Thursday, February 8, 2007

Lone Cry In The Wilderness

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.


Maria, Lover of All Things Romance said...

This is the second great review of this book I've read. I'll definitely have to go get it

Jane said...

how funny. I totally thought of the Roofer too, but I loved the Roofer and thought Elle was very unlikeable. The storyline is very similar, down to the prince charming type of male character who, in both books, serves as a foil.

I think I'm the only one though who didn't connect with Elle. It's so lonely in my corner.

Katie said...


Disclaimer: I know Megan under my writer alter ego. My knowing Megan is why I bought the book. My knowing Megan had absolutely no bearing on my decision to stick Dirty on the erotica bibliography I'm doing for the RUSA CODES Reader's Advisory program at the 2007 ALA Annual conference. I think it's a wonderful story that deserves more exposure. Erotica, by its very nature, isn't going to appeal to every person, but I think Megan is definitely an author to watch in the genre.

SandyW said...

I bought this book thinking it would be light and thinking that Spice really wasn’t doing very well with their choice of books. I am thrilled to be wrong on both counts.
What a lovely, dark, realistic book

Wendy said...

That's alright. I have my own "lonely corner." I can't figure out what the big deal is with J.R. Ward's books ;-)

Katie: I don't think it's the erotica label that will turn people off from this book so much as it will be the "tone" of the story. It's rather dark - and Elle isn't terribly likeable. Personally I think likeability is highly overrated. Give me a character I can "believe" in, that feels authentic to me, and I'll follow the story anywhere.

Sandy: I'm so glad I got this one for review. It sounded right up my alley, but I've been leary of the Spice line after a few bad experiences....

Laura said...

Loved this book. It's hard to really SAY anything about it w/o giving too much away; but I was ok with Elle because I knew there was more going on there.
To me it wasn't erotica, although the sex was certainly plentiful and explicit.
I actually grabbed this because of some "controversy" after a bad review, and I'm so glad I did. Spice isn't a line I expect to spend much more $ on, unless Ms. Hart's next title is with them.
(BTW, the Orloff comparison is apt and flattering, IMHO)

Anonymous said...

This was a great, realistic observation of the book. I really enjoyed it, although I kept wanting Elle to grow more and I did keep wondering why Dan kept on sticking around, it was a book I couldn't put down. It is the best Spice book I've read (total of 4). I hope this means the Spice line is improving.

LinM said...

This reminded me of your post on "hooks" because this is a book that I had considered based on the back-cover blurb (eventually I rejected it thinking: spice & erotica = no plot).

Based on this review, I got "Dirty". Good book and I liked Elle.

Wendy said...

The back cover copy was awesome for this one wasn't it? I would say that someone at Harlequin needs a raise, but since it's lifted almost verbatim from the first chapter - kudos to the author :)

ReneeW said...

You've intrigued me with this review. I might have to try it. I see you're reading Karen Rose too. Been meaning to try her.

Rosie said...

Wendy, I'm so glad you left a link to this review. We have alot of the same observations about the book (i.e. Dan). I'm still in a bit of a twirl about it.

My original reaction was similar to yours in that I too have known women like Elle. While I agree with your comments yesterday when discussing Claiming the Courtesan that readers should keep in mind we are reading fiction this book had a very tangible and real quality for me.

I'll be reading BROKEN next month not only because the premise seems interesting, but to see if I have as strong a reaction as I did to this book.

Now I have to go find "The Roofer".