Have you ever read a book so beautiful that you could just cry, simply from the language and the descriptions and the overall love the author portrays in words? For me, that book was Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard.
I’d been aching to read the Gabriel’s Inferno series for awhile now, and once I collected all three books, I abandoned all the other hundreds of books on my TBR shelf just to begin this trilogy. And let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I love reading teacher/student romances—and before you freak out, not high school teacher and student romances. No, no, no. That’s gross and morally wrong on so many levels. I’m really interested in college professor and student relationships. I can’t explain why. So when I read that this trilogy dealt with the relationship between a professor and a graduate student, I jumped at the chance to read it.
This book revolves around Professor Gabriel Emerson—a Dante specialist at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. At the start of Gabriel’s Inferno, we meet Julia Mitchell, an extremely timid, shy, and nervous graduate student studying to become a Dante specialist at the University of Toronto, and angry, moody, and crude Gabriel Emerson. However, what Gabriel fails to remember and Julia remembers all too well is that the two of them have a past.
Gabriel is vicious to Julia at first. It’s cringe worthy how he treats her, almost. However, as the novel progresses and we learn more about Gabriel’s background and see into his thoughts, it’s obvious that Gabriel struggles with his own demons (which are eventually stated but I won’t say in order to keep spoilers at a minimum).
Eventually, however, after much fighting and angst and getting to know each other, Gabriel remembers Julia and their past, and they begin their passionate affair.
Let me just say that the covers on these books don’t do the stories justice. Not at all. When looking at the covers, it seems as though these books are simply steamy romances with explicit sex scenes. And while there are some explicit sex scenes (they’re actually really tame), the sex isn’t the main part of the story.
The writing was absolutely beautiful. Sylvain Reynard truly knows how to turn a phrase, to the point of where it punches you right in the gut. This novel was filled with such ups and downs and twists and turns, but the transitions and the way the author makes it so true to life is absolutely captivating. I felt what Julia was feeling, and I felt Gabriel’s struggles. It made me crave to be in Gabriel’s class. I wanted to be in Julia’s shoes the entire time.
Julia is so, so skittish, due to her past and her dealings with men. And while in other books, timid and skittish girls tend to come off annoying, I felt so sympathetic for Julia because Sylvain Reynard writes it so well. It wasn’t cheesy in the slightest. I felt Julia’s pain and apprehension. Reynard wrote it so descriptively that I could see what was going on. He put into practice the saying “show don’t tell.” To me, that was mainly shown through Julia, but also extensively through Gabriel as well. Actually, if you’re looking for an example of a novel that does the “show don’t tell” trope very well, this book is it!
One of the best things about this book, to me, was Gabriel. He was deliciously jealous and possessive, but not in a way that was creepy or abusive. He supported Julia in everything she did and encouraged her and was the best possible mentor and lover, but he didn’t stop her from achieving her dreams. He was the perfect match for her, like she was for him. I think Gabriel was my favorite part of the book because it exemplified a man that can be supportive and possessive, and the book truly showed how Gabriel changed from the man of his past to the man of his present.
And Gabriel was so focused on making sure Julia was pleased, inside the bedroom and outside the bedroom! He was completely devoted to her, 100%. And another beautiful part? They fell in love way before they had sex—something that is practically nonexistent in contemporary novels nowadays. In fact, Julia loved Gabriel from the moment she saw him in a picture, and Gabriel fell in love with Julia from the moment he met her during their past, before she was his student (although Gabriel didn’t know the girl was Julia).
This book was perfect. 5/5 stars. No, a million stars. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. If you’re a fan of classic literature and contemporary novels, you’ll love this book (and series). It is a modern forbidden love story with classic literature woven into the plot. After reading this book (and the following two), I felt infinitely more intelligent. It’s one of those books that hits you right in the heart, and to me, those are the best kinds.
Make sure to check this book, and the remainder of the series, out if you’re interested. It’s truly the most flawless, beautiful, and perfectly crafted trilogy I’ve ever read. Thank you, Sylvain Reynard, for gifting us with this amazing story.