Professor Gabriel Emerson, a specialist in Dante and the art of seduction, believes he has already earned his exile to the lower circles of hell. Since redemption is impossible, there is no reason to refrain from indulging in a life of pleasurable sin, using his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm as a means to gratify his every whim. But when he meets Julia Mitchell, a brilliant, lovely, and innocent grad student with the achingly familiar eyes of an angel, all of his cynical convictions are challenged. Her mysterious allure and the havoc she wreaks on his self-satisfied existence cause him to lash out at her, while her quiet beauty and innate goodness consistently undermine his control, tempting him beyond measure.
Despite surviving a traumatic childhood, nothing has shaken Julia’s faith that redemption is possible for everyone – everyone but her. Her unworthiness torments her, since the only man she will ever love has managed to forget her very existence, failing to even recognize her when they reconnect. Too naïve to see that Gabriel’s hostility is a mask for his increasing obsession with her, Julia forces him to come to grips with his past while she continues to unwittingly torment his senses. His fascination grows into a dangerous preoccupation, for Julia is forbidden fruit…
Will Gabriel survive the inferno, or will he succumb to the flames?
“Maybe we don’t deserve each other, but I can choose who I love. And I choose you.” - Julia
I have always been interested in anything regarding Dante’s Inferno and The Divine Comedy, which is the main reason why I chose to read this book and I’m so glad I did. This isn’t your typical romance novel; Gabriel and Julia have a very distinct love story and I was reeled in from the very beginning.
The story starts off with Julia being called on by Professor Emerson in one of her classes at the University of Toronto. Julia has been in her own little world, and is unable to answer his question; he begins to get angry with her (yet he can’t quite understand why he’s being this way towards her) and embarrass her in front of the whole class. Luckily, a handsome classmate named Paul happens to be sitting next to her and comes to her rescue…well, sort of. He decides to distract her from the Professor’s angry, burning glances at her, and slides her a note that reads “Emerson is an ass.” Thinking that the only person who can see her is Paul, she giggles at the note and once again attracts Professor Emerson’s attention, and this time he demands that Julia see him in his office after class.
It’s after this that we begin to piece together the history between Gabriel and Julia, although I will say…I didn’t care for Gabriel one bit at first. He came off as an arrogant, condescending, asshole and poor, skittish Julia was his prey. The way he reacted when he first walked into her little studio apartment for the first time made me want to smack him! She’s a grad student living on student loans, homie! Do you think she’s going to be able to afford a penthouse apartment with marble countertops, hardwood floors, and a view of Toronto’s skyline?! Ugh. I just wanted to punch him right in the throat. That is…until he finally put the pieces together and remembered who Julia was and how he knew her. Their backstory was incredibly unexpected (at least to me) and oddly refreshing, not to mention I love the entwinement of Dante and Beatrice that stems back to the first time they met each other.
I adored Julia and her innocence actually made me like her even more. There are some novels I’ve read where the virgin is just too innocent and it bugs the crap out of me! Julia wasn’t written that way and so appreciated that. Her innocence was sweet and endearing. She was ignored by her father and emotionally abused by her mother as a child, not to mention had some horrible experiences with an awful ex-boyfriend during college which have left her self-conscious, shy, and with the feeling that no one will ever love her. My heart went out to Julia multiple times while reading this book, and I loved watching her progression to finally realize that she deserves to be treated like a queen…and more importantly, that she absolutely does deserve to be loved.
The issues Gabriel and Julia had to overcome to be together…including the whole student/teacher relationship, which the university has a zero-tolerance policy on…prove just how much they really love each other. They are perfect together, and she really is the Beatrice to his Dante. She’s the sunshine to his darkness, and he spends his days showering her with love and building up her confidence that was beyond broken. They both have emotional scars from their pasts, but seem to be each other’s cure to make the scars just a little less visible. The story of their relationship is beautiful, satisfying, and at times incredibly steamy. I absolutely adore Gabriel and Julia together!