Here is the second book in the series of re-post reviews of The Original Sinners Series: The Red Years. These original appeared on the website Book Mood Reviews.
No safe word can protect the heart
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 (Goodreads)
After the brilliant The Siren, Reisz had set the bar really high for herself in the second book in this new tantalizingly erotic series. Thankfully Reisz more than meets the challenge and again demonstrates a flair for balancing steamy sex scenes with a very compelling plot.
In fact, it is the plotline in this book that really pulled me into the story.
Set about a year after the dramatic conclusion of The Siren, the book opens with Nora once again under the dominance of her lover Soren. She has settled back into her pre-Dominatrix life and from the outside it does seem like she is happy to be back.
It is complicated when Soren is up for a promotion in his career and this throws up a bit of spanner in the works. For anyone else, this would not be an issue, yet for Soren his relationship with Nora and his double life would end his career. The reason being…. Soren is a priest. His name is in contention for the open vacancy as a Bishop. If he gets this role, then it would mean him leaving the small community he currently provides spiritual guidance and it would also put him under greater scrutiny. So protect both Nora and a confused young man named Michael, Soren sends them to Nora’s friend upstate, named Griffen.
If this wasn’t bad enough, someone has sent the list of possible bishops to a reporter, named Susanne, who has a personal vendetta against the church. Alongside Sorens name, is the comment “Conflict of Interests.”
Reisz manages to juggle both plotlines with ease. While we are watching the cat and mouse game unfold between Susanne and Soren, we unwittingly are witnessing the blossoming romance between Michael and Griffen.
Now I am not a fan of m/m romances. It has never really been my cup of tea. This is just a personal taste thing, but only two authors have managed to weave a tale that has me so emotionally invested in this relationship. One of these is J. R. Ward and her handling of the romantic saga of first Butch and V, and then Quinn and Blay. The other is of course Reisz.
Michael is such a damaged soul. At first he tried to commit suicide due to a hard home life. Soren and Nora saved him, recognizing that part of him that doesn’t crave the normal “vanilla” lifestyle. They help him to come to terms with who he is and what he wants in life. In this instance, Michael is a natural sub. Under Nora’s tutelage, she helps him understand what it is to be a sub. However, there is still that barrier to overcome; that one part that Nora cannot penetrate.
This is where the playboy, trust-fund baby Griffen steps up to the plate. The attraction between him and Michael is almost instantaneous. He really does breakdown that last barrier that prevents Michael from really embracing and accepting who he is. Watching these two come together is both heartwarming and tragic at times. Both are facing skeletons in their closets, in order to move forward. The ending is just wonderful to read and the “ceremony” between the two at the end gave me fond memories of the mating ceremonies described in J R Wards Blackdagger Brotherhood series (if you substituted the vampires thing for BDSM scene)
The other plotline involving Soren and the reporter is also interesting, especially trying to figure out who sent the list to Susanne and for what means. Through this plot, we are given more to Soren’s backstory. This was just heartbreaking to read and you begin to get a better understanding on why Soren may have turned out the way he did.
I won’t give too much on this for you really need to read this for yourself. All I will say is that my heart ached for Soren. From a character that started off as this manipulative and rather dark person, he becomes someone who is almost damaged beyond repair. It shows strength of character that Soren has managed to overcome this, but also that he is doing everything not to repeat the sins of his father.
Reisz was able to push my comfort levels further and while some of these subjects have been touched in other books I have read, Reisz does so in a way that you are given an insight into the psyche of the character.
So after all my raving about this book, why not the full 5 stars, like the previous? Well, one scene really did have me feel uncomfortable. It had nothing to do with how it was written and it did fit in very well with the world. This was just a personal thing for me. Near the beginning of the book Soren and Nora engage in a bit of Blood play. Soren placed a series of cuts on Nora’s body, one in a very sensitive area. This was one bit that I didn’t feel comfortable with at all.
Another fantastic book by Reisz that once again demonstrates how a well-rounded erotic novel should be. True, she does touch on a few issues and situations that are very dark, yet it only seems to give weight and justification to the characters.
By the end of the book I was itching to read the next in the series, with a few of the loose plotlines still to be resolved. Thankfully, The Prince (the next book in the series) is out now and I am already delving back into this series that more than deserves its title as “Darker than Fifty Shades”
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
The Red Years
0.5 Seven Day Loan
0.6 Little Red Riding Crop
0.7 Submit To Desire
1 The Siren
2 The Angel
3 The Prince
4 The Mistress