Last year, Tiffany Reisz burst onto the scene with the first book in her Original Sinners series, The Siren. But what is this book? Is it romance? Erotica? Something else? Whatever label one might give to these books, they certainly are controversial. In The Siren, heroine Nora has sex with an underage boy who is having difficulty accepting his kinky nature, has sex with a married man, and reveals that her most intimate relationship has been a long-term affair with a Catholic priest. Reisz doesn’t shy away from topics that may offend readers, but the end result is one of the best erotic series on the market.
The question of what to label this series is a fascinating one. Tiffany Reisz uses the tag line “It’s Not Erotica Until Someone Gets Hurt” to describe the series on her website. The books certainly do qualify as erotica, as sex and sexual topics are primary plot points. The series follows Nora’s sexual escapades with both men and women, follows her work as a professional dominatrix, follows her years of submission to Father Soren and follows her deeper relationships with those in her inner circle.
Readers seem to disagree about whether or not the books offer a happily ever after, hence the question about whether they can be called romance. I would argue, however, that the four books that make up the first quartet of the Original Sinners—The Siren, The Angel, The Prince and The Mistress—tell one of the most romantic tales of all time (after The Princess Bride, of course). In The Siren, Reisz introduces Zach and his estranged wife Grace. While Nora doesn’t find a happily ever after with her college-aged companion, Nora and Soren work vigilantly to get Zach and Grace back together.
And in The Angel? Nora and Soren are back together, but are separated by a threat to Soren’s religious career. Nora hides out at the estate of her close friend and part-time lover, Griffin Fiske. Michael, the boy whose virginity Nora took in The Siren, accompanies her. Once again, Nora and Soren help to bring a couple together. Griffin and Michael find true love—an unconventional and kinky love, but a highly romantic one.
The Prince doesn’t have a very romantic feel. It details the one-time relationship between Soren and Kingsley Edge, the other major character outside of Soren and Nora. Their relationship is brutal, given Soren’s sadistic need to cause pain in order to get aroused. Nora and Soren aren’t together, and readers are left to wonder about the state of the Soren/Nora/Wesley triangle (Wesley is Nora’s college-aged love). Also, Reisz ends The Prince with a doozy of a cliffhanger.
But Reisz proves the romantic nature of the series in The Mistress. While I don’t want to reveal what happens in the fourth book, I found the ending to be one of the most heartwarming that I have ever read. Reisz far surpassed my expectations and rendered me a big pile of sappy goo. Everybody gets a fantastically happily ever after even if it doesn’t happen in the way that most will expect.
While the controversial topics will put off some readers, these are part of what make the Original Sinners books stand out. Reisz isn’t afraid to write about underage sex, priests breaking vows, BDSM with some hardcore scenes and cheating. But none of these make the series any less romantic.
Regardless of whether one agrees about the romantic nature of the Original Sinners, this series is like nothing else in the romance or erotic market. Reisz breaks new ground and proves that romance can come in many forms.