Review of The Siren (from the Original Sinners series, Mills and Boon Spice) by Tiffany Reisz.
This is not a love story.
Yet again I find myself unable to give a book a star rating. The Siren was, in turns, both fascinating and disturbing, both sad and sensual. It’s probably one of the darkest books I’ve ever read. I both loved it and hated it. I was utterly absorbed in the story, yet I wasn’t that keen on the style in which it was written. I suppose that’s the point – it’s supposed to shake you up.
The story follows Zach and Nora. He is an editor for a prestigious publishing company. She is an author of erotica by day and a wildly successful dominatrix by night.
Nora struck me at first as being the centre of her universe. She’s wildly irreverent, outrageously provocative and almost painfully blunt, yet underneath the brashness there’s a vulnerable side. It’s a side that few see, but when they do they can’t help but love it. She attracts men like moths to a flame. Zach is undeniably drawn to her because she has a way of easing the pain of losing his wife when he left England. He finds her fascinating and yet challenging in the best kind of way. She makes him want to feel, to fight, to be both the best and the worst that he can be. Then there is Wesley, the sweet religious virgin who is hopelessly in love with Nora and genuinely believes his love can save her. The relationship they have is both the most honest and yet the most dishonest in the book. I liked the character of Wesley. I felt bad for him. He was the lone bastion of innocence in this messed up world of glamour, kink and darkness. He was almost the Prince Charming of the anti-fairytale.
And then there is Soren. Oh Soren. When I found out who, or rather what, he is, it was like a suckerpunch to the gut. I found him both fascinating and compelling and, considering he doesn’t actually appear in the book all that much, his is the character that has crossed my mind most often in the time since I finished reading The Siren. I know most other reviewers have found him repellent but I actually felt very drawn to him as a character. No idea what that says about me as a person lol, but it’s the truth.
Therein lies the cleverness of this book. You start off thinking it’s a love story about an editor and a writer. Then you start thinking it’s maybe about saving Nora from herself. You think that the semi-autobiographical book she is writing is going to exorcise her demons, that she’ll somehow learn to be ‘normal’. You spend some time thinking it’s a romance between Nora and Wesley. You waver back to thinking it’s a love story about Zach and Nora.
And then you come to the inevitable, painful conclusion that actually it’s not a love story at all. It’s the anti-love story. It’s a story about how being in love is the most destructive force of all when you’re just too damaged to be saved. It turns out the story has never really been about Nora, Zach or Wesley. When you think about it, really think about it, it’s a story about Soren and how the darkness in his soul has wrought enough damage that Nora isn’t the centre of the universe, he is. He is the sun, she is a planet and her other men are just lowly moons in this messed up solar system of depravity. They’re drawn to each other like gravity, unable to fight their orbits, however hard they try to be otherwise.
I mentioned briefly that I didn’t like the writing style. There were some sections that just seemed a little pompous and flowery in the descriptive passages. I also felt a couple of times that gratuitous sex scenes were thrown in for no purpose other than to titillate the reader, which distracted from the raw essence of the story. That was especially true of the scene with the actress. It just wasn’t necessary.
All that said, the story is an immensely powerful one. It’s dark and absorbing and you’ll walk away from it with a feeling that your life is a little lighter for having looked into the abyss.
It scored a two on tears and a five on chillis.