It is generally acknowledged that romantic women’s fiction subscribes, in the main, to the following truisms: there must be an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’ and where possible the ‘hero’ should appear to be unobtainable à la Rochester with his mad wife; Edward, a vampire and, of course, Christian with his fucked-up kinkiness. All these characters are looking for redemption and who better to lead them into the light but Jane, Bella and Anastasia. So here we have Tiffany Reisz’s novel The Saint (previously advertised as The Priest) which is the first book in the White Years quartet, and the fifth overall book in the Original Sinners series published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon and reprinted earlier this year. Reisz obviously didn’t read the Romantic Novelists Association criteria, for she has created an anti-hero we all fall for and who is far beyond redemption; there can be no happy endings for her heroine, Eleanor.
Eleanor is a feisty, sassy and rebellious teenager – head above the parapet at school, infuriating the nuns with her belligerence and stifled at home by her divorced but fervently Catholic mother. Her father is a feckless gangster and quite happy to involve his daughter in his car-ringing schemes – Eleanor can hot wire a car in under a minute. Into this mix steps Father Marcus Stearns (Søren), a gorgeous, angelic looking, Ducati riding, Jesuit, sent to suburban Connecticut for punishment. And so begins a sizzling and unconventional love story.
Tiffany Reisz is a proper storyteller. She has woven an absorbing tale, quite gothic in part (the novel opens in the Schwarzwald of the Grimm Brothers) – though this is no tale of underage sex and paedophile priests. Reisz has been careful and like most women’s romantic erotic writers these days, she has a duty of care to her audience, i.e. the compulsory condom conversation or ‘I’m std free’ as they wave their medical certificates triumphantly. Reisz ensures Eleanor is of an ‘appropriate’ age, before embarking on what becomes a torturous, uncomfortably sadistic, but heady affair, with the readers happily willing Eleanor along in her endeavour to become Søren’s lover and submissive. Søren is a proper sadist and it is testimony to Reisz’s skill as a writer that we suspend our disbelief and embrace this distinctly sacrilegious relationship without reserve.
The Saint by Tiffany Reisz, Mira Books, paperback, 442 pp, ISBN-13: 978-0778316145, £5.59. Kindle edition £2.39