Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Marnee Reviews THE SIREN by Tiffany Reisz

This is my first Tuesday Review-Day, but I was raving so much about this book that the girls press-ganged, er, asked me to talk more about it for you.

Here’s the scoop, kiddies: If you have any interest in reading erotic romance or erotica, GO FORTH, you, and purchase this book. Even if you don’t have any interest or you never thought you’d like “those” kind of books, I still recommend it.  If you’ve been curious about that “other book” everyone recommends (please, resist) when erotic romance comes up, (please, resist and) pick up this book instead. 

Erotic romance writer, Nora Sutherlin, is trying to “class up” her latest story in order to reach a wider, more literary, readership.  She’s published other books but, though they’ve been regarded as enjoyable, they’ve been panned by “critics” as smut.  The story she’s working on has the potential to strike a deeper cord and Zach Easton, editor extraordinaire, has been brought in to take the book to that next level.

The problem is Zach wants nothing to do with Nora and starts off thinking her smut is beneath him. He’s got a reputation as a brutal perfectionist and he doesn’t think Nora can hack it.  Zach requires an extensive rewrite and, when it’s done, only then will he decide if he’s going to sign Nora’s publishing contract or not.

Zach. Oh Zach.  Ms. Reisz has said that Jason Isaacs was her inspiration for Zach and I can completely see it.  Separated from his wife, he’s lost and heartbroken, sick that he’s allowed himself to destroy his marriage but blocked as to how he can fix the mess he’s made of his life.  Man, can Reisz write amazing characters.  Any writer could use this book as a lesson in characterization.  Zach is his own worst enemy. He’s a perfectionist who has made what he sees as an unforgivable mistake with his wife. He can’t forgive himself and, if he can’t forgive himself, he can’t see how his wife would ever forgive him either. It’s done so well and so convincingly that my heart broke for them.

But, this book is overflowing with all sorts of well-rounded and 3D characters.  Nora is fabulous.  Beyond fabulous.  She’s tough and smart, this fast-talking and witty pint-sized dominatrix.  But, Reisz makes her so vulnerable and soft sometimes too, she is an amazing exercise in contradictions.  As an example, there is a scene where Nora takes the virginity of an under-aged boy.  Now, if I just say it like that, it sounds squicky.  But, Reisz has completely devoted herself to her characters and, in her hands, the scene is poignant.  The boy is fifteen and a submissive.  He’s been made to feel like a freak by his family and he’s self-harming. When Nora takes his virginity, she shows him that there isn’t anything wrong with him, that it’s okay to be who he is.

This book also has some of the sweetest love scenes I’ve read in a long time.  I’m not talking about the sex scenes.  I’m talking about angsty, sweet love.  Nora has an “intern,” Wesley, who lives with her. If the rest of the book explores the darkness within, the relationship between Nora and Wes is all that is light and good. I won’t say too much, but I will tell you that my heart ached sometimes reading the scenes with them.  In that good, sighworthy kind of way.

I can’t reference the darkness without talking about Soren, a priest and Nora’s Dom. The scenes between them explore the sort of power dynamics you might expect in a BDSM relationship. But Reisz adds a new dimension by also linking religion and the nature of sin to their sexual bond. It’s textured and thought-provoking and makes their connection not just about the physical, but the theological. It’s so well done I nearly swooned.

I could keep going about this book, for pages and pages. I didn’t even touch on some of the other characters like Griffin and Kingsley.  But, I’m going to show some self-control.  You, however, shouldn’t show any self-control when it comes to buying this book.  Even if it’s not your usual fare, it’s so well-written and so beautifully executed, you can use it as an example of brilliant writing, as a learning experience.  I hope my prose is as lovely and evocative as Ms. Reisz’s is when I grow up.  This isn’t my usual sub-genre but I’m so glad I listened to the hype about this one and gave it a read.  And you should too.

I've already preordered THE ANGEL, the next book in the series.  It comes out at the end of the month.

Have you read in the erotic romance or erotica sub-genre before?  If not, why?   If so, what do you love about it?  Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think?  And if not, what are you waiting for?!!


quantum said...

Always good to have fresh reviewing talent and boyOboy have you jumped in at the deep end Marnee. My admiration is boundless!

