On the day of Lia’s university graduation party, her parents—wealthy art collectors with friends in high places—gift her a beautiful wine cup, a rare artifact decorated with roses. It’s a stunning gift, and one that August Bowman, a friend of her parents and a guest at Lia’s party, also has his eye on. The cup, August tells her, is known as the Rose kylix, and it’s no ordinary cup. It was used in the temple ceremonies of Eros, Greek god of erotic love, and has the power to bring the most intimate sexual fantasies to life.
But Lia is skeptical of August’s claims of the cup’s mythology and magic—after all, he’s a collector himself, and she suspects he just wants to get his hands on this impressive piece of art. So he dares her to try it for herself, and when Lia drinks from the Rose kylix she is suddenly immersed in an erotic myth so vivid it seems real—as though she’s living out the most sensual fantasy with August by her side…
Realizing the true power of this ancient and dangerous relic, Lia is even more wary of giving it up, though August insists it is only safe with him. He’s willing to pay the full value of the cup, but Lia has another type of trade in mind. One that finds them more tangled up in each other—and in fantasy—than either was prepared for.
I’m so, so glad that Navessa talked up this book so much! I’ve avoided erotica, and all but my favorite authors’ romance books, for the better part of a year. I live for romance in my stories, but all the manufactured drama added to the fact that sex scenes are mostly boring to me now has kept me well away.
But this. The Rose. Man. I would have been missing out if I had not picked this up. I haven’t picked up anything by Tiffany Reisz before because, from what I’ve understood, most of her books deal with the punch-you-in-the-gut sorts of erotic stories. The kind where they make you incredibly uncomfortable. The ones that you end unsure how to even classify it. And while that may be great writing and a fantastic story….it’s just not for me. I don’t like to feel gut-punched anymore. It’s why I don’t read true crime, or Jodi Picoult, or Nicholas Sparks.
Lia watched her father, Spencer, the fifteenth Earl of Godwick, chatting with Augustine Bowman, no doubt talking of important manly things like football, old Scotch and how very grand it was to go through life with a penis.
Which makes me that much more surprised that I so thoroughly enjoyed this book. This has none of that. There’re no gut-punches. There’s no manufactured drama. What there is, is good, sweaty, hot-as-hell sex, coupled with genuine character and relationship development. In fact, I’d put it right up there with some of my favorite erotica writers, like Cherise Sinclair, for the way it effortlessly (seemingly) combines fan-yourself-and-take-a-shower sex scenes with an HEA I can believe in.
The Rose also blends in the most beautiful mythological and fantasy moments. Those moments out of mythology’s history are so stunningly written that I felt like I was there with those people, there in that moment, experiencing what they experienced. I cannot say enough good things about these scenes. They were absolutely gorgeously written.
It’s the little things that garnered a large amount of my appreciation. Things like the subversions of the darkness found in how women are treated, and have been throughout history. The history and reality is well acknowledged, which is something amazing all on its own. But the fact that Lia and August find ways to subvert it, subtly, making it so much more feminist – I love it. They take myths, which are typically very brutal to women in general, and turn them on their heads. And it’s done in such a subtle way. I don’t mean that you can barely see it, but that it feels so natural and unjarring.
For example, when Lia has a forced-seduction fantasy…Let me sidebar for a moment, because non-consenual scenes are, for me, almost universally a rage-quit moment. I recognize this is personal, because of my own experiences, but if an author includes one of these I (a) want to know about it in advance, and (b) need it to be done well. Thankfully, Navessa warned me about this one, because the way that Lia explains this fantasy is … not good. It’s a difficult fantasy to talk about, because rape is a very real, brutal, horrific, and terrible thing. Which makes fantasies about wanting to lose control to a captor…difficult. However, here Lia gives explicit consent. So while it’s a little borderline non-consensual in the beginning of the mythology time-travel scene, it’s also very clear that it’s all completely consensual. Tiffany Reisz takes that moment and makes it something completely unexpected, at least for me.
It’s so rare that a book portrays sex workers and does it in a way that diminishes the stereotypes instead of reinforcing them. But, The Rose does. In fact, every aspect of it is sex-positive. From open relationships, to sex work, to simply enjoying sex because we all should be able to. It fills every moment and nuance in the contemporary scenes and the mythological time travel scenes. It’s everywhere. Every moment.
“Can’t you please let me complete my walk of shame in peace, Mother?”
“Walk of fame, darling. Walk of fame. We do not buy into those sexist and outdated notions that girls aren’t allowed to have as much fun as boys are.”
Lia and August are quite simply awesome together. They have some amazingly funny moments, mixed with the perfect amount of tender, sprinkled in amongst the fan-yourself sex. The respect that built between them, the care and concern…it’s easy to understand why they fell for each other.
It’s not a long novel, so it didn’t surprise me that there wasn’t much development of Lia’s friends. But her family, man that’s a different story. I love her parents. They had me laughing out loud more than once.
“I am not going to show him my tapestry,” Lia said. “Or anything else.”
“Sex really is very fun, darling.”
“My kingdom for a normal mother.”
The Rose was a book that I didn’t expect – in all the best ways. I’ll definitely be looking for more of this sort of story from Tiffany Reisz.