Thank you to Jess at Escape on a Page for the push needed to finally check out Tiffany Reisz. (Here’s her review of Winter Tales, which is what convinced me.)
Original Sinners, Book 1
Heat Factor: There’s flogging but no descriptions of genitalia.
Character Chemistry: Nora is all that is desirable, and therefore has pretty good chemistry with just about everyone.
Plot: Erotica Writer and Stuffy British Editor revise her latest book.
Overall: Please read this book so I have someone to talk to about it.
Let’s start by saying that this book subverted my expectations. Reisz pushes at the boundaries of what counts as a romance here – there is still a central love story (or several), but the characters and their relationships to each other are complicated. So the blurb, which talks about Nora the Erotica Writer and Zach the Editor working on her latest book together, does not entirely capture what is actually going on.
Where Reisz really excels is in the slow release of information. There were several points in the book where she added a small detail to a character’s backstory, and I would be like “GAH! That’s changes EVERYTHING!”
Because of all this stuff about subverting expectations and the importance of minutiae, I’m not going to talk a lot about details.
I will say, in vague terms: the writing is excellent, and the characters are complicated and therefore interesting.
I will also say, in vague terms: there are several scenes that readers may find upsetting, so if you are not into reading about problematic sexual power plays, this is not the book for you.
However. I had some issues with the portrayal of the kink community. What I am about to say may be taken with a grain of salt, because I am not a member of said kink community, but here I go anyways.
On the positive side, kink is normalized – the community is shown to be full of rich and famous and powerful people. Most of these rich and famous and powerful people are shown to be closeted about their kink, which, fair enough.
The problem arises when we start getting insights into various members of the community; everyone about whom we are given background information is kinky because of some serious damage or trauma. Examples of minor characters include a woman who was aggressively raped when she was 14 and now can only get off when it’s rough and a man who has the hots for a child and deals with it by paying someone to beat it out of him.
Furthermore, kink is shown to be something you’re born into; a person is either intrinsically vanilla or intrinsically not. I don’t know if I agree, but I can buy it. However, this idea of being intrinsically kinky allows characters to justify bad behavior. Let’s talk Nora and Søren. (Background, they were together for years, Nora left Søren 5 years before The Siren takes place, but she still loves him.) They have a love for the ages. When they first met, Søren knew that she was “one of them.” But. They met when she was 15 and he was 30. He was in a position of power over her. They didn’t have sex until she was 20 because of looooove and also until he had trained her as a good submissive. That is called grooming. And it’s gross.
Even with the elements of emotional squick, I still found this book really engaging and plan on reading the sequel.
PS: I wasn’t kidding about finding someone to talk to about it. (I tried to convince Ingrid to do another duel with me but she said Priest was enough Catholic guilt BDSM to last her a lifetime. I, on the other hand, seem to have found a new niche sub-subgenre to obsess over.)
Buy Now: Amazon
Looking for something with similar elements, but that is maybe less complicated?
I have extra time on my hands and want to start a new series
4 thoughts on “Review: The Siren by Tiffany Reisz (2012)”
I’ll ABSOLUTELY talk to you about it!! And wait til you read the others…The Siren was her first book, I believe, and her writing has only gotten better and deeper (pun not intended, really) since. I’m working on a review of The Priest (#9) and it is definitely her unique mix of emotionally difficult content plus all the funny, loving, shocking characters.
I think part of why I want to talk about it is because I was so conflicted about this book. (I figure it’s ok to talk spoilers in the comments section.)
There were some parts that were seriously eyebrow-raising – like the weird “born this way” kink stuff I talked about in my review, but also the Michael scene. I also did not buy the Nora/Soren soulmates-true-love-foreverrrrrr thing (I just started book two, and the opening sequence felt completely unbelievable based on their dynamic in The Siren – but of course, if they’re happy in the beginning, I know it won’t be smooth sailing).
On the other hand, although Nora did some extremely fucked up things, I was so enthralled by everything that was going on. There was so much good meat in between the self-justification.
Omg there is SO much fucked-up-ness in the whole series. That’s partly why I love it: each book has more backstory AND major character growth. The “born this way” concept evolves over time I think, because I truly don’t remember that from the beginning. And yeah, the Soren/Nora relationship is so complicated: it’s fascinating.
Nobody’s a saint in this world, and for some reason that makes them all so much more real to me. Also, I didn’t know anything about BDSM sub-culture before this, but I knew it wasn’t like *ahem* THOSE books that came out of Twilight fanfic…at least this seems more realistic?
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So, I’ll be honest. Everything I know about BDSM subculture I learned from…Dan Savage. So I am not an expert, but I agree that most of it seems more realistic. (Though there seem to be some hints that BDSM = damaged, but I will wait and see on that one.)
I’m reading The Angel now, and having a hard time getting into it and I realized that part of what I really loved about The Siren has to do with marketing – because with the blurb it is 100% marketed as a romance novel. And the set up is also classic romance, with Zach going to edit Nora’s book. So then when things take a turn for not that at about the midway mark, it’s kind of a shock and I realized that things were not what I was expecting. It was less about the characters, and more about the form and the way that Reisz played with genre conventions in really interesting ways. And it seems like, without that expectation, what we’re left with are the characters. And for me, the jury’s still out on them, because I’m also realizing that Zach was my way in, and if he’s not an anchor… (However. I am not very far into book 2, so I’m sure that there’s a whole bunch of delicious fucked-up-ness coming my way.)
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