Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. 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 as 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 a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. 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.
Terra: What prompted you to write such a deeply profound romance basing the bulk of the abuse on the hero instead of the heroine?
Judith: Wow! Good question! I guess this is a two-part answer. I really enjoyed some of the older hero centric romances by people like Mary Jo Putney, Laura Kinsale, and Anne Stuart. Their heroes were flawed, with real problems including alcoholism, intense anger, and even childhood abuse. More recently, I read Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone and was impressed with how well and honestly she dealt with her male character’s past. These stories really grabbed me and stayed with me. The struggle the characters went through to overcome their problems made the stories so intense for me, and the outcome so much more rewarding. I particularly remember a wonderful book by Kathleen Sutcliffe called Shadow Play that still haunts me today. The hero had been abused as a child. His recovery was not the central theme of the book, yet it was what most intrigued and moved me, and for months after I told myself the rest of the story as I wanted it told.
The second part would be write the story you know. I worked for several years with survivors of abuse, both male and female, but in many ways, the males were a forgotten group, and I think people would be surprised at how many men things like that have happened to. There is usually something very special about all survivors. They are often very creative, intelligent, talented, and resilient people. These are the abilities in part that help them cope and survive where others don’t. I was constantly amazed at how the human spirit can triumph over even the worst circumstances and honestly thought each and every one was a hero in some way or another. I wanted to show that, and that they were deserving of the same love and respect as anyone else. Unfortunately, they were often badly damaged too, and I guess I wanted to give Gabriel the love and happy ending that eludes so many of them in the real world.
Terra: Your heroine Sarah is somewhat sheltered and naïve, do you think that she can truly find her way through Gabriel’s emotional defenses?
Judith: Well, Sarah is sheltered and naïve in some ways, but she’s seen more of the world than many woman of her time, having been through the death of her parents, a sudden and unwanted marriage, and the loss of both brothers. She also knows what it is, at least to some degree, to be an outsider or social outcast. She has had to deal with her own grief and her own failures, and a lot of that was on her own, though her brother and cousin do all they can to shelter her now. She’s learned to think for herself, and had had no choice at times but to rely on her own judgment and initiative. In fact, I rather think she’s come to like it.
She does stumble with Gabriel at times, she makes mistakes and has her doubts, and she’s worried and afraid about how it will all turn out, but the bottom line is, she’s a stubborn and determined woman, and Gabriel IS a hero to her. Of all the things that happened to her, losing her little brother was the one that hurt the most, and it was Gabriel who rescued him and kept him safe. The bottom line is she’d follow him to the gates of hell for that, whether she knows what she’s doing or not (and that was BEFORE she fell in love with him). I’d also add that although Gabriel is hard on the outside, he wants to be rescued and he wants to be loved, he’s just given up on it and has a very hard time trusting. Once he understands what Sarah wants from him and realizes it’s genuine, well, he knows how to deal with cruelty and betrayal, but he has no defenses against that. She’s in!
Terra: The entire background of Broken Wing is written so beautifully that you can almost place yourself into the story. How hard was it to find the right settings for the scenes and then to be able to blend them into something believable?
Judith: Thank you, Terra! To tell the truth I was a strange child, I used to worry my parents, sitting in the basement listening to music and telling myself stories all day. I’d close my eyes and hear and see them almost in cinemascope, and a lot of the story came like that. I also did a lot of research, and tracked down pictures paintings and drawings of North Africa, Algiers, 17th and 18th century Paris etc. I was very fortunate to get to visit Paris and England and some of the places I wrote about. I’ve been an avid stargazer for years and I live next to the Atlantic and love the ocean. Whenever I can in the summer, I do my writing on the beach or at a waterfront restaurant. We have a great Maritime museum in Halifax, and can tour and sail on modern day replica’s of old sailing ships, and I have a couple of friends who’ve taken me out on the ocean in a very small sailboat. Believe me when the wind picks up that’s intense! I guess the short answer is with all of that combined, I was pretty much there once I started writing, just kind of slipped into Gabriel’s and Sarah’s world, and the scenes just kind of unfolded in front of me. All I had to do was hurry to scribble them down.
Terra: What do you yourself think of such a dark, thought provoking, emotionally turbulent romance such as Gabriel‘s and Sarah‘s?
Judith: I think with the greatest risks comes the greatest rewards, something they both knew, dreamed of and feared, but they found the courage to trust each other and see their way through. Given the stakes, how they’ve had to trust and learn to understand each other, they are in a way like comrades in arms, soldiers who’ve fought together. They’ve shared things no one else could understand and it binds them in a way that can never be broken. For them it turns out to be a great, once in a lifetime love. On the negative side, I think such relationships can also be devastating and tragic for both parties if the fail, perhaps something people never get over.
