My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Gabriel’s Redemption is the much awaited third book and the final installment of the Gabriel’s Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard. For me, it was a ride of pure contentment. I loved it, as simple as that. But before I began reading, I was a bit apprehensive too. Why? I’ll try to explain in my rather lengthy review...
It won’t be easy to recap a trilogy with so much happening in each installment consisting of 400+ pages each. All I can do is to give an idea for anyone who hasn’t read them. My detailed review can be found on my blog or in Goodreads, so seek those out in you want to.
My introduction to SR’s writing was rather surprising. I don’t read fanfics, so I had no idea about the ‘backstory’ when I started reading Gabriel’s Inferno back in 2011. That book hooked me right from the start and that’s all that mattered. The writing was superb and the author has a knack for storytelling that kept me glued to the book. I soon fell in love with the Dante specialist, the brilliant (if a bit moody) Prof. Gabriel Emerson. We’re not only hinted at his brilliance throughout the story but also his dual lifestyle as a womanizer to the extreme. Soon we’re also introduced to Julia, a student of Gabriel’s and hinted at a past she shared with him, though it’s been a while and Gabriel doesn’t remember her anymore. But when that flashback unfolded, I was mesmerized by their first meeting in that apple orchard of Gabriel’s adoptive parents’ home back in the USA (much of GI was based in Toronto); an orchard that had been mentioned in all the three books, having a deeper meaning and symbolism to Gabriel-Julia’s relationship.
In the process of the story, we learn of one of Gabriel’s ex-girlfriend, Paulina and a tragic incident that took place when Gabriel was still in the university. The story picks up when Gabriel finally recognizes Julia as ‘Beatrice’ to his ‘Dante’, the girl of his dreams whom he’d always thought a mirage of his cocaine induced mind. Yep, he was a coke-head back in those days and though, still brilliant, as insensitive and selfish as they came.
Gabriel and Julia’s relationship takes flight through many ups and downs, including them re-discovering each-other, Gabriel’s jealousy of a friend of Julia, Paul, who is a well-wisher, also a conniving, competitive grad student, Christa. There were also some very sweet moments throughout, I especially remember the text messages he send to Julia when they were going through a particular rough patch. We still didn’t know the extent of Gabriel’s relationship with Paulina and their history together. At the very end, he confesses about that he lost the child when Paulina got pregnant. Gabriel blames himself for this because he was not a caring boyfriend. As a result, when he found out that Paulina was never going to have children of her own, he decided to have a vasectomy. Gabriel has also been taking care of her because Paulina has been somewhat mentally imbalanced after the incident. He’s been involved with her though, on and off, over the years but never really getting anywhere beyond sex. She is rather a convenient lay, or so to speak.
Julia takes it all in rather easily, though I had problem. It was somewhat like a huge splash of ice-cold water on my daydreaming of the brilliant and sexy professor. But the worst was yet to come in book 2, Gabriel’s Rapture, when Gabriel’s sordid womanizing past is revealed ten-fold, making me want to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, the story itself was engrossing and I was glued to it too, though can’t say I enjoyed it much. I was just dying inside reading what exactly Gabriel has been before meeting his ‘Julianne’ once again.
At the end of GI, Gabriel and Julia decide to take their relationship to the next level; by consummating their love. But Julia was still Gabriel’s student and it breaks a very important university policy. If anyone finds out, things would go downhill soon. No one will listen to, or even understand, the kind of devotion and love they share.
Julia is a brilliant student on her own right and an aspiring PhD student on Dante. And there is the determined Christa, who has been fuming at Gabriel’s rejection of her lewd offer for a mousy girl like Julia, who wants to ruin everything. So it was no big surprise that after their brief but sexy sojourn to Italy, Gabriel and Julia return to find that the university has already learned of their supposed ‘affair’. The implications are dirty, nothing like what Gabriel and Julia feel for one another. Before that, Julia has had the shock of meeting Paulina in person when they return to Gabriel’s parents to celebrate Christmas together. She was becoming rather desperate for Gabriel’s attention, which was as usual wavering, more so now that he is finally in love with his ‘Julianne’. It was a sad scene and a rude awakening for Julia, to whom, until that moment, Paulina was just a name. Gabriel comes clean of ‘seeing’ her even a month before meeting Julia and the fact that they’d never really ‘broken up’. It breaks Julia’s heart but what can she really do about it? I wish she was mad though, because I was, horribly so, at Gabriel.
So when the news is out and the official inquiry begins, more of Gabriel’s womanizing comes out, which includes his brief stint with BDSM with a professor of the same university. It wasn’t spelled out but I knew it was BDSM. The woman has been very forward in the few scenes she was featured in GI (and got on my nerves). Gabriel picking up random women each night from a nearest nightclub is also discussed. The point was to prove that Gabriel is a lewd womanizer who can’t keep his pr*ck in his pants. Obviously he was taking advantage of a naïve, young student like Julia (she’s 8 years junior to him) with his charm and good-looks. Though Julia is stalwart and determined to stick to him, even if it means sacrificing her own career, things go so out of hand that a depressed and desperate Gabriel sees no other way but to disappear from Julia’s life without any trace... at least for couple of months before she finishes her graduation and is free of all obligations. He’d never let her down or see her hurt more than she already is by his callous past.
