I needed what I call a “fifty shades fix” so I picked up Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard. What a frustrating read!
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.
This book is loooong, coming in at 545 pages. Normally that is not a problem, the longer the better, but this story dragged for the first 300 pages. We are introduced to Gabriel, the hot, mysterious, tortured professor (who also happens to be a complete asshole), and Julia Mitchell, the sweet, innocent grad student with a dark past (who comes off as a complete dingbat). Seeing as I’m only looking for a literary fix, the cliché characters do not bother me. What irks me is the characters have flawed motives. Gabriel is so mean to Julia initially for NO reason. It made absolutely no sense why a professor would be so mean to a student let alone the female protagonist in the story. It seemed like forced conflict; I didn’t buy it.
My biggest issue with the entire novel was Julia. She was so timid, self-deprecating and overly shy. It was hard to read; it practically made me sick. Then, there were random parts in the novel where she would climb onto her feminist high horse and demand to be treated as an independent woman. This is a HUGE character flaw. Characters should be somewhat consistent but Reynard’s character seemed like she belonged in a mental institution. Gabriel had the same type of character flip-flopping but he’s supposed to be the messed up one with his “dark” past.
To be perfectly honest, I almost put this book down. Nothing made sense. Nothing was happening. The writing style is this awkward third person narrative that switches between trying-to-hard imagery and frou-frou language and modern, cheesy dialogue. Gabriel was a controlling jerk and it wasn’t even the sexy dominating kind. The Dante thing was cool at first but then it just became this vague or maybe painfully literal tie-in. The proper motives weren’t there and quite frankly I was bored with it.
I kept reading. By page 390 or so, the book actually started for me. If I was the editor, I would cut the first 300 pages. It’s unnecessary and quite frankly unfair to put readers through such torture — talk about an inferno! The last part of the book had action and character development, and I forgot that anything before page 390 had ever happened. Once the reader was given actual information, the story drew me in. Reynard spent too much time in the beginning of the book trying to be mysterious and using gimmicks to goad the reader to assume things when she should have just been divulging information because it was annoying. I guiltily became sort of attached to the characters once the story made more sense. The book didn’t finish very strong but it left me guessing for the next book, Gabriel’s Rapture. I’m undecided if I’ll continue this series but the story redeemed itself towards the end. It might have only been because I stuck it out though.