Updated: Jan 22
by Tiffany Reisz
Published by Mira Books
Book #4 in the Original Sinners: The Red Years series
The final book in The Original Sinners Series - The Red Years.
There's punishment-and then there's vengeance.
Nora Sutherlin is being held, bound and naked. Under different circumstances, she would enjoy the situation immensely, but her captor isn't interested in play. Or pity.
As the reality of her impending peril unfolds, Nora becomes Scheherazade, buying each hour of her life with stories-sensual tales of Søren, Kingsley and Wesley, each of whom has tempted and tested and tortured her in his own way. This, Nora realizes, is her life: nothing so simple, so vanilla, as a mere love triangle for her. It's a knot in a silken cord, a tangled mass of longings of the body and the heart and the mind. And it may unravel at any moment.
But in Nora's world, no one is ever truly powerless-a cadre of her friends, protectors and lovers stands ready to do anything to save her, even when the only certainty seems to be sacrifice and heartbreak...
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Erotica Exciting
Violence BDSM Climatic
The Mistress by Tiffany Reisz is the fourth book in the Original Sinners series, and the final book of The Red Years series. It begins right after the events of the last book, when Wesley and Nora were knocked out. The Mistress centers around Nora's abduction, and through five different narrators, get very different points of view on what transpires. Cleverly, the person who kidnaps Nora refers to it as a game she is playing, and Tiffany Reisz not only assigns each protagonist their own chess piece, but separates the book in parts labeled by chess moves. I really liked that.
This is a big book. Bare with me as I try to keep my review as spoiler-free and short as possible.
Originality: There is no denying that this book - hell, the entire series - is flawlessly unique in a genre overwhelmed with plot-less erotica and, BDSM erotica that borders on offensive with the sheer lack of ignorance. Tiffany Reisz has created a fictional world that feels real, and shows how much passion she has for her art form.
The Story: Holy. Shit. I was convinced before, but Tiffany Reisz has made me a lifelong fan. Do you know how much awful romance/erotica I have read? The genre can be brutal. The Mistress is action-packed, from the first, to the very end, while at the same time, carving out these characters in such intense detail, you feel like you know them. While I always love a steady plot, some of my favorite parts of the book were when time stood still for a little while, and we had two characters baring their souls to one another. In a lot of books, it usually feels like a stall tactic. A way to add more words to the word count, and not to the story as a whole. It doesn't feel like that in this book. Tiffany Reisz is truly an accomplished writer. My ONE issue: there were a couple things that happened that were predictable. The only thing that is keeping me from deducting half a star; she had just as much twists in the book as she did predictability.
Characters: This one will be a long one. Again, I will try to keep it as spoiler free as possible. As a whole, Tiffany Reisz writes some abso-fucking-lutly amazing characters. They are not perfect. There are things I love and hate about every one of her characters. They all have brilliantly written backgrounds, that have all contributed to who they are in this book. My ONLY issue in this book, is consistency with the characters. I will explain below with each main character.
I have a love/hate thing going on for Nora's character. She is incredibly complicated though, which makes me appreciate her, even if I don't fully understand her. I love her wildness, her kick ass, take charge attitude (even when she is submissive to Søren). I love that she does everything her way. I love her capacity for love, and her faith in those she loves. I think the only thing I don't like about her is her indecisiveness, and the consequences it has on those around her. That being said, Nora was ... well, Nora in The Mistress. Tiffany Reisz stuck true to Nora's personality - all the good and bad. Her story ends just how I predicted.
I have had a hard time liking Kingsley in this series, but I have to admit, The Mistress saved his character for me. Like all of her characters, Kingsley is complex. It wasn't just his parts of the story that made me like him, despite the truly terrible things he has done. After all, most of The Prince was narrated by his character. It was seeing him through Nora, in combination with his part of the story, that cemented it. He went from a rather 2D character, to someone with layers, and depth. He is human under all that swagger, and it was nice to see him gain some peace in a very troubled life.
I'm going to start this out by saying, I have always loved Wesley. His intense love for Nora, his desire for her safety, and happiness, his constant support of her, whether she was doing something he didn't like or not. I admit, I really wanted Wesley and Nora together ... until they were. The Prince showed us readers pretty clearly that Nora and Wesley, despite loving each other deeply, were not compatible. The Mistress further cements that with Nora's stories she tells to her captor, and choices she is forced to make. Which is fine. I've actually grown to kind of love Søren. My issue is this ... and this is a spoiler, so don't finish reading unless you want to know ... ready ... here it is ... it's inconsistant with Wesley's character to ... move on ... from Nora the way he did. Call it comfort from his broken heart at the realization that Nora and him were not meant to be if you want (Tiffany Reisz does), but for the last three books, Wesley has DEEPLY loved Nora. He saved himself for her, despite other women wanting him. Sex isn't just something you do. It's meaningful to him. He wouldn't jump into bed, literally minutes after ending things with Nora, with another woman. He wouldn't. I finished the book 12 hours ago and it's still bothering me. THAT BEING SAID, I am happy with the outcome. Wesley is an amazing guy. He deserves to have a woman that loves him with her whole heart, believes in monogamy, is "vanilla" like him, and wants to get married and have kids with him. Nora was never going to be that. He would have always had to share her heart with Søren. She would have never been happy sexually. And I knew there was a reason Wesley hadn't found out about Nora's past abortion until this book ... and I was right. It was the one thing that finally showed Wes that they weren't meant to be. So ultimately, while I am thrilled for his character growing, and walking away (and I love that HE was the one that walked away), I am not happy with how it happened, because that is not the Wesley we have grown to know and love.
