This review is by Elizabeth Jasper, writer, and first appeared on Awesome Indies.
This story focuses on relationships: within marriage, between business partners, between friends and lovers - and describes how lies and discontent can ruin relationships and the lives of those involved.Isobel, married for fifteen years to workaholic high-flier, Peter, has a chance meeting in Marrakech with Jay, a wheeler-dealer property investor, who is looking for funding for his dodgy tourist complex in Tuscany. While nothing happens between Isobel and Jay, she finds him hard to forget and, when invited to a presentation of his tourism project, she is unable to resist attending. Her discontent with what she sees as an unsatisfactory marriage, sexually and in respect of her husband's addiction to his work, leaves her vulnerable to Jay's obvious attractions.Jay's life is an unrelenting mixture of juggling marriage to Rusty and his responsibilities to their children with his mistress, Lucy, and his desire for Isobel, while Isobel is hung up with the whole issue of infidelity at the same time as desiring Jay.With a brilliant opening in Marrakech, and set in the beautiful scenery of Tuscany and Middle England, these characters play out their lives against rising tension in the Tuscan tourist complex between the local Italian population and the mainly British owners of apartments and houses within the complex, who discover they've been taken for a ride by Jay's property company.Tightly written and with a cast of strong characters who, while not particularly pleasant are certainly memorable, this novel is a potent and thoroughly enjoyable mix of sex, romance and big, bad business.
Recent months have seen a plethora of explosively-charged romantic and erotic novels released, feeding a previously little acknowledged appetite that seems to know no bounds. Because of the astounding success of certain shady titles this is a difficult genre to tackle in an interesting and novel way. Tom Barry, however, has bravely stepped up to the mark with his debut novel, and without a doubt has hit the nail on the head.
With enough sex to satisfy the most lascivious reader and enough sentiment to console those more romantically inclined, When The Siren Calls is a book of love and lust that manages to find room for numerous other strings on its bow. The main plot – the love (or lust) story between Isobel and Jay – gives way to other sub-plots and themes: the catastrophically underhand business dealings of property developers in Italy, the friendship between Isobel and Maria, the marital problems of Isobel and Peter, the challenge of how to share a place as beautiful as Tuscany without spoiling it forever. Barry has raised multiple questions in the lives of his characters and he handles them all deftly in his book.
The characters are conventionally faulted, but realistic. At times I felt the novel reflected a rather jaded view on life and relationships: seemingly every character had been unfaithful at some stage or another. But Barry is certainly not one to pussy-foot around delicate matters, and we are given a no-holds-barred insight into the lives and thoughts of his characters. The novel is fast-paced and the plot has enough hints and twists to keep us guessing until its unusual last sentence – an intriguing end which sets us up nicely for the sequel.
Coming from a business background, Barry has written about a subject he knows well and he presents it in a clear and understandable manner. Even those of us without business knowledge can appreciate what is happening and perhaps learn something along the way. There is a classic moral element to the story as well – a satisfying sense of come-uppance, which never goes amiss.
A confident debut, by turns page-turning and thought-provoking in its depiction of modern life, When The Siren Calls is set in beautiful landscapes brought alive by strong description, peopled by real characters and dashed through with romance, sex and dramatic scenes. In short, an excellent piece of escapism.
"Tom Barry has a strong sense of irony and a nose for unearthing what lies beneath the civilised facades we present to the world. It's exciting to find a new writer who tells life like it is, but with a delectable twist of romance, sex and humour." - Stephanie J Hale, author of Millionaire Women, Millionaire You
"A pacy, racy, romance novel that simultaneously feels like a critique of a particular social scene " - Tom Fletcher, author of The Leaping