Synopsis from Goodreads: Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption. When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide. An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love and redemption, “Gabriel’s Inferno” is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible…forgiveness and love.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: A friend asked me to read Gabriel’s Inferno because she was looking for a second opinion. I knew a bit about the plot based on the blurb on Amazon and what my friend told me but I was in no way prepared for how good this book really is. Gabriel’s Inferno is not for the fainthearted as it a very, very dark romance that will leave the reader feeling on edge throughout.
As a reader, I am drawn to books that are character driven and this novel is one of the strongest I have come across in quite some time. Reynard’s male characters elicited strong responses from me from the very beginning and continued to do so throughout. For example, there’s Paul the fellow graduate student who always made me feel a little creeped out and in need of shower after reading scenes which required his presence. And then of course, there is Gabriel who, on the one hand is a total rat bastard and on the other is just so completely compassionate and caring. Gabriel is by far the strongest, most damaged, and most fascinating character in this book. To the world, Gabriel is a buttoned down professor who specializes in the works of Dante and favors bow ties and expensive suits. Then there’s the other Gabriel, the man with passions that run deep and inhibitions that are virtually nonexistent who has a taste for fine food, fine wine, and morally ambiguous women.
Gabriel’s story alone would be enough to keep the casual reader interested but for those looking for more substance, meet Julia. Julia is the only female character of significance in this novel and like the male characters she elicited a very strong response from me. Unfortunately that response was not always a good one. Julia takes pathetic to a whole new level and while I certainly appreciate that she has had a very difficult life she’s got to get over it and move on. I frequently found Julia’s “I’m so pitiful I can’t do anything” routine a bit tiresome. But then there are her other moments, those few and far between times when Julia snaps the tether and unleashes all of her anger and frustration. Those moments are golden and reveal to the reader exactly what Julia is made of.
When the lives of Julia and Gabriel begin to intersect, first in the classroom and then elsewhere, things get even darker. You see, both Julia and Gabriel have painful secrets and painful pasts that they would very much prefer stay secret and stay in the past. But that would not make for a good novel and so the stories of their lives, both separately and together begin to unravel in what is a fairly twisted plot. With each new chapter is another revelation and many of them the reader will not see coming. As Julia and Gabriel are facing and dealing with their personal demons, they are also dealing with their growing attraction to one another. The reader is almost always uncertain of the outcome of this novel and that feeling of uncertainty adds to the drama and to the anticipation of finding out what comes next.
The Bottom Line: if you’re a casual romance reader looking for a quick and easy read then this book is definitely not for you. Gabriel’s Inferno is a lengthy read with an overwhelming sense of darkness that takes frequent trips into the world and works of Dante. This is my kind of romance! Reynard has crafted a novel that reads smoothly and beautifully all the while dealing with topics that are often uncomfortable yet intriguing. My only disappointment with this book is the knowledge that the story of Julia and Gabriel is not over and will continue on in future novels. Normally I would be very excited to see good, strong characters live to fight another day but Gabriel’s Inferno is a complete read for me; it ended quite satisfactorily and is strong enough to stand on its own as a single novel and not a first-in-a series book.