Monday, October 15, 2012

Tuesday Review Day: Tiffany Reisz's THE ANGEL


So… have I annoyed you all yet with my fangirl gushing about how Tiffany Reisz is an erotica writing goddess?

If so, look away now.  Nothing to see here.

But I really can’t say enough about this series.  I loved THE SIREN and I worried that the second book wouldn’t live up.  I often feel let down by the second books in trilogies. Sometimes they have identity crises, as if they know they’re not the exciting beginning and they’re not the nail-biting end, they’re just the part you have to slough through to get to the good stuff.

Like how I used to have to eat my vegetables before I could have dessert.  To me, middle books risk being the cold, mushy carrots of the trilogy.

That is definitely not the case here.

THE ANGEL picks up a year after THE SIREN ends.  Erotica writer and dominatrix, Nora Sutherlin, has returned to Soren, her master and a Catholic priest. But he is under investigation by a journalist thanks to a possible promotion to bishop of his diocese. To try to keep their love safe from prying eyes, Nora flees to the country with budding masochist, Michael, in tow. Soren wants Nora to take Michael under her wing, to show him how to embrace his natural tendencies and to train him in the BDSM lifestyle.

The two stay with Griffin, a wealthy socialite. But while Griffin expects to spend the summer enjoying Nora, he finds himself drawn to young Michael.

Where do I start? I think trying to explain how all Reisz’s plot lines are intersecting would take a master’s style dissertation.  So, I’ll focus again, as I did with THE SIREN, on what I find the most fascinating about her writing: all her wonderful, flawed characters.

While SIREN dealt with Nora, this book offers readers a deeper view into the complex Soren.  After I finished THE SIREN, I didn’t like Soren much. I love a good alpha, don’t get me wrong, but Soren seemed to cross the alpha line and careen towards ass-hole. But, part of Reisz’s genius, I think, is her ability to keep every character flawed yet lovable.

This book gives us Soren’s heartbreaking backstory. Wretched, awful stuff.  But, what really softened me towards him was his unconditional love for Nora.  She is having a crisis of faith in their relationship. She’s been unable to forget Wesley, the intern she set free to keep them from hurting each other. While many lovers would face wandering thoughts with jealousy or insecurity, Soren thinks instead about Nora’s happiness. His final selfless act in the book made my heart ache for him.

It’s hard to remain hardened when a character acts so selflessly. And though I’m still firmly Team Wesley, I’m sad now as well. Because I can’t see how Nora can keep them both.

The most intact romance plot in the story is Michael and Griffin’s.  Griffin is a bit of the been-everywhere, done-everything kind of guy.  Born privileged and seems a bit spoiled. Or at least like he was in the past and he’s been in the process of growing up.  And Michael…. Good lord.  I just wanted to hug Michael in every scene. He’s young and sensitive. He’s been bullied his whole life by family and friends who don’t understand him. When these two meet, it’s as if they fall in love at first sight. This is a sweet love story, folks. I won’t give too much more, but they are what I look for in my romance—two souls who complement each other.

I’d also like to mention the journalist.  There were times I was frustrated by her, but I couldn’t help but sympathize with why she was dogging Soren. And Soren can certainly hold his own.

This book pushed a big boundary for me. Doesn’t happen a lot these days as I read so much and in so many genres. But there’s blood play in this book.  I’ve never read blood play and I admit I felt a little like a deer standing on some train tracks, watching an oncoming train. (“Must look away! But I can’t move!”)  The way the scene is written, though, so character-driven, I was along for the ride.  And I’m glad I was.

This is another fantastic read by Tiffany Reisz.  Honestly, even if this isn’t your usual genre, give her a shot.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  I personally can't wait for THE PRINCE, out in November.

Are there any scenes you can recall that really pushed a boundary for you?  


Maureen said...

Well, a scene in a Joseph Wambaugh book turned me off to ever reading him again, but I don't think you mean being pushed totally away from an author... And I really don't want to talk about that scene. And you don't want to hear about it.

But I love hearing about this! Huzzah to a good S&M book that doesn't involve any shade of grey.

quantum said...

Marnee, would Tiffany Reisz be one of your pen names by any chance? LOL

I tried the first book and liked the writing style, the powerfully drawn characters, and the brilliant story telling. But alas the plot was not for me!

I found the world of BDSM, with masochists and sadists, dominatrices and submissives, frankly ugly and repulsive. Reisz is clearly a very talented writer and if she switches to a different genre I would definitely take another look. But I've seen enough of Nora coming home battered and bruised. Couldn't face another session.

Wonderful review though!

Marnee Bailey said...

Chance - I didn't mean push you away from an author. I've a couple of those too and I'll leave them where they lay. LOL!!

