My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Gabriel's Rapture, book 2 in Gabriel’s Inferno series gave me loads of mixed feelings. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2012, and that could be one reason. Why, you ask? I had ridiculously high expectations. I also have loads of complaints about the storyline, which left me heartbroken and frustrated to say the least. But there were things that I liked and appreciated too. Let’s see if I can elaborate in the following.
In Gabriel's Inferno, we knew that Gabriel’s life has known its share of tragedies. It was distressing, to say the least. He was born illegitimate but was adopted by the loving Clark family. Then we were only given the glimpse of Gabriel’s cocaine addiction when he was in university, what happened between him and Paulina, who was Maia and how he has coped with his darkness so far; by having strings of one night stands, meaningless sexual affairs. That he’d come off of the wreck that was his life as such a brilliant Professor was astonishing. I was impressed, sympathetic and equally intrigued. We also knew that Julia and he met a long time ago, a meeting that was dreamy, yet the end result wasn’t happiness. Gabriel, who was obsessed with Dante even then, never thought Julia, whom he dubbed as his Beatrice was real. He was going through that stormy phase of his life, fighting addiction, among other things and thought she was one of his cocaine induced haze. We learn that Julia is Rachel, Gabriel’s adoptive sister’s friend. Julia, being the shy girl, never thought Gabriel, the handsome, bad boy whose picture she had hidden away and dreamed about often, would ever be interested in her. Not knowing how to go about that ‘meeting’, she never mentioned it to anyone. Then she moved on, had a bad relationship with some senator’s son who cheated on her. Julia already had some baggage from her childhood that involves her parents’ neglect and this relationship did nothing to help her self-confidence. Julia broke up with him, emotionally bruised and humiliated, again.
Six years pass by in between...
In the University of Toronto is where Julia sees Gabriel again, though Gabriel doesn’t recognize her at all. He is still the womanizer (and not only just by reputation). A Dante specialist, Gabriel has made his mark in the literary arena, yet from time to time, he can be an imbecile too, dealing with his anger issue. He is rude to Julia in the beginning. Julia is hurt, but she’s aware that Gabriel doesn’t know her identity. She finds a friend in a fellow graduate student, Paul, who falls for her secretly. I was hooked to the story and more than interested to know how the truth is revealed to Gabriel, who was becoming obsessed with Julia more and more as the story progressed, even without the recognition. In between, I didn’t like knowing about Gabriel’s sex affairs, be it his random pickups from some bar or about his short term fling with a certain Professor Pain. But the scene, where Gabriel finally learns who Julia is made it up for me and more. They were already involved (not sexually), and after knowing that his Beatrice is not only real but is now with him made Gabriel ecstatic. Yet he also manages to mess things up with her, and had to make up for those. At one point, Gabriel confesses to Julia about his past with Paulina (a chapter that just gave me cold shivers) and the fact that he can’t have children since he has sterile himself. At the end of the story, Gabriel invites Julia to Italy, where he’s supposed to lecture on Dante. He also wants to take their relationship to the next level. Julia, who was equally ecstatic to have Gabriel’s acknowledgement, could only give her assent. Gabriel loved and enjoyed initiating her into a passionate love affair, though they both knew it’s so much more than that.
Gabriel's Rapture is the continuation from where GI left off. The vacation in Italy is the stuff of dreams for Julia and Gabriel. They roam the streets of Florence together, visit the Museum (umm, there is one scene...) and can’t take their hands off of each-other. Gabriel loves showing her new moves and ways of lovemaking. They’re in love and enjoying themselves immensely. Gabriel is also readying himself for his big lecture, Julia being his inspiration in every way. Among these, we also find that trouble is heading their way. Both of them knew that it’s forbidden in the University policy for the Professors to fraternize with their students. But Gabriel was impulsive and took a chance. He thought he could handle any trouble, but he should’ve known better.
Christa was another student that we meet in GI, who wanted to snare Gabriel (knowing his manwhore reputation) for good grades. She knows she’s attractive and uses her ‘charms’ to the fullest to get what she wants. Christa is rude, too competitive and becomes vindictive when things don’t go her way. She never liked Julia, who was a brilliant student on her own. Later Christa’s plan to snare Gabriel was foiled by Julia. Gabriel also scolds Christa for her highhanded attitudes. Christa has been planning to ‘pay them back’ ever since and the chance falls into her lap just like that. One of her lovers, an Italian professor who has been cheating on his wife with her, emails her with the news of Professor Emerson’s new fidanzata, who accompanied him in Italy. This SOB doesn’t like Gabriel at all and had his eyes on Julia, who is now glowing from Gabriel’s attentions. We learn of Christa’s past along the way and how she became what she is today. Then, we see the things she plans for Gabriel and Julia’s downfall and how she manages to acquire the means and accomplishes her ‘goal’.