I kid you not, I was shocked that we were getting Grace as narrator in The Mistress. And without Zach! I LOVED Zach's character, so I was bummed that he wasn't really in this book. But Grace! It was surprising ... but pleasantly so. I know some other readers don't like her. Probably because they, like me, loved Zach and Nora together. Her wildness and his seriousness, the insane sexual chemistry in infectious. But that's silly! In a way, it was nice to get to know Grace as more than Zach's wife. She is a true friend of Nora's. The friendship she strikes with Søren, and the resulting conversations they have, are my favorite part of The Mistress. Not only do we learn more about her (and I can see why Zach is smitten), but we learn so much more about Søren. And because I can't help myself, there is a BIG ... no HUGE ... spoiler coming up. Look away if you don't want to see it. Seriously. Now.
I have read other reviews ... and readers were NOT happy about what happens between Grace and Søren ... nor the result. Which I don't quite understand, other than some small inconsistencies. I'm going to tell you my thoughts on the matter. The first chapter from Grace's POV, shows she is interesting in the kink world, and like Zach, experience it for herself. Zach encourages her to do so. They both have faith in each others love for one another, that a night of sexual exploration with another person isn't a big deal. Now, I get it. I'm a monogamous person, so it's hard to wrap my head around. But there are many couples who have open relationships. So that doesn't bother me. I do, however, understand some other readers opinions that Søren wouldn't have had sex with Grace. Understand, but I don't agree with it. Why? Their instant connection. Søren and Grace had some intense moments, and became instant confidants. It's true that Søren had only previously been intimate with 3 people in his life (and one of them, she raped him, so I hardly count that.) He has only had sex with those he loved. Who is to say in those days, he didn't fall in love a little bit with Grace? Zach fell a bit for Nora. Nora loves Søren, Wesley, and even Kingsley to some degree. Why is it impossible for people to see that Søren may have fallen a little in love with Grace? Their conversations, his openness with her, certainly suggests he at least liked and respected her. I know people take issue with the fact that Nora essentially was promised a week with Zach in exchange for Grace to have one night with Soren, but, who are we to judge? Monogamy doesn't seem to exist in this world of kink. Grace knows that her husband still "carries a torch" for Nora. It's weird to most of us, but I actually think it was consistent with these characters. Proof he was intrigued by Grace:
Søren: "You speak of beautiful women as if you weren't one. I assure you, you are. The freckles are an especially nice touch."
Grace: "I'm not sure I agree with you. My husband would, but Zachary's a freckle fetishist, if there is such a thing."
Søren: "Your husband and I have excellent taste in women."
Søren: "I learned long ago that it was for the best that I erect a very high wall between myself and the rest of the world. She and Kingsley are the only two people I've ever met who simply ignored that wall as if it didn't exist."
Grace: "Kingsley and Nora ignored your wall. I have to ask ... what is the reward for getting past that wall of yours? Or is it a punishment?
Søren: "Both reward and punishment."
Grace: "How so?"
Søren: "I fucked them. Thank you, Grace. I no longer wish to kill Kingsley. No more than usual, anyway."
Grace: "You're welcome, Father.
Søren: "You're welcome to call me Søren. I'd prefer it if you did."
Grace: "Of course ... Søren. That's what Nora always calls you. She says she can't call you 'Father Stearns' without wanting to giggle. Søren's a Danish name, yes? What does it mean?"
Søren: "It means 'stern.' A good name for me, I've been told."
Grace: "I beg to differ. I don't think you're quite as stern as you're letting on."
Søren: "Careful Grace ... it's dangerous behind the wall"
Before moving on ... um ... that was quite an ending, eh? At first I was shocked, but looking back, there was some foreshadowing there. Nora telling Zach to dominate Grace in the bedroom to release more horomones to help with fertility back in The Angel. Grace told Søren Zach wanted to adopt, meaning a biological child for him wasn't important. Just a child, and family with Grace.
Who knew my longest character review was going to be about Grace of all people?
I can't help writing about Laila without spoilers, so don't read on if that bothers you.
I couldn't like her. I wish I could have. And it's not because of her and Wesley. I couldn't like her because of her convenience and predictability to the story. By the end of the first chapter she was featured in, I KNEW she and Wes would end up together. Is she perfect for him? Totally. Not the point though. She listened to Wesley and Nora (a woman she considers her aunt) break up, KNOW he is hurting and in love with Nora still, and she goes to seduce him? What the heck? Tiffany Reisz is not known for filler characters ... but Laila felt like a filler character. She was thrown in there so Wesley has someone ... but it wasn't done right in my opinion. If her and Wes stayed in touch after these events, and ended up falling in love that way, I would have been overjoyed. Wesley and her having sex literally minutes after he broke up with a woman he has loved for three years? No. Just no!
