Mona Lisa St. James made a deathbed promise that she would do anything to save her mother’s art gallery. Unfortunately, not only is The Red painted red, but it’s in the red. She soon realizes she has no choice but to sell it.
Just as she realizes she has no choice but to sell it, a mysterious man comes in after closing time and makes her an offer: He will save The Red if she agrees to submit to him for the period of one year.
The man is handsome, English, and terribly tempting…but surely her mother didn’t mean for Mona to sell herself to a stranger. Then again, she did promise to do anything to save The Red… (Goodreads)
About two months ago, I was contacted by the publisher as I have read most of Reiszs back catalogue. They invited me to read and review her latest book. I agreed and although I knew that it was out in July, it sat on my Kindle, gathering virtual dust. As fate or luck (depending on how you look at it), I ended up in a bit of book funk, so I decided to read this.
A word of warning, if you like Reisz’s Original Sinners series, you will adore this book. Reisz once again has created a book that has this sensuality to it that few authors can achieve. She constantly pushes the envelope in the genre and The Red is no different.
The Red has a real “Indecent Proposal” feel to it, with Mona, the female lead, makes a deal with a mysterious stranger to save her mothers gallery. While the payment may not be in money, the payment in paintings adds a new dimension to the book. Each chapter of the book is entitled with a work of art. These paintings are the inspiration for the ways in which Mona “earns” her way to save the gallery. It gives a new depth and as I finished each chapter, I ended up googling them to see how these were interpreted in the book. There were a couple that I was familiar with, but the others were all new, yet I could see how these pieces of art were provocative at the time and thus provided the inspiration.
As always, if you don’t have characters you can become invested in, it doesn’t matter how good the plot is. The Red is very intimate in the aspect with only two “main” characters, Mona and her Benefactor. Even then, the mysterious Benefactor is only ever seen through Monas eyes and as such you don’t find out very much about him, until the last few chapters. This mystique makes him even more compelling and you can’t help but read on, hoping that you will see the man behind the mask. On top of this there is a time limit on how long these rendezvous will continue. So, with each one, you are given less time to uncover the truth. It adds a bit of tension, especially when Mona and her benefactor have disagreement.
Really this book is all about Mona. Not only do you see a woman who goes to such lengths to save her mother’s Gallery, you end up joining Mona on a journey of self-discovery. Once again, Reisz has created a strong female character, who is unashamed of her own desires. Mona owns her sexuality and even when someone she meets during the book tries to make her feel ashamed about this, Mona turns it around. It is through this encounter that Mona realises what her benefactor has given her, not only has he given her the means to save her Gallery, but also her own self-worth.
The paintings that Mona play an interesting part in the book. Each one ends up being the ”theme” for that nights rendezvous. This is no mere role-play, but elaborate sets that really do seem to transport Mona into the painting at times. This sudden change from back room to a secluded grove where Nymphs and Satyrs frolic freely, just seems to hint at something supernatural since there is no way that a mere man could pull this off. Even at the end of the book, I was still unsure what was real.
In a way, this is an erotically charged, mystery filled fairy tale. There is no other way to describe it for Mona does save her mother’s studio. The last chapter had me grinning and it pulled the book together, while still leaving some unanswered questions. Regardless it was a fantastic ending and a book that is proving hard to get over.
The Red joins the “Gemma Finished The Book in A Day” club and just cements further that Reisz can step out from under her Original Sinners series and knock another brilliant book out of the park. This is just a brilliant book that I can’t praise enough. It still baffles me that Reisz isn’t as well-known as some of her other contemporaries, especially over this side of the Pond.
If you are a fan of Sylvia Day or are pining over something to fill the void left after finishing Fifty Shades of Grey, you really should try The Red and prepare to be seduced.