My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was recommended to me by someone who knows I enjoy the occasional romance novel and that I also appreciate when an author incorporates historical and/or literary elements in their stories. Unfortunately, the romance in this instance left me flat and the references to Dante Alghieri’s
works were mere window dressing and not particularly captivating. Julia Mitchell, the protagonist, is a shy, withdrawn grad student who has placed herself in a seminar taught by her secret crush, Prof. Gabriel Emerson.
As the blurb promises, these two connect and begin to form a forbidden romance. However, the danger of their violation of the University’s fraternization policy never materializes. In fact, no real danger ever materializes except for an attempted assault by Julia’s abusive ex-boyfriend. That’s pretty much my biggest beef with this story. There’s no tension, no threat of exposure or any other major obstacle for our new lovers to overcome, except for Julia’s low self esteem, and Gabriel’s self-loathing. Ms. Reynard presents plenty of opportunities for conflict, but none ever materializes. Another reason I could never really get behind these two was that almost all the men we see in Julia’s life treat her like some fragile china doll the whole time, and she does nothing to assert herself. I guess I’ve just read way too many stories with strong female leads.
There are several literary allusions woven throughout, mostly as declarations of affection. But, if the author was trying to present any parallels between Dante and Beatrice and Gabriel and Julia, I missed them. If you want some lovely, flowery, yearning of the heart sort of inner dialogue, it’s in there. But, if you’re looking for a fiery romance or a story of love overcoming obstacles, look elsewhere.