The Mistress (The Original Sinners Series)
by Tiffany Reisz
Published by Harlequin MIRA
Genre: erotica, mystery
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5
Let me begin by saying that I truly enjoy this series. I've loved Nora Sutherlin and Søren Stearns (that's Father Stearns to the rest of you people) since my first introduction to them in Seven Day Loan. Yes, even then I was drawn to Søren, cold and remote as he appeared in that novella. As I got to know him (and her) in The Siren, The Angel, and The Prince (I, uh, owe you that one), my feelings only grew stronger. I am drawn to the two of them and their story, even as I get frustrated with some of Nora's decisions. And Søren's too, for that matter.
So it is with a heavy heart that I write this review.
Warning: this review will refer to the previous books in the series, which means spoilers will be revealed. If you haven't read them and prefer to know nothing, skip this review.
The story itself is fine. When we last saw Nora, she had been kidnapped by Kingsley's crazy, presumed dead sister, after spending a week with Wesley, during which she agreed to marry him. Søren must rescue his Little One, and since he loves Nora and Kingsley loves Søren, Kingsley goes too. Wesley joins them, as does Grace (you might recall her as the wife of Nora's editor Zachary) and Laila, Søren's niece. With an army like that, Crazy Not Dead Sister ought not to have a chance, right? Well, she is crazy. And crazy people tend to wreak havoc.
So the merry troupe of BDSM-ers and vanilla lovers heads off to reclaim Nora. The cat and mouse game of "will they or won't they" is almost secondary, though, to the rest of the tale, which focuses on the relationship(s) between Nora, Søren, and Kingsley.
As with previous books, we do not get into Søren's head, which Tiffany Reisz uses to her (and our) advantage. He's supposed to be mysterious and aloof and arrogant and even a bit despotic. Do we really want to know what he's thinking, the way we know Nora's and Kingsley's thoughts? No. We may think we do, but we don't. In addition to Nora and Kingsley, we also get Wesley's, Laila's, and Grace's points of view as well. Yes, it's a crowded landscape.
But just because Reisz doesn't take us into Søren's mind doesn't mean we don't get to know him better. To stay alive, Nora must perform a Scheherazade-type spinning of tales at the behest of Kingsley's sister. She gives us more details about the progression of her relationship with Søren, letting us get closer to him. Kingsley also opens up, as does Søren himself. And there is one of the issues I had: Søren (and Nora and Kingsley) makes a point to tell us about his walls and how hard he works to maintain his distance, yet twice now, he allows himself to get close to a woman not named Nora Sutherlin, first with a reporter in one of the previous books and now with Grace. It turns out he likes to talk, and he forms a closeness with these women that belies all that we've come to believe about him from Nora. He even confides somewhat in Wesley. Come on, Søren!
Something else I've noticed about these books is that there is progressively less sex in them the longer the series goes on. There are some scenes at the end, and they almost feel gratuitous, as if Tiffany Reisz realized she forgot to include them in the first place. One in particular flat out pissed me off, largely because it seemed silly and unnecessary, especially when it appears there was an unintended (or perhaps intended after all) consequence.
What sex there is, though, is nicely written and pretty hot. Reisz certainly fully develops her characters, but GOOD GRIEF, it's been five books now, so you'd hope she would have a handle on them. At some point, though, it feels as if she's trying to force us to love them as much as she does.
And now we get to the point where this all goes terribly awry: clearly there will be another book.
I adore these characters. I do. I am Team Søren all the way, and if I had the chance, I'd sit at his feet too. Amongst other things. But there is a danger in writers falling in love with their characters because it manifests itself in the writer being unable to say good-bye. It's time. It's time to let them go, Tiffany Reisz. It's time to write about other characters and send Søren, Nora, Kingsley, and the rest of the kids off to their fictional heavens and hells. The way you ended this book does not bode well for the next installment, and it actually made me feel sad and a bit angry. I thought it would be over. I am ready for it to be over.
You need to be ready too. You need to just ... stop. Write a quick novella to wrap it all up if you must, but end it. It's time. In fact, it's past due.
UPDATE: I exchanged a Twitter conversation with Tiffany Reisz, to whom I owe a huge thank you, about how this book ends. She says that this is the end of the story and that there will be no more books divulging what happens from this point on. I have to tell you how much I appreciate that as a reader and how much that makes me admire her. There will be more books, but those will be prequels telling us how Søren's and Nora's relationship began and progressed. Happy claps all around.