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542 of 582 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2012
My guilty pleasure lately has been crappy self published "contemporary romance" ebooks. Like falling for a dumb jock or a bad boy, my relationship with books like "Beautiful Disaster" and "Fifty Shades of Grey" was embarrassing and degrading. I always inevitably felt guilty afterward, and I resolved to find a book that would appeal both to my intelligence and my heart.

Enter "Gabriel's Inferno."

Like a good lover, this book is thoughtful, deliberate and profound. Each character is nuanced, and each moment is strategically delivered. I'll spare the plot summary since several other reviewers did a great job at it, but I will say that it's been a long time since I read a book that was so well organized. Scenes that seem inconsequential reappear as important background later in the book, and each peripheral story line is elaborately folded into the bigger picture. This book is absolutely exquisite.

Julianne is an intriguing heroine, because she is the anti-Bella, anti-Katniss of the major blockbuster dichotomy. She is neither vapid and ungrateful, nor aloof and merciless. She does not adhere to the idea that a woman must either be a damsel in distress or a dragon lady. Julianne is something entirely different - she is broken and rebuilding. I normally despise meekness (in fictional characters and in real people), but I found her timid nature endearing, because beneath it was the soul of a lion. She knew how to choose her battles, and when she chose to let loose, she knew how to leave a mark. The best summation of her character was the scene when Christa screamed insults at her, and Julianne refused to lower herself by responding in kind. Her restraint, along with the fact that she loved Gabriel from afar for six years, produced the most beautiful tension between strength and patience that I have ever seen in a protagonist.

To say that this book has deeply affected me is an understatement. My daughter will grow up in a world full of contemporary books that teach horrible lessons about what love is supposed to look like. I don't want her anywhere near that codependent Twilight crap. I will, however, gladly let her read Gabriel's Inferno when she's old enough to understand what being broken and finding redemption through love can mean.

If "Fifty Shades of Grey" is considered mom porn, then "Gabriel's Inferno" is Thinking Woman Porn.
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201 of 221 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2011
A friend asked me to read Gabriel's Inferno because she was looking for a second opinion. I knew a bit about the plot based on the blurb on Amazon and what my friend told me but I was in no way prepared for how good this book really is. Gabriel's Inferno is not for the fainthearted as it a very, very dark romance that will leave the reader feeling on edge throughout.
As a reader, I am drawn to books that are character driven and this novel is one of the strongest I have come across in quite some time. Reynard's male characters elicited strong responses from me from the very beginning and continued to do so throughout. For example, there's Paul the fellow graduate student who always made me feel a little creeped out and in need of shower after reading scenes which required his presence. And then of course, there is Gabriel who, on the one hand is a total rat bastard and on the other is just so completely compassionate and caring. Gabriel is by far the strongest, most damaged, and most fascinating character in this book. To the world, Gabriel is a buttoned down professor who specializes in the works of Dante and favors bow ties and expensive suits. Then there's the other Gabriel, the man with passions that run deep and inhibitions that are virtually nonexistent who has a taste for fine food, fine wine, and morally ambiguous women.
Gabriel's story alone would be enough to keep the casual reader interested but for those looking for more substance, meet Julia. Julia is the only female character of significance in this novel and like the male characters she elicited a very strong response from me. Unfortunately that response was not always a good one. Julia takes pathetic to a whole new level and while I certainly appreciate that she has had a very difficult life she's got to get over it and move on. I frequently found Julia's "I'm so pitiful I can't do anything" routine a bit tiresome. But then there are her other moments, those few and far between times when Julia snaps the tether and unleashes all of her anger and frustration. Those moments are golden and reveal to the reader exactly what Julia is made of.
When the lives of Julia and Gabriel begin to intersect, first in the classroom and then elsewhere, things get even darker. You see, both Julia and Gabriel have painful secrets and painful pasts that they would very much prefer stay secret and stay in the past. But that would not make for a good novel and so the stories of their lives, both separately and together begin to unravel in what is a fairly twisted plot. With each new chapter is another revelation and many of them the reader will not see coming. As Julia and Gabriel are facing and dealing with their personal demons, they are also dealing with their growing attraction to one another. The reader is almost always uncertain of the outcome of this novel and that feeling of uncertainty adds to the drama and to the anticipation of finding out what comes next.
The bottom line: if you're a casual romance reader looking for a quick and easy read then this book is definitely not for you. Gabriel's Inferno is a lengthy read with an overwhelming sense of darkness that takes frequent trips into the world and works of Dante. This is my kind of romance! Reynard has crafted a novel that reads smoothly and beautifully all the while dealing with topics that are often uncomfortable yet intriguing. My only disappointment with this book is the knowledge that the story of Julia and Gabriel is not over and will continue on in future novels. Normally I would be very excited to see good, strong characters live to fight another day but Gabriel's Inferno is a complete read for me; it ended quite satisfactorily and is strong enough to stand on its own as a single novel and not a first-in-a series book.
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115 of 126 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
While I tend to shy away from overly dark and dramatic romances, I had a hard time putting this one down. And, for those who are curious, I have not read the Divine Comedy and am only somewhat familiar with the basic plot.

