Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Finding Gabriel by Rachel L. Demeter

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 4, 2015

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.

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I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of Rachel L. Demeter's The Frost of Springtime from the Historical Novel Society in early 2014. I greatly enjoyed the narrative, but I've never been particularly happy with the review I penned for it. Much as I love HNS, their magazine limits word count and asks their reviewers to incorporate a basic outline of the plot in each commentary they submit. I understand the need for such restrictions, but I personally like to write longer, more detailed reviews and tend avoid re-hashing story lines. I mean no disrespect, but offering up a summary of events does not constitute a review in my eyes. 

I received Demeter’s sophomore release, Finding Gabriel, under very different circumstances and am quite free to elaborate however I see fit, but please understand that my comments regarding Demeter’s style and tone apply equally to both narratives. Demeter’s sophisticated command of language and prose is indisputably poignant and I’d hate to imply that the author’s second effort was superior to the first as each stands to illustrate a rare aptitude the evocation of gothic sensuality and classic intrigue.

I thought the story line fairly simple and ultimately predictable, but that aside, I felt Demeter’s characterizations of Colonel Gabriel de Laurent and Ariah Larochelle exceptionally emotive. Each struggles to overcome their own trials and tribulations, but I loved how Demeter brought these two troubled souls together and how she illustrated their journey to find light in the darkness of their solitary lives. I've no idea what went into the story, but their pain is authentic and their heartache intensely relatable. 

The novel itself is somber in tone, but haunting and expressive. Demeter deftly manipulates her audience with richly drawn situational drama and intimate moments of raw, unfiltered emotion. Much of the concept material is painful and dark, but Finding Gabriel is ultimately a tale of hope, redemption, and love. I rarely agree with sales pitch comparisons, the thematically I think marketing hit the nail on the head likening Demeter's work to classics like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.

When all is said and done, I found Finding Gabriel a powerfully vivid novel and greatly enjoyed the time I spent with it. The book left me somewhat drained, but all things considered I think that fact serves to compliment both the artistry of the story and creativity in its telling.

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You are a soldier. A fighter. And now you must fight. Not for the emperor, not for France... but for yourself.
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Rachel L. Demeter said...

Thank you so much for your beautifully insightful review, Erin! It was a joy to read your thoughts and I'm honored for the opportunity to share another novel with you. <3

Heather C said...

I have this one for review too. That's a problem I have with HNS reviews too, I could never write for their publication because that is just not my style for reviewing.

Erin Davies said...

I highly recommend Rachel's work Heather and I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my feelings about the HNS review style. I understand it, but I chafe under the restrictions.

I'm glad you enjoyed my review Rachel. Thank you for writing the book. :)