The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
May 1, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
Note: While I do hide spoilers in this review, the comment section may include discussion of them.
Favorite Quote: And although two people can love each other deeply, sometimes love alone doesn’t cut it. We can only sacrifice so much of ourselves in a relationship before there’s nothing left to love or be loved.
Last week I saw Courtney Milan tweet about how much she enjoyed this book (read her review here). I had just happened to receive it unsolicited for review, and thought well hell, I’ll give it a try. I was warned by many that this book does not have a traditional HEA ending, and they were right. This book is a romance book of sorts (some will argue not a romance book at all), but there is not your normal hero and heroine who fall in love and live happily ever after. Instead we do get two main protagonists, Zach and Nora who have very complicated lives. I love how this book unfolds and I couldn’t imagine a different ending for everyone involved. But I don’t want anyone jumping into this thinking it is a traditional romance book. This excerpt not only explains the book Nora is writing, but maybe the actual book itself:
“This is not a romance novel…” Zach read from her new first chapter. “Excellent line. Evocative and provocative. Ironic as well.”
“Ironic?” Nora sipped at her own mug of hot cocoa. She sat across from him at the table and pulled one leg up to her chest. “It’s true. It isn’t a romance novel.”
“Not a traditional one, of course. Your protagonists don’t end up together, but it is a love story.”
“A love story is not the same as a romance novel. A romance novel is the story of two people falling in love against their will. This is a story of two people who leave each other against their will. It starts to end the minute they meet.”
The Siren is one of the most incredible books I’ve read, but also I think I’ve never felt more uncomfortable in my life. I will most likely put these uncomfortable moments in spoiler tags, but I think I do have to discuss them. But let me start at the beginning.
Zach is an editor for Royal House Publisher. He is from London but currently he is working at the New York office after his wife, Grace and him separated. He is still in love with Grace, but they are currently at odds with each other. You learn late in the book why, but we’ll just leave it at – they love each other but hurt too much to be together. Zach is known as the ‘London Fog,’ for he is a very serious, dour, cranky editor. He is brilliant, but loves to rip manuscripts to shreds, and making authors cry. His new assignment is to edit an erotica book by Nora Sutherlin. Zach is vehemently opposed to this, as he only works with “serious writers.” But his boss knows erotica brings in the big bucks, and doesn’t give Zach much of a choice.
Nora is well known for her erotica, and really wants to break through with a big publishing house to make money. It’s really hard for me to describe Nora. She is petite and beautiful but larger than life. She is chaotic, has a very quick wit, and has this essence surrounding her that everyone is drawn too. She also has this huge vulnerable hole inside of her that she almost drowns in throughout the book. Nora has many more things in her life than just writing. At the age of fifteen, she met Soren and became his submissive. Soren was much older than her (I can’t remember how much older but definitely adult compared to her 15 years old.) Did I mention this book has many things that made me uncomfortable? Okay, so Nora enters into a submissive relationship with Soren. He is extremely dominant. He makes her wait until she is 20 before they consummate their relationship. Does that make things better? I’m not sure. What makes me even more uncomfortable – spoiler about Soren –
A year before this book starts, Nora (in her thirties) has left Soren for reasons you will discover as you read. Her leaving him made her fell apart and she really hasn’t recovered nor stopped loving him. Also during this time, she met Wesley while she was teaching a class. Wesley is very innocent young man around 19 years old. He ends up moving in with her, yet he is a virgin. They live more as best friends, but that boundary becomes very blurry in this book. The scenes between these two are some of my favorite. They have a struggle – they both care so deeply for the other, yet their love for each other is like walking on eggshells. So scared to hurt the other. Their relationship is very heart wrenching. Wesley definitely does not approve of Nora’s lifestyle with Soren, and he thinks eventually she will change and in his mind, come to her senses. You will have to read to see how that all turns out.
So Nora is reeling over leaving her long-term master, lives with a nineteen year old virgin, writes popular erotica and something I haven’t mentioned yet – she is a very famous dominatrix. People pay very big bucks for her to whip/bound/have sex with etc. You see Nora in action in this book. She sleeps with many people. (Again, not a traditional romance book.).
What unfolds is this crazy, amazing story of pain and love, acceptance and forgiveness, beginnings and endings. I literally was absorbed in this story from the first chapter. I can’t explain the dynamics between Zach and Nora, Nora and Wesley, Nora and Soren, and Zach and Grace but they all come together in this beautiful book, that may also kill you a little. Tiffany Reisz writes amazing dialogue and emotional depth. Witty, sharp, smart characters that will completely suck you in. When Zach and Nora first meet:
“Your son, I presume?” Zach asked after Wesley departed.
“My intern. Sort of. He cooks so I guess that makes him more of a factotum. Intern? Factotum?”
“Houseboy,” Zach supplied, putting his large vocabulary to use again. “And a rather well-trained one, I see.”
“Well-trained? Wesley? He’s horribly trained. I can’t even train him to fuck me. But I don’t think you drove all the way from the city just to talk about my intern with me, adorable as he is.”
“No I did not.” Zach fell silent. He waited and watched as Nora Sutherlin sat back in her chair and studied him with her unnerving eyes.
“So….” she began. “I can tell you don’t like me. Shows you’ve got good taste in women at least. Also shows you’ve heard of me. Am I what you expected?”
Zach stared at her a moment. The last three writers he’d worked with had been men in their fifties and early sixties. Never once had he seen any of them in their pajamas. And never had he met a writer as uncomfortably alluring as Nora Sutherlin.
“Thank God for stilettos, right? So what’s the verdict? J.P said he’s giving you total control over the book and me. It’s been a long time since I’ve let a man boss me around. I kind of miss it.”
“The verdict is undecided.”
“A well-hung jury then. Better give me a retrial.”
“You’re very clever.”
“You’re very handsome.”
I like that she kind of builds up to the BDSM parts of the book because, I became completely involved and obsessed with these characters, before the very uncomfortable parts were exposed. Had they been exposed earlier, I may have dropped this book and ran screaming. Spoiler –
The BDSM in this book is very intense and explicit. I could literally feel myself flinch as I read some of the scenes. But, I also feel the scenes felt organic. I never once felt like the author threw them in there for shock value. While I may not understand this lifestyle, I could appreciate the situations these characters were placed in.
I honestly don’t like Soren. He scares me. Nora may trust him. I don’t. I assume he has a much larger part in the second book. Maybe I will come to understand him more? I hope so.
So why am I giving this book an A? This book captivated me, and I think it is extremely well written. Although I did feel uncomfortable in some parts, I still love this book…and I’m okay with that.