What I liked:

- The author's diction and structure. I found myself occasionally needing to look up words, language translations, references, etc. For once, I didn't feel like my IQ dropped a few points by reading a romance novel.
- The unveiling of the story. I was very impressed with the way the book started out, where the reader's knowledge of what was going on is very limited. There were so many questions going through my mind that refused to allow me to put the book down until I figured everything out. While I was not as impressed as I hoped to be once that happened, I very much enjoyed the ride.
- The cultural parallels. This book felt like it was researched thoroughly and painstakingly planned. There were so many references and parallels to art, music, and literature, and I am fairly confident that I only uncovered a small percentage, based on the fact that I never read the Divine Comedy.

What I didn't like:

- The length. This book was very long - almost unnecessarily so. Some descriptions or internal monologues went on for pages and pages, when they didn't seem necessary. There is one love scene in particular that I was hoping to be dazzled by after waiting for it for so long, but it kept going and going and going for so long that I got bored. I never thought I would say this, but sometimes for these scenes, shorter and sweeter is better.
- Julianne's/Beatrice's pedestal. I enjoyed the book immensely up until about 2/3 - 3/4 of the way through. Gabriel placed her so high on a pedestal in the way he spoke, acted, etc., that it almost became nauseating. Maybe it's just my personal preference in the dynamic between a man and a woman. Somehow, though, I get the feeling that this might be somehow related to the author's perception of Dante and Beatrice's relationship, but maybe I'm wrong.

In looking at some of these reviews, I noticed that some of them are saying this book is fan fiction of the Twilight series. I never would have guessed. I haven't done any research to figure out if it is true, but I can see how the male leads and female leads are similar in a very basic way (male leads = tortured soul; female leads = innocent). For me, though, that is where the similarities end. The style of writing, the parallels aforementioned, and the plot are not the same. To be quite honest, both Stephenie Meyer and Sylvain Reynard based their works on literary masterpieces, but I liked Reynard's method better.

**My advice to anyone considering reading this would be that this book is not for the dabblers, who just want a quick, happy love story. This book is dark, complex and a bit heavy at times. Also, do not be distracted by the fact that it is Twilight fan fiction. Give the book a chance before you judge.
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144 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
I had no idea what I was in for. There were so many positive reviews. I expected something dynamic, enthralling, thoughtful. This was none of those things. I kept waiting for it, but less than half-way through I knew I was doomed. I ended up skimming from there on, just to find out what the mysterious "secrets" were that we'd been baited with every other sentence. Turns out the secrets were utterly unremarkable, too.

I'll be spilling a few of those "secrets" here, so if you don't want to ruin the... oh, heck. There's really nothing to ruin. But read on only if you're okay learning a few plot points.

First, Gabriel is a grade-A jackass. Pompous doesn't even begin to describe him. Apparently his behavior is a result of his own self-loathing. And the things he loathes about himself are... lame. Sure, tragic, but... how long does it take to grow up, take responsiblity, and move ON?

Julia is beyond spineless. Every other scene she's either crying or fainting. No. seriously. Having learned this is some sort of Twilight fanfiction, I now see the parallel between her and the helplessly vapid Bella. She is soooo delicate she nearly passes out whenever she hears the song that was playing when she caught her boyfriend and roommate knocking boots. She can barely handle the IDEA of sex in any postion other than missionary. She's too noble to be able to accept charity. She listens to nothing but the most delicately voiced folk music. She quakes at the mention of cocaine (the despair!), and literally goes into shock at the threat of violence.

