ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I just want to wish all of my friends and followers a very Happy Fourth of July! I am so very thankful for all of you and all of your support, always. I hope your day is safe and filled with love, family, friends, and good books!
And what better way to start celebrating America’s independence than by writing, or in your case reading, a review for an erotic romance book! I really enjoyed The Red and it was just the fast paced, pallet cleanser I needed after reading so much high fantasy these past few months!
“Long ago I made a deathbed promise. I need you to help me keep it as I’m helping you to keep yours. I promise, you will understand in time, Mona. You’ll understand it all.”
The Red stars a twenty-five-year-old girl named Mona, who owns an art gallery, The Red Gallery, which was left to her by her mother. Her mother very tragically passed of cancer, and her dying wish was for Mona not to ever part with her beloved art gallery, which is a request that Mona wants to honor more than anything, but her mother also left her half a million dollars in debt.
Mona thinks she has no choice but to sell the art gallery, until a strange, mysterious, and, let’s be real, extremely handsome man shows up one night and proves he has a vast knowledge about art. After helping Mona discover she has a hidden masterpiece on her hands, he makes her an offer she gladly accepts: Mona will spend one night every one or two months with the man of mystery, where he can take or give as much pleasure as he wants from her, for an entire year. After each visit he will pay her in with an amazing work of art, and after their year is up the total of the art will accumulate to one million dollars.
“The devil wants your soul. I only want your body”
The best part about this arrangement? Mona wants to blatantly have sex with this man. She even tells him that he doesn’t have to pay for something they both want. This story never feels forced or rapey or like he has her backed into the corner. Mona makes this deal willingly and with a smile on her face. In fact, she can barely contain herself each month with waiting for him. I loved this touch on the story, and it really made for a much more enjoyable read than the alternative.
Oh, and each time they meet up he shows her a new painting that he would like them to recreate. Like, actual famous paintings that we know about in today’s world: Olympia by Edouard Manet, Nymphs and Satyr by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dora and the Minotaur by Pablo Picasso, and many others. I loved this touch too much! It was so unique and I could barely contain myself from reading all the chapter titles in the table of contents!
And my absolute favorite part of this book was when Mona and her mystery man would go into her gallery’s back room to recreate one of these famous masterpieces. You guys know I’m primarily a high fantasy reader, and every time Mona walked through that door to begin the reenactments it was like walking into a brand new world. All these scenes seriously read like a portal fantasy, and I was so entranced learning all about the new environment that Mona would be spending time in, whether it be a forest, or a prison, or an auction house.
I loved the discussion on safe sex. I know it’s not as appealing to read erotica where the guy puts on a condom every other page, so I loved how our main protagonist discusses her fears and hesitation on not using a condom and makes sure she establishes an equal and safe playing field before she has sex. I also loved that she went to the hospital and got tested anyways afterwards. There is some really good and realistic commentary on sex in this book and I completely loved it.
“You shouldn’t let a man shake your hand for less than a hundred dollars, Mona.”
There is also wonderful discussions constantly about sex work and how it is nothing to feel shame about or over. In today’s world we also belittle and ridicule the women that choose to sell their bodies, not the men that are paying. It’s disgusting, and I loved how this book embraced the power that women have when choosing what they want to do with their bodies, no matter what that choice is.
“The art world didn’t care about young women selling their bodies. They only cared if someone dared to break their rules of composition, of acceptable subject matter. You could show a naked woman hiding her face or lying supine and limp as a wet rag. God forbid he paint a girl who dared them to look her in the eyes”
There is only one case of judgmentally slut shaming, and Mona puts that person back in their lane very quickly and rewardingly, yet it is still there. She then brings up the fragility of men’s egos and how they can’t accept or understand when they are not enough for a woman. The particular man in this book lashes out verbally and physically, instead of trying to learn, understand, and compensate. It was the worst part in this book, and I think this story would have been ten times better and stronger without that scene. Also, TW: physical and verbal abuse and grey area sex that can be taken or seen as rape.
Also, the word “whore” is used a lot in this book. Like, a lot a lot. It’s always used as a sexy, steamy, term of endearment, except for the one dude I mentioned in the paragraph above this one, but it’s still very prevalent and I can totally see how it would turn many readers off.
And for the love of all that is good in the world, please stop using the word “organ” to describe a man’s penis. Like, I get it, there isn’t that many good alternatives, but reading “organ” over and over and over again, sometimes three times on the same page, just was tedious and I couldn’t deal. Like, I know this is also just a personal preference, but please just say dick or cock or *gasp* penis. I honestly never wish to read the word “organ” again, ever.
This all being said, I will emphasize that this book is obviously an erotic book. I’m talking E-R-O-T-I-C! Like, maybe the most erotic book I’ve ever read! I’m actually pretty sure that I have never read any book that has had as many different erotic elements as this book has! Like, it has it all, and I truly mean it all: contract agreement sexual relations, Dom and sub relationships, role-playing, unprotected sex, edging (orgasm control), group sex, threesomes, voyeurism, pain play, fisting, half-man and half-beast sex, sexual sacrifice/offering, nursing, breeding! So, please go into this knowing that all these elements are present, especially if anything I listed makes you uncomfortable. I will say that everything Tiffany Reisz does is very tastefully done, but I completely respect that certain things are not everyone’s cup of tea, too.
The other thing I will say is that the ending sort of makes you feel… questionable. I don’t want to say anything more, because this book is a fantastical mystery that is probably best to go into blind, but it left me feeling a little uneasy at the end. The ending felt rushed, forced, and like it could have been way better with an additional chapter added on to it. I still really enjoyed this story, and it was such a quick and fast paced read, that constantly made me question what is real and what is make believe, but I suppose I just felt like the ending was rather lackluster.
I read Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren (The Original Sinners #1) back in the day and absolutely devoured and loved it. Again, she pushes the envelope and plays with taboo subjects, but I completely recommend that book from the bottom of my perverted heart as well. But, I do believe that the main character of that series, Nora Sutherlin, is supposedly the writer of The Red, which is a super cool touch and makes for an even more unique reading experience.
And at this point, I will honestly read any and everything that this woman creates. I love how she writes about sex in a manner that never makes anyone feel shame or embarrassment, just embracement and power. I love reading about characters that unapologetically love sex, and Tiffany Reisz truly is the queen of this. Her stories are just so unique and a breath of fresh air from all the other erotic stories I’ve read lately. I truly wish more people would give her and her very different erotic romances a try, especially if you enjoy BDSM. Also, I now need to be on the lookout for an antique brass bed.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.