I'm not sure how erotic fiction is actually defined. I've read many romances which have fairly explicit sex. Currently Elizabeth Lowell's 'This Time Love' (wonderful book if you're interested in the beautiful natural sculptures of underground caverns); but erotica seems to involve darker elements associated with torture implements bondage and beating.

I remember how my primary school head used to delight in whacking us while bent over a chair ... he used a large ruler which made a loud noise but only tickled ..... though no-one enlightened him! That probably cured me of any interest in spanking and the like!

It sounds as though this book goes way beyond titillation, delving into psychological depths which many rarely contemplate. Sounds as though it may lack a HEA. Though as you rate it so highly Marnee, I may have a look.

Donna also tempted me with her recent review of humorous erotica. I have the trial of 'Kinky' by Elyot Justine. Seems to be cantered around a BDSM establishment called 'Kinky Cupcake'. I'm beginning to sense the humour! LOL

Marnee Bailey said...

Q - I admit; this review was harder than I expected to write. The book is so complex, I didn't even touch on the majority of the things I loved about it. I'm a Virgo so this bothered me. LOL!!

It sounds as though this book goes way beyond titillation, delving into psychological depths which many rarely contemplate. Sounds as though it may lack a HEA.

I think this is exactly why I liked the book so much. It isn't just about titillation. It's deep and complex. It ponders the nature of love and pain.

And, there is one HEA but not everything is tied up tight at the end. I still found the end satisfying, though.

Marnee Bailey said...

Oh, and humorous erotica? How interesting. :) I confess, I've never been a frequent erotic romance or erotica reader. But it feels like some really talented folks are writing in the genre right now and I like to see what's on the cutting edge, ya know?

TerriOsburn said...

This is an amazing review. Just enough information to make me long to read the book. So mission accomplished, Marn! I read an excerpt from this months ago and have been meaning to get around to the entire book. Must find more time to read.

I see on her site there are many stories that come before this one that involve many different character pairings. Did you ever feel like you'd landed in the middle of a story and missed what came before?

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter - not at all, actually. The characters have lots of history. You can feel it in their interactions with each other. But I never felt like I'd missed anything. Kind of how when you're meeting two people who've known each other a while and you're just meeting them the first time? It's like that. The characters have that comfort with each other but they're not excluding you from their story.

Does that make sense?

And do yourself a favor and make the time!

P. Kirby said...

Even though I see myself as very sex positive, I don't think I've read a novella or novel length erotic story. Truth is, I prefer a narrative that builds sexual tension and doesn't get to the sexin' until the latter part of the story. Prolly, because I'm married and sex I can get; but the days of first touch, first kiss, newness are gone, gone, gone.

And, frankly, I usually get bored after about the second sex scene and start skimming.

I will say, however, that you've sold this book well. It sounds like more than the usual, uh, wank fest.

MsHellion said...

I have read some erotica before, but it's probably on the erotica light category--Lori Foster erotica. Not a lot of BDSM if any, but the sex is way more explicit and done more often...and sooner than a "typical romance." Except when I read her, that was really the case. *LOL* Nowadays, it seems a lot of the romances I read now have the sex sooner, more often, and more casual...so it's almost like she set a bar for acceptance and now it's the norm.


I loved this one. It featured a heroine who wasn't a six 6...and he was all over her like white on rice. *sighs* Lovely, lovely.

MsHellion said...

And I want to agree: you definitely sold this book and great review!! :) I prefer the gushy, fangirl reviews myself. We all already know what we don't like...let's promote the things we do like.

I still have the book on my nightstand. I got under a group of newly published books: Eloisa James, Caroline Linden, Kristan Higgins, et al, and have only just finished that group.

Marnee Bailey said...

Pat - I prefer my books as you do: more about the sexual tension than the actual sex. This book is not the "sex for sex sake" kind of book (that's the kind I find annoying). There's a real story and the sex is done to move the plot forward, to show things about the characters.

And I'm glad I sold it for you. For all of you. This is one of those books I haven't been able to shut up about. I even tried talking my mom-in-law into it.

I know, right?

Hells - I'll check this story out! I haven't read any Lori Foster before so I love a new writer. :) And I'm glad you liked my review. I worried it was just a rambly bunch of nonsense when I wrote it. LOL!!

Brit Blaise said...

You do really good review. I had to have the book after reading it.