Courtney Milan's Reviews > The Siren

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
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May 01, 12


I just want to make things clear right off the bat.

This is not a traditional romance, and most people would probably say that this is not a romance at all. There is so much in this book that just blows past my comfort zones. If I were grading this book based on how comfortable it made me feel, it would probably be right around zero stars. There's no way to talk about this without including spoilers, so I'm going to spoiler tag liberally.

I am recommending this book, but I should be very, very clear and let you all know that if you read this, expect pain. Lots of it.

The main female protagonist of this book has sex with a great many people during the course of the book, both male and female, including (view spoiler) and the main male protagonist is married (although he and his wife are separated, and his wife had an affair with another man). This is not a book for people who can't handle criticism of the Catholic church. It's also not a book for people who can't handle nuance about things that should not be nuanced. There are parts of this book that left me very uncomfortable--and which I am still very uncomfortable about. If you are looking for a comfort read, or something that's going to leave you with a happy glow at the end, this is not that book.

If you're looking for erotica for the pure sexual thrill, this book isn't it, either. At least, what I mean by this is: while there is a good amount of sex in the book, it's not that kind of sex--takes over the page and leaves no room for anything else. And I'm saying a lot about what this book isn't, and not a whole lot about what it is.

This is a book about notorious erotica writer, Nora Sutherlin, who is writing a book. She's pawned off on editor Zach Easton, who is notorious in his own right--as a no-holds barred editor who kicks his authors' asses there and back again. Zach--a lit fic editor--isn't pleased to be handed an author who writes "one-handed reads" and basically thinks that he'll intimidate her until she decides she can't work with him. And that plan lasts about two seconds after he meets her, and realizes that she can't be intimidated.

Zach is married. His wife, Grace, had an affair, and rather than trying to figure out what he could do to try to fix the relationship, he fled England (where they'd lived together) for New York. They haven't divorced, but he expects to see the paperwork any day. It's clear from the beginning that he's not over her, and doesn't know how to be over her: he's just numb, and going through the motions.

That brings us to Nora. Nora is an extremely complicated character. She was in a long-term submissive relationship with another man named Soren who was brutal--but they both loved it. She left him many years ago, but is still in love with him--in a complicated, painful way, such that she still visits him on their anniversary, and he considers their relationship not over, but temporarily on hold. This man also happens to be (view spoiler)

In any event, Nora is now separated from Soren, and she has, living in her house, an unpaid intern named Wesley. I'm also not okay with Wesley-the-unpaid-intern, or her laughing comment that sexual harassment is part of the job description: I am so not good with that. (view spoiler) Nora and Wesley have never had sex, but there is definitely tension between them.

And that's where the story starts. Add in more partners for Nora than I can count on one hand, and honestly, if you handed me a synopsis for this book to me, I would say that I would never, ever want to read anything like it. EVER.

But.

This isn't the kind of erotica that gets you hot and bothered. (I mean, it might do that; I don't know.) It's the kind that punches you in the stomach and then kisses you on the cheek. The very fact that there is so much that I am not okay with in this book is part of the reason I enjoyed it. This book made me feel everything. It was beautifully written--not just the language, but the emotional arc.

It was impossible to feel sorry for Nora, who had once been submissive to a sadist, because she was so incandescently unbreakable. Conversely, it was impossible not to feel for Zach, who loved his wife desperately and had no idea what to do about the fact that he was losing her. And then there was Wesley. And Michael. And I don't know what to do with any of these extremely damaged characters but hold my breath and hope that they don't hurt themselves any more than they have to.

At this point in my reading and writing career, books that can pull me outside myself--that can make me stop criticizing and thinking and just grab hold of my heart--are so unlikely and valuable that I don't know what else to do with them. It was extremely, extremely painful to read.

As for the ending... (view spoiler)

It hurt me so hard to read this book. I was completely not okay with...just about everything in it. And I still loved it.

There's a line that Miranda Darling uses about Smite in Unraveled: "He was all blade, no handle. If she held him close, she'd risk getting cut." That's kind of how I feel about this book: all blade, no handle. I wouldn't want to read a book like this every day, or even every week. But once in a while, I can handle the pain.

There's a line near the beginning of the book that goes like this: "Nora said nothing as he joined her, only turned her head and gazed out at the night. She seemed to be trying to stare down the city. He had a feeling the city would blink first."

That's kind of how I felt about this book--like it was trying to stare me down. And there's no question. I blinked.
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Beautiful review


message 2: by Lege (new)

Lege Wow, this is wonderful review...


message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Wow...amazing review! I don't think I can deal with the book but I loved your review of it.


Christine Bell Fabulously eloquent review and I agree with every word!


KatLynne Amazing review!


*P*u*r*p*l*e* Masochist GREAT REVIEW!!!


Michele ~ la Smoocherina Beautiful review!


Barbara (VampAngel) I agree with almost everything you said. My review is similar to yours. It's an uncomfortable but great book.


Kimberly Wonderful review! I just finished the book this morning and will write a review. I agree with a lot of what you say. Can't wait for book two!


Robin Again, fantastic review. You say all of the things I could not put into words. So much wrong with this whole book, I am totally uncomfortable with almost every situation, but still it was an amazing read.


message 11: by Djag (last edited Aug 25, 2012 05:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Djag I tried so hard to convey everything that you have just written and I know that I failed miserably after reading your review. It was as gorgeous as the book. I agree with every single word.


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Ian wrote: "Wow...amazing review! I don't think I can deal with the book but I loved your review of it."

Just noticed I said this way back in May. Now I've read the book and it's probably going to end up as my best book of 2012.


Anachronist yes, beautiful review, nothing new or more original from me either. Still I would not swap your books for this one, Mrs Milan.


Divya Mondal Amazing review..but I don't agree with ur view of Soren. He is a much better character.


Divya Mondal Amazing review..but I don't agree with ur view of Soren. He is a much better character.


message 16: by Sarina (new) - added it

Sarina A detailed, simply written, eloquently worded and a very good review. It's influencing me to go get the book right now... :) Am curious to know the characters for myself, and find out whether I can tolerate Nora. Hopefully, I'll find the book worthwhile when I finish reading it.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

That was a beautifully written review.. You could probably get away with charging to read your reviews.


message 18: by Bookworm ;o) (new) - added it

Bookworm ;o) GREAT review! Thank you!


message 19: by Tatjana (new) - added it

Tatjana Mallano Beautiful review indeed!


Antonio  Angelo This review was fantastic in that it showed the emotional impact of the book and the roller coaster ride a sensitive soul will take if they pass the height requirement and manage to buckle themselves in without running off.

Personally i loved the book, growing up catholic and attending a
Church where bad things happened i could relate to the characters.

I dont believe this book condemns catholicism so much as looks at it in a light most are afraid to turn on. It understands the power of the church and how men can bend its teachings yet maintain a sense of morality the reader knows is broken but can understand how the character got there.


message 21: by Conniesam (new)

Conniesam I was having trouble deciding exactly how I felt after reading this book and your review hit the nail on the head.


message 22: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Holy crap....you've both scared and intrigued me. Amazingly thorough review.


Lucratia Such a beautiful review. Thanks


Lucratia Such a beautiful review. Thanks


message 25: by crashqueen73 (new) - added it

crashqueen73 Wow! Impressive review and very helpful! Thanks for sharing!


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