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?
Publisher and Release Date: Momentum, August 2015
Time and Setting: Paris, 1815
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Wendy
Finding Gabriel is the third novel by the talented new author Rachel L.Demeter and in my opinion she is one to watch. Having never heard of her, I was initially attracted to the novel by its unusual premise, classy cover and intriguing title, and I was not disappointed. Set in 19th century Paris, we are privy to the fallout of the Napoleonic wars and the poverty and turmoil of France during these tumultuous times. Interesting also, is this war seen from a different PoV; normally Napoleon is depicted as a villain, but here we see a different man, one who is highly thought of by his men, which makes for a refreshing insight.
Colonel Gabriel de Laurens has been fighting for Napoleon for a decade and has been on a mission to die following extremely traumatic events in his life for which he holds himself responsible. He sets out to punish himself in a highly destructive way, but matter what foolhardy risks he takes, every bullet misses it’s mark. After Napoleon’s defeat, Gabriel returns to Paris, utterly desolate and still plagued by the inner demons that sent him on this ‘hiding to nothing’ in the first place.
He then attempts to take his own life in a most horrifying manner, but fate has other plans for Gabriel, and he is discovered near death on the banks of the river Seine. Ariah Larochelle drags him back to her meagre home in one of the poorest districts of Paris, calls a doctor and then literally pulls him back from the brink of death, albeit with Gabriel protesting fiercely; this is powerful stuff.
Gabriel’s injuries are truly horrific and Rachel Demeter is brutally honest and graphic in her descriptions, although I must admit to being slightly sceptical here, because I couldn’t see how anyone could recover from such injuries at all, let alone so quickly as to be going about his daily living within weeks. Nonetheless, I admire the way the author does not pull her punches; Gabriel doesn’t miraculously become super duper handsome again and he fights his inner demons with the help of Ariah, his gentle angel of mercy and her little dysfunctional family, which includes Oliver the old, ugly mongrel, rescued from the streets of Paris; Ariah seems to be the sort of person who collects waifs and strays. There is a point at which Gabriel begins to find the will to live and feels himself possibly able to pick up the threads of his life again – his developing feelings for Ariah helping with this transformation. He removes his bandages and actually looks at himself in a mirror – his reaction is exactly what I would have expected – OMG, what have I done? It’s not just the words but his actions which are highly emotional – as I said, this is powerful stuff.
Ariah suffered a life changing physical and mental attack at age fifteen which has left her deeply suspicious of men in general, so the growing of the love between these two very broken souls is highly emotional and touching; and it shows Ms. Demeter to have a highly developed understanding of human emotions. Rachel Demeter handles Ariah’s emerging love and trust for Gabriel with the utmost sensitivity and his winning of her trust even more impressively. Gabriel is a hunky, reformed bad boy, likeable and honourable and he sounds absolutely delicious in his medal festooned military greatcoat, regardless of his facial appearance. The gentle, much younger Ariah, with her streak of determination and fierce love for everyone she takes under her wing is the perfect angelic foil to Gabriel’s large, dark, and damaged facade.
The story has a traumatic and shocking ending, although Gabriel and Ariah do get their HEA. Perhaps it is all wrapped up rather neatly but I can’t really see how Ms. Demeter could have done otherwise – it is such an emotional storyline, any other outcome would have been a huge disappointment. The writing is compelling and unusual, if a little flowery, but I loved the uniqueness of this fascinating story and can see a very successful future for this author. Finding Gabriel is highly recommended for readers who like their romances dark and angsty as well as historical romances with a difference, and I shall certainly be watching out for more from Rachel L. Demeter.