The male characters all think she is ethereal, and 2 of the 3 women characters either loathe her or want to corrupt her. Gabriel is completely horrified with himself when he gives her a hickey. She's much too heavenly to be marked with ... a hickey. Good grief.

So we spend untold pages reading about how beastly and unforgivable Gabriel is and how untoucably pure Julia is. How high Gabriel has her on a pedistal, how he will never deserve her, and how much she loves him, anyway, even though he is carnal and human. They deserve each other.

There was not much of a story after the first 3rd of the book. After that it was rehashing, ad nauseum, everything we already knew, and dragging out the "secrets" as far as possible. I felt like I was in a Lifetime tragedy-of-the-week movie... in 10 parts.

Why, oh why, didn't I see the negative reviews for this book? What a terrible waste of money. I want my $5 back. Seriously. I REALLY want my money back.
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65 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2012
I was recommended this book as an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. This was supposed to be "more cerebral" and "more intellectual," and also better-written.

Yeeeeah. Not so much. You know how, after Avatar came out, everyone was blown away by it? And then a couple of people sat down and watched the movie Aliens, and then Avatar back-to-back, and then realized - um, these two movies are basically the same movie? That's Gabriel's Inferno and Fifty Shades of Grey. Inserting a whole bunch of tedious pap about Dante into a bad, overwrought story with sex scenes in it does not make a romance novel "cerebral," so sorry.

Let's go to the board and see how it all matches up! I think you'll see that yes, despite minor differences in the details, Dante's Inferno and Fifty Shades of Grey are essentially the same book.

Skinny, mousy, brown-haired, clumsy, personality-free female protagonist? Check.
Brooding, complicated, sexy, rich, impossibly-successful-at-a-young-age male protagonist? Check.
Male protagonist finds completely unremarkable female protagonist ridiculously beautiful and interesting, and thinks she smells great? Check.
Man is considerably older than the woman? Check.
There's "something in the way" of their "powerful love" that means they "shouldn't be together"? Check.
Meddling, hyper best friend for the female protagonist? Check.
Tedious exchanges between protagonists via e-mail, voicemail, notes, etc.? Check.
Male protagonist obsessed with female protagonist's eating? Check.
Male protagonist is possessive to the point of being a creepy stalker and doesn't like female protagonist drinking alcohol, talking to other guys, or thinking for herself? Check.
Male protagonist buys female protagonist expensive, designer-label gifts she tries to refuse, but then keeps anyway? Check.
Female protagonist can't stand up for herself without fainting, collapsing, or crying later? Female protagonist spends a lot of time stumbling over things, falling, crying, and overanalyzing? Check and check.
Way too much mind-numbing exposition before you get to the sex scenes? Check.
Sex scenes are mostly unimaginative and quite predictable? Check.
Female protagonist says things like "Holy ****" a lot? Check.

At this point, I don't care which book came first or which author had the ideas first or whatever. This is getting BO-RING already. Can no one write an erotic or romantic novel with a female protagonist who isn't basically a pile of unflavored, half-set, wiggly gelatin squeezed into the shape of an ugly, personality-deficient, unsexy Anne Hathaway? PLEASE?

I don't know. Maybe all romance novels are like this? I haven't read enough of them to know.

But if you are looking for a smarter, better-written alternative to Fifty Shades, this ain't it. Dante's Inferno is an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey like Burger King is an alternative to McDonald's. Not really that different, when you get right down to it. Actually, these books are like fast food for the brain. Full of needless filler. Satisfying and enjoyable in the short-term, may make you feel guilty later. Ultimately, very bad for you. Feed your head something better than this.

My quest for a truly worthwhile romance/erotica novel continues.

