*This book was purchased by me for my own enjoyment. Review also appears at SeductiveMusings.blogspot.com
“This is not a romance novel...”
This will not be an ordinary review. The Siren is not an ordinary book. It is a contradiction in its entirety, as are the characters within it. So it should not surprise you that first I will tell you why you must absolutely read this book immediately. Then I will tell you all the reasons why you may want to reconsider that decision.
Nora Sutherlin is, for lack of a less cliched phrase, a force of nature. She attracts all in her path, both male and female, and not always in a good way. She appears to have no shame, nothing within her that she doesn’t put on display for everyone, and yet her real private life is one that she keeps almost entirely secret. “Hide in plain sight” comes to mind when you see Nora out in public.
Nora has made her public fame and fortune on the strength of several infamous and best-selling erotic novels written over the past five years. Yet she wants to be taken seriously as a real writer, with a new story more personal than any she’s written before. She knows serious writers need serious editors, and that’s why she has come to Zach Easton’s publishing house in New York. She wants the best editor to help her new book transcend the novels he refers to so sarcastically as her “guttersnipe” work.
Zach Easton is the classic example of an Englishman in New York - they don’t call him the “London Fog” at work for nothing - but there’s more there than the typical Brit melancholy. Zach has left his wife, Grace, back in England...or did she leave him? He still loves her, but wonders if it’s really over. She hasn’t followed him to New York. Will she follow him to Los Angeles when he leaves in six weeks to run his publishing house’s office there? He wishes he knew. But in the meantime, Nora is here to challenge him and herself to rewrite her magnum opus into something they would both be proud to publish.
Wesley is Nora’s live-in intern/assistant/roommate, years younger than her and still a virgin. It’s clear they have a special relationship without sexual intimacy, but whether or not that will continue to be the case remains to be seen. We may not know what they are to each other, but then again, neither one of them seems to know that either.
And then there is Nora’s former lover. His relationship with Nora and with the world is the ultimate contradiction. But to say more would spoil a new reader’s experience, so I will leave him with this quote from the book:
“A smart horror writer will never put too much detail in about the monster. The readers’ imaginations can conjure their own demons.”
The Siren is for me, by far, the best book I have read this year. The characters are vividly drawn in a way that makes them real people that you could imagine stumbling onto in a bright crowded bookstore, a dimly lit smoky bar, or a dark alley behind that bar next to the garbage cans. There is passion, there is desire, there is even true love...but there is also violence and the breaking of many, many taboos. This book touched me in a way that I hadn’t experienced in years - not since I first read Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Chronicles over twenty years ago. When I first starting reading it, I wanted to be Nora. By the time I finished, I was glad I wasn’t.
This leads me into the seemingly contradictory part of this review, where I tell you why you should possibly reconsider reading what I have just told you is the best book of this year so far:
The Siren is not for everyone. It has dark erotic themes. Sexual and religious taboos are not only broken, they are shattered beyond repair. If you believe such things would scar you for life if you read them, even in such a tremendously well written novel as The Siren, then this book is not for you.
But if you are willing to go down the dark road of The Original Sinners, you will find a world and cast of characters that will make it worth your while.
At the most perfect moment in this book, we see a sign on a door with a quote from Alice in Wonderland: “We’re all mad here”. It seems the most apt phrase to describe what we have experienced up to that point, as well as what we still have yet to see.
The novella “Seven Day Loan” provides a glimpse into Nora’s life several years before the events of “The Siren” and is an excellent introduction to the world of The Original Sinners. That world continues in book 2, “The Angel”. Tiffany Reisz isn’t done with them or us just yet, not by a long shot.