Desert Isle Keeper
On Broken Wings
I am embarrassed to admit that I avoid books featuring widows. If I see “lost the love of her life” implied or written in the book’s description, I immediately pass on it and search for something with an exclusively happy plot. But I decided to step out of my comfort zone and read Chanel Cleeton’s On Broken Wings, because I thoroughly enjoyed the previous two books in the Wild Aces series and truly love her writing.
Dani Peterson and Alex “Easy” Rogers are prominent secondary characters throughout the series; therefore, I was familiar with them and already emotionally invested in their story, which ensured a more gut-wrenching experience. As I suspected, I started crying on the second page and continued crying intermittently throughout, but On Broken Wings taught me that it is cathartic and even beneficial to tap into those unpleasant feelings within the safe confines of a book.
Easy is a fighter pilot who has no shortage of women willing to fall into his bed. His liaisons last a night – or a few hours – and he has earned a reputation for being a promiscuous ladies man. He isn’t looking for more than casual sex, because his heart is secretly committed to someone he can never have – Dani – the wife of his friend and squadron commander, “Joker.” Easy fell head over heels in love with Dani at first sight and is unable to fall out of love with her – even though he believes his feelings are unforgivable and suffers from unbearable guilt. He hides his love from Dani, sleeps around to fill the void and attempts to be content as her good friend. She never suspects that he is in love with her.
Dani has been a military wife for nine years and deeply loves Joker. They have a happy marriage, and she is devastated and utterly heartbroken when he dies during a routine flight. She knew the risks of marrying a pilot but no amount of accepting the possibility of death can soften the reality of a life without him. She’s grieving and lost, which makes Easy feel even more guilty for loving her. He believes that he should have died that day, and he would rather have been the one to die than see Dani suffer; he loves her that deeply. He does not consider her widowed status as an opportunity for a future with her but views it as the end of any possibility to openly love her.
A year after Joker’s death finds Dani feeling increasingly disconnected from Easy, because he acts distant and awkward with her. He is no less in love with her and even more tortured by it. She still has no clue of his internal battle and believes he is depressed and struggling because he lost his friend and commander. She would like to help him, and she also misses their friendship and the comfort it provided; therefore, she tells him she needs him and his support. He attempts to deal with his emotions in order to be there for her, and they take hesitant steps to repair their relationship, but they stumble as Easy struggles under the weight of his feelings and secrets. Dani also begins to have uncomfortable moments where she sees him as more than a friend, and the thought of a relationship with anyone – especially another pilot – is unimaginable.
Joker’s death brutally and ruthlessly changed Dani’s expectations and dreams for her future. She no longer has a mental image of the years to come, and suddenly not being able to imagine a future is one reason why his unexpected death is so debilitating. Time allows her to accept the devastation of her hopes, but her changing feelings for Easy and the idea of loving him evoke pictures of a new and different life, which can be as painful as it was to lose the old one. When Easy gives himself permission to love Dani and she’s able to accept his feelings, she finds the strength to replace those fears with hope. Hearts are mended – never fully healed – by the power of faith and a future is reborn. My only wish for On Broken Wings was to spend a little more time with Dani and Easy as they made this monumental shift in healing, because their process felt a tad rushed, and I wanted to witness more of this pivotal transformation.
I wasn’t surprised to discover Ms. Cleeton wrote On Broken Wings based on personal experience, because she brings the real-life fears of military families to life in such a way that it squeezes your heart, ties your stomach in knots and stutters your breath. She has my utmost respect for taking the risk to write a romance exploring this and giving her readers this profound experience, which can be – honestly – scary. Personal fears bubble to the surface, but this ultimately makes the journey so powerful and creates an imprint of hope that can be reassuring when we find ourselves in similar places outside the pages of fiction.
On Broken Wings is not for the faint of heart or the emotionally squeamish, but it is worth the brief departure from an everything-is-roses romance mentality. Ms. Cleeton writes with passion and heart, and you’ll find yourself appreciating and loving your own friends and family a little more afterward. Brace yourself, but don’t hesitate to take a chance on Easy and Dani.