No matter what other complaints I give this book (and you will see there are a lot), I think Julianne is a better written character than Bella Swan.
Bella Swan was a whiny, maybe depressed, emotionally bereft, selfish woman. She supposedly liked to read, but only read books that Meyer used as inspiration for the book she was writing. She kept secrets from people she supposedly loved, she refused to communicate her desires and wants to other people, she didn’t have common sense, she let her boyfriend dictate her choices, she was codependent, she was conveniently clumsy, and she had no dreams or desires beyond becoming a vampire and making sweet, sweet love with Edward (NOTE: becoming a vampire and having sex aren’t bad desires, but that’s it? Really? No wanting to be a doctor or a firefighter or anything?).
Julianne is a shy but kind person, trying to “make up” for the emotional distance her parents gave her by being friendly to everyone. She likes to drink coffee and tea, to listen to classical music, and to read books other than Dante’s Inferno. She is a good student and knows what she wants to do other than get a man (she wants to be a Dante specialist herself, which is admirable even if her desire stemmed from Gabriel). She is legitimately clumsy, doing things like dropping keys and spilling tampons (things that I, the clumsiest person alive, would do). She doesn’t always keep Paul and Rachel in the dark about her life, nor does she always keep silent about how Gabriel is p!ssing her off.
Sure, Julianne still has tons of problems. The drama with the former boyfriend (which feels a bit much given the situation, but what do I know?). The overwhelming obsession with virginity (and I get that some of this is related to Dante’s Inferno, but come onnnnn). How long she is a doormat before she wakes up and grows a backbone. The way she obsesses over Gabriel is particularly embarrassing, especially given that when they first met (and kissed) he was drunk and in college and she was 13. But even with these problems, I found myself relating more to Julianne than I ever did to Bella.
Gabriel tried desperately to be alluring. He tried to be that smexy professor that wears a bow tie and square glasses that are begging to be removed by tender student hands. But honestly, I wasn’t buying it. I wasn’t buying that a 33 year old man could possibly have gotten his doctorate and somehow had enough experience to become Da Bezt Evah Dante Specialist. Most of my college professors were in their late 40’s, early 50’s and while I’m sure they were good in their fields, they weren’t “world-renowned” or anything like what Gabriel is supposed to be. (Yes, I realize my professors were engineering majors, not Italian studies/English majors, but I don’t think the time to complete a doctorate in either major would be that much different. Also, I know my university may not have been of the same caliper as University of Tornoto, but I think that would make my point even more valid.)
The “sexually deviant” side of Gabriel was also a bit dubious. I just have a hard time believing that a guy who showed this little respect to the female sex would go from being a manwhore to the most generous, kind, loving, thoughtful “boyfriend” in 2.78 days just because he met his Madonna, his “Beatrice”. Plus, this just shows he’s a misogynist: in Gabriel’s mind, women are whores or virgins. If they are whores, he uses them and tosses them away like dirty socks. If they are virgins, he lavishes them with gifts and wants nothing more than to protect them from the Evulz of the world (something he assumes the woman is incapable of doing, which is ridonculous). There is a way you can make a romantic hero lavish his lady love with gifts withOUT making him into a raging misogynistic b*****d. There is a way to make a romantic hero protective of his lady love withOUT smothering her or assuming she is incapable of taking care of herself.
But the weirdest part of Gabriel, and the one that most indicates that this is a hastily reconstructed Twilight fanfiction, is his backstory/wealth. Apparently, Esme – I mean, Grace – found him as a 12 year-old boy with a druggie mom and adopted him almost on the spot. Even though she already had kids (Sean and Rachel). Even though she never knew him or his mother. Even though Gabriel’s father was still (apparently) alive. Very odd. Why not provide a foster home? Or try to find his family/father? His father has to be alive, because when he grows up, his missing father(conveniently extremely wealthy) bequeaths everything to Gabriel.
If this doesn’t smart of Twilight fanfiction, I don’t know what does. It’s obvious from the above that the original backstory was Edward Cullen being adopted by Carlisle (later Esme) and how wealthy he is from hundreds of years of accumulating money. But here in the “original fiction”, the author has had to go to great and silly extents to rework this to take out the copyrighted characters and events. Only, what is left is a hodge-podge of ideas that makes absolutely no sense and only accentuates how badly this story works outside of the Twilight universe.
There are a few other background characters – Paul, Rachel, Christa, etc., but let’s face it, they aren’t as important as Julianne and Gabriel, and it shows. They have some character – Paul being the “must protect white virgin UGH” type, Rachel mourning her mother while trying to balance a wedding and manage her family in Pennsylvania – but mostly, they are there for other characters to talk about either Julianne or Gabriel. Paul really isn’t a guy who is interested in Julianne and a dedicated student; he’s a foil to Gabriel. Rachel really isn’t a woman mourning her mother; she’s there to make sure Gabriel and Julianne “kiss and make up”. And Christa is the worst – Reynard doesn’t even TRY to hide that all she is a dirty, nasty slut that is Julianne’s foil, the Whore to Julianne’s Madonna, whom Gabriel has absolutely no respect for and constantly humiliates. It’s so bad, I almost feel sorry for her.