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Gabriel's Inferno

Sunday, August 19, 2012
Synopsis: 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.

Review: Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard is an interesting and somewhat unique story line about forbidden love, forgiveness and past transgressions. As a literature major I loved that the story revolved around Dante Alighieri’s work and the idea did well with the majority of the story. But as much as I wanted to like Reynard’s story I couldn’t help but feel put off by the story’s characters. Julianne is depicted as an angel, innocent and na├»ve and in reality the image of purity, but her actions throughout the book were often less than angelic. Several times throughout the book I found her to be extremely judgmental. The characters (mostly her) had these assumptions that anything outside of their “vanilla” versions of sex was despicable and wrong. When Professor Singer hits on her in the bathroom, she acts revolted claiming that it isn’t her first time being hit on by a woman. For some reason this struck me as extremely homophobic. It seemed that Julianne was extremely close-minded to everything. I hated that everyone acted like Julianne was made of glass and that any moment she might break. Even Paul treated her like this pathetic woman who was always trembling, looking down at the floor and about to shatter to pieces. I understand that Julianne is a virgin and innocent to the extreme but I honestly felt like she was just so pathetically sad. I liked Gabriel but when every other paragraph was the beginning to an apology and praise, the story got boring and repetitive. It wasn’t until I was about 70% of the way through that I felt like I was actually enjoying the story. The actual drama that occurs in the story (relating to Simon) is more interesting than almost everything else.

Reynard’s writing style is not my favorite. He switches POVs several times (never smoothly) and unfortunately there are no warnings to the flashbacks of Julianne’s memory. This got confusing! They happened mid page or mid paragraph and it wasn’t until later that I realized that Julianne had already met Gabriel. At first she seemed a little psycho obsessing over her professor and later I realized that they had met already when she was seventeen. I almost felt that this needed to be established earlier. The POVs changed frequently and sometimes only for a paragraph or two, so you’d get this little blurb of info in a characters mind and then suddenly it would switch back to Julianne or Gabriel. I really didn’t see the point in doing this. It didn’t help the story, it got confusing and do I really need to see in a characters head if they aren’t really that important with the overall story?

Paul’s obsession with referring to Julianne as Rabbit and Gabriel’s obsession with calling her Kitten was strange. I get the Kitten name better than the Rabbit name. The Velveteen Rabbit in reference to Julianne seems to be about validation and love. I thought it was extremely sad that Julianne is so messed up emotionally. In reality I think she carried just as much baggage as Gabriel. The moments that Julianne was strong and feisty were few but those were the moments I loved. Her heated debate with Professor Emerson during his lecture was hilarious. I wanted more of that and less of the “woe is me.” I understand the whole fallen angel/tortured soul and it worked well in the story but it seemed like everyone focused way too much on the past. Overall, I have to give credit to Reynard for taking on such an ambitious storyline but I felt that the writing could’ve easily been better. The story and Gabriel’s mysterious background is what truly drew me into the novel and what kept me reading. I wanted to love this story but I wish the characters would’ve been fleshed out a little more and the writing could’ve been smoother.

Lastly, I just want to say that the ending was a little disappointing. Here we have this MAJOR build up of tension between the characters and nothing really happens until the last 10 pages. While I think Gabriel's Inferno may entice some readers because it centers around forbidden love between a professor and a student, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Reviewed by: VANESSA

P.S. To readers, let me just say that trying to compare this book to Fifty Shades of Grey is like trying to compare circles to triangles, sure they're both shapes but other than that they're completely different. While this book focuses solely on the relationship between the characters, E.L. James' book incorporates all aspects of relationships, especially sexual liberation. I know with the big boom in erotic stories everyone wants to advertise theirs being like Fifty Shades of Grey, but I don't see it in this one. If you're looking for something like Fifty Shades of Grey and you don't mind YA then check out Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.
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