Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
“…She didn’t need a hero. She didn’t need to be saved. She was the champion of her own story, and she knew it. Olivia asked for nothing not because she feared she’d never get it, but because she was a master of creating her own truth. I didn’t want her or anyone—I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. But she would tempt me, this magical creature who fought like a warrior and quoted poetry like an artist. This goddess who needed no one, but chose me for now.”
There’s a profundity to CD Reiss’s writing. Echoing through her story of hedonistic passion and prosaic emotionally- wrecked heroes and heroines are truths. About life. About love. Shadowing the romance of Byron Crowne and Olivia Monroe in her newest book, Iron Crowne, is the truth about control and the freedom of love and the need to heal.
In feminist criticism, as power is delineated in the realm of gender, the male tends to act as a colonizer of the woman’s body. He controls it and, in essence, he controls her. In this story, Reiss illustrates this struggle in one of two ways: first, in Olivia’s physical want for Byron’s colonizing and HIS want to write himself on her body, and secondly, in Byron’s need to build his monstrosity on the hill, essentially wrecking the synergy of nature. These two moments in this story are the vociferous lessons of control. Olivia and Byron, while seemingly different, are alike in their need to control outcomes. In that control, they protect themselves, yet bind themselves too. It’s in the resolutions of this control that these two find their future. But only in embracing fear and letting go, can this happen. It’s Reiss’s calling card in this book for her readers. We need to embrace the things that make us afraid so that we can heal the wounds of our pasts and find our happiness. Herein lies the profundity of Reiss’s writing.
She achieves this innately through her style. There’s a poetry to Reiss’s writing. It flits and floats across the page drawing her readers into its rhyme and meter. She creates tension through her words that underscore the tension between her characters. This is necessary. Then, she writes healing after cutting through her hero and heroine’s trauma. Her words wrap around your heart, pulling you deep into her storytelling, making you feel her truths viscerally. Her style ingratiates itself into your soul that NOT turning the page feels like a rebuke to her, to her characters, to her truths. So you do. You keep turning pages because to stop would make your soul feel heavy. I couldn’t stop reading Byron and Olivia’s story because it felt more painful to stop than to endure the pain of their coupling. To me, this is the brilliance of a writer such as CD Reiss.
Even more, the passion and $ex of Iron Crowne are filthy. This isn’t an admonishment or criticism. It’s the strength of the storytelling. It’s not written in ways that feel prescriptive or like steps to complete. Reiss creates this physical relationship that wholly represents the essence of her characters and their struggle to be together. Their physicality belies their emotional states. And it melts the pages of her book.
As a hero, Byron is everything you adore about the tragic hero. Unlike other tragic heroes, he doesn’t need to die to find his resolution, but a part of him must die in order to find his eventual happiness. Through much of the book, he is the colonizer. He razes land and body, marking them for ownership and name. Yet, he does this to overcome temporality. His life is a testament to trauma, and he makes decisions that self-sabotage him because the trama keeps him feelings muted, numb. The beauty of his characterization, the part of him (and heroes like him) that I love the most, is the moment when the trauma can no longer sustain his walls. When, in this book, Olivia acts as colonizer and obliterates his self-preservation. Just as he writes himself on Olivia’s body, she writes herself on Byron’s heart. This moment is the transcendent juncture of the story, and I suffered through their pain to get to its beauty.
Lastly, Olivia. There is nothing better than a woman who is self-reflective. Her struggles against a male-dominated profession, her choice in fertility and becoming a mother, her want to win, conspire together to underscore her true beauty. Outwardly, we are told, she is beautiful. Byron calls her “beauty” and ascribes poetry to her essence. Yet, Reiss’s characterization of her inner traits makes her more impressive and insightful. Even at the beginning of their story, when her self-control seems lost to Byron in terms of her body, her mind and heart remain resolute. She’s truly his soulmate in her resolve. In many ways, Olivia could be a “tiger lady,” a derogatory title for a woman with power. However, intertwined with her beauty and power is a compassion and love for others. We find this illustrated in her relationships with Emilio and Linda. All of her qualities conspire to produce a heroic female who should be reproduced over and over again in modern romance. She is a necessity in this story, and she’s a role model for women who want it all.
As I was finishing CD Reiss’s Iron Crowne, the words for this review were rushing through my mind. They were a veritable swell of feelings and thoughts about a book that challenges, titillates, and captivates the reader. I try to help readers understand why I enjoy certain books. I’m never sure that I can elucidate why a particular author transcends the norm of romance. And, for me, I think it comes down to one thing (well, not just one thing): the turn of the page. I read a lot of romance (A LOT), at least one book a day (or a day and a half). I turn pages. But some don’t compel me forward as others do. They don’t challenge my thinking, and they certainly don’t insert themselves into portions of my soul. Yes, they entertain, but they don’t engage the academic nature of my brain. This book, Iron Crowne, did. It found my words for me, it reminded me of my past life as a master’s in lit student, and it engaged my heart in its depth of feeling. If that is the level of romance that you love, then you will hunger for Olivia and Byron’s story. You will open this book, turn the page, and get lost in a story about letting go and finding love.
In love and romance,