Berkley Sensation, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-101-98700-1
Contemporary Romance, 2017
On Broken Wings is the third book in Chanel Cleeton’s Wild Aces series, but it can stand alone on its own very well. Like the previous two books, this one is old-school contemporary romance despite what the whole “Military Appreciation Month at the strip joint” cover art may suggest. The focus is on feels rather than the action hero worship, and oh, there is just so much feels here.
The author is not the best writer around, as there is still a raw, unpolished, and even stilted feel to her narrative here, but she knows how to use words to set up effective and moving moments. Consider the prologue, when our heroine Dani Peterson receives news that the plane her husband is piloting has just crashed. The sentences run for miles, and there is a general disjointed feel to the whole thing. But that’s exactly what that prologue should be, as it is the first person narration of someone who is seized by a myriad of emotions ranging from fear to desperation.
The story is pretty simple: a year after losing her husband, Dani and her late husband’s co-pilot Alex “Easy” Rogers begin to explore the feelings between them. Easy has always been attracted to his friend’s wife, and now, he’s feeling guilty over wanting to move into that spot in Dani’s heart that was previously reserved for his friend. As for Dani, she is afraid of losing another man to the job. That’s basically the story. No bombs, no terrorists, just two people trying to figure out how they can be happy together.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the author has a tendency to create melodramatic scenes to convey tenderness or angst, and generally, these scenes work. But there are also scenes that feel very staged, as if they are performed by actors in a way that feel too rehearsed, hence the artificial feeling now and then. For the most part, though, the emotions feel scorchingly real. From the awkwardness to the guilt to the confusion, the relationship between Dani and Easy resembles something that can easily happen in real life. Dani and Easy feel like real people too, although they are naturally hotter and more capable of having hours of multi-orgasmic sex than any of us mortals.
And because the feels feel real, reading On Broken Wings is a pleasure. In fact, I have such a good time sighing and living through all those ups and downs of our main characters that I’m tempted to give this one five oogies. The only thing stopping me is that over the top maudlin epilogue. Maudlin is one thing, but that epilogue also – either deliberately or inadvertently, the jury is still out there – unnecessarily bigs up Easy at the expense of Dani’s poor dead husband. It practically skewers the poor dead man’s fertility as well as emotional connection to Dani. Come on, the man is now dead, he doesn’t deserve that, surely?
Still, for a story that has characters with names like Merlin and Easy, and can still hit me hard in the gut, this one is quite the thing.