And now for a rather important character, Søren himself. I hated him in The Siren. I warmed up to him a lot in The Angel and The Prince. I fell in love with him in The Mistress. Wonderfully complicated, deeply intellectual. Sure, he is a sadist ... but that's only a part of him. After reading the Mistress, you can't deny he is a good man. His conversations with Grace, Wesley, and Kingsley were beautifully written, and he is definitely on my list of favorite male characters now ... which I never thought would happen when I started the series.
Consistency: This is where the book loses half a star, and officially becomes the lowest rated of the series so far (the last three all got 5 stars). The inconsistency with Wesley's arc is kind of an insult to his character. It bums me out. If him moving on was just written a little bit differently, and stayed true to the Wesley we have gotten to know in the past 3 books, I wouldn't feel this way.
Honestly, this book, this series, is so, so good. I love romance books. I love a happy ending. I try to stay away from erotica, because it's usually just smut with no plot. Tiffany Reisz has put out an absolutely brilliant story, with, yes, lots of dirty details, that proves you can have your erotica and a fascinating, intelligently written story as well. If you like darker reads, complex human relationships, sex, BDSM, and have an open mind ... I 1000% recommend you pick up this series.
Top 3 Favorite Parts
1. Søren and Graces conversations. All of them.
2. Nora's memory of Wesley surprising her for her birthday
3. Nora's memory of the first time Søren and Kingsley both shared her
4. (bonus) Wesley and Søren's conversation
5. (bonus) Grace walking with Søren towards his death
6. (bonus) Søren and Nora's goodbye to each other
7. (bonus) Søren bathing Nora and crying in his relief and happiness
8. (bonus) Søren and Grace's night together
9. (bonus) Nora protecting Wesley and Laila from Søren's wrath
10. (bonus) Kingsley and Nora'a talk at the end of the book
11. (bonus) Søren telling Kingsley he loved him through bible verses
12. (bonus) That BIG reveal at the end
Where to Buy
Eleanor: "And you'll go to all this trouble for me ... why?"
Søren: "Because there is nothing I wouldn't do to protect you, Eleanor. Nothing I wouldn't do to help you. And nothing I wouldn't do to save you. Nothing."
Eleanor: "Do you always talk like this?"
Søren: "You mean articulately?"
Eleanor: "Weird. So what price am I paying? Hope it's not my firstborn child. Don't want kids."
Søren: "My price is simply this - in exchange for my assistance, I only ask you do what I tell you to do from now on."
Eleanor: "Do what you tell me to do?"
Søren: "Yes. I want you to obey me."
Eleanor: "From now on? Like ... how long?"
Kingsley: "Did you ask her to marry you before or after your head injury?"
Wesley: "How do you know this person's willing to die?"
Kingsley: "Because, mon petit prince, she pissed me off. That is a good indicator she had a death wish."
Kingsley: "Le pretre was in love with someone else at the time. But your fiancee was not the bitch my sister meant."
Wesley: "Who was she, then? Maybe we should talk to her."
Kingsley: "You already are, mon ami. The bitch ... at your service."
Zach: "How's my Gracie?"
Zach: 'Are you going to tell me why you're amazing or are you leaving it to my imagination."
Grace: "I've been reading."
Zach: "Horrible idea. I hate books. Reading's for bellends."
Grace: "It's one of your writers."
Zach: "Writing's for bellends."
Grace: "What about editing? Do you recall editing one called All Hallows High?"
Zach: "Oh, God."
Grace: "What is that for? That 'oh, God'? It's fantastic."
Zach: "I think Nora wrote it to test me."
Grace: "It's a romance novel. Not a very hard test."
Zach: "It's an erotica novel between two teenage boys at a Catholic school."
Zach: "And she's trying to get a rise out of me with it."
Grace: "She got one out of me. With my husband on the other side of the earth she'll probably get another one out of me before the night's over."
Zach: "I'm glad you find a book that includes illegal sexual acts so erotic. The underage boys fuck each other."
Grace: "You remember I'm a teacher. Teenagers, even the boys, do that sort of thing."
Zach: "Oh, yes, and the teacher fucks the boys, too."
Grace: "Dear Lord. Do the boys also - smoke marijuana?"
Zach: "You're mocking me."
Grace: "You do remember you lost your virginity at thirteen, and that I lost mine at eighteen to my own teacher, who happened to be you?"
Zach: "Please don't call me out on my hypocrisy when I'm trying to be hypocritical."
Grace: "Stop being so vanilla."
Zach: "I love you."
Grace: "A priest ... really?"
Nora: "My priest. He's been my priest since I was fifteen years old. I hope you're scandalized. It's no fun if you're not scandalized."
Grace: "Thoroughly scandalized. Is he handsome?"
Nora: "Is the pope Catholic?"