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In the Red

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A darkly erotic novel about a good girl gone bad.

When Irina--Romanian by birth but brought up by American parents who have never understood her-arrives at college she quickly abandons ordinary student life for an affair with an older, mysterious Romanian man named Andrei.

Andrei awakens a powerful sensuality in Irina. And he has money - lots of it. For the first time, Irina feels free. But the longer she stays with Andrei, the more she is certain that she can't leave, and that may be complicit in Andrei's work - whatever that "work" might be. Then an unexpected friendship with a young Russian bride opens the door to escape, and also revenge.

A tantalizing, edgy exploration of women and love, power and money-interwoven with potent, unusual, and nervy Romanian fairy tales-In the Red asks what the legacy of love is, and who will be left unscathed.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Elena Mauli Shapiro

4 books29 followers
I was born in Paris, France, and moved to the United States at the age of 13. I’ve amassed several degrees in literature and writing around the San Francisco Bay Area (Stanford University, Mills College, UC Davis), where I still live with one scientist husband and two elderly half-Siamese cats who spend all day following sunbeams around the house. I am the author of two novels, 13 RUE THERESE and IN THE RED, both from Little, Brown. My short fiction has appeared in Zyzzyva, Five Chapters, The Farallon Review.

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5 stars
16 (11%)
4 stars
20 (13%)
3 stars
58 (40%)
2 stars
28 (19%)
1 star
21 (14%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews
Profile Image for Bj.
1,217 reviews262 followers
October 25, 2015
4 "How to Begin" stars.

This is unlike any other book I have ever read before. Please note that although this book has elements of a dark romance, it is labeled women's fiction, not romance. All that said, I do believe there is a love story embedded in this book, albeit not one with all the traditional elements typically included in a romance novel. So if you're looking for a story that will leave you warm and fuzzy, then this is not it. On the other hand, if you want a glimpse into what causes the oppressed to become evil, and the common to rebel against the order, then look no further.

When college student, Irina, a Romanian orphan who is adopted by Romanian parents, meets an older, mysterious Romanian man, Andrei, they are instantly attracted to one another. Before long she moves in with him and becomes his kept woman. Spending her days leisurely using his wealth to shop, her life becomes one mission to remain attractive to him. Soon she finds that even though she had a promising college career, she is willing to give it all up for Andrei. Even as Andrei's true nature becomes clearer to her, including the illicit nature of his ventures, Irina is incapable of escaping.

When one of Andrei's two close business associates out of no where announces that he is getting married to a young Russian girl no one has previously met, Irina suspects that she is a mail order bride. Knowing that with his money Andrei's associate could easily get any American bride he wanted, Irina suspects a more nefarious reason for his choice. Not wanting to pry, Irina and Elena become friends. Spending their days shopping and blissfully ignorant of the men's "business" activities, and their nights shrouded in privacy from one another as to their partners' passionate interests, Irina's and Elena's strengthens. Eventually it is the friendship, that forces Irina to "escape", even when she feels as if she can't, and leads to her revenge.

I have to admit that I had a hard time getting into this book. The style employed of switching back and forth in time and between the main story and the Romanian tales was difficult to follow at first. Eventually it all comes together but it takes some determination to get to that point.

All in all, I found In the Red, to be a thought provoking read. In addition, to it's general tale of the corrupting power of oppression, I think this book proves that not everything is black and white, and it for the most part in these gray areas that we spend the most time trying to discern what is truly right and wrong.