Q - I'm sorry my recommendation didn't work for you. :( I do think that the genre isn't for everyone. And I don't think she pulls any punches (excuse my pun) when she writes the BDSM world. This definitely isn't standard romance fare.

I'm glad you gave it a shot, though. I'm sure I'll be watching Reisz's career. I'll keep you posted if she ventures away from this genre. You know, as a public service announcement. :)

MsHellion said...

There have a couple ultra-racy books I've read where the heroine was "raped" (so to speak) by another woman--which made me uncomfortable on several levels. (I was reading a rather bizarre book, admittedly.) I tend to veer from fiction where the relationships are between same sex couples. Mostly for the same reason I don't think the majority of them would want to read the books I think are sexy: the automatic flinch of "ewww-gross" factor. *LOL*

Water for Elephants was hard to read, with all the animal abuse. You never want to attend another circus ever.

I tried to read the first one: THE SIREN, but it was just not the right time for me. I will try again later because I do know that how I can feel for a book at one time isn't the same as I'd feel if I read it later. I'm not huge on S&M though--or the whole dominating thing in general. I like a guy who's bossy in bed, but if he's tying me up and being a little shit about it to prove a point, I'll smother him in his sleep with a pillow. I get the appeal of lite "bondage" for me--it's the bossy/control factor. I'm such a little control freak that having the control taken away and being "forced" to experience pleasure is a huge fantasy appeal. But for me, a little would go a long ways. *LOL* (I assume there is something similar for others who find the fantasy alluring.)

There was the Discussion when 50 SHADES came out that this fantasy appealed to women who are so inundated with taking care of decisions all day long and having to juggle and control everything--there is a fantasy of having someone who takes over THAT one thing. The romance of it--of a man who gets things done. Where 50 SHADES lost it for me is the guy is such a damned tool. Why would you sleep with such an asshat? But I don't think there is such a thing as a nice control freak. I mean, isn't that why I'm a bitchy--because I'm a control freak? If the man is the control freak, he's an really "control freak" equals JACKASS and that's just the personality. *LOL* And if you're a control freak in general (and the women I knew who were reading WERE control freaks) and responded strongly to the man being a control freak--there's a disconnect.

I think the disconnect is that I'd rather be seduced rather than dominated. Seducers are controlling the situation, but it's like a fly and the spiderweb don't realize there's a problem until you're stuck in the web. And my control freak friends who hated that book--I think they'd rather be seduced than dominated too because their complaint (after the poor grammar and writing) was "It wasn't romantic."

Being a bully isn't romantic. Being a persuader is.

And I have no idea why I felt I needed to discourse about this today...I think it had something vaguely to do with the question. Sorry, Marn. *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

I'll have to think about this. I know there are scenes that stuck with me, and not always for the best reasons.

I have no doubt of Reisz's talent as a writer, but this content is a little out of my ballpark as well. I'm stressed enough to be having trouble sleeping. If I'm going to read something, it needs to be stress free. (Ironic, I know, after the blog I did yesterday. *g*)

Maureen said...

Hel, I do think the fascination is about releasing guilt and just letting someone else deal with the decision making. Sorta like hoping for that rich man who will throw money at you, or the editor who will tap you on the shoulder and know you'rr fabulous...while you sit at Starbucks and type away...

As a control freak, you might enjoy the other side of the whip? ;-)

MsHellion said...

Mo, no I wouldn't be interested in being on the other side of the whip.

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - LOL!! It's totally fine. I don't think I could recommend a BDSM book and not really expect to deal with people's reactions. LOL!!

In honesty, I think--for me--I care less about the sex and the lifestyle in these books and more about other things the author's exploring, deeper questions about what it means to be loved.

Nora, for example, says about Wesley "all that kid wanted was to love me and not hurt me. And you have no idea how much that hurts someone like me." I'm not sure I completely understand that concept. It's so foreign to me, personally, and counter to how I view the world, that it's a difficult idea to accept. But I find it fascinating. The idea that love could mean something so different to someone else, that how they feel loved might be totally different than how I feel loved or how I traditionally view love. But when she explains it, or when I catch a glimpse of what she means through her character, it still feels universal in some way.

And then there's the difference between Soren and Wes, Nora's two loves. They have a standoff of sorts toward the end of ANGEL and in it there's a wonderful juxtaposition between them. Soren, when explaining about what he and NOra have, says, "You know as well as I do that Nora loves being with me, loves what I can give. Even more, she needs it." He goes on to almost taunt Wesley, asking Wesley what he, a virgin, can teach Nora about sex. And Wes says this, "No, she and I never had sex. That's true. But we had love, real love that didn't take anything out of us, that didn't bruise us or break us."

I think it's so interesting, the difference between these two men. They both believe what they're saying and you can feel it in Reisz's writing. And, in many ways, they're both right about Nora too. And I find that fascinating.

