A guest review by Jenre
Sometimes bravery and love are one and the same.
Gabriel and Tristan Stalling parted ways seven years ago when their father kicked Gabriel out of the house for being gay. The years that passed were hard on both brothers. Tristan was left with his guilt and shame for not sticking up for his twin, the relentless need to please their parents, and the gnawing ache for his other half.
Gabriel manages to make his dreams of becoming a rockstar come true, but with his fame comes drugs and meaningless sex as he tries to drown out the hurt he feels when Tristan abandoned him.
As fate would have it, the Stalling twins are about to get one last chance to make things right. Both Gabriel and Tristan will be tested as never before. Not only will they have to make a choice between giving in to a love so taboo it can never be revealed or spending their lives forever broken, but they will also have to face the ghosts of their past, even the ones with the power to destroy them.
I had very mixed feelings about Broken. On one hand it was quite a well written, angsty story about two brothers who battle with hurt feelings and overcome their past to be with each other, but on the other hand the romance plot just didn’t work for me and I found the pacing a little choppy.
Broken begins with Gabriel, a famous rock singer, waiting anxiously for his twin bother to get off a plane. He hasn’t seen Tristan in seven years, ever since their father threw Gabriel out for being gay. The brothers have kept in touch since then, but only in a very distant way. Tristan is coming to stay with Gabriel after his business has gone bust, due to the shady dealings with Tristan’s business partner. Both men are hurting from their father’s treatment and hope to be reconciled. What Tristan doesn’t realise is that his brother harbours more than just brotherly love for him, a love he is only too willing to reciprocate.
Those of you who like angst will probably like this story. The book follows the two men as they try to come to some understanding of how their past, and the treatment of their father has influenced them. Tristan stayed behind after Gabriel left, unable to stand up for Gabriel in the face of his father’s strong personality. He then tried to be the best son he could, but ultimately failed when his business went bust. He visits Gabriel to seek his forgiveness and to try and move away from his father’s crushing influence. Gabriel felt adrift after being thrown out of his home which led to him being wild for a time – something which comes back to haunt him later in the book. As the book progresses, each brother reflects on the past, their actions, their father and by the end, through the mutual support of each other, they are able to face that past and put it behind them. I liked this theme of facing up to the past and I also liked the way the brothers were able to be a support to one another in a non-judgemental way. The scenes where they discussed their past and offered guidance were some of the best written and most emotional scenes in the book.
Another part of the book which worked well was Gabriel’s life as a rock star and how limiting being famous is at times. This is reinforced at the beginning when he is recognised at the airport whilst waiting for his brother and has to call for back up from his bodyguard (the long suffering Brogan who completely stole the book, in my opinion). The cost of fame is dealt with later as well when the brothers are discussing their new relationship and how it affects Gabriel’s career.
The part of the book which worked least for me was in the sexual relationship between Gabriel and Tristan. For a twincest book to work (just as with a book where childhood friends become lovers) there has to be a strong legitimate reason as to why the affection of brothers moves into the darker territory of desire and sexual love. For one character to claim that he has wanted his brother in a sexual way since puberty doesn’t cut it for me. There has to be more than a desire for the other brother’s body, more than the excuse that they are ‘two halves’, otherwise the romance of it falls flat. This is what happened in the case of Broken. I didn’t understand why Gabriel and Tristan felt as they did, especially as they had been apart for years, and as a result I didn’t feel there was a strong enough romantic connection. Their love as brothers was strong and was done well in the book, but their romantic love and sexual chemistry was missing. This seeming lack of sexual connection between the brothers was made worse by the fact that this is also a ‘gay for you’ story with Tristan being essentially straight until Gabriel makes a move on him. Suddenly he is then gay and seems quite happy about that, except for the odd stray guilty thought that he is somehow going against his father’s wishes. I really felt that had this just been a book about two brothers who love each other platonically and who are reconciled through their brotherly love and support of one another then this book would have worked much better. Mind you, the whole point of the book was the twincest relationship so there wouldn’t have been a book if that had been the case!
One last problem I had was with the pacing of the story. It seemed to go into cycles of ‘big event’, followed by ‘lots of internal angst/talking’, followed by ‘reconcilliation sex scene’. In some ways there’s nothing wrong with a book which moves from one problem to the next, except in this case it made the plotting seem rather choppy as there wasn’t that much progression between each problem. In fact each time the ‘big event’ took place the relationship between the two men takes a step back before moving a step forward again so they never seem to move on past the first acceptance of their relationship.
However, these were just two problem areas in a book which on the whole was a good read. The subject matter won’t appeal to everyone but I would recommend Broken for those who like twincest books or books which are high in angst.