Source: Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Theresa.
316 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2017
Actual rating = 3.5 stars

I liked this book, I certainly didn't love it though. I sit here trying to gather my thoughts on how exactly to describe and thus review this book and I am at a loss. So bear with me as I muddle my way through. First of all, the blurb on the inside cover says this is an erotic thriller. I can summarily say that is not so. I have no idea how the publisher believed "erotic" described anything about this book. Personally, for me I'm glad it was NOT as advertised. Yes, there was sex and sexual situations in this book but they were nowhere near the focus of the story. And while we're at it, the sex described was not gratuitous or out of context. In a twist, I would describe the carnal aspect of the book as another manifestation of the lead character's downward spiral into self obliteration. At least, I think so. (??). Also "thriller" in no way, shape or form should be used as a descriptor either. Sheesh, reading the synopsis on Goodreads isn't really helpful either because while I can see how parts of the book could be summed up in such a manner, I honestly do not think this was the story the author sat down to write. I'm really not sure because as I said before I really had trouble with this book. I'm not entirely sure exactly what the author's motivation was and what she wanted the reader to take from the book. The story was odd... There I said it! I did find the concept intriguing and even didn't mind the use of Romanian folklore and fairy tales as a foreshadowing device (at least I think foreshadowing is the right term. It's been many years since taking a critical thinking type of literature class). However, I believe this story would have benefited from being told from differing viewpoints. I wish not only Irina had the chance to tell the tale. I think it would have been better to give the minor characters their own voices and devote chapters to their points of view. I also think the author assumed a great deal in not explaining the conditions in Romania up until the 1989 overthrow of communism and life directly afterward. I know from personal experience this area of history, heck, even this area of our world is an often misunderstood and overlooked. I can all but
guarantee the majority of readers who picked this book did not intuitively know what was going on and the backgrounds of the characters and it severely hurt the readability for most. Looking at the reviews by others one can see evidencethat I am correct as there are several DNFs.
Profile Image for Sladjana Kovacevic.
539 reviews8 followers
October 16, 2021
✒"Nekada davno dogodilo se nešto. Da se nije dogodilo,ne bi bilo ispričano."
✒"Irina je jednom prilikom pitala Andreja šta mu je bilo najčudnije kada je stigao u ovu zemlju. On je rekao:izbor."
✒"Čistota je,inače,usrana ideja primerena jedino bajkama. Ne,čekaj,to je uvreda. Nijedna bajka koja poštuje samu sebe jednostavno ne veruje u čistotu."
✒"Znaš,u korenu ljudskog morala su saosećajnost i vera u smisao. Kriminalci pate od nedostatka bar jednog od ta dva."
💃Kad vidiš vatreno crvene korice a na poleđini knjige piše da će te knjiga "osvežiti" očeguješ neku varijantu 50 nijansi sive. O kako ono što piše na poslednjoj korici može da zavara. 😁
💃Ovo je američki erotski triler izukrštan s rumunskim bajkama,mitovima i legendama.
💃Ima seska,ali je napravljena jasna granica između bajkovite ljubavi (Ruža-devojka i princ) i eksplicitnih scena nasilja nad "devojkama iz agencije".
💃Temama kao što su emigracija,kriminal,trgovina ljudima,usvajanje,potraga za sredinom u kojoj se uklapaju oni koji su oduvek "drugačiji" u okruženju u kome su se našli- ne prilazi se ni malo olako ni "osvežavajuće"
💃Dosta istorijskog okvira vezanog za Rumuniju i bivše komunističke zemlje
💃Ljubav i romansa? Romansa- nee. Ljubav u viteškom smislu,u smislu štititi druge od sebe-da
💃A u duhu oktobra(očito je neizbežan ) tu su i strigoji i zmajevi i naravno,grof Drakula. Jer ipak je glavna junakinja rumunskog porekla. 😁🧛‍♀️🦇
#7sensesofabok #bookstagram #readingaddict #literature #knjige
Profile Image for Uroš Martinović.
178 reviews14 followers
May 2, 2019
Irina je usvojena kada je imala pet godina - odrasla je u Americi, a rodila se u Rumuniji. O svojoj zemlji zna samo ono što je pročitala u knjigama. Kada se u njenom životu pojavi Andrej, zgodni Rumun, ona će prvi put osetiti da nekome priprada.
Knjiga se svrstava u erotske trilere, mada ako bi mene neko pitao, pre bih jer svrstao u erotiku nego u trilere. Zašto?? Zato što, osim brzog tempa nema nikakve druge odlike trilera. Kraj nije uzbudljiv, meni čak nije jasan.
Ono što mi se u ovoj knjizi takođe nije dopalo su detalji o njihovoj vezi. Andrej je posesivan, misli da poseduje Irinu, a ona ( samo zato što je žensko ) ne sme da mu se suprotstavi. Rečenice koje su se nalazile u ovim delovima su me strašno nervirale, toliko da sam hteo oboma da počupam svu kosu s glave, jer ona ga u jednom trenutku prezire, a već u sledećem strastveno vode ljubav u svakom uglu stana. Takođe, ovde ima još 3 junaka - Dragoš, još jedan meh karakter, i Vasilij i Elena, još jedan tralala ženski karakter ( koja je na kraju, doduše, ispala lukava ). Andrej, Dragoš i Vasilij su saradnici, stalno nešto muljaju i konstantno su u nekoj opasnosti.
Još jedan veoma bitan deo u ovoj knjizi su rumunske priče koje Andrej priča Irini. Mislim da ih ima deset.
Možda bi neko pomislio da mi se knjiga nije dopala, ali bila mi je malo bolja od proseka - 3.5 zvezdice.
Profile Image for Nikki .
111 reviews45 followers
September 10, 2015
I don't even know where to begin with this book. It was very different from anything I have read before. At first it seems that the story, which interweaves between Romanian fairy tales and the story between Irina and Andrei, is confusing and at times out of place. But once continuing on with the story I found it actually works quite well. This is definitely one that will stick with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Nemo.
116 reviews25 followers
December 9, 2014
Actual Rating: 3.5 stele

