Review: Gabriel’s Promise by Sylvain Reynard

Julia and Gabriel Emerson are basking in the joy of their first child, Clare. No matter how many pink flamingos adorn their yard, nothing will get in the way of their happiness in this blissful moment. However, Gabriel receives email has the potential to send shock waves through their marriage. This is Gabriel’s Promise.

Gabriel has been invited to Edinburgh as part of a prestigious lecture series, but accepting the offer means leaving his infant daughter and beloved wife back in Boston. Should Julia pack up and leave with her husband, she risks losing the academic standing she worked so hard to create. In short, it’s a mess.

Interestingly, academia has always been the Emerson family’s greatest passion and greatest foe. It brought Julianne back to Gabriel, it drove them apart and it brought them together again. Now their bond is stronger than ever before, even more so with their daughter, but the prospect of moving overseas or having to endure a long distance relationship introduces a maelstrom into their previously peaceful waters.

While Gabriel ponders his dilemma, Julia deals with complications from giving birth to Clare and she tries to keep them from her husband. Like most secrets, though, they have a tendency to implode at the worst possible moments, putting even more stress on the couple while she prepares to return to her coursework.

There’s also a mysterious threat lingering in the darkness, one that’s tied to Gabriel’s art collection on loan to the Uffizi Gallery. While the biggest honor of his professional career dangles like a carrot under Gabriel’s nose, he must find a way to put the needs of his family first.

Longtime Sylvain Reynard fans will appreciate Gabriel’s Promise because it weaves all of his books together with one silky white satin ribbon. Gabriel’s Inferno gave rise to the Gabriel Series, but Reynard didn’t stop there. In less than a decade he managed to create three distinct “worlds” that are all tied together by the city of Florence, Dante, works of art and themes of love, hope and redemption.

Without spoiling anything, Gabriel’s Promise is a book best enjoyed if you have read all of Reynard’s other books. I’ve seen other people suggest that it can be read in any order, and while that’s mostly true, I think it makes more sense if you read it last so that you can fully appreciate all of the Easter Eggs that pop up. After all, Gabriel and Julia made cameo appearances in the Florentine Series and Gabriel’s Promise fills in lots of gaps, bringing a brand new perspective to both series. 

Everything about Gabriel’s Promise is perfect. Gabriel is delightfully stubborn and occasionally obstinate, but he’s always the loving and thoughtful husband and father. Julia is a wonderful mother and she’s also quite adept at managing the demands of her PhD program while tackling motherhood and Gabriel’s, ahem, needs….

Reading Sylvain Reynard’s books is a full sensory experience that wraps itself tantalizingly around the story itself. It’s not enough to read the words and devour the story, rather the story devours the reader in the most delectable way. Reynard’s prowess with language is enjoyable in itself, but I have to think that somewhere Dante himself is smiling at Reynard’s uncanny ability to combine a love story with themes of intrigue, history, art and religion. 

My biggest problem with Gabriel’s Promise is that I want more. I read it in a day, unable to put it down. Thank goodness Gabriel’s Inferno premieres on Passionflix in March, otherwise I might be climbing the walls in earnest.

Gabriel’s Promise gets five well-deserved stars.

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