Non-Review: “Gabriel’s Inferno,” Sylvain Reynard

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group


I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t rate it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to waste my time finishing a book that I can’t get into.

Gabriel’s Inferno, by Sylvain Reynard, never really caught hold of me even though I made it more than halfway through before stopping. I tried to finish so that I could do a proper review, but it became more and more of a slog, and eventually I decided to cut my losses. But first, from the back-cover blurb:

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.

Ultimately what it comes down to is this: I couldn’t become invested in wanting Gabriel and Julia to get together. And the further I got through the book, the less invested I became. Instead of seeing Gabriel as tortured and sexy, I saw him as a sleazy asshole. While a story of two broken people (and make no mistake, these two are quite broken) healing each other can be wonderful, this story just felt… manipulative, somehow. I also felt like I was getting whiplash from all the back-and-forth see-sawing of Gabriel’s treatment of Julia and Julia’s view of Gabriel. Their relationship is fairly abusive, particularly early on, and I just can’t find anything redeeming in that. I understand that we’re supposed to love seeing this abusive asshole get redeemed, but even when he was being ‘good’ to Julia it felt mostly like he was being a smarmy, manipulative lecher. To be honest, I really didn’t care to see him redeemed, and I didn’t enjoy seeing Julia used to redeem him.

Come to think of it, that’s part of the problem right there: it felt like the character of Julia was being used, both by Gabriel and by the author.


For another take on Reynard’s book, try Maryse’s Book Blog.

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