Since the genre said Womens Fiction I imagined It would be a story of a woman trying to reach her Romanian side. What I didn’t expect was a dark love story of just how bad things could get from just one mistake. Needless to say it was hard to hold those tears in near the end.

It starts off sweet and simple with an encounter between Andrei and Irina where after a short conversation they have their first kiss. From that first kiss she is hooked to Andrei and his entire lifestyle.

Irina knew she was born in Romania but as a young child she was adopted by a nice American family. From there she had every privilege and even though she wondered about her heritage she didn’t do anything about it until she met the gorgeous Andrei. He has a dark gypsy look that sucks her in and doesn’t let go. He drags her from a high society life to a hush hush criminal life. Even though he treats her like a queen she never knows how he gets the money.

There are three main associates, the boss being Vasilii and the business partners being Andrei and Womanizer Dragos. Life in Romania and Russia doesn't hit Irina until she meets Elena, Vasilis mail order bride. She then realizes just how lucky she was to get away and how lucky she is to have Andreii, who in all his evil ways would never screw her over.

Now Irina was a great MC, it was heartbreaking to see how she got so wrapped up in this lifestyle and every 10 or so chapters we go into the future and see how her actions had affected her. Elena was another girl who broke my heart. She never had a chance to decide what she wanted, instead she was forced into a life and to leave it was suicide. We don't get to see a lot from Andrei but the little we see is that he has parent issues and thinks that Americans are just stuck up and ungrateful.

Of course life for a criminal never has happy endings and that’s what Irina soon learns. It was a heartbreaking book that I pray has a sequel or at least a novella!

Overall not for the faint of heart or for anyone looking for a swoony read.
Profile Image for sabrina.
7 reviews
December 26, 2022
the low rating of this book is simply unfair.

a friend recommended this book, citing the inclusion of story-telling via the characters and descriptions of art pieces. though I abandoned it briefly, I, thankfully, made a swift return to finish it off. Irina is Romanian, though she was adopted by American parents and brought up in the dark about her heritage. Irina's identity is something that could be relatable to some (such as myself). when she arrives at college, she breaks free of the boundaries that held her back. as she breaks free, she falls into the arms of Andrei, an unsettling yet charming Romanian man. she quickly gets tangled up in his world as he teaches her about Romanian culture, telling stories. though described as erotic, it was more about Irina's identity. her relationship with Andrei grows dark quickly, and tension builds with each chapter that passes. readers will continuously ask a question; what is Irina's fate? it's a bittersweet one, though much better than her friend Elena's. I'd never read a book like this before, and it satiated a thirst I did not know I had. the incorporation of art and fairytales is something I haven't seen before, but it makes this book so special.

ignore the low stars this book has. In the Red is a wonderful read everyone should consider.

