Genre: Historical Romance (Paris, France 1815)
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.
I admire authors who push the boundaries of the established norms of historical romance and Rachel L. Demeter does just that in this dark and intensely emotional story. I found myself totally immersed in the compelling world she created and her fascinating, flawed characters.
…the only journey worth traveling starts from within.
Gabriel is full of despair and all-consuming guilt following the horrific deaths of his wife and child for which he feels responsible. When he finds no solace in drink, he joins Napoleon’s army, not for honour or glory, but as an act of self-punishment, believing he will surely die on the battlefield. Instead of death, he becomes one of Napoleon’s esteemed regiment commanders, highly decorated and applauded for his bravery. On his return to Paris, however, he cannot escape the past or the cold numbness he feels inside. So, standing by the dark waters of the Seine, he resolves to take his own life –
Now there would be no more pain. No more nightmares. No more agony.
– only to have fate send an ‘angel’ in the form of Ariah Larochelle.
Ariah may look petite and fragile but she has spirit and determination. Despite being orphaned at the age of 15 and betrayed by the very person she came to love and trust, she is a survivor. However, the past has left its mark.
Perhaps there was a darkness behind her pure façade that equaled his own. Only her scars were internal rather than flesh wounds.
She’s raising her 5 year old daughter, Emmeline, and has also provided a home for her half-sister, Miriam. The scenes between these three are charmingly portrayed. I love how Ariah’s compassion overrules her fear of taking in a stranger when she finds the badly injured Gabriel.
Ms Demeter doesn’t shy away from scenes that are often harrowing and brutal but I was riveted to the pages. Whether it’s descriptions of Gabriel’s horrific injuries, the brutality of battle or the sweeping landscape of Paris, everything is brought vividly to life. My only criticism is that sometimes I felt that her descriptive prose was a little too verbose.
The speed with which Gabriel recovers from his facial injuries does seem unrealistic but it didn’t detract from the overall impact of the story.
The romance between Gabriel and Ariah was emotional, heart-rending, poignant, dramatic and passionate and I’m sharing a few of my favourite moments which also showcase Ms Demeter’s beautiful poetic prose.
Ariah lifted a hand to his looming face and gently grazed a fingertip over the marred flesh. It was rigid and coarse, twisted and corrupt. And yet it concealed a delicate soul that was in jeopardy of fading away forever.
“Yes. I see much pain and darkness. But more than that, I see an internal war: strength and vulnerability … love and hatred … tender memories mixed with sadness. And beneath those conflicting emotions I see something much greater: hope.”
But Ariah’s true beauty lay within; it was her fierce spirit, determination, and kind heart that he’d fallen deeply, irrevocably in love with.
Somewhere along this strange journey, hope had emerged from the depths of despair.
Both have to face their pasts in different ways and this leads to a series of dramatic events which threaten their fledging love. There is a harrowing climax but I think it was the only way the story could be resolved to bring about Gabriel and Ariah’s happy ending.
The scenes between Emmeline and Gabriel are delightful and reveal his gentleness and sensitivity. I love the kindly Doctor Mongeau and the scene where Ariah realises that he is saying a final goodbye is so poignant. The scene where Oliver, Ariah’s old dog, pees up nasty neighbour, Madam Dupont’s front door provides a welcome touch of humour.
The historical setting, Paris during the period following the defeat of Napoleon, definitely bought an interesting perspective to the story, especially with a cameo appearance by Napoleon himself.
I picked this final quote because I think it so beautifully sums up the essence of the story.
Here they stood, two shattered souls made complete through each other.
MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a dark, intense romance with an original plot and unforgettable characters, then you will definitely want to read FINDING GABRIEL. I will certainly be looking to read more by this author.
REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read October 2015
**I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**