Edited this to add: the one way this book differs from Fifty Shades is that Fifty Shades at least made no pretense about what it was. It wasn't trying to be an "intellectual" book. This book reads like the product of a 23-year-old grad student who thinks she knows it all, or a tenured professor at a lower-tier university who's struggling with his own inadequacies. The author goes to great lengths to try to make this into something other than a romance novel - she might as well write across the title page, "This is NOT a romance novel!" But despite all the endless crap about Dante, despite the lack of actual sex until the very end, despite the long-winded expositions about love and lust and innocence, IT'S A ROMANCE NOVEL, sorry. And it's not an enjoyable one. It just goes on, and on, and on, and becomes crushingly tedious and unexciting. So here's a question to ponder: is it better to write a tawdry romance novel and be authentic about what it is and what you wanted to do with it? Or is it better to mask your Twilight-inspired facile love/sex story in a heavy load of pretension and meaningless detail to make it look like it's something it very much is not? Here's what I think: 1. An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure; and 2. You can put a silk dress and some lipstick on a pig, and guess what? It's still a pig. You're not fooling anyone. This book, to me, is the pig, the manure, and a whole barnyard full of BS in one neat package.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
Halfway through this book and I have yet to find one reason to keep reading. The main female is a spineless ridiculous simpering idiot. The main male character is a nasty violent egomaniac. The story - with what little story there is aside from "tortured" quotes of poetry - is simply nonexistent. I just don't get the good reviews on this book. It's truly pointless.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2012
So with all of the glowing reviews I was fairly sure that I would enjoy this novel. I am not usually hypercritical but this story grated on so many levels. I actually found the first third of the book to be fairly engaging. I think the author had a decent set up at the beginning. The pacing and tension between the characters was enough to distract from some of my annoyances at first but as the story progressed, the pace changed and became incredibly tedious.

The beginning of the book developed some conflicts between the two main characters that kept the story moving but half way through the story any sexual and emotional tension that the author had managed to build up just fizzled out completely. The author set up some interesting challanges that could have created tension later on (Christa, the non-fraternization rule at the university, Paulina) and none of them was used to any effect. The story could have been so much better if about half of it was trimmed out.

Aside from the story itself there were several aspects that really ruined this book.

1. The dialogue between Gabriel and Julia, especially once they become a couple is so sentimental that I wanted to smother them both. The writing in general was slightly pretensious and florid. The author beat us over the head with the Dante/Beatrice references and what could have been a subtle theme became so heavy handed that I offically have lost all interest in The Divine Comedy.

2. The relationship between Gabriel and Julia became something I could not identify with or enjoy. This mainly stems from how Gabriel perceived himself and her. He is the "sinner" who was not worthy of touching her, and she is a pure, divine flower that needed to be sheltered and worshipped. This dynamic became more and more sickening as the story progressed.

3. The characters...Julia is a dishrag and Gabriel is a pretensious poet wanna-be. There were some moments where Julia had a little spark and I was happy to see them but they were just so far in between that I couldn't stand her. She was forever wilting in the face of any harshness. She always looked down at the ground and blushed during any interaction. Whenever she had a moment of strength it never built her up to be a more stalwart character. She always reverted back to the nervous, humorless bore she was before. Persoanlly I could not see her appeal. She couldn't handle darker music or films and only listined to soft folksy singers (the author gives us an ongoing soundtrack). Erotic pictures disturbed her and certain sexual positions suggested by said pictures were too much for her fragile mind. Gabriel is not much better. He starts of being a dick and then becomes a self-flagellating tortured cliche. The fact that he is wildly rich and remarkably successful for a 33 year old is also highly original. The constant reference to his designer clothing and brand name this or that is ridiculous. He, of course, starts lavishing Julia with expensive gifts that she refuses but then accepts. Blech. It all stinks.

4. The sex scene - it's lame an boring. Gabriel and Julia have one deflowering scene at the very end and it goes on forever. I already knew that it would be pretty standard because throughout the story the characters both denounce any deviance form the norm and Gabriel actually quoted the bible when he discusses how he wants to worship her body. When we finally get to it the whole thing just falls so flat that it becomes the equivalent of a cold shower. By this point though I wasn't really expecting anything great and I was just happy that the story was finally over.

5.The last thing that I will mention (though the list can go on) is the annoying Madonna/Whore duality that is present in this book, that I find incredibly distasteful. The women of this book are clearly divided into the virtuous Madonnas (Julia, Rachel, Grace) and the hungry corrupt whores (Christa, the dominatrix professor, Julia's mother, Natalie, all the women who hit on Gabriel). The only good women are shown to be either virgins (Julia) or engaged in commited monogamous relationships (Grace, Rachel). The women who have any sexual agency are all portrayed as vultures. Gabriel has several verbal and internal monologues about how all of the women he slept in don't mean anything and how Julia's pure mind shouldn't be polluted with thoughts of those nasty skanks. The complete and total lack of respect for his past sexual partners and the writer's absolution of his mentality is sickening.