Profile Image for Stacey.
195 reviews26 followers
August 7, 2014
You know that feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that you've had a really strange (possibly really great) dream, but the visual snippets you remember won't cooperate by getting in linear order? That's what reading this book feels like. I always felt just a little off balance.

I loved the structure of In The Red - the interweaving of Romanian fairy tales with Romanian history (sometimes indistinguishably) helped feed the dream-like qualities of the book. The characters are never really very fleshed out, and some of the story lines are left open (kinda like real life). The end result will be, I think, a novel that keeps popping into my head - possibly years from now - just like those disorienting dreams that wake you up in the middle of the night.
Profile Image for Alaa  A.
163 reviews51 followers
December 27, 2016
"once upon a time something happened had it never happened it wouldn't be told" I found myself looking forward to the Romanian fairy tale more than the story. that found this book very scary and different, its like a nightmare.

I couldn't get why was she so cold and didn't accepted any thing good in her life .

Profile Image for Avery.
13 reviews
January 21, 2023
It was an interesting read and somewhat a disturbing read. I didn't want to not finish it as I wanted to know what happened with Irina and Elena. However, the plot wasn't the best, but the story seemed kind of sad.

In my opinion, the plot gave a message of "the world is built for men as women struggle to make due." I can understand why Irina and Elena did the things they did because of this imbalance. Regarding Irina, she had the option for a better life but chose not to live that way. There was a lot of regret in her character as she could've just not kissed him or left him immediately after the chance encounter, but she didn't. She wanted this life, and it got her to experience hardships because of Andrei.

The entire book gave off "it is what it is" vibes. But I still liked the book as I had never read one like this before. This is why it was interesting. It was new material. Also, the Romanian tales were interesting to read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sheila.
716 reviews3 followers
October 26, 2018
I'm not really sure what I was supposed to take away from this book.
I felt as though it really had no point or direction. Also it was as though two books with fairy tales and then this story that includes Irina.
It really was hard to follow and I just didn't enjoy how the story was written, I felt as though it could have been a great story but fell flat in the story telling.
Irina meets and is part of bad men, money, trafficking and they end up allowing her or kicking her away, I don't know what the point was or exactly what I missed.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn Kratzer.
16 reviews
September 4, 2018
I see many bad reviews on this book. This book was far different than anything I have ever read. It was really one of those books that left you feeling empty once you finished it, but only because I wish there had been a happier ending. All in all, I enjoyed this book very much.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
January 2, 2019
Very meeeh book in which nothing really happens, exept all the things you would expect from the very beginning: good girl falls for bad guy, bad guy turns out to be bad guy, she never gets over him. And that's all folks!
Only interesting thing were romanian folklore stories.
Profile Image for Jelena Antic.
173 reviews16 followers
April 22, 2018
2 samo zato sto imaju rumunske price na pocetku novog poglavljam. Ovako ukupan utisak o knjizi nemam.
Profile Image for Zuri.
24 reviews
December 17, 2019
I actually loved this book. It was 50 shades of grey meets the picture of Dorian grey with Romanian folktales mixed in. I wasn't ad scandalous as 50 shades, but it was just as dark.
Profile Image for Shelly.
40 reviews
July 26, 2022
Hmm I honestly don’t know what to rate this book. It was a very interesting read I guess.
Profile Image for nv.
4 reviews
April 26, 2023
there are things i am curious about regarding the human mind, sexuality, relationships, childhood, that have all been answered by this book in some capacity, however incomplete those answers may be. this book certainly isn't for everyone, i will admit. however the low rating it's gotten on this website is, as a friend called it, unfair. i discovered this book a good amount of years ago and because it made me feel even the slightest bit less alone i still hold it very close to my heart.

