Monday, November 19, 2012

Vouched Books! "The Original Sinners" Books 0.5 – 3 by Tiffany Reisz

(Click on the bookcover for the review)

Find Tiffany Reisz on: Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Courtesy of NetGalley, I received an ARC of The Prince, the much anticipated third installment of The Original Sinner series due to release tomorrow. As usual, I'm late to the bandwagon. I hadn't heard of the series until recently, and that was only a few days before I received the ARC. I had to catch up—read three books and two novellas in a less than a week.

It was the greatest week of little sleep and the best reads I can remember having in the longest time. That's saying a lot coming from me since I'm not a BDSM reader/fanatic. Find out why I floved this series and why you might want to give it try if you haven't already.

The Siren (Book 1)
Notorious Nora Sutherlin is famous for her delicious works of erotica, each one more popular with readers than the last. But her latest manuscript is different—more serious, more personal—and she's sure it'll be her breakout book … if it ever sees the light of day.

Zachary Easton holds Nora's fate in his well-manicured hands. The demanding British editor agrees to handle the book on one condition: he wants complete control. Nora must rewrite the entire novel to his exacting standards—in six weeks—or it's no deal.

Nora's grueling writing sessions with Zach are draining…and shockingly arousing. And a dangerous former lover has her wondering which is more torturous—staying away from him … or returning to his bed?

Nora thought she knew everything about being pushed to your limits. But in a world where passion is pain, nothing is ever that simple.

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Harlequin
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

There are no words to describe how much I love this book. Maybe it's because I'm a (wannabe) writer and The Siren spoke to my determined author side. Maybe it's because I've loved someone and something I never should have. Maybe it's . . . nothing, and I'm a masochist or sadist without being aware of it.

No matter the personal reason, The Siren is the most amazing book I've read all year. Yet, I also can't remember being more uncomfortable reading a book in my entire life.

Normally avoiding reading reviews because of spoilers and not wanting to be influenced, I didn't know what to expect when I picked up The Siren. That might have been a good thing. I probably would've never picked up this book if I knew of the extreme content. Though I highly recommend it, I can understand how this is not for everyone. I'll try not to spoil the story for you, but here are the things you might want to know (if you must).

The female protagonist, Nora Sutherlin, is a damn good Erotica author who wants to break through another level of the publishing world with her new story. But she needs Zach Easton, the most unrelenting and cranky editor of The Royal Publishing House who only works with "serious" authors, to help her give the justice she feels her story deserves. There's no better way to describe Nora's book but also the book, The Siren, itself than this excerpt:
"This is not a romance novel . . ." Zach read from her new first chapter. "Excellent line. Evocative and provocative. Ironic as well."

"Ironic?" Nora sipped at her own mug of hot cocoa. She sat across from him at the table and pulled one leg up to her chest. "It’s true. It isn’t a romance novel."

"Not a traditional one, of course. Your protagonists don’t end up together, but it is a love story."

"A love story is not the same as a romance novel. A romance novel is the story of two people falling in love against their will. This is a story of two people who leave each other against their will. It starts to end the minute they meet."
The Siren is more than a story about writing a book. It's a story within a story—many underlying stories, seamlessly weaved together: Nora and Zach's; Nora and Wesley's (her 19-year-old, very innocent, hot, live-in assistant); Nora and Søren's (her old master to whom she's no longer bound but still inextricably loves); as well as Zach and his distant, absent wife's story; on top of the dynamic of Nora with her book, called "The Consolation Prize." While everything centers and revolves around love, The Siren is about the many different kinds of love and having no limits when it comes to truly loving someone and something. And it's not only through BDSM, through pain or doling out pain, but also with making the hard, yet right, choices.
". . . although two people can love each other deeply, sometimes love doesn't cut it. We can only sacrifice so much of ourselves in a relationship before there's nothing left to love or be loved."
Like Zach said about her book "The Consolation Prize," The Siren is evocative and provocative. It is ironic. The stories are as beautiful as they are ugly. Intense and brutal, The Siren is filled with joy and pain, forgiveness and resentment, love and selfishness.