Anyway, this is all I can write for now. There are so many ways that this novel fails, and I would strongly advise people not to buy it.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2012
I was super-excited to read this book based on the large number of 5-star reviews alone. I am a long-time fan of romance novels of all kinds, from light romantic comedies to darkly brooding and erotic. I can handle any type of character, setting, or plot if well written and convincing. This book simply did not deliver!

The two main characters were annoying and genuinely unlikeable. I tried to get into their story but just found it too painful. The book bordered on preachy and just plain boring. Julia was innocent to the point of pathetic, with no backbone or growth whatsoever. And Gabriel was a brute with one redeeming quality: his love for the pathetic Julia. The POV of the story was hard to follow as well, switching from one character to another, sometimes in the same paragraph!

I simply couldn't finish this book, giving up about two thirds of the way through. It got to the point where I could care less about the characters and their relationship. Don't waste your precious time and money reading this book. How people can call it the best book they have ever read is beyond me. I suggest they try expanding their reading repertoire!!
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2012
This book would be a 2 star if it hadn't aggravated me to no end. There was a lot of potential here, but ultimately I had to struggle to finish reading. I was expecting a scandalous liaison between a professor and his student with Dante as an intellectual backdrop. What I got was a Lit. major's dull and long-winded idea of romance with two characters representing sin and innocence. There's virtually no conflict in this book aside from the fight with Julia's ex-boyfriend. Where was the backlash from the extremely career-threatening e-mail Julia sent? Why didn't Christa and/or Paul try to expose their "affair?" If all of this potential is being saved for the 2nd book then that's a shame, as I won't be trudging through it. Instead of capitalizing on all of these well-setup conflict sources, one is bombarded with scene after scene of their chaste kissing and laying in bed together.

Julia's sexual hangups and holier-than-thou, extremely innocent schtick gets old fast. I really don't know why Gabriel is *so* captivated by her. The book's far too drawn out at 500 pages of very little going on, and the author's frequent parenthetical commentary is distracting and unnecessary.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2012
Initial Thoughts:
I was so hesitant to read this book, even though it appeared at the top of my recommended lists on Amazon and Goodreads for months now. I don't know why I was so hesitant about this book. Maybe the memories of the most horrible Dante's Inferno group project ever my sophomore year of high school? Possibly.

The Pros:
Now, I'm a big Fifty Shades fan. And there are a few similarities in the two series, but holy cow if this book wasn't way better than Fifty. This book is intelligent, beautifully written, and emotional.

Gabriel has nothing but the utmost respect for Julia. His attitude towards her is one of reverence, and I found that incredibly attractive. Nothing is sexier than a man who treats a woman right.

Believe it or not, this book was written by a MAN. I think it definitely adds something different to this book.

The many literary references in the book had me recalling my literature classes in high school and college, and I was shocked to find that not only did I remember most of them, I had a intrigue to read them again.

The way that the past has so greatly influenced the present is a great example of how every choice you make has consequences you must face.

Not only is Gabriel smart (he's a Dante professor for pete's sakes!), but Julia is smart as well. Highly intelligent characters in a romance novel are hard to come by.

The book was long. I love long books.

The Cons:
I'm not sure how I felt about the constantly changing points of view. One paragraph it was Gabriel's POV, then the next was Julia's, and then out of nowhere it was Paul's, and then back to Gabriel, etc.

Gabriel came across so angry and hostile in the beginning of the book that I was immediately turned off by him.

I didn't like Paul. I felt like he was an unnecessary character.

The Wrap Up:
I freaking LOVED this book. I stayed up way too late on a work night just so I could finish. If you loved Fifty Shades, but craved a more intelligent spin, this is the book for you. I'm pretty sure this book has eclipsed Fifty for me.

Favorite Quote:
"Bad things happen to everyone. Not that this was an excuse or a justification for wronging another human being. Still, all humans had this shared experience - that of suffering. No human being left this world without shedding a tear, or feeling pain, or wading into the sea of sorrow."
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