In Italy, the love-struck lovers had no idea what’s being planned for them. Gabriel and Julia return home for Christmas, which they’d plan to spend with their family. By now, Julia has reconciled with her father, who is doing his best to make up for the lost time. But fate plays its part and Gabriel finds himself facing his bitter past once again; Paulina waiting for them at Gabriel’s parents’ home. I was shocked that she was so bold to have done this, when Gabriel never officially introduced her to his family, even with their messy history together. Julia is dumbstruck. She thought Gabriel used to take care of Paulina because of her nervous breakdown. But this doesn’t seem like a friendly visit at all. Paulina is rude and insinuates stuff that made me want to throw up (like the innuendo of him ‘being in her mouth’ or that he used to be involved in ménages etc.). Julia hears them all, since those were directed to her. I must say that the book sort of lost me in this chapter, when more of Gabriel’s a$$hole-iness come into light. Gabriel is rude to Paulina and forces her out of the house. Later, he confesses to Julia that he never really broke off from her, as he led Julia (and us) to believe. He has been involved with her on and off until last year. This is why she thinks she has some hold over him, but to Gabriel’s way of thinking, she doesn’t. I mean WHOA!! He used her, he made her pregnant, they lose the child in a mishap, he went to sterile himself to accommodate the fact that she can’t have children anymore, then he keeps f*cking her over the years (and it’s not that he was faithful to her along the way) and, after everything, Paulina doesn’t have ANY hold on his life, any meaning in his life? What can be more awful than this? Being treated like a dishrag, used and discarded and I found myself trying to feel things from Paulina’s POV. Even though Paulina was also to blame for being involved with him, knowing what an a$$hole he is, I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. I was supposed be mad at her for being the proverbial evil, jealous ex-lover (the sort I generally DO NOT like in any novel) but I wasn’t. I felt so sad when she cried her lonely tears because she loved him all along. Somehow I was convinced about her feelings. How do I justify this? I was rather disgusted at Gabriel and freakin’ mad at Julia for letting him off the hook so easily (and sleeping with him later) even after this ‘epic’ confession, where he also confesses that he would’ve never let her know hadn’t he been caught red handed like this! In Gabriel’s mind, he met Julia first and so, no other woman could compare! WTF??? They didn’t even really know each-other 3 months ago!!
...And, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the book anymore. It’s not the way I envisioned things would go. I could let go of some things but this was disturbingly bad. Then, there were repeated mentions of Professor Pain throughout (though, Thank the Lord that she wasn’t seen in this story and I was scared that I would have to endure a scene with her). I found this totally unnecessary, as I thought was the introduction of this character. She didn’t add anything to the story, but to show us how dark (dirty?) Gabriel’s life was before Julia’s return (as if we needed anymore reminder of that!). Anyway, afterwards, the way my coping mechanism goes, I disconnected myself from the story and didn’t try to feel much (just me). Gabriel, the enigmatic Professor that I fell so hard for, didn’t return for the rest of it. I had this image of him in my mind that changed and not entirely in a good way.
After the Paulina incident, they get a notice from the university. Gabriel is immediately alarmed and so is Julia. Then, as they present themselves in front of the committee, they know that their fear has come true. The university officials know about their affair and now, Gabriel and Julia would have to pay for it. Gabriel would lose his job, unless he blames Julia for everything (as his lawyer wants things to go). Julia is represented by another female lawyer, who wants to prove that Gabriel seduced Julia to win the case, otherwise Julia can say her academic career goodbye, along with her dreams of studying in Harvard. It was such a mess... sometimes frustrating, sometimes scary. I thought I wouldn’t feel anything, and yet, I got dizzy by thinking of what was to come next.
The more they argue on the case, the more things were becoming messy. This professor who was present in the hearing committee didn’t like Gabriel for his reputation (and I couldn’t blame her entirely, knowing the things I did). She was trying to help Julia out in this, thinking she’s the victim here. The lawyer gives Julia an example of Gabriel’s a$$hole-iness, that involves one of her own friends and something to do with the rest room of a certain bar, to convince Julia that such sexual affair is child’s play for Gabriel. While I was reeling from revelations after revelations, Julia was coping well I must say. Better than me in anyway because I found myself agreeing more and more with the lawyer and the professor. Julia was sometimes hovering, and yet, somehow she was very sure of Gabriel.
Then things become somewhat hazy (for me). Gabriel plans something to save Julia’s academic career, which we’re not informed about. The only thing we know that he takes all the blame, is suspended his job (he later resigns) and disappears from Julia’s life; just.like.that! You can only guess Julia’s reaction... When she tries to communicate with him over and over again, she finds this official (and stiff) email from him saying ‘it’s all over’. I mean..... *stares blankly up at the wall*
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT??
There wasn’t any particular revelation on Christa as well. WTF really happened to her? I needed to see her getting some serious a$$ whipping, if not anything else!
