I’ll admit I’m having a hard time reflecting on Tiffany Reisz’s “The Siren” – the first book in her “Original Sinners” series. Would it surprise anyone for me to say that I actually…liked parts of this book? The writing was well done and the characterization was incredibly intricate in places. I was impressed by those measures the most and I’ll admit those elements were what kept me reading this without putting it down from beginning to end. Yet, there are caveats that kept me from rating it among the better narratives I’ve read.
It remains to be said that this book is by no means a romance (and I didn’t take it as such, though if I had, I probably would’ve been raging far more at some of the portrayals of “love” this book purported with some of its characters). It’s more of a portrayal of the lives of the characters it chooses to showcase as well as their relationships, for better and worse. It not only does a thorough vetting of the BDSM lifestyles specific to the cast of characters it involves in this work, but it pushes envelopes with respect to moral narratives and considerations. I think anyone who may be opposed to strong sexual displays and critiques of religion (especially those who are Catholic) would best skip this book entirely, and there are thematics such as statuatory rape, bondage, and other aspects that will likely offend many readers. For me, I usually have a strong filter for reading genre/moral bending content as long as it provides solid foundations of context within the work for what it offers. This didn’t offend me as much as I thought it would’ve, but I was taken out of my comfort zone many times.
Was it shocking or sensual in an enticing way? No to both. I didn’t find the narrative to be sensual or with an intimacy that would be arousing. It was intimate in the sense it provided perspective to the characters portrayed, and that varied in quality depending on the characters themselves. I’ll admit I read some of these scenes through a mental filter and kept asking myself “Okay, what is this story trying to tell me aside from those depictions? Because I don’t see what those elements add to the story at all – they could’ve been reduced and the story wouldn’t have lost any of its respective punch.” It’s an interesting story if you consider how flawed its cast of characters are and the level of the interactions and banter they engage throughout the narrative. Ultimately, the latter aspect is what hooked me.
I do have to give Reisz credit for putting the content in context and allowing the moral debates/toggles/internal struggles to be addressed through parts of the narrative. She doesn’t ignore it, but rather allows the cast of characters – based on their experiences, mindsets, approaches – to bring it forward while the reader watches them interact on those levels. I think that’s one of the reasons why it worked on some levels.
As per illustration of the main cast: Nora – the erotica writer who has a very controversial “day job.” Zach – the editor who is both repulsed and charmed by Nora, but also has a past relationship that he can’t seem to let go of. Soren – the rather dark figure of Nora’s past who can’t let go of her as much as she can’t let go of him (and I wanted to throw the book at him many, many times, because what he saw as affectionate I personally did not by no means whatsoever). Wesley (who I adored watching through this narrative) – the 19 year old student assistant who lives with Nora and accepts her flaws and lifestyle, while coming to some terms of his own. There were some characters in this that I don’t think were as defined as some of the main ones, and I would’ve liked to have seen them brought to the forefront and vetted better than they were. Aside from that, the main cast, I’ll admit, was intriguing to watch and one I am curious to follow through the series depending on how it turns.
The plot is character driven as Nora and Zach are both drawn into each other’s realms surrounding the writing of her upcoming erotic book release, but it focuses on the problems and relationships they have in their respective circles. Nora’s circles appeared to have more focus than Zach’s (though we see touches of his life, with his former wife and co-workers), but that’s clear cut because it’s clear he’s drawn into her realm as he gets to know her, and uncover her secrets among an underlying gravitation towards her.
Ultimately, it’s difficult for me to give a recommendation for this book, but I will say that it pulled me into the narrative for its respective cast and interactions. That’s enough for me to see where Reisz takes this narrative in the future books to come, and hopefully I can continue with the same level of intrigue I had in this narrative for what it offered.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin MIRA.