tl;dr: completely insane but satisfying erotica fantasy
If you are unfamiliar with Tiffany Reisz, you may want to mentally prepare yourself. This book is bananas, but in the best possible way. The Red is about a young woman named Mona, who comes from scandalous beginnings (her mother was a free love kinda gal, and invited a man to impregnate her without any strings because she wanted a child) and is now faced with a arduous task of saving her late mother’s gallery from financial ruin. She’s gone over the books, and the prognosis in grim. Right at the moment she decides she can’t fight it any longer and needs to sell it, a mysterious man shows up, and offers her the money it will take to bring the gallery back from its debts IF she agrees to submit to his sexual appetites with a carte blanche agreement.
Mona is intrigued by the man, and really doesn’t want to sell the gallery, so she agrees. They embark on a year-long steamy affair, where she is given hints about their encounters from a variety of paintings. He shows up every few months for many hours of debauchery, which begin to become strange and twisted, and nearly unbelievable. She wonders if her imagination is that good, or if he’s drugging her somehow.
I can’t spoil it any further than that, the final few chapters of the book are incredible, and this book definitely lives up to its ‘erotic fantasy’ tagline. But this book is not for pearl-clutchers; it’s raunchy, debauched, and sometimes even slightly uncomfortable. You’ll likely never look at the paintings referred to in this book the same way ever again.
This book straddles the line between gothic romance and contemporary. It’s unclear what time period it belongs to. Other than telephones and town cars, we don’t get a huge technological presence, so its hard to tell exactly what time period it takes place. It seems to borrow heavily from mannerisms of historical romance, while being set closer to the present. Some of the language and characterizations also have that ‘old world’ ring to them, without corsets and Dukes. And obviously, the book takes place in New York, which makes it closer to the present than the past.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. The book is straight up pornographic, and it did get a little uncomfortable at times, but the way the story all ties in together at its conclusion makes the whole thing worth it. If you can handle the smut (along with content warnings for just about everything beyond missionary), then I highly recommend this book. It’s a crazy ride that’ll leave you fanning yourself.
If you are interested in reading another erotica romance where the hero lavishes the heroine with money in exchange for sex, check out Sugar Daddy by Sawyer Bennett. I reviewed it in my first batch of mini reviews.