What saved this book for me was Gabriel’s own lonely yet meditative journey of those few months without Julia. He returns to Assisi, to pray and to ask for forgiveness, reliving his time with the love of his life. He realizes a few things. Gabriel has loved his adoptive family as they’d loved him as their own but Julia IS his life and without her he doesn’t exist. He doesn’t want to fall back into that depressive, dissolute lifestyle. He wants a future with Julia, to worship her and love her till death does them apart. And if possible, to have a baby.
But Julia was not happy about his sudden departure, taking it as rejection. This can only be her worst nightmare! She is totally brokenhearted over this and Paul being the only close person she relied on, Julia becomes a little more little intimate with him. Paul, I must mention, was the soul of all that should be good in a man. Though he knew Julia won’t love him back (and no less mad at the a$$hole Emerson!), Paul stays as her constant friend. Julia even decides to move on but she knew that this would be wrong because Paul deserved to find love.
When Gabriel returns to her life finally, he has made peace with himself and his past... Also with Paulina. These are not described in the story but hinted at. Now Gabriel’s only mission is to win his Julianne back. It doesn’t prove to be tough when she has been missing him just as much. Though I didn’t like that Gabriel took the decision without any thoughts on what it’ll be for Julia, they make up and plan to get married ASAP.
After finishing book 2, I wondered if Julia would ever transform as a character. She seemed like a shadow under Gabriel’s much stronger personality. She didn’t speak up when I thought she should. I was also kinda bummed how dirty talk between two lovers was made to look like something nasty. I didn’t know if I’d even trust Gabriel because I wasn’t keen on knowing more about his sordid past with Paulina or Professor Pain, or whoever it is, hence my apprehension.
But as I started book 3, I was immediately sucked into Gabriel and Julia’s life after marriage. It proves to be as lovely and peaceful as it can get. They seem like the perfect couple (expect some hot sex scenes in rather... erm, unexpected places. Also f-words. Those are there, trust me. *heeh*)
Though Grace and Richard’s house now belong to Gabriel and Julia (including the orchard) and they’ve done some needed refurbishing, Julia invites Richard to stay with them permanently. This is something I absolutely loved. Reading his and Grace’s relationship in flashaback and by mention throughout the trilogy, I could practically feel Richard’s happiness, not only to return to the place he’d always called ‘home’ but also to become an active part of Julia and Gabriel’s life.
Gabriel seemed more humble and less moody... More vulnerable, rather than being an a$$ left and right and trying to control Julia. I loved this Gabriel because he seemed more ‘human’ for all the vulnerability he showed throughout this story and how he sought refuge in Julia’s arms whenever he felt that way, never doubting her ability to soothe him.
We already knew that Gabriel was thinking of reversing his vasectomy in hopes of having a baby with Julia. He wants to be a good father this time, trying not to mess up as he did with Paulina. But another thing has been bugging Gabriel too; to learn more about his own heritage and his biological parents. His adoptive parents had never made him feel like an outsider, much as his adoptive siblings, Rachel and Scott. Grace’s death due to cancer has been a dark day in Gabriel’s life (happens in GI). The pain of it would never go away but the curiosity of finding out more about his biological parents wins out. Richard, of course, supports his decision. In fact, his whole family supports him, including Julia.
But the subject of starting a family is not received as expected. Julia begins having doubts. Julia wants it so much but she’d just started her PhD courses, and this is just not the time... Mind you, I totally got her. The life of a grad student is tough enough and this was PhD. Moreover, Julia’s dilemma was not merely about ruining her aspirations of becoming a Dante specialist but also about not being a constant mother to the baby. Of not being able to take care of it, and Gabriel, both. She thinks she can’t, just can’t make it all happen at the same time.
And this creates a few rough patches and misunderstanding, Gabriel’s increasing vulnerability, hence mood swings, thinking Julia doesn’t want his baby. His mind forces him to look back at his appalling past, his times with Paulina and how horridly he’d treated her, reminding him again that he doesn’t deserve Julia. Must mention that I’ve never felt as sad for an OW in a story as I felt for Paulina because it was becoming painfully clear that she was in love with him. But I do think she should never have stick to him after her miscarriage. Obviously the fool was still harboring the idea that she can win him... one day. The thought depressed me even more. But I liked how the flashback tells us of the day Gabriel saw her, asking for forgiveness. I was so happy to learn later that she met someone, fell in love; someone who returns her affections just as much.
There are also flashbacks of Gabriel’s time with Professor Pain. This part I could definitely do without.