Terra: We all have nightmares and dreams, would you say the ones your characters have, have any base in your own personal sleep experiences?
Judith: I think I’ve been chased down hallways a time or two with something grabbing at my heels, but there’s always a door or an exit or a weapon close by if I can just get to it. I have dreamt of being left on the moon by accident after a moon walk! I think that was after watching a Ron Howard movie. As to the rest, it’s fairly common for people who’ve been abused or through some stressful incident like a car accident or natural disaster to relive the experience on a recurring basis in their dreams. One theory is they need to process and make sense of it, but because it’s so unpleasant, they repress it when they are awake by pushing it aside and dealing with other things. They can’t repress it when asleep, and so they experience it often through nightmares.
Terra: Do you think that most pirates have gone through a similar battered abused life and that is why they chose the profession they did?
Judith: That’s a very interesting question. I honestly don’t know when it comes to pirates. From my research, I think it’s fair to say that many who went that route were escaping abuse of some kind. Some from the navy, others were escaping slavery, and the early buccaneers, many of whom were members of the military and aristocratic elite amongst the Huguenots, were escaping religious persecution in France. I would say that a history of abuse, physical and or sexual, is much more common than people would believe amongst male inmates in our prisons today, which is no great surprise as it tends to lead to foster homes, runaways, life on the streets, prostitution, poor socialization, problems with anger and substance abuse, and eventually a life of crime.
Terra: I would say that a good percentage of women are immediately attracted to the bad boy. Do you think it is our instinct to nurture that draws us or do you think it is just the excitement of the moment that makes us take the wrong path?
Judith: Oh, I think it’s a lot of things. To nurture, yes, and also a sense of excitement and maybe even competition. The feeling that you can be the one to tame him where no one else has. Who wouldn’t feel proud and safe with their own tame wolf, loyal only to them, but ferocious and dangerous if anyone threatens?
Terra: Will there be a sequel to Broken Wing and how many of the characters from here might possibly be included in it? Who’s story would it be if so?
Judith: Ah! I do have a book called A Time For Treason that will likely be out next fall, but it’s a seventeenth century adventure/love story that’s not as dark, more balanced between the hero and heroine, and perhaps a bit lighter and more humorous in tone. I felt the need to write something a little less intense after Broken Wing, though I hope every bit as involving and exciting. I did have rather involved back stories for many of the characters as I wrote Broken Wing. I know things about Ross no one else knows, and I have stories for him, Davey, and Jacques Valmont. I think the next one would be about Jacques, with Davey, Gabriel and Sarah playing a part, followed by Ross’ story.
Terra: If you were in a bookstore looking at your book and someone came up behind you and while looking over your shoulder asked you what attracted you to this particular book, what would you say to them to get them to buy it?
Judith: I would tell them it combines all of the things I love in a book, drama, history, adventure, exotic locales, and an intense love story. I’d also tell them the guy on the cover looks like he needs my help and he’s pretty hot!
Terra: As a romance author what would you say is your favorite type of man using your characters as a basis for the answer. Would you pick Gabriel who is deeply dark, mysterious and incredibly dangerous, Ross who is the prim and proper gentleman, responsible and dependable, or Davey who is every bit the dynamic, daring, unpredictable fun loving jokester?
Judith: Can I pick all of them? They all attract me in a certain way, but if I had to choose… Ross has secrets, but he is responsible and dependable, He takes things a bit too seriously to be my ideal man. He needs a girl who… well, that’s another story. If you asked me who I’d most like to go for a drink with or just hang with, it would be Davey, hands down, but only as a buddy. I think it would take someone really special to pry him from that ship. I love Gabriel, and if he wasn’t already Sarah’s I might pick him. I LOVE star gazing, but in the end I’m a sucker for a challenge and a sense of humor. The one I’d pick is bad boy Jacques. He’s a wolf I’d like to tame.
Terra: Thank you Judith for taking the time to answer my questions and for being with us today. Your book is incredible in many ways but no so much as taking our hero to Hell and back and basing the storyline on him. Kudo’s for a job well done!
Judith: Thank you so much for your kind words Terra, and for inviting me. Your thought provoking questions have given me the opportunity to revisit old friends and meet new ones.
To your many readers, thanks for taking the time to visit and if you do read the book I really hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment and an e-mail address if you’d like to be in the draw for a copy of Broken Wing. Also come and visit at http://www.judithjamesauthor.com