The Siren by Tiffany Reisz

Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Harlequin MIRA
Format: Paperback, 425 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

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.

Truth be told, I’ve been sitting on this review for at least a week now. No matter how much revisions, aditions, edits I made, I just can’t get it right. I’ve been trying to find ways to cut it down so anyone interested enough wouldn’t be bored to tears to read my ramblings but I just can’t articulate my thoughts with the proper eloquence I’m going for. So, forgive me and I hope you’ll at least get the gist.

I’d like to consider myself an open-minded reader; in fact, there are not a lot of books that I refuse to try just because I’m dead set against a topic or the author’s beliefs (except maybe for Ann Coulter’s books…coz she’s just…yeah. I’m not touching those.). Gone were the days when books about Sadomasochism, and M/M relationships were taboo on my shelves. I’ve long since shed my inhibitions and announced to the world that I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit I read these books. But if there were some out there that I wouldn’t read, it’d be the ones with graphic rape and torture in them.
And maybe I’m still a freshman to all these but sometimes, extreme S & M reads like torture scenes to me. This book in particular, saddles that line. Trying to understand the mindset of the Dom and the sub in a relationship is something I’m still trying wrap my head around. It’s fascinating, infuriating, frustrating to read how the characters equate pain and humiliation to love. How could you love a person whose declarations of their affection is directly proportionate to the number of welts and bruises you’ve received in his/her hands?
The Siren blew that topic wide open. For the first time since I came out of the Erotica closet, Tiffany Reisz actually drew a clearer picture of a person’s mental state as a Dom and as a sub.  I’m not saying that she was successful at making me understand it better but her characters certainly made me think. I was able to see the innards of a strong woman who would resort herself to submit. It was a difficult relationship that started when she was fifteen years old; in need of direction and discipline, and falling hard for man who had no business corrupting the mind, soul and heart of a screwed up child. And on the other hand, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how Søren could justify carrying on with her as a way to save her especially when it only condemned her to another hell altogether. Based on how she felt about it all, the very thing that corrupted her was the same thing that saved her. If that’s not a mind fuck then I don’t know what is. This was my problem with this book; I went back and forth and in circles trying to understand their love. Who corrupted who first? I head-butted my desk so many times out of frustration because I allowed myself to give a shit. It was like a puzzle, a riddle that I just couldn’t solve and the faint bruises on my forehead only made me feel even worse.
More often, I found myself arguing with the characters, futile though as it were. They were all stubborn – steadfast in their fucked up definitions of love. Theirs was the one that died when they stopped talking (Zach’s and Grace’s). Theirs was the kindest, gentlest, generous, safest  (Wes’ and Nora’s). Theirs was the all-consuming, tumultuous, violent, constant mind fuck, abusive one (Eleonor’s and Søren’s).
I soon realized after taking my hundredth breather from the book ( trust me, I needed to step back from this more often that I care to admit), that I’m the one who’s stupid. As cheesy as it sounds, love is as undefined as it is infinite. What is the ideal? What is the norm? Zach’s and Grace’s was the kind that rips couples apart because they’re so out of reach, there’s an ocean separating them. Wes’ and Nora’s was the ideal in my book but it’s a platonic one that if consumed would perhaps break them.  It was the easiest choice but Nora has a tendency to play the martyr. Eleonor’s and Søren’s? I just…I can’t even begin to describe how messed up that is. As much as I’d like to ignore Zach’s and Nora’s, I really can’t. I don’t know what they were. Theirs was the kind that was over before it even started or the type of relationship that didn’t go anywhere. Too many baggages, too much love involved of which was sadly, not directed toward each other.
Wesley. God. This boy made ache in ways that’s grotesquely perverse. He’s nineteen and so over the moon in love with the sinner.
He is the saint who was in constant agony and penitence over Nora’s sins.
He is Jesus to Mary Magdalene. 
His self-deprivation is obscene and so innocent. 

But one thing’s for sure, and I probably would sound like one of those in the crowd who stoned Magdalene in the Bible, Nora didn’t deserve him.

You could try to understand each and everyone’s relationships and state of minds and you would probably fail. You could tell me that their respective relationships are both wrong and right and certainly not perfect but you cannot convince me that the reason Nora allowed all the abuse was because she was into it. Abuse is abuse is abuse. I am just now realizing that perhaps I am not as open-minded as I’d like to be. My mind is closed to the idea that hurting the ones you love physically, whether in pleasure or punishment, is an act of love itself. And there were too many declarations of such love in here – especially from Nora and Søren. I just…I don’t understand. I’m terrified of pain – any kind of pain. And this is probably why sadomasochism is not in the cards for me. Reading about it is as far as I would go but that doesn’t mean I’ll be emphatic and understanding of the characters in the book.

VERDICT: The Siren is a close second to A.N. Laroquelaure’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty; a book that I barely finished. But where The Claiming solely focused on the acts themselves, The Siren tackles the suggestive psychological and religious subtexts of sadomasochism. This book tried my patience; forced every ounce of my empathy for its characters that I wasn’t very forthcoming to give. Regardless of how flawed they were, the characters’ natures were as real as they come, relatable in a sense that they’re not the type you’d put on a pedestal. It was an exhausting read – emotionally and mentally. This is a book where readers get to see the demise of all the relationships. Don’t expect a happily-ever-after here, folks; because this is not a fairy tale romance you sigh in sublime happiness for. I think that Tiffany Reisz wrote something that would either turn readers into S&M in admission of their nature or leave them in bed with their partners assuming the missionary position and perfectly happy having as much vanilla sex as possible.

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