Ter - I understand completely that this content is a bit out of the park for lots of folks. I personally have viewed these books as a little closer to "literary fiction" for me. There are complexities here that I don't usually go for in my escapist reads.

Also, the bloodplay scene in this one was really hard for me. I had to put the book down for a few hours, that's how hard. If anyone wants details, email me, though you could probably find the details on Goodreads too.

TerriOsburn said...

I want to make it clear I'm not knocking this book or BDSM books in general. Not in any way telling people not to read it. Just not in a mind space to read it myself.

I've heard Reisz refer to her books as Literary Fiction, and I'd totally go with that descriptor based on your reviews. I like that nothing is ever easy with these characters. Life isn't easy in the simplest of circumstances. Add an alternate lifestyle and there are many fine lines to be walked. The fact that Reisz walks them all and characters don't always come out unscathed takes serious talent and guts.

Marnee Bailey said...

I think when it comes to fantasies, especially sexual fantasies, in both real life and in fiction, that things appeal to different people for different reasons.

Marnee Bailey said...

I didn't really think anyone was knocking the genre. Different strokes for different folks, that's what I was saying.

And I agree, Ter, with you. It does take talent and guts to do what Reisz is doing. That she's doing it so well and her writing is so amazing, I'm in awe.

MsHellion said...

Nora, for example, says about Wesley "all that kid wanted was to love me and not hurt me. And you have no idea how much that hurts someone like me." I'm not sure I completely understand that concept. It's so foreign to me, personally, and counter to how I view the world, that it's a difficult idea to accept. But I find it fascinating. The idea that love could mean something so different to someone else, that how they feel loved might be totally different than how I feel loved or how I traditionally view love. But when she explains it, or when I catch a glimpse of what she means through her character, it still feels universal in some way.

My immediate reaction is "That's crazy" but I do agree--I do love the scope of having my intellectual boundaries pushed in what love means, et al. (Though I'd probably explore it with death...death is my intellectual buggaboo rather than love. I think.) That's interesting. That there is this "ACTION" of this kind, but the real connection for you is this subtle thing, you know. I think it's the subtleness of what is being discussed that interesting.

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells, I think if it were me, I'd probably use death too, instead of love/sex. And I think Rowling's exploration of love and evil and death in her HP books is pretty awesome, for example.

Maureen said...

From what I understand of the BDSM world, is that it really isn't the tools of the trade that define the world. It's the deeper layers involved in what people really want and need.

I could totally understand what draws you into this story, Marn. Sounds fascinating and a real exploration of the duo nature we all struggle with... What we want. What we need. What we are told we want. What we are told we need. None of which necessarily balance or make sense when compared to each other.

Marnee Bailey said...

And I do think it's subtle. I like that none of her characters are archetypes. There's no, "Oh, that's the cheerleader stereotype" or "that's the jock." I mean, the priest is the sadist. Yet, she blends the character traits so well. I know I rave about her characterization, but I can't really say enough.

Marnee Bailey said...

I agree. I think, honestly, that it has more to do with this author and her story telling ability than anything else. Very masterful. Anyone who can plumb those emotional depths is full of win in my book. :)

MsHellion said...

Exactly. If I could explore Love-Death-Evil on the levels Rowling did, I totally would. That's definitely the kind of thing I like to read and think about; but as we were discussing in Terri's blog, it's not where my writing goes.

For one, I don't write on that sort of epic scale, which Rowling did, to do the Black/White good and evil stuff that she did. (She had gray a lot too, but a lot was black and white.)

For two, I don't think I believe in myself to write something so Serious. To have anything relevant or profound to say--and the thing about being a person who can make others laugh, I don't think you have to be profound. So I like to think I'm sticking or enhancing what I'm good at, but it's also a fear that holds me back. That I'd be viewed as silly. Sorta like Rowling is in some circles who devalue her ideas of love and death.

Marnee Bailey said...

So I like to think I'm sticking or enhancing what I'm good at, but it's also a fear that holds me back.

Man, is this a topic for a blog all by itself.

I think we all do this to some extent, the holding ourselves back. I think, though, with every book that I push myself just a little further past my comfort zone. :) I bet you do too.

Marnee Bailey said...

And I worry all the time that people are going to view something I think is important as silly. I think that's what makes great writing so great, though. Like these books, I'm sure that Riesz is getting grief from many different corners. But she's trying to be true to a vision and she's bleeding on those pages (bad pun? yes? Ok, fine). I respect anyone who tries so thoroughly not to pull their punches. I wanna be like that when I grow up.

Maureen said...

Great pun.

She really does know how to take risks with her topic. And I bet her books are respected in the BDSM community, because she's being authentic to her voice and the characters.

You convinced me, I'll see if I can get them on Nook...