I was immediately drawn to Priest by Sierra Simone. The synopsis just drew me in, especially when love is so forbidden one has to risk damnation and blasphemy to have it. Being in its mere presence, the book created this crackle in the air as if opening the first page was the reader’s first accursed step into condemnation.
I’ve always been good at following rules.
Until she came.
My name is Tyler Anselm Bell. I’m twenty-nine years old. Six months ago, I broke my vow of celibacy on the altar of my own church, and God help me, I would do it again.
I am a priest and this is my confession.
This book gave me more than I ever expected. It was hot (so damn hot) and it made me think. This book had two major things going for it — sex and religion. Now hear me out, this seems strange, right? But it wasn’t. Let me try to explain.
First, the sex. This book is first and foremost a romance for mature audiences. Given the setting of this novel, it’s very controversial for a priest to break his vow of celibacy. The author includes a note at the beginning of the book to clarify that she in no way meant to blaspheme the church or the catholic religion, and I think she did a great job in covering such a controversial topic without going too far. In fact, I think she made Catholicism attractive to readers. (Full disclosure, I’m a christian and I think that made reading this book that much better, because I got all the inside jokes and references to old testament stories. There was even Lutheran jokes!)
Now back on topic. Despite the forbidden factor, the love scenes in this book are smoking borderline filthy. It was almost too dirty for my tastes, but I was still glued to the pages. I couldn’t look away, not so much for the novelty-factor, but because I was mesmerized by the inner-workings of Father Tyler Bell. He was so interesting, which brings me to the second thing — religion.
The reason this controversial topic and the blasphemous sexual behavior worked in this novel was because it felt like the real, true feelings of a naturally sinful human being. Everyone falls short of the glory of God, including attractive priests. Besides enjoying the religious tie-ins and inside jokes, I felt the fear, love, lust, confusion, reverence and awe of Father Bell. I loved how the author captured the believer’s inner struggle between obeying God, following the heart and determining His will. The book went back and forth between steamy scenes and moments of reflection, flipping back and forth until the very last page, where intimacy — whether carnal or pious — blurs into the same thing.
I thought the author’s social commentary on the catholic church’s unrealistic expectation of celibacy in priests was spot on. As Father Bell unravels his feelings and God’s will, he comes to the conclusion that Christ’s bride was the church, why can’t he have a bride as well? And as Paul said, it is better to marry than to burn.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought the sex scenes could have been dialed down, but I was so wrapped up in Tyler and Poppy’s love story and their journey as two children of God brought together, it didn’t matter. This book is not for the faint of heart. If you are easily offended by blasphemous acts (see: sex on the altar of a church), don’t read this book. If you are squeamish of religion in any way (see: moments of unexplainable connection to a higher being), don’t read this book. But if you think you can handle it, give this book a shot. As you can see by my long-winded review, this book struck a nerve with me, pushing my self-placed boundaries to really think deeply about things. This is the first time that a romance novel has ever done that, making this novel truly unique.
STARS: 5 out of 5