Title: When The Siren Calls
Author: Tom Barry
Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Rating: 2 Stars
Description/Synopsis: Restless and neglected, Isobel is suffocating in a stagnant marriage. Suave and charismatic Jay is fighting for survival. An invitation to visit Jay's resort in the hills of Tuscany sparks Isobel to imagine a life of freedom and excitement.
Dismissing her husband’s objections, Isobel pursues Jay to Tuscany on the pretext of searching for a holiday home. After fighting anguished guilt, she abandons herself in a passionate affair, with her controlling lover encouraging Isobel to push beyond her sexual boundaries.
But all is not as it seems in the idyllic Tuscan retreat, and Isobel finds herself trapped in a web of intrigue, deception, and betrayal. She is one player in a dangerous love triangle, unsure whether Jay is her savior, or her nemesis. As her world falls apart, she must choose between the woman she thought she was, and the woman she has become.
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
First thing's first: Forget the cover and the title because they have absolutely nothing to do with this book. At all. That being said, I received a copy of this book off NetGalley after Tom Barry himself messaged me on Goodreads. I'd entered into a giveaway there, thinking the book looked interesting and didn't win. Lucky for me, Tom is a very nice person and suggested I pick up a free copy over at NetGalley in return for an honest review. Well, you all know what an insane person I am around free books, so I ran over, grabbed a copy, and started reading. That being said, I apologize in advance for everything I'm about to say.
The book was bordering on awful. I pushed - I pushed hard to keep myself reading this book, but in the end it took me more than a week to finish. The first chapter started really promising; there was action and intrigue and a colorful scene full of description. I felt I was there in that market square with Isobel as she was being dogged by a crowd of greedy street urchins. I loved it, honestly. I remember thinking "Yes! This book is going to be awesome!" and I eagerly pushed onwards to read more.
Unfortunately, after the first chapter the engaging quality of the text started to die a slow death. By 27% into the book, I wanted to close it and never open it again. The characters were unlikeable and boring. The scenes kept switching back and forth between Jay and Isobel, and what they were showing me wasn't pleasant. By that 27% mark, I had come to the conclusion that there was very little redeemable about the two characters. Isobel was naive and snobbish, and Jay was womanizing and well.. a man-whore. That's all there is to it. But, I pushed on.
Around the time I hit 40% in the book, things started picking up again. I think for the most part it was because they'd started in on the deception plots, explaining more about how everything was going to fall apart, and by then (finally) Isobel and Jay had met back up. As much as I hated the two characters individually, together they were entertaining... maybe in part because I felt they deserved each other.
On the one hand, I was glad to see things starting to progress about mid-way into the book, but on the other hand I have to say that if I hadn't felt the need to write a review, I probably would have given up on this book long before I'd reached mid-way. The book failed to keep my interest that far in - and as an author, it's a failure when you can't keep your audience past the first chapter.
As the story wore on, I found myself spending more time reading and less time turning my kindle on and off in an attempt to avoid looking at the book. (I'll admit one night I forced a family member into watching old episodes of tv shows so I'd have an excuse NOT to read the book). I wish I were kidding. The story got really entertaining in the last 1/4 of the book as everyone's deceptions started to fall apart and more time was spent on the relationship between Isobel and Jay.
I'll admit that in that last part of the book, I was desperately hoping Isobel would leave Peter and marry Jay. I hated them both vehemently, don't get me wrong.. In fact I think the only character that was at all decent was probably Isobel's friend. She was at least honest with herself and everyone else. She told it like she saw it. I have to admire that.
I'll also admit that I secretly liked Lucy for a few small moments near the end of the book... but overall, I just hated all the characters. Still, I was cheering for Isobel and Jay - hoping they'd end up together and maybe he'd quit being such an ass.. not because I liked either of them, but because they so obviously deserved each other, and I think in a way, Isobel really loved Jay. I'd like to think Jay loved her back, but he's such a jerk that I wouldn't hold my breath for it.
Overall, I didn't really appreciate the book as much as I'd hoped. I didn't find it engaging, the characters weren't likable for the most part, and the pace just seemed to crawl in large sections of the story. However, once I got over the hump of the first half the book, the second half was much more entertaining. I like Jay and Isobel as a couple (though not as individuals). I can appreciate the sort of tragedy that was their relationship, and I enjoyed watching their lives fall apart in some sadistic sort of way. Would I read it again? No. Would I have read past the first 27% if I hadn't felt obligated? No. Would I recommend it to anyone? Possibly.
I think someone with a greater love of business talk and complicated deceptions would have liked the book more than I did. There was certainly a quality of intelligence to the twist and turns of the plot. I generally prefer the romance of a book - something this lacked to a degree. The writing itself was clear and well-written, it's just the story itself that had me wanting to put this down. I think what I was looking for when I went into this was a romance or at least a hot erotica, and what I found was in part, more of a tragedy and sad depiction of how two people unhappy with their lives could tear down not only their own lives, but those around them in a desperate attempt to dig themselves out of misery.