A quick note before I start writing about The Angel by Tiffany Reisz. This is the second book in her Original Sinners series. If you have NOT read book one, The Siren (review here) then I would opt out of reading the rest of my review. There are things that are revealed at the end of Siren that would be ruined if you read my review of Angel.
With that out-of-the-way let me first begin this review by saying that The Angel WILL be on my list of best books of 2012. After reading The Siren I was amazed that a book marketed in the erotica genre could be such a discussion in art, literature, life, and the human condition. It amazed me how poignant Reisz’s writing was and how no matter what your sexual lifestyle preference is, her characters and their stories were still relatable and approachable. I expected nothing less when delving into The Angel and I can tell you that I was completely blown away for the unexpected way that Reisz raised her own bar.
Reisz picks up several months after the end of The Siren, with Nora in quite a difficult position. Søren has been selected for a major promotion within the Church, and as such will have much of his life scrutinized and vetted in the months leading up to the promotion. Additionally, a journalist with ulterior motives is intent on uncovering Søren’s secrets. Of course, if his life with Nora was ever uncovered, he would be ruined, so he sends her to the country estate of Griffin Fiske, another member of the underground BDSM club that Nora and Søren belong to. Griffin is more than excited to see Nora, especially since she isn’t alone: she’s traveled with Michael, a submissive-in-training whom she is teaching the ways of the BDSM lifestyle to while she is away from Søren. Michael is young and physically beautiful, and completely selfless and ready to dive in to this new role. Nora is ready and willing to take on her new role, but still has part of her heart stuck in the rectory with Søren and down south with Wes. What will become of their relationship? How will Michael take to this new phase of his life?
My heart was constantly at war with itself as to whose story I wanted to know more about. Soren’s past? Nora’s love for Wesley? Griffin and Michael? It’s a sign of how deeply layered Reisz’s characters are in that here we are 3 novellas, 2 books, and several short stories published later, still learning several new things about each character’s lives, pasts, dreams, hopes, etc. None of these characters have “clean” lives, they’re all flawed and trying to figure out what they each want. That’s what I love about Reisz’s characters. They all screw up and move on, learning from their experiences. Nobody has a magical transformation. Nobody is suddenly perfect with their whole life figured out. Michael and Griffin exude this pattern the most. In The Siren we’re introduced to Michael as a suicidal teen who believes that there is something wrong with him because of his joy in pain. Meeting Søren and Nora and finding out that there is a world of people like him essentially saves his life. In The Angel we continue this journey with him, watching him learn the art of submission and more importantly self-acceptance. His transformation is a messy one, but is ultimately the most beautiful thing about this book. Consequently, Nora, has begun questioning everything. She claims to be happy, returning to “her rightful place” as Søren’s submissive, but her heart is absolutely aching for Wes. Søren can see her inner struggles and tells her that during their time apart she must deal with the Wes conundrum. There is a quote I would like to share, that Nora says that I think perfectly expresses the night and day differences between Søren and Wes:
“”Winter,” she finally said, “can be so beautiful and cruel. Cruel and cold. And if you live in the presence of winter you can never have summer.”……”You smell like summer. Like clean laundry hanging out in the sun. That’s an amazing smell too.”
I made no secret of the fact that I was not Søren’s biggest fan after reading The Siren. I want to tell you that after finishing The Angel, and getting a HEAVY dose of his past…I like him. There. I said it. I like Søren. He has one of the most insane pasts of any character I can ever remember reading about. I cried for the entire chapter about his past. My heart was ripped out of my chest and I just sat there raw. This is a testament to how AMAZING Reisz’s writing is. She can literally take someone like me, who despised Søren, and turn me into someone who has a ton of empathy and sympathy for him. He had a messed up life, and was mistreated in a very wrong way by the people who should have been the ones protecting him. That leaves scars. Scars I cannot wait to explore in Reisz’s third book The Prince.
Reisz continues to write exquisitely and out-of-the-box. Who would have thought they’d find discussions on theology, art, and history among other things in an erotica novel? That’s because it’s not an erotica novel. No matter what kind of marketing it receives, or the shelf we add it to on Goodreads, this book will refuse to fit in that mold. The sex in the books (while good) is not what keeps people coming back for more. It’s the deeply layered, rich character creations that only Reisz could write. I’m eagerly waiting for The Prince to become available. My heart aches to revisit these characters; that’s how much they’ve become a part of me.
5 out of 5 Stars
The Angel by Tiffany Reisz
Paperback: 416 pages
Special thanks to Harlequin for giving me my review copy through netgalley!