Though there are some heart-warming moments, some "Romance," the book is disturbing and explicit. No taboo is untouchable and untouched; there is hardcore physical and psychological BDSM, some tantalizing, some demeaning. No subject or moral is unapproachable and unapproached; religion (specifically Catholicism), consensual sex with a minor, cheating—all are broached, head-on and without apology. And no person, character or reader, is left unmarked; in some ways, everyone changes and gets an HEA. It just may not be the one you were expecting or find in fairytales. I found each was realistic and for the best for the character.
Where the romance novel began with two characters trying to come together against forces both internal and external, Nora's novel began with them together and then let the forces slowly, tortuously tear them apart. She was writing the antiromance novel.
I'm not easily shocked by endings, but the twist in The Siren threw even me—in the best way possible. Tiffany Reisz's storytelling is incredible, and I was so absorbed by the characters and their relationships that I lost sight of another character: Nora's book. And my God, is it and the reveal gut-wrenching.
"No, you merely think you know her. It's one of her best tricks. She flirts, she teases, she confesses everything but reveals nothing. It's the oldest magician's trick in the book—smoke and mirrors, misdirection. You are absolutely certain she's here"—Søren snapped his fingers at Zach's right ear—"when all the while she's right over here."

Zach looked at Søren's right hand and saw [him] holding up his wallet."
That excerpt refers to Nora Sutherlin, but I also found it applies to the ending and Tiffany Reisz's writing style, which is superb. Stories overlap stories, stunningly. Contexts are found within contexts. Themes and lines are consistently and perfectly woven throughout. The characters, deep and witty, draw you in. I laughed at the wonderful, sharp dialogue, and though I might be the only one, there was a part of me that liked even Søren. He's depraved, for sure, but he is not without redeemable qualities. He genuinely cares for many, too many, and tries to help others. He's smart, too smart even. And I do believe he truly loves and understands Nora more than anyone. While I adored Wesley, he couldn't push Nora—couldn't give her the hard truth.

And that's the most painful part of The Siren: Every character had holes that no one person could fill all at once. The gap and the wounds were so palpable that I could hardly breathe.

The BDSM was scary, intense and explicit. I cringed. I flinched. I gasped. But more importantly, I found the scenes and the characters organic. Nothing was added for mere shock value. The BDSM, the taboo, and the immoral aspects I mentioned earlier—each had a purpose and was very well-placed. I was rivet and astounded, but I might've flounced the book had some parts been revealed earlier. Obviously I didn't, and that in itself is a tribute to Reisz's writing. While I don't completely understand the lifestyle, I appreciated the characters and every lash and heart-bruise The Siren gave me.

LUV'NV Rating: Rating as 11/19/2012: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Angel (Book 2)
Infamous erotica author and accomplished dominatrix Nora Sutherlin is doing something utterly out of character: hiding. While her longtime lover, Søren—whose fetishes, if exposed, would be his ruin—is under scrutiny pending a major promotion, Nora's lying low and away from temptation in the lap of luxury.

Her host, the wealthy and uninhibited Griffin Fiske, is thrilled to have Nora stay at his country estate, especially once he meets her traveling companion. Young, inexperienced and angelically beautiful, Michael has become Nora's protégé, and this summer with Griffin is going to be his training, where the hazing never ends.

But while her flesh is willing, Nora's mind is wandering. To thoughts of Søren, her master, under investigation by a journalist with an ax to grind. And to another man from Nora's past, whose hold on her is less bruising, but whose secrets are no less painful. It's a summer that will prove the old adage: love hurts.

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Harlequin
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

I immediately picked this up after reading The Siren but was convinced that I wouldn't enjoy it as much.

I should've known better. Reisz delivered another stunning and gut-wrenching book—sex and substance, pain and love, a brand new set of controversies and disturbing scenes bound in a way that allow us to test our tolerance once again, with all the same beloved characters from the first installment as well as new people to adore and hate. And did I mention there's pain and love? Well, there's definitely more of both in this book.

Taking place about a year after The Siren and following the same line of storytelling, The Angel brings new secrets and fantastic discoveries weaved magnificently with new conflicts and plot.

Someone is out to expose Søren and his horrific past and fetishes. The results would be devastating if made public, not only for those who love him but also for the community. To avoid being an even bigger liability, Nora goes into hiding and, at the same time, takes the young Michael Dimir with her to Griffin Fiske's estate. Both boy and man are introduced The Siren. Both have their own horrific pasts and a connection to Søren. Yet the summer on the exquisite estate is more than laying low while the shit storm blows over; it's about training, too—Michael's, as a submissive.

Scarred inside and out, Michael (Mick) is an extreme introvert who only feels comfortable around Nora and Søren. He rarely talks. He folds in on himself to appear smaller, to be overlooked—to protect himself. Though he's extremely gorgeous, he feels ugly, rotten, and very undeserving of anything. Mick's naturally a submissive and enjoys it immensely. But along with pain and training, he gets something else he thought he could only dream about, another lesson: love and acceptance, and how he deserves both unconditionally. Little did he know that it would be from the man who stars in his dreams, too: Griffin Fiske.

