Once again I read a fabulous book and I have no eff-ing clue who I would recommend it to. I hate when this happens. My knee jerk reaction after reading a fabulous book is to tell everyone and their dead grandmother about it. But this book? Well it's pervasive in it's sense of desperation and depression. Frankly, I can't see a single romance reader I know going for it. It's too raw. It's too dark. You can't put it in a safe little box. And did I mention the desperation and depression?
I loved Dirty by Megan Hart. Adored it to bits. All is forgiven Harlequin Spice. Maybe you guys do know what the hell you're doing over there (and trust me when I say that after I slogged through this I seriously doubted your sanity).
The closest book I can think of to compare it to is The Roofer by Erica Orloff. Different books, different authors, but the tone is very, very similar. Personally I think readers are going to either love or hate Dirty. There won't be a lot of room for middle ground. The Roofer is the same way. So if you read that, and loved it - read Dirty. If you read it, and hated it - don't even look at Dirty. Don't allow your eyes to rest on it when you see it at the bookstore. Trust me, it's not for you.
Elle Kavanagh is emotionally dead. An accountant by day, she spends her nights alone. She has a shrew mother, a distant drunk for a father, and a younger brother who ran off to California so he could be gay in peace. At one time Elle had a lot of meaningless sex. Sex and orgasms were a way for her to hide. To shut off the numbers in her head. None of this sex was very good, but it was a way for her to feel needed, wanted, and desired for a few furtive minutes. She gets close to no one. Has no friends, hasn't had a boyfriend since college, and the last thing she wants is attachments. Basically she's a man. She wants her sex with no strings attached. That said, she's been celibate for three years when the story opens.
She meets Dan Stewart in a candy store, and steamy encounters follow. The sex is great, but Elle is damaged beyond repair. Dan seems content to f*ck her brains out, mainly because he wants to see more of her. Dan likes her. The problem of course being that Elle has closed herself off from feeling any emotion.
This story is written in first person, so the reader has to "like" Elle. Her likeability factor is pretty much nil - but either the reader is going to "get" her or they won't. I got her. I knew this character. Hell, I knew her as a woman. I went to college with women like her. A sad commentary on life, but there you have it. Not every young woman out there believes in love and there are several women out there walking around in real life who wield sex like a weapon. It's a self-destructive pattern that is learned. No one springs out of the womb like that.
Dan isn't as well drawn as Elle. There are times where one wonders what he sees in her. Besides the fact that she's a challenge, I think he sees her as a puzzle. My experience with most men is that they want what they want until they actually get it. Elle f*cks like a demon but is emotionally distant. She lets no one in. Now a lot of men find the idea of hot sex and nothing more very appealing. And so does Dan. Until of course he begins to care about Elle. Until he stops thinking of her as a puzzle and more like a woman he's falling in love with. After a while, I fell in love with him.
This is not an easy book to read. Elle's life is not for sissies. While she has martyr tendencies, she doesn't become who she is with no cause or reason. The best way I can describe this story is that it's emotionally draining. It ripped my heart out and if I was the sort to cry over books (I'm not by the way), I would have cried over this one. It made the happy ending that much more poignant for me. While it wasn't happy, happy, sunshine, rainbows - I knew Elle was getting better. I knew she would be OK. And I knew Dan would be OK with her.
As for the erotic elements. This is one instance where the sex is plentiful, but it's not titillating. It serves the purpose of allowing the reader to see Elle in all her self-destructive, aloof, distant glory. It also allows the reader to see her open up. To be receptive to Dan's advances and the fact that he truly does care about her. Honestly, I would classify this book as general fiction with naughty bits. But again, the sex works within the context of the story. It's there to provide a window into their pysches. It's not there just for the sake of reading about a threesome or sex in a public restroom.
I loved this book. I found it emotionally challenging, dark and heart breaking. Now if I could just figure out who to recommend it to. Final Grade = A.