i highly encourage more people to give this book and others that are similar a try; the conversations had in this novel are, for lack of a better term, uncomfortable, in a way that's very special to me.
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,585 reviews361 followers
September 18, 2014
A special thank you to Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

IN THE RED by Elena Mauli Shapiro is a dark and dangerous exploration of women, power, morality, and money, in a haunting world of sex, love, and crime, mixed with Romanian history and fairy tales.

Irina was scared of colors, she was told when she once spoke Romanian, before being adopted by Americans at age five. She did not speak for nearly a year, and then she spoke English. English is when the memories began. By then she was using the colors. Not the red, though, she was still scared of the red.
Her adoptive parents found two books for her: a Romanian history and a collection of Romanian fairy tales. They both became masked together in her head. Her native country became for her a place where myth and fact were the same thing. She was fascinated by them.

As a freshman at Stanford, Irina is drawn into an Eastern European immigrant underworld, when she meets Andrei, a fellow Romanian, who says he is a capitalist entrepreneur. He is older, but she is drawn to him and they become lovers, she is a kept woman. As most kept women’s roles go, they live to shop, and stay beautiful to be at the beckoning call of their master. Even though she knows she is giving up her career and she realizes this relationship is dark and unhealthy, it is addictive.

She then begins spending time with his two associates, Romanian Drago and former Russian soldier Vasilli. She travels with the men to Las Vegas where Vasilii marries the beautiful Elena, who has been sent to him from Russia. As things turn darker and dangerous, the girls are made to attend a stage show which involves live sex, evil, and money.

Through the tragedy and danger, Irina and Elena become friends as they spend their days shopping and not really accepting what their life involves. Can they escape? Will Andrei save her? Can she become human again?

The book is not my typical type of genre; however, I am always open to expanding my reading. I found it a little confusing with the switching back and forth in time from the present, the Romanian tales, and the future. The front cover draws you into the mysterious world, and if you enjoy dark, edgy, sensual, and explorations between the lines of good and evil, you will enjoy this exotic dangerous journey to love.

Profile Image for Ria.
541 reviews44 followers
June 18, 2015
Full Review@ http://www.abookishescape.com/2015/06...

The ending. Boy oh boy okay so I mentioned before there was no happiness in sight? Irina finds herself at a new crossroad surrounded by more emptiness. So…from the first page to the last page our protagonist( if you could call her that)…Makes ZERO development as in zilch nada zip! She made several mistakes and does not wish to do anything about it just another empty zombie walking around. I wish someone would shake her so she could find some beauty in life some miniscule happiness someone get this girl a puppy STAT! Oh well this read is NOT recommended for people that like the things I mentioned earlier but if you’re looking for a dreary, dreary, read where the only person who appreciates life and has any sense of morals is a drugged and drunk mail order bride…then look no further this is the one! Get to the store and pick this up today!!

