If you combine Reisz's signature mindf*ckery, panty-melting erotic scenes, and banter with Greek mythology and the modern British peerage... you get The Rose.
I devoured this book. It's delicious. I don't have better words to say this, so I'll just give you my initial impression:
I would like to drizzle this book over a lover and lick it off.
Where The Red was an experiment in pain/pleasure and pushing the boundaries of reality and the physical body, The Rose is a little sweeter. Of course, it isn't too sweet, because this is Tiffany Reisz and she doesn't do that.
The Rose opens with a young woman, daughter of an Earl, about to have a graduation party as she's just wrapped up her time at university. She's 21, and she has a bit of a secret. You see, she's a Madam. She arranges appointments and handles the financial bits for several of her friends. She's got the connections, they've got the skills and desire to use them.
This is all going smoothly, until the night of her graduation party. Her father has invited a stranger to the party as a sort of consolation prize. You see, Ophelia's father outbid August Bowman at an auction recently. The piece up for bid? A rose kylix (an ancient cup made for drinking wine, decorated with an image of a young woman and a rose). August is sexy as hell, but he also warns Ophelia that the kylix is dangerous and has the power to transport people who drink wine from it into their deepest sexual fantasies. You see, August is a prostitute with the Cult of Eros and this Kylix is a gift given from Aphrodite to her son (Eros).
She tells him to go away and figures that's that.
Until the artist (and terrible person) who took her virginity blackmails her. Unless she pays him 1,000,000 pounds, he's going to tell the papers about her escort service and destroy her life. This leads Ophelia to go to August with a deal - he gives her the money, she gives him the Kylix. But she doesn't need the money for a week... so why shouldn't they play with it first?
The week that follows is the bulk of the book, and it's full of Reisz's combination of erotic scenes, angst, and enough mythology to satisfy fans. It's like reading the myths again, but without the X-Rated bits removed. As a bonus, since Ophelia and August are acting these scenes out, it's pleasurable when Achilles forces Briseis into his bed every night. It's hot as hell when a shower of literal gold glides over and into Danae/Ophelia's body. And it's romantic as hell when August and Ophelia fall for each other while they explore the bounds of their trust.
The Rose is lighter on BDSM and I wouldn't say it contains dubious consent like The Red, but only because Ophelia is knowingly entering scene wherein the original character was raped. These are her fantasies, and August is there to protect her. It's still a big mindf*ck, but not like The Red was. There are several content warnings, which I've listed below, but I think that if you had a difficult time with The Red, this one will be easier. If you loved The Red, you'll probably enjoy The Rose, too.
Oh and there's definitely a happy ending.
Content warnings: mention of rape, blackmail, "pleasurable rape" fantasy, character in peril, bad first-time sex
Suzanne received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review.