Title: Finding Gabriel
Author: Rachel L. Demeter
Published: August 27, 2015 by Momentum
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Colonel Gabriel de Laurent departed for the war intending to die.
After a decade of bloodstained battlegrounds while fighting in Napoleon's army, Gabriel returns to the streets of Paris a shattered and haunted soul. Plagued by inner demons, he swallows the barrel of his flintlock pistol and pulls the trigger.
But fate has a different plan.
Ariah Larochelle is a survivor. Orphaned at twelve and victim to a devastating crime, she has learned to keep her back to walls and to trust no one. But when she finds a gravely injured soldier washed up on the River Seine, she's moved by compassion. In spite of her reservations, she rescues him from the icy water and brings him into her home.
Now scarred inside and out, Gabriel discovers a kindred spirit in Ariah—and feelings he imagined lost forever reawaken as he observes her strength in the face of adversity. But when Ariah's own lethal secrets unfold, their new love is threatened by ancient ghosts. Can Gabriel and Ariah find hope in the wreckage of their pasts—or will the cycle of history repeat again?
Perfect for fans of Gaelen Foley's Lord of Ice and Judith James's Broken Wing, Finding Gabriel features all the dark romance, searing passion, and historical intrigue of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
A soldier with nothing to lose has everything to sacrifice.
With his emperor imprisoned, the most important battle Colonel Gabriel de Laurent has left to fight is with his self. On a dark night by the Seine, his demons win and in full dress uniform he takes his pistol, places it in his mouth, and pulls the trigger. While it looks like he lost this battle, he has not yet lost the war. Ariah, wrestling with her own past, comes upon Gabriel and wanting to atone for misdeeds brings him home to care for him. In a defeated Paris, a different kind of war is being fought in a little house tucked back into a poorer neighborhood but can Ariah and Gabriel break free from their self-imposed imprisonments?
Now his face would match the tattered depths of his soul.
Finding Gabriel was a different toned historical romance, instead of the very common English soldier story we have a French soldier from the Napoleonic Wars hero, a heroine who is married, and the French feelings of defeat, loss, and what happens now bleeding into and helping to create the story's atmosphere. The book description mentions Les Miserables and I would definitely agree it has that feel as I felt like the overall dark and murky story took over from the characters at times. This was a combination of fiction and romance but in a way that I felt romance readers would want more focus on the romance and fiction readers would want less. Especially in the beginning, I felt the story was overwritten, in the way that everything is over described in a flowery way; think poetry. There were a lot of flashbacks for our main characters weaved into the story and in the beginning they were a bit jarring at times. We don't get Ariah and Gabriel's full stories of why they are broken people until around the 60% mark. I started to feel like I was reading the diary of a teenager who was going on and on about how hard a life they have lived but didn't want to tell me to keep feeding off the drama.
A frown creased her lips as she echoed the word, "This…" Her finger skimmed his greatcoat, traveling from decoration to decoration. A trail of heat formed wherever she dared touch. Swallowing deeply, he stiffened and tightened his grasp on the bowl. It soon threatened to shatter against his damn palm. "And what precisely is this?"
Swept with emotion, Gabriel shook his head and struggled to form a coherent answer. "Defeat."
With being introduced to Gabriel as he is committing suicide, he definitely came across as a dark and tortured character. He is a bear to Ariah in the beginning but it all read natural and fit into the story. Ariah veered into martyrdom a few times with her saintliness but her will to keep fighting, what I imagine many a woman would have been forced to endure during these times, will endear her to many readers. The majority of the story takes place in Ariah's house but I strangely felt like Ariah and Gabriel didn't spend enough time together but what I think I was really missing was Ariah and Gabriel talking to each other instead of around each other; they are in their own heads a lot. There were sentences and sentences of descriptions but I wanted our characters to physically take part in the story, too.
The thing I fear lives inside me.
Secondary characters did a wonderful job of rounding out the story and broadening it more. Ariah's daughter worked well with Gabriel to help bring him out of his mind more and wake him up. Miriam, Ariah's sister, had her own, very tiny, romance story but only popped in enough to minutely play devil's advocate in regards to taking care of Gabriel rather than being a full bodied character. Ariah's past demon represented by the character Geoffery and her lost at war husband Jacques, helped to add more to Ariah but on their own felt like hanger-ons in the story. The climax of their story comes on a little too quickly and wraps up a little too perfectly.
A way to find beauty in the darkness.
Overall, I liked this story because of its differentness in regards to the typical romance genre story and the outline of Gabriel's character (I felt the author approached the line with Gabriel's attempted suicide but didn't fully commit with leaving out how having a gaping hole, with bone fragments protruding, in one's cheek would cause difficulty in eating, kissing, and drooling) but the writing style just didn't jive with my personal tastes. I needed more action and less description, this reads to be a highly emotional story but I didn't feel a connection to the characters.
Indeed, the greatest pieces of artwork told stories, offered beauty, and whispered painful truths.
If highly descriptive writing with a dark and murky feel and slower moving, in fact I imagine the author writing this story on parchment with a quill and sonatas blasting in the background, is to your liking, then this would be worthy of a read. Also, Napoleon escapes in time to make an appearance and pines over Josephine for a spell, something readers who favor history will delight in.