I don’t read erotica. I also don’t start a series in the middle. But when I picked up Tiffany Reisz’s The Saint… oh, I did, I did, I did.
The fifth in the Original Sinners series, The Saint was surprisingly easy to begin. I thought I’d have to keep a large cast of characters in mind, but the story starts with one person, novelist Nora Sutherlin, who’s retreated to a cabin in the woods to deal with a tragedy alone. Soon afterwards, though, she has a visitor, a vineyard owner called Nico. She previously broke the news to him that his biological father is a man she knows (in the biblical sense of the word), but naturally Nico feels nothing for the stranger who sired him. So when he comes to Nora, she tells him the story of how she first encountered his father—back when she was a fifteen-year-old called Eleanor, and of how she met a certain priest.
I don’t usually like rebellious-yet-precocious teenagers or love stories between underage girls and older men, but this book makes it all work. There’s a good reason for Eleanor’s defiance towards pretty much anyone in authority, she gets some of the best comebacks in the story, and under her foul mouth and flinty exterior, she’s loyal and fearless. She’s also a person who needs understanding and acceptance just like anyone else, and she gets both from Søren, the new priest. He quickly realizes she’s fallen very passionately in love with him.
Søren is a fascinating man who walks a line between his vocation and his erection. To put it another way, he loves his work – he believes in God, is a highly educated Jesuit, and is unfailingly kind and protective those in need – but he’s also a sexual sadist. And we’re not talking a little mild spanking here. Honestly, this is one reason the book wasn’t a DIK for me; there were sex scenes I skimmed, my knees tightly crossed. The other reason is Søren’s childhood, which was truly messed up. A lot of trigger warnings here.
But at the same time, the story didn’t cross my personal thresholds of do-not-want. Søren never abuses his authority or the power he could wield over Eleanor. He recognizes that for all her strength of character (and the fact that she’s a potential candidate for the secret world of kink he’s a part of), she’s still a girl. She needs to know who she is before she can know who he is. Their relationship is a complicated dance, but it is always interesting. Whenever they got into verbal back-and-forths, my resolution to read only a few pages more went to hell and stayed there.
Interspersed with Nora’s reminiscences of her coming-of-age are her sessions in the present with Nico, and at the end she finally reveals the grief she’s dealing with. This is an incredibly sad scene that brought me to the point of tears, because I’ve had to handle the same loss and no, I don’t read books that remind me of it. But better pain without regrets—and I definitely don’t regret reading this—than vice versa. I hope Nora would agree.
So to summarize, The Saint is an intense, unforgettable read. I would be careful about who I recommended it to, for the same reason I’d be careful with dynamite, but I enjoyed the characters, their dialogue, and the twists on tropes, such as Søren telling Eleanor not to bite her lip, because lip-gnawing is usually done by people trying to look unintelligent. I may or may not read any other books in the series, but I’m glad I tried this one.