There was nothing I didn't love about these two, and once again, Reisz did an amazing job with making the raw emotions and fears palpable, slowly filling in the painful holes of the characters to the point that it can't be contrived—it is natural and comes off natural.

Speaking of holes (not that kind, you pervs), Reisz also focuses on Søren and his very dark past—something we don't get in The Siren and can't even begin to imagine. I appreciate how Reisz eluded to it before slapping us with it. I flove how she again continued the same theme within the book—how, despite everything that has happened to him and everything he has done and continues to do, Søren deserves to be loved and accepted, too. And you can't help but do so by the end, no matter how much you might have hated him in The Siren.

Zach and his wife also make a very brief appearance, which brings a small smile to the face. While maybe only a faint impression in book one, the reason behind the quiet animosity between Kingsley and Nora is revealed. And we get a little piece on Nora's book, "The Consolation Prize," as well as more info—very surprising and hurtful info—on Wesley. Like I said, lots of holes filled.

The Angel was as good as the series's first book—with the same painful, jaw-dropping addiction..

LUV'NV Rating: Rating as 11/19/2012: 4.8 out of 5 stars

The Prince (Book 3)
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer...preferably in bed. That's always been Kingsley Edge's strategy with his associate, the notorious New York dominatrix Nora Sutherlin. But with Nora away in Kentucky, now it's Kingsley's chance to take her place at the feet of the only man he's ever wanted—Søren, Nora's on-again, off-again lover—until a new threat from an old enemy forces him to confront his past.

Wes Railey is still the object of Nora's tamest yet most maddening fantasies, and the one man she can't forget. He's young. He's wonderful. He's also thoroughbred royalty and she's in "his" world now. But Nora is no simpering Southern belle, and her dream of fitting into Wesley's world is perpetually at odds with her dear Søren's relentlessly seductive pull.

Two worlds of wealth and passion call to her and whichever one Nora chooses, it will be the hardest decision she will ever have to make... unless someone makes it for her.

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Harlequin
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Whew . . . I'm not sure where to start with this one. Like the previous books, the title refers to that book's main character(s) and his/her journey. In The Prince, we get three and in very different, life-altering points in their lives. In the usual Reisz style, there are stories within a story.

One is Søren and Kingsley's — their past. Taking place at Saint Ignatius, when both Søren and Kingsley meet, these chapters are essential to understanding the present relationship between the two men. I'd never understood the dynamic between them in the previous books and always thought that, in some way, it was Nora who brought and kept them together. She is and she isn't.

The second perspective is Kingsley and Søren — their present. Disturbing events occur that have to do with their pasts, which only five people know. As Kingsley and Søren try to discover who else knows and threatens them with the info, they must also fight to keep the distance they've placed between each other, lest the need that threatens to consume them again hurts the woman they both love (and possibly resent)—again—though this time, it's someone different, someone they both picked and cannot imagine a life without. To lose her would be the end to them.

The third story is Wesley and Nora's — present and maybe even their possible future. At the end of The Angel—no, from the very beginning of The Angel, Søren wants Nora to figure out where Wesley stands in her life, and it's at the end of previous book that she goes to Kentucky to decide once and for all. As Nora spends time with Wesley in his element, she gets a taste for the life she could have, and of course, it's bittersweet.

By the end of The Prince, all three stories have merged together. The past finally catches up with these characters, and it is so much worse than anyone anticipated.

I figured out who was behind all the suspicious events early on in the story, which was disappointing. I was still shocked to have it confirmed and all the ramifications laid out on the table, though. I also had very mixed feelings about this book after I finished it, and it wasn't simply because of the huge cliffy at the end.

Unlike with everyone else in the series, I had a hard time understanding Kingsley's motivation and his love for BDSM. For him, he gets off on fear—his own—and no one invokes it better than Søren. Kingsley's love for Søren felt very much like infatuation—obsession—love, manufactured and dangerously over-the-top. Their past was . . . hard to take in, more so than anything I've read in the series. While consensual, the sex between them was brutal—bloody and all vicious, unrelenting pain. Kingsley doesn't have a safeword—that's how alarming his desire is—and it eclipsed all of Soren's goodness, which took a while to build up in the first place.

I also grew impatient with story switching. Each chapter rotates between the three perspectives. Sometimes it felt nothing critical happened, particularly with Wesley and Nora, like it dragged and was missing the Reisz substance in which everything had meaning. I don't think it was Reisz's fault entirely—I can understand why she wrote it the way she did—but my reader's need for instant gratification was nearly overwhelming. I think I could've absorbed more of the story if I wasn't racing through the book to get some satisfaction.

