Gabriel’s Inferno (Gabriel’s Inferno #1)
Penguin Books AUS
2012 (originally 2011), 545p
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Julia Mitchell is 23 and has enrolled in a graduate course at the University of Toronto to write a Masters thesis on Dante. She gets her love of Dante and all things Italian from an encounter 6 years ago that she’s never been able to forget. Although accepted to Harvard, Julia couldn’t get enough scholarships and grants to cover the cost of living and so she accepted to Toronto instead where she just has enough to pay for a tiny apartment without a kitchen and scrape by.
Professor Gabriel Emerson is a world-renown Dante expert who lectures at the University of Toronto where he has tenure. After bawling Julia out after class one day he suddenly finds himself taking an interest in her well being when he sees her trudging home in the rain, especially when he finds out that she is a friend of Gabriel’s younger sister Rachel. Julia’s innocence and the fact that she reminds him of Beatrice, Dante’s muse draws him to her but deep down he knows someone with no soul, who has the sort of past that he does and who spends most of his time using his charm and money to satisfy his every desire, should have no business with someone like Julia. All of that and the fact that he is her thesis supervisor and teacher should keep him away from her.
But Gabriel’s never been good at doing what he is supposed to. Gabriel will put both of their careers in jeopardy with his disregard for the rules and his inability to stay away from Julia. He will risk all of this for the chance to find someone who accepts him as he is and might even be able to lead him away from the dark and onto a path he previously thought impossible: redemption and even love.
Part of what I love about reading is that books still continue to surprise me. I’m pretty good at picking what I like (and what I won’t) these days but it’s never an exact science. Every now and then something I’m sure I’ll love will disappoint me and something that I feel I might not love that much I will give a go anyway and I’ll find myself enjoying it so much more than I expected to. For several reasons, some of which were my own erroneous expectations and others were the story itself I found myself surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this.
From the cover and the synopsis it’s easy to assume that this is just another generic erotic romance with a virgin heroine and a rich playboy hero. And on some level, it sort of is that: Julia is a virgin and Gabriel has been a playboy in the past. But the focus of this book isn’t sex. In fact there’s only one sex scene and it’s pretty much the close of the book. Instead the story is about two people who are very, very different, forging a connection and finding a way against many obstacles, to be together. It’s about letting go of the past and all of the nasty things in it and allowing yourself to love someone and be loved in return. It is at times, a bit pretentious. It’s littered with references to art, literature, classical music etc. Gabriel is incredibly wealthy but he hasn’t always been that way nor does he have any respect for the wealth that he inherited. He spends it almost wildly in an attempt to get rid of it but he also uses it to help people that he cares about. Adopted into the Clark family as a young child, he’s never quite been able to believe his good luck to find people that care about him. He sees himself as the sort of black sheep, a responsibility and I think he acts like a bit of a stuff up because that’s how he feels people expect him to act. He’s smart academically but he’s very dense emotionally and he fails to really read people’s feelings and how they perceive him.
I found Gabriel interesting because he wants to be the sort of man who can hold down a relationship with Julia and love her. He doesn’t want to hurt her and indeed, he tries not to. The book isn’t about him doing douchey things and making her cry and then saying sorry at the end and that he didn’t mean it and he loves her now. It’s a very slow process of someone who has a difficult past and hasn’t learned to share himself attempting to do just that – with one of the worst possible candidates. The University Gabriel lectures at where Julia is also a student has a strict anti-fraternising policy and Julia also has her own struggles with being intimate with someone emotionally. In this, Gabriel always encourages her to stand up for herself, especially towards him to ensure that she is getting what she wants out of him in terms of a connection.
For those familiar with Dante’s Divine Comedy there’s probably a lot of subtext here with Gabriel’s journey mirroring parts of Dante’s in an attempt to find retribution by recognising, telling and renouncing all of his sin. Both Gabriel and Julia keep secrets of their past from the other and a lot of it revolves around each of them having the courage or being in the situation where they can finally open up and lay all of themselves bare. Gabriel’s past is interesting but Julia’s was perhaps a bit tamer than I thought her timid personality suggested. It could’ve been a bit meatier.
What I find interesting is that this is a complete story – it really could end here. However there are two more volumes to Gabriel and Julia’s story and I am curious to see if they enhance it as the two move forward in their relationship.
Book #307 of 2013