This is a review of an entire series. The summaries of the later books may spoil certain aspects of the preceding books. Reader beware.
Why not think that sometimes—just sometimes—you can overcome evil with silence? And let people hear their hatefulness in their own ears, without distraction. Maybe goodness is enough to expose evil for what it really is, sometimes. Rather than trying to stop evil with more evil. Evil is its own punishment.
Julia Mitchell has been in love with Professor Gabriel Emerson since they spent the night together in his parent’s orchard six years ago. The only problem is, Gabriel doesn’t remember her. She sits in his Dante seminar trying to reconcile the sharp tongued, crass professor with the whimsical, troubled older brother of her best friend she met years earlier. As student and professor, they constantly butt heads until one night in a drunken stupor, Gabriel finally remembers. She is the Beatrice to his Dante, the woman he’s been searching for, for years.
The universe isn’t based on magic—there isn’t one set of circumstances for the good and one for the evil. Everyone suffers sometime. The question is what you do with your suffering, right?
Julia and Gabriel are happy. Toronto University’s strict no fraternization policy no longer applies, and they are free to explore their relationship to the fullest extent. Or so they thought. In one fell swoop, Gabriel is accused of harassment of a student and Julia is called in front of the graduate board for allegations of misconduct. Wanting to protect Gabriel, Julia wants to come clean about their relationship, but Gabriel has other plans. He drops out of Julia’s life without so much as a goodbye. Devastated and heartbroken, Julia finishes out her Master’s program and prepares to start her PhD without Gabriel by her side. However, Gabriel believes he left enough clues behind for Julia to piece together his intentions…but perhaps his clues weren’t as obvious as he thought.
For you, my love, I would endeavor to pluck the stars from the sky, only to shower them at your feet.
Finally free from Toronto University and their supposed misdeeds, Gabriel and Julia are finding their footing in their marriage. With a renewed sense of self-worth, Gabriel is desperate to have a child. However, Julia is not quite ready. As she enters her PhD program, she wants to be able to focus on her academics before she can turn her attention to motherhood. This disconnect along with the fact that Julia’s recent work contradicts the theories Gabriel has been lecturing on for years leads to tension amongst the newlyweds. Toss in the fact that they are not as unblemished from their “scandalous” history as they thought, and they find themselves for each other, their families, their work, and their reputations.
Wise people are always students. It’s when you think you’re beyond learning that you’re really in trouble.
Gabriel is torn between his newborn daughter and his career aspirations as he is offered a prestigious position in Scotland. Similarly, Julia wants to finish her PhD but also abhors the idea of being away from her husband, especially with their daughter so young. And neither of them want to disappoint the other, so both are keeping their anxieties to themselves. However when someone breaks into their house, and Julia unexpectedly falls ill, everything changes.
(Tangential Novella from “The Florentine” Series)
Unbeknownst to Gabriel and Julia Emerson, their publics exhibition of rare Dante illustrations has caught the attention of the prince of the Florence underground. And not in a good way. The illustrations aren’t Gabriel’s at all but instead had been stolen from the prince’s kingdom a century earlier. The demonic like creature vows his revenge on the couple as he attempts to reclaim what is rightfully his.
A couple years back, I discovered the streaming channel “Passionflix” (actually developed by Elon Musk’s sister, Tosca). The movies had all of the grit, intimacy, and emotion that the contemporary Hallmark/Lifetime films lack. (It’s wasn’t always that way— anyone remember the Nora Roberts movies???) Because of this channel, I have discovered quite a few remarkable books. And I have to admit, they are the best book to movie adaptations I have ever seen (sometimes they are created scene for scene). Most recently, Passionflix introduced me to Sylvian Reynard’s “Gabriel” series.
When I tell you I inhaled the books, it’s not an exaggeration. I read the four core books in less than four days. One leading right into another until I finally hit the “Prince” spin off which was a little weird, but more on that later.
Gabriel is a textbook anti-hero. Condescending, hedonistic, egotistical, and voyeuristic. But he was…intriguing. There is something to that “Girls love Bad Boys” adage. I wanted to find to correlation between the soft Gabriel of Julia’s memories and the closed off Professor Emerson. I wanted to find his soul, his humanity. And the series provided in spades. His growth and change throughout the books is remarkable, if not a slight spin on a classic “Beauty and the Beast” tale.
The series is heavy with literary irony, giving the reader the inside story before the characters even know what’s going on. That alone spurred me along, making me want to shout and set Gabriel and Julia straight, pushing them in the right direction. The anticipation of seeing how these characters would react to what I already knew was enticing and thrilling and as a reader I was rewarded handsomely.
Furthermore, the series is based around the cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Julia playing the Beatrice to Gabriel’s Dante. I will admit, my familiarity with Dante’s Inferno is in name alone. But the lack of knowledge did not hinder my reading. I would imagine someone more familiar with Dante would be able to recognize parallels I might have missed.
Outside of the character development and engaging plot, one thing that really impressed me was the way the books approached the topic of trauma and trauma recovery. There was no “quick fix, love will make it better” trope. Gabriel and Julia both had to face their demons, recognized a need for outside help, and really worked towards proper recovery AND continuously worked towards it, not suddenly being cured.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is an avid romance fan, but particularly to those who are somewhat dissatisfied by the fluffy, sunshine and roses romance tropes. This series definitely has some grit to it and expands a little more on the characters than a typical romance novel would.
I however would not recommend the spin off novella, “The Prince”. It only relates to the series as far as mentioning the characters. It is more of a fantasy story with a whole lot of backstory that is not properly conveyed in the short book. Perhaps reading the entire series it belongs to would change my mind, but I would say it is not a necessary part of the Gabriel series.