true for each turning point in the story. Every single one seemed rushed through, not elaborated, as if the writer was pulling her punches. The scenes when Audrey and Jake finally got together, for example, were quite disappointing. Likewise, I thought the sub-plot involving Audrey’s sister, Lucy, was a tad underdone, such that it seemed almost superfluous to the story. Valeries secret inner wound could also have been written to be more striking, despite being predictable.

I do think the story is a good one, and I can see why so many people liked it. I just think that the drama could have been amplified somehow, to challenge the emotions of the reader even more, and to deliver on the climax and tension that the opening promised.

This is the first book by Anne Whitfield that I have read. Id like to read her other  romance novels, to see whether I might enjoy her other work more than this one.  Given the excellent ratings her books get on Goodreads, I was surprised  I did not completely enjoy this book. I want to know what I might  be missing in her other work.

Overall, I'd recommend the book to romance readers everywhere. But do be warned that some of you may feel let down if you’re looking for a more emotional and impassioned time with your romantic fiction.

My first review (Claire Corbett’s When We Have Wings) can be viewed here.

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  1. An thoughtful review - thanks for sharing!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  2. Thanks for following my reviews, Shelleyrae.

    I just finished my third book for the Challenge this morning on the train, so a new review will be posted sometime soon!