[Read in ebook from public library]
Content warnings ahoy.
Hachi machi, y’all, this book gave me the sads. Not because it’s a bad book — this is a well-written book with interesting characters that I kept coming back to because I wanted to see what happened. But to call this a “challenging read” would be to gloss over about ten content warnings, some of which I didn’t even remotely expect.
I picked this book up because The Rose, by the same author, is just a fantastic, fun, hot as all get out book that I thoroughly enjoyed last year, and I thought this might be more of the same. Reisz is a really good writer, and I’m annoyingly picky, even in my smut. And while The Siren is also written well, it definitely isn’t the steamy, fluffy stuff of The Rose.
The plot overview is fairly simple: (In)famous erotica writer Nora Sutherlin is looking to write a more serious piece of fiction. Her manuscript is assigned to perpetual hardass and gloomy Englishman Zach Easton, who is not pleased about working with a “guttersnipe writer.” Nora is determined to impress Zach and get her book published. Zach is pining for his wife (from whom he is separated) and simultaneously terrified of and attracted to Nora. What. Will. Happen?
The answer is what you think but also so much more, kiddos. I don’t like to get spoilery in my reviews, but in prospective readers’ best interests, there are several things I’d caution about. The biggest is a storyline about one character’s years-long relationship with an adult Catholic priest that begins when they are 15 and is consummated when they are 20 (and continues long beyond that). This is…a lot on several levels, obviously. There is also an instance of a professor having sex with a student, and another former professor repeatedly “sexually harassing” a former student. There is also a scene where an adult (30s) has sex with a minor (15), although the adult is at the time unaware of the minor’s true age (but doesn’t ask).
There are also long, explicit scenes of fairly intense BDSM and D/s relationships, but these are between consenting adults so this isn’t necessarily troubling unless it’s individually triggering for you.
I think it’s a mark of good writing if a book stays with me after I read it – if I keep thinking about it after I put it down. I’m definitely still thinking about this one, but mostly because by the end I was just sad for nearly everybody involved in the story. A lot of what happens here is more or less written off as a life experience or something that led to a great thing, but if I knew people like this I couldn’t get them into therapy fast enough. And maybe part of that is a hangup of mine, because I’m about as submissive as a bobcat, but part of it is that everyone here just seems so broken and there’s no way out of it.If you want to read a well-written story with occasional vivid S&M sex that will make you feel marginally depressed by the end, then this is a book for you. If you want something hot, casual, fun, and without a layer of flashing WARNING labels, read The Rose or something else entirely.