At the same time, we get to see Rachel and her husband, Aaron also trying to have a baby. Julia’s father, who has been seeing someone for a couple of months, declares of a pregnancy too. All these baby talks kinda leave Julia on the edge.
Christa shows up in a few places, showing that she’s not going to give up so easily. She tries her best to bungle some things, including Julia’s presentation in Italy, up but those go in vain. She again tries to seduce Gabriel but very unsuccessfully. I was a little worried over that scene between her and the cheater d!ck Pacciani. WTF was that???? :/
Paul falling for his ex-girlfriend Allison again wasn’t my favorite of the story. The girl left him for some reason, but now is back in hopes of getting back what they once had. I don’t know but I expected something better for Paul. Moreover, their story was rather unfinished.
Julia’s ex-boyfriend, the dipsh!t Simon returns too. Simon’s father is a politician but Simon is a spoiled brat and his list of conquests is almost as gross and big as Gabriel’s. Maybe even worse. He cheats on Julia in GI with her the then best friend (and power hungry ho) Natalie. He cheats on Natalie too in this story, by sleeping with this young girl from a conservative political family. He even becomes engaged to her but the joke was on him this time. I never thought I’d ever say it but seems like love has found Simon, only this time his past comes to catch up with him by the form of some dirty pictures with him and some other girls. Revenge is a hard mistress and both Simon and Natalie are embroiled in it rather deep, no thanks to Julia’s detective uncle. Natalie flees to a new estate with retribution on mind. A dejected Simon with a broken engagement (and heart) plans on something nefarious…. He’s getting April back in his life and nothing’s going to stop him from his quest. I do think Simon’s having his own book ‘cause his story with April has become rather intriguing. Hmmm...
Back to Julia and Gabriel... Gabriel decides to have the vasectomy reversed. Julia, as always, supports his decision. Though the budding hope of becoming a father is still there, he tells Julia that his op might not be successful.
This is also the time he opens up to Julia about his biological parents and starts investigating about his past, which leads him to his biological father’s other, ‘original’ family. It was a miserable contemplation; the flashbacks and the revelations were rather bleak. No wonder Gabriel had so many doubts and conflicting thoughts on overcoming his past, the reminders and the subsequent the guilt. Some good comes of this venture though, as he gains an elder half-sister, Kate, who was willing to forgo the past and reconcile. Though Gabriel went to meet her alone, after meeting Kate and learning more information on his mother and father, he’s bombarded with various emotions. Gabriel starts missing Julia quite badly. Again, the phone calls and frustrating voice messages (that I loved reading). It’s only after returning to Julia and sharing everything is when Gabriel feels a little more in control, a little less heavy with burden.
But bad news was ahead. Julia’s father informs that her unborn brother has some kinda heart defect and no one’s sure if the baby will live... and if he does, how he’ll far in life. Julia is sad, feeling helpless but Gabriel lends his shoulder, as always, to cry on. He also makes sure that his would-be MIL is getting the best medical care there is.
And then, Julia finds out she’s pregnant. What should’ve been a joyous moment for them becomes a moment of doubt and trouble. Julia feels out of her elements, not knowing how she can manage to carry on with her education and, at the same time, care for a baby, now that this is a reality. Gabriel is ecstatic but seeing Julia’s darkened face, he’s in doubt too. Isn’t she happy, even if a little? I did love his enthusiastic chatters of helping Julia however he can, making promises he’s sure to keep. Julia begins feeling guilty, again. She really wants to see Gabriel happy, but she also wants the PhD… And so it happens, they begin planning about the new arrival with a little less enthusiasm than expected in first-time parents. They get some help along the way, from family and from their house-keeper Rebecca. Advices from some of Julia’s professors are there to guide her along the way too.
As the story began to draw near the end, I almost didn’t want it to, I was that engrossed in Gabriel-Julia’s life. The last few chapters were heart-tugging when there’s something goes wrong with Julia while having the baby... a girl, and Gabriel’s first time holding his daughter.
Frankly, I was in tears. I could see that man has changed for good. His has, indeed, redeemed himself, working hard to become the man Julia always wanted him to be. I can only say that, though, knowing him was an upheaval journey, I was glad to have seen this transformation happening along the way. I also want to mention something about Julia that I so thoroughly enjoyed. She has grown-up to become someone matured, more assertive, active rather than passive. There was one particular love scene while she was pregnant that caught me by a pleasurable surprise... *fans herself*
... I wanted this and I thank SR for bringing this transformation in her. For the first time, I saw Gabriel and Julia as each-other’s equal in real sense, which felt great! Gabriel’s Redemption brings a fabulous end to the trilogy. 4.5 stars.
I know there’s going to be a new paranormal series connecting to this one, book 1 is titled The Raven. I’m eagerly waiting to find out what SR has in stores for us in future... and where that mysterious stranger fits in it!
This ARC was provided to me by Berkley via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.