A big family, a reading addiction, and the occasional celebrity scandal are the ingredients of life that create one woman's opinion on just about everything.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

DIRTY by Megan Hart

This book was not what I expected. Coincidentally after I finished reading it mid-day yesterday my husband phoned. I was sort of weepy telling him I'd just finished a book that was supposedly an erotic romance and it had sort of knocked me on my ass. My dilemma in trying to do any sort of review of this book is that it has so many personal emotional triggers in it that I don't know if I can give it an honest evaluation as a book on its own.

I do think that a writer has to be pretty darn talented to write life situations and relationships so accurately that a reader would find them personally identifiable. I found myself wondering if Ms. Hart had experienced some of the same situations she put her characters in for her to so accurately capture their emotions. There is no way to fake to a child of an alcoholic parent what it feels like to be abandoned by a parent consumed with their addiction unless you've experienced that sort of loss first hand. At least I don't think so. Reading words coming out of Elle's mother's mouth that I've heard first hand from my own mother was a little bit freaky I have to say. While I've never suffered the trauma that Elle did, there were many quirks to her personality that I have in common with the character that made it a bit uncomfortable and emotionally draining to read at times.

So while I'm caught up in the turmoil of these personal emotions it's difficult to talk to anyone about the book and remove those factors. One of the first things I did when I sat down to write this was to look for other reviews. I immediately went to Dear Author and found a
review that Jane did of DIRTY back in January. Since I was hardly around from mid-November to mid-January working on my heritage scrapbook project I missed most, if any, buzz there had been about this book. To tell you the truth I don't know how or why it got into my TBR. Somebody somewhere that I read a review or blog about it must have liked it.

Tara Marie had mentioned in her comments at the Dear Author review that she had picked up this book a couple of times and put it down and just couldn't get into it. I had the same experience. In fact I was in the process of a book purge when I picked DIRTY up and was leafing through it and reading bits to see if I should try to read it one more time or put it in the bag of books to be traded. Somehow, this time, I kept reading.

Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

This is what happened... I met him at the candy store. He turned and smiled at me and I was surprised enough to smile back. This was not a children's candy store, mind you--this was the kind of place you went to buy expensive imported chocolate truffles for your boss's wife because you felt guilty for having sex with him when you were both at a conference in Milwaukee. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I've been hit on plenty of times, mostly by men with little finesse who thought what was between their legs made up for what they lacked between their ears. Sometimes I went home with them anyway, just because it felt good to want and be wanted, even if it was mostly fake. The problem with wanting is that it's like pouring water into a vase full of stones. It fills you up before you know it, leaving no room for anything else. I don't apologize for who I am or what I've done in--or out--of bed. I have my job, my house and my life, and for a long time I haven't wanted anything else. Until Dan. Until now.

For me this blurb doesn't do the book justice or accurately give you an idea what the read will be like. I guess I get how this is called an erotic romance. Sort of. Is there sex? Yes. Is it really hot and wild? Not particularly. I would classify this more as a dark urban contemporary romance. Besides Jane's review I read most of the 13 now posted on Amazon as well. I don't see where alot of people have had the same reaction as me. For one thing I don't see much of the personal identification I had with the character and situations. I can understand from Jane's review her problems with seeing Elle as not very likable. Although I don't see Elle as flat and gray as Jane does and I realize that while I was reading I was trusting the author not to let me down and give me a pretty good reason for Elle's behavior. Ms. Hart does do that. Although I have to say that the book takes too long to start giving the reader peeks and hints as to why Elle is the way she is.

I was disappointed that we don't know more about Dan than his just always reacting to Elle. Why is he able to accept her and the restrictions she places on their relationship. What makes Dan tick? I don't think we get to see any (enough) of that. I am glad though that Elle is not a whiner or complainer. She's found what works for her so she can function somewhat normally and she's doing it.

For me this book is about redemption and the claiming of one's own life. Who harder to forgive than ourselves? For those reasons it made DIRTY a very worthwhile read. How I will feel about the book ultimately I don't know. Many of my thoughts are still swirling around my own personal demons. Only time will tell. I do know that I went to Ms. Hart's web site I found myself interested in her next Harlequin Spice release due out in May called Broken. I'm looking forward to reading it and comparing the experience to this book.

A final note, as usual when I really like or am intrigued with an author I go looking for other books of theirs to glom. There are many of Ms. Hart's to choose from at Amberquill Press both erotic and non-erotic titles. Interestingly I didn't purchase a single one. Like DIRTY that languished in my TBR for several months I didn't feel compelled or interested to buy after reading the blurbs and/or excerpts from those books. Maybe I'll figure out why about the same time I find out how I came to have DIRTY in the first place.

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Blogger Stacy~ said...

This book was not what I was expecting either, but that was a good thing. I did enjoy it - actually it blew me away - and I ended the book liking Elle a lot more than when I started it. I plan on reading "Broken" as well.

4:06 AM PDT  
Anonymous Gabrielle said...

Ok, I didn't read your review because I have this book on order but I have the feeling I'm really going to enjoy it.

4:59 AM PDT  
Blogger Anne said...

I read Dirty a while back, and I, too, was knocked on my ass. I will be getting Broken when it comes out. It's like, taboo, I shouldn't want to read something like that, but I do, and I'm going to. *G*

7:58 AM PDT  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I"m only about fifty pages in and I bought this because it's a book people seem to react strongly to. There's something about it that's very smart...and I think the writing is very clever (from a writer's viewpoint), otherwise, I need to finish reading *g*

8:12 AM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Stacy, quite a surprise wasn't it?