It's only while I'm writing this review that I'm coming to really appreciate what Reisz did. In my review for The Siren, I said that Reisz was like Nora in her use of smoke and mirrors. I see The Prince as a mirror—a reflection of the time, settings, and the characters—only backward, counter. There's only one person who is as obsessive-compulsive as Kingsley. There's only one other person who connects and has a connection to both powerful men. Like Søren's childhood bedroom is to Søren, the woods near the hermitage is to Kingsley, and Wesley's barn is to Wesley and Nora—all were places they thought were retreats but actually weren't safe at all and was where their lives changed for the better and the worst.

I could go on and on now, but I don't want to ruin this book for you. Just be prepared to be at war with yourself and how you feel with characters. The Mistress (Reisz) hurts but doesn't harm. Remember that with everything she has written, there's always more than meets the eye, there's always something much deeper, and hopefully we get clearer view with the fourth book, The Mistress.

LUV'NV Rating:
Not yet rated on as of 11/19/2012

The Prince releases tomorrow, November 20th, 2012. Pre-order it on now.
A huge THANK-YOU to NetGalley and the book's publisher, Harlequin MIRA, for an advanced reader's copy of "The Prince."

Seven Day Loan (Book 0.5)
A trained submissive, Eleanor will do whatever her master commands...even spend a week with a stranger. Daniel has been a recluse since his wife's death, and Eleanor's lover thinks spending time with her will be therapeutic—especially since Daniel is also a Dom.

Despite her defiant streak, Eleanor can't resist giving in to Daniel's erotic demands. But while she'll let him have her body, she's determined to keep a guard around her heart. Even if Daniel wants to make Eleanor his permanently.

While this novella is a prequel to the series, I read it after The Prince, and I'm so glad I did. I got a new perspective on Nora (Eleanor, in this book) that I don't think I would've appreciated if I hadn't read the other novels first. I would've resented and been a little disgusted with both her and her master, Søren, if I didn't know their story, their future, beforehand. While Seven Day Loan didn't focus on their relationship but on Eleanor with another man, I began to understand how much she loved Søren since the very beginning.

And I almost wished she didn't by the time I finished reading this. I fell in love with Daniel. My heart ached for both him and Eleanor—for what could have been. I'd love to read more on Daniel, to see him get his own book or, at least, make an appearance in the series.

More Romance and a little lighter on the explicit BDSM, Seven Day Loan is a great Erotica short for S&M newbs.

LUV'NV Rating: Rating as 11/19/2012: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Little Red Riding Crop (Book 0.6)
Mistress Nora needs a vacation. She might be the one flogging the clients, but Kingsley, her sexy French boss, is the real sadist who rarely gives her a day off. They strike a backseat deal: Nora gets one month off and a trip to Europe if she can sneak into a rival BDSM club and get the dirt on the owner. But she’ll need more than her little red riding crop when she comes face to face with Brad Wolfe, the one man who stands between her and freedom.

Find it on: Goodreads (Free Download)
Publisher: Mills & Boon Spice

This is another prequel to the series, taking place after Nora leaves Søren and becomes a Dominatriz, and Reisz once again gives her readers a new aspect to Nora and even Kingsley. While I was intrigued to read about the most desired Dominatrix with the Big Brad Wolfe, who made a minor appearance in The Angel, I was a bit disappointed. I've gotten used to Reisz delivering sex and substance, and Little Red Riding Crop was more PWP than I anticipated. The only reason I'm rating it three and half stars instead of the four or five it probably deserves (since the smut is better than most Erotica I've read this year) is because I'm comparing it to the rest of the series. It didn't impact me as much as the other books, not even as much as the other novella. It didn't enhance the series for me, though the readers do learn who The Dame is, which was kind of a shocker.

LUV'NV Rating:
Goodreads Rating as 11/19/2012: 4.7 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with your reviews of The Siren and The Angel! I'm just starting The Prince so I skipped over the review of that one until I am finished. ;) Although I have to say I shamelessly read The Angel in the middle of the doctor's office waiting room. I didn't really care what people thought about me reading it. lol. I read Seven Day Loan after I rad The Angel and I agree with you, that I would have felt much differently about the story if I had read it before hand. I'm glad I understood Soren and Nora's story and relationship before I read it because I would have found it disturbing that he could/would just give her away to another man to do with what he will.

    Thanks for putting your reviews out and pimping out this series. It definitely needs the recognition! It is a great series.