Julia takes Gabriel’s rejection very personally and old vulnerabilities return to haunt her. She’s heartbroken, obviously and feels betrayed. For a while her life is listless. Paul is there for her, knowing everything and helps her sorting things out. One of the big reasons why I still gave this book a 4 star would be Paul. He was just... marvelous. I adored him and more than a little pissed that the poor babe got his heart broken by Julia. All the while he know that she’d never return his regard. He was and has always been the veritable gentleman. I took serious issue when Paul was said to have been ‘good’ (as in plain) comparing with the ‘exceptional’ (that would be Gabriel). But later I reasoned; that was Julia’s POV (with which I didn’t entirely agree), who was still pining away for Gabriel. I also agreed with the fact that Paul deserved someone who would return his love tenfold, and that ‘someone’ Julia was not.
While Gabriel is nowhere to be found, Julia works on her dissertation with this well known professor (recommended by Gabriel) and passes with a great result. She makes preparations for Harvard, moves with Paul and her father’s help. She helps Rachel with her wedding preparations when she has some time. But her life will never be the same without Gabriel in it. One day, while taking care of her book collections (in the new apartment), she comes across this volume of a book that contains the story of Heloise and Abelard. She finds the picture of the old apple orchard where she and Gabriel first met on that long ago day... She then remembers something; Gabriel telling her to read his ‘sixth letter’. She read his sixth note and that didn’t contain any information that she could connect to anything. In this book, finally she begins to understand that Gabriel asked her to trust and wait for him. Julia runs out to find net connection to email Gabriel, only to find him instead, waiting in the dark, looking at her apartment.
In between, we’re also given the glimpse of another journey; this time its Gabriel’s own, where he travels to Italy, to places where he and Julia has been together and to his parents’ old house. This was a journey to find himself; to understand, qualify and disqualify who and what he used to be and how he has transformed because of Julia’s presence in his life. He sure did miss her, but I still didn’t know WTF happened that he just cut her off his life so rudely. I was still pissed at him, and yet, I was really moved by his self-reflections. This part of the story helped me understand him, even if a little. I was moved by the dreams of Grace and Maia. Gabriel not only makes peace with his past but also, soon he takes the reign of his life and starts looking for a new job. He even buys a new house to stay closer to Julia.
As Gabriel makes his presence known, Julia is stunned. Then he starts talking about that medieval book he left for her. At first I was shaking my head. I’m not that cerebral and I failed to see why, a girl, who has been through SO many ups and downs in the past few months, would think of an old book containing Abelard and Heloise’s story? And how could Gabriel even think that she’d look for his note and such when he so rudely broke off with her? This just made me want to scream with frustration! Then, things begin to fall into places as he starts explaining himself. Even though it was kinda hard to believe that he didn’t find a single way to communicate with Julia, I guess I understood his fears. He did give up everything for her dream of Harvard. There was an email mishap and threats from his department head too. I literally gasped about that email because I entirely forgot about it. But Julia isn’t happy and stands up for herself, maybe for the first time in the story, letting Gabriel know a piece of her mind. I must say, at times, Gabriel’s condescending tone to Julia grated on me, even in their row over Paulina (I wanted to smack him hard!). I wished she’d not let him boss around. He still made decisions about their future, something according to him was ‘the right thing’ to do. But did he ask Julia about what she wants? Absolutely not! So, I loved that she reminded him of this little fact. Yet I also wished that she stuck to her resolve. Gabriel tries to make thing up to her, showing her his new house, making sweet gestures. It was no-brainer that no matter what, Julia still loved Gabriel, baggage and all. And an a$$hole he may have been, Gabriel did what he thought was the best for the love of his life, I’m totally willing to give it to him.
The last thing that I couldn’t like was Gabriel’s reluctance to have sex with Julia until marriage. It just wasn’t done IMO. I get that he was trying to change himself and not give into his old coping mechanism but why with Julia? She once even begged him for it and he declined... WHY?? I also didn’t like where the f-word was made to sound something dirty because personally, I don’t think when a loving couple is using that word, the insinuation is at all dirty. Lust isn’t always dirty, as long as love is also involved in the process. These two factors are very much intertwined... But, that’s just how I see things. So yes, I wanted Julia to be pissed about this, as I myself was.
The ending was sweet though. Gabriel makes a big gesture to propose to her formally. One revelation that made me particularly happy (I mean REALLY happy) was Gabriel’s discussion about children, which was a no-go for him before. Even though Julia was reluctant to think of kids just now, Gabriel is crazy about having them with her, even by adoptions. He’d even reverse to have their own. Doesn’t matter if he’s successful or not, I was simply happy that he was more than willing. This part sort of emphasized to me that Gabriel is trying his best. Then you ask, has Gabriel found his redemption? Honestly, I don’t know for sure since I think he still has a long way to go to prove it. But by the end of the book I was quite convinced that he’s well on the way with Julia’s love to guide him.
So, would I read the third book? Oh yes, absolutely! I mean I’m a big fan of SR’s writing, and way too involved in G&J’s life now. I would really appreciate it if SR gives Paul someone to cherish and love, someone who returns his regard as passionately. I’ll be waiting for the next installment with bated breath... Meanwhile, Gabriel's Rapture gets 4 stars from me.
PS: No more mention of Professor Pain, I beg of you Mr. Reynard! :/