My Rating
3.0 Afraid of Red, Adoption, Mute, Intelligent, Wonderful School, Andrei, Sex Clubs, Drugs, Chop Shop, Mail Order, Money, Fake Passport, Shopping, Scalpel, Butcher, Termination, Dissolution, Escape, Bank, Friend, 21012, Travel, Parents, Still stuck in a miserable void filled stars!
Profile Image for Jayne Burnett.
719 reviews4 followers
March 16, 2015
Thank you to Net Galley and Little Brown & Company for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. This is one of the strangest books I have ever read. Irena was adopted and given a new life with opportunities. She leaves her adoptive parents to go to university - she meets Andrei and becomes involved in his strange secretive life and with his even stranger friends. She has the friendship of Elena who is a child bride of one of Andrei 's friends.. They live with these men but know little about them. The money is made through cheap factories often selling fake goods & drugs. It's a complicated story an every few chapters leaves the story of Irina and tells strange fairy tales. Irina is discarded by the man she loves and has to start afresh. I did not like the story which was very explicit in se places and I disliked all the characters..
Profile Image for P.G. Lengsfelder.
Author 3 books3 followers
June 9, 2016
Ms. Shapiro is a very fine writer, with a taste for the dangerous and the erotic that is palpable. Her protagonist, Elena, is a young woman struggling to understand her (Romanian) lineage and her place in the world, and that lineage has infused her with a sense of dread and the characters surrounding her with a dispassionate violence. Shapiro's prose kept me on the page and moving forward, and I almost gave the novel 4 stars but I got lost from time-to-time in the (Romanian?) legends that are interspersed through the book, some of which seemed long and without clear purpose. However, this may have been my lack of understanding or the intended duplicity of the legends, which also left me not completely satisfied at then end. Nevertheless, Ms. Shapiro is a writer to watch, skillful and thoughtful, having given me a visceral experience well worth my time.
Profile Image for Ashley .
167 reviews39 followers
November 14, 2015
Meh. Just an okay book, if you are looking for something that over explains everything even down to the dustmotes slowly drifting in the hazy summer air filled with the smell of lilacs...you get the point, this is your book. This book seemed like a budding author/poetess' first shot at a real novel. She tried to build this story around old Romanian fairy tales that were supposed to apply to the current story arcs...but it just made the story confusing and hard to follow. Especially since the book jumps in and out of time periods in a herky jerky manner. Also, none of the characters were explained well enough to actually form an opinion of them. It was just so 2 dimensional. Not a very likeable book. Only reason I gave it 2 stars was because of the poetic undertones.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,583 reviews291 followers
October 25, 2014
This was an interesting read - very different to any thing I've ever read and while it wasn't perfect, it was interesting. The novel has three different parts, that all intersect. There's Irina's relationship with Andrei, the aftermath, and Romanian fairy tales. I confess it was the latter two which held my attention. I never quite understood what Irina saw in Andrei, he's clearly not a good man, and I just felt she could have done better... The Romanian fairy tales were by far my favourite parts of the novel. They were very interesting. I just with the whole novel had kept my attention as well as those fairy tales.
Profile Image for Brendan.
616 reviews12 followers
January 21, 2015
I received a promotional copy through the First Reads program.

Rating: High side of 3.

Shapiro has a clear writing style; she communicates effectively. So it is not a difficult book to read. Also, the inclusion of the Romanian fairy tales and snippets of history sets the book apart a bit. In a good way.

However, I felt no connection with any of the primary characters of the novel proper. They are horrible people behaving badly. Also, it's misleading to describe it as "erotic".
Profile Image for Mary Catherine.
79 reviews46 followers
February 9, 2016
Strangley alluring, culturally enlightening and darkly erotic is what I would say of this book if I had to wrap it all up in a sentence. Irina is a young woman with a deathly attaction to all things that lurk in and around the body and lifestyle of a man named Andrei. She seems to be a helpless victim, But Irina's madness has an overlooked method waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. Make no mistake she will not walk out of this empty handed, despite how close she is to the edge of the knife.
Profile Image for Anna Marie.
14 reviews
September 26, 2014
This is a goodreads giveaway that I won.
It was an interesting read. I wouldn't call it a hearts and flowers romance. It gave you a different view of love, and hate in a way.
The book went back and forth, so it was hard to follow at times.
Over all it was a good book. Be prepared though, it's a bit dark. But maybe you will like that!
Profile Image for Nerdread.
427 reviews39 followers
July 5, 2017
i found this book very scary and different, its like a nightmare, its very dark and kind of disturbing at times but yet its beautiful. i really like this book i recommend it to those who like dark , twisted stories that have a lot of possibilities....... amazing !
Profile Image for Jennifer.
128 reviews16 followers
August 20, 2015
I can't decide how I feel about this book. I'd love to chat with someone about it. It's definitely unique. I waffle between three and four stars.
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