Gabrielle, my advice is to just remember it starts slow. Hang in there.

Anne, I'd love to talk to someone else who had such a strong reaction to the book. I have strong reactions to books all the time, but usually not because they are so personal.

Amie, 50 pages in is right where chapter 3 begins which is about where the book really hooked me in. It is indeed very smart. At that point I was identifying with the book from my single dating days in an external way. It ended up being much more personal than that.

9:31 AM PDT  
Blogger Wendy said...

Read it, loved it, couldn't figure out who to recommend it too. Hands down the best book I've read in the recent erotica boom.

Blogger hates me and won't use the HTML tag for a link, but hopefully this one will show up.


9:51 AM PDT  
Blogger Holly said...

Alright, I'm bumping it up to the top of my wishlist. I'm in desperate need of something to suck me in. I need a darker, more emotional read right now.

Fabulous review, btw.

10:18 AM PDT  
Blogger Wendy said...

I'm posting over here again, because I don't want this to get lost in the comments of my old post.

I think readers bring a certain amount of personal baggage to any book they read. Which is probably why we have the recent brouhaha surrounding Claiming the Courtesan. I know I've read books that made me uncomfortably squirm because the what was going on with the characters felt so personal to me.

I adored Dirty, but it was a very hard book to read. Certainly not the sort of book I'd recommend willy-nilly to just anybody. But I suspect that was the reaction the author was shooting for. She wanted it to be "hard" and because it was, I think it makes the reader think in a way that a lot of genre fiction doesn't. There's nothing wrong with that - genre fiction is supposed to be "fun" - but that doesn't mean it can't be thought-provoking as well.

I'm dying to read Broken. Can't wait!

10:24 AM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Holly, if you want dark, this book has it.

Wendy, I hope you are right that Ms. Hart meant DIRTY to be "hard". If it was with purpose then we should be able to expect more thought provoking reads. I'm glad I have only weeks before BROKEN is released rather than months.

10:31 AM PDT  
Anonymous scooper said...

I've saw this book at random blogs and the reaction has been quite varied. I don't think it's for me though. I'm a mood reader. I have to be in the mood for everything that I read. Right now I'm into paranormal and suspense.

2:25 PM PDT  
Blogger Tara Marie said...

It did take me a couple of tries to get into it, but when I did I loved it. One of the best books I've read all year.

From my post...

It's dark and raw and heartbreaking and worth the 4 hours I spent on my sofa Saturday afternoon... For me this is erotica at it's best and on some level it's definitely a romance, maybe not traditional but it works.

After reading this I realized how much I lean toward erotic fiction over erotic romance.

4:41 PM PDT  
Blogger The Book Girl, A.K.A. Jodi said...

Ooooo...i'm intrigued...i'm gonna have get this one. I like books that make me think, feel.

7:32 PM PDT  
Blogger CindyS said...

This is why I love blogland - I read Dear Author's review and I hadn't heard of the book. Reading Tara Marie's and now your thoughts on the book make me want to search it out and see if it works for me.

I hope being sucked into the book was cathartic instead of anxiety producing. I rarely read books that link with me on a personal level because of my anxiety disorder (I'm already pre-disposed to getting all worked up ;))

I mentioned recently my attempt to read Prozac Nation (I think just straight fiction) but the open chapters were so terror inducing for me that I realized I was physically upsetting myself. I put the book down when the character posed a question that I had never thought of and was quick to run from.

My thoughts and stuff from when I read it - not that same as discussing this book but maybe it will gel with how you felt after finishing a read that really packed a punch.


Thanks for talking about this book - different life experiences obviously touch on our reading choices. Now that I know there are others who really liked this book I'm interested in picking up a copy for myself!


12:51 AM PDT  
Blogger nath said...

Hello Rosie!

Well I'm still undecided about this book... I'm not too into erotic romance, so I wasn't going to pick up... Even so, I'm not sure I would enjoy it now that you're telling me it's not what to be expected ^^; sigh, plus it's a trade paperback...

5:15 AM PDT  
Blogger Zeek said...

Wow that's a great review- or perhaps I should say commentary! This one wasn't on my radar but you have placed it there for me.

6:59 AM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

scooper, that's a good attitude to take if you know you aren't in the mood for this type of book. I highly recommend people using the link in Wendy's post, and the link at the bottom of the comments to Anne's post and their review of the book.

TM, I'd love to read your whole review. Give me a hint where to look for it, or if you wouldn't mind posting your link here. How'd I miss all these?

Jodi I think the first 50 pages are the toughest. If you can get to chapter 3 I think you'll be drawn in.

I hope being sucked into the book was cathartic instead of anxiety producing.

Cindy, it was a little of both. I had a gi-normous post here and decided to send you a separate email instead. Thanks for posting and the link.

Nath, if you are undecided I'd wait or better yet, go read Wendy's review. She tells readers to be cautious, especially romance readers.

Zeek, it's different. It is dark because Elle is not somebody you think you'd like if you met her. We women are so hard on one another. I think the book can broaden understanding, a little. Or, I should say as much as a book can influence us in real life. At least it makes us think.

1:46 PM PDT  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

Zeek it's definitely not your ordinary Erotic Romance which I think is fabulous.

12:21 PM PDT  
Blogger Tara Marie said...

Hopefully this will work... click here for link or copy and paste this... http://romancereadingmom.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html

The review is about 1/3 of the way down my February archive.

11:03 AM PDT  
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3:57 AM PST  

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