I’m a big fan of pretty much anything Tiffany Reisz writes, so I was ecstatic to receive a copy of The Rose, her latest novel, for review. It’s a follow-up to 2017’s The Red – which I loved – so I settled in fully expecting to be swept away by this one. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be quite the immersive journey I was expecting.
It’s not necessary to have read The Red in order to follow The Rose. Our heroine Lia is the daughter of Mona, the heroine of The Red, so while it’s nice to be familiar with her back story, it’s absolutely not essential.
Lia has just graduated from college, and her extremely wealthy parents are throwing her a lavish graduation party. She would have preferred something a little more low key, but her parents have always enjoyed making grand gestures, so she goes along with their desire to give her a celebration their friends, family members, and acquaintances won’t soon forget.
After dinner, Lia’s father presents her with an ornate cup as a graduation gift. From the moment she unwraps it, she knows it’s something out of the ordinary. Her father explains that it’s an extremely valuable collector’s item used in many sacred and ancient rituals. She’s enchanted by the gift and by the story behind it.
August Bowman, a friend of her father’s, is also struck by the beauty and power of Lia’s gift. He corners her shortly after she receives the gift and offers to buy it from her. Lia is annoyed by his presumptuous request and flatly refuses, but August won’t give up. He explains that the beautiful cup has a dark and dangerous history that has been linked to several arcane rituals. The story he tells is quite different from the one her father told her, and Lia is confused by the inconsistent information.
In an attempt to clear things up and obtain the cup for his own collection, August urges Lia to join him in a ritual. They each take a small sip of wine from the cup August calls the Rose Kylix, and are immediately swept away into a series of sexual fantasies unlike anything Lia has ever imagined.
I was initially quite taken by the premise of the novel, but the execution didn’t end up working well for me. Lia and August seem to inhabit the bodies of various immortal beings, and they engage in all manner of sexual acts while in these alternate forms. I don’t necessarily object to the sex or their ability to leave their own bodies, but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief and go with the flow of this rather confusing story. One moment, August and Lia are sipping wine in Lia’s room, and the next they’re in a fancy Greek temple. How did they get there? What kind of magic is involved, and why was no explanation for these events offered to the reader?
I do give Ms. Reisz props for the fantastic chemistry between the leads. It’s clear from the start that Lia and August are attracted to one another, and this attraction grows and changes throughout the story. Eventually, their lust for one another turns into a deep love, and I enjoyed watching those feelings develop. I would have liked to see them interacting with one another as themselves rather than as incarnations of various gods and goddesses, but despite the unconventional nature of their relationship, I was able to buy into the idea of them as a couple.
Ms. Reisz’s writing is as lush and evocative as ever, but I wasn’t able to just let go and fall into the story the way I have with her other books. The sex was hot, and the characters were compelling, but I came away with a feeling of overall dissatisfaction. It’s possible this novel will work better for others than it did for me, but I was deeply saddened by my inability to fall in love with Ms. Reisz’s latest offering.