This was the joy that the world sought - sacred and pagan all at once. A union between two dissimilars into a seamless one.
Julianne and Gabriel are together at last. Holidaying in Italy, Gabriel is lovingly guiding Julianne into the pleasures and intimacies of a sexual relationship. She proves an apt student. But with their return to the university, both Gabriel and Julianne are caught up in the administration's investigations into misconduct and inappropriate behaviour between staff and students.
One of the strengths of both Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture is the many references to food, wine, languages, art, architecture, music, literature and the knowledge of the local shops and eateries of the great cities of the world. Even fashion - and surprisingly women's fashion - does not escape the notice of author Sylvain Reynard.
Having read quite a few romance novels by many different authors across most of the sub-genres of romance, I have never come across any author who is so well-versed in the fine arts, with such a comprehensive knowledge of literature. The 12th century love story of Abelard and Heloise for example, is not commonly known I think, but it was cleverly written into this story and parallels in many respects Gabriel and Julianne's own love story.
This book also focuses on Gabriel's introspection, his quest for forgiveness and redemption. Not only emotionally and psychologically, but spiritually. Where the conflict in Gabriel's Inferno was mostly played out between Gabriel and Julianne, this time the conflict comes from a number of external sources. Their love is established, yet still faces obstacles. Gabriel's generosity and his gentleness towards Julianne is demonstrated in a number of ways. The love scenes though not steamy, are sensual and romantic.
Despite my enjoyment of Gabriel's Rapture there are a few complaints. Julianne is very teary and at times immature for a twenty-three year-old. This may be the author's way of demonstrating her innocent nature, but it does sometimes grate. Gabriel is overly-protective, almost cloying and treating her as if she too fragile and precious. There were also some unanswered questions about the final outcomes for Christa and Paul.
Finally, just a word about the author. In my opinion, very few male authors can write romance well. This is not a sexist remark, but a personal observation after reading many romances. I can count on one hand the number of romance novels by male authors that I have enjoyed. Both Mr Reynard's novels are in that number. Perhaps other male romance authors simply don't write to my taste in novels. Whatever the reason, I have been mostly disappointed in romances written by men.
I have no idea if Mr Reynard is as urbane, intelligent, educated and worldly as Prof Emerson, but he certainly comes across this way in his writing. I'm a little bit awestruck at a man who knows the story of Abelard and Heloise, who knows about a certain dress worn by the late Grace Kelly in the 50s, a Bordelle chemise, a Michael Kors bag, and most importantly that no civilised person would drink coffee with milk after breakfast.
After reading Gabriel's Inferno, I was convinced author Sylvain Reynard was actually Ms Reynard, and mentioned this on a number of occasions to friends. Surely no mere male could write a romance so well and convey such depth of emotion that (at least in my experience) seems to be the preserve of female authors. I’m still finding it difficult to believe that Sylvain Reynard is a bloke. But take that as a compliment, Mr Reynard.