My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: I read this all in the span of a day. I’m still trying to put together my thoughts and the rating’s tentative, but it’s very likely this is going to end up being 4.5 stars (provided that I think about how it ended and whether or not it dragging its feet a little in the end is enough to make me knock off a half star. That and giving some thought to whether or not I was bothered by the emotional turns in some of the conflicts. I need a night to sleep on it.)
I think one thing I’ll say off the bat is that I don’t think this story is without its share of bumps in the road, but it took me on quite a ride and I loved the relationship between Dan and Elle – there were some very powerful moments in this book, ones that really struck me at my core. Sure the sensual scenes were there and well written, but the story and the way Hart crafts the characters here were with such an intimate focus that I I didn’t expect it to have as much of an impact on me as it did. I’m hoping I can articulate it better once I gather my reflections. Still, there’s no denying that this novel had an impact on me and ranks as one of my favorite reads from Hart’s work.
How do I even begin to write a review on this book? I’ve been at a loss for words since finishing and reflecting upon it, a few tears in the aftermath. Had to step away and give myself a moment. This is as much of a steamy read as it is a journey of discovery, healing, and coming to terms, primarily through the eyes of its protagonist Elle.
Now I’m going to address something right off the bat before going too far in this review, and I’ll try to do so without spoiling the experience of the book for anyone. From almost the get go, I realized Elle had a damaged mindset/soul, particularly within her respective relationships and life in general. It’s introduced in stages throughout the story until it builds up to the climax where it’s revealed in full. However, I think Hart provides enough foreshadowing and story pieces to connect the dots as you’re going along Elle’s narrative. I realize that it can be difficult to feel for a character that has the kind of emotional filter that Elle has, and that in that damaged mentality, many of her loved ones get caught and burned in the crossfire because of how she pushes them away in some considerations. That taken into consideration, I really did sympathize with her. Even if I didn’t like the decisions or reactions she had at times – I understood where she was mentally, emotionally, physically. That allowed me to follow her narrative without many qualms at all. I think Hart’s writing allowed this to come through much more than other contemporary pieces (who shall remain nameless) that attempt to depict characters who are of a damaged sort, but presented with shallow constructions.
Elle, at least on the surface, seems to have a happy and successful life – working a prominent position, having a shoulder to lean on with her good humored, sweet brother (who’s dealing with issues of his own in thinking about having a baby with his partner). Elle’s not into committed relationships and she establishes that from the get go – but she meets Dan, rather handsome and charming even in his introduction, at a candy store. From there it leads to thoughts of him and seemingly interesting public places where the two have intimate encounters.
Their sexual chemistry is intense, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with Dan’s character in both his construction, emotional resonance and appeal. He’s so in tune to what Elle feels and from the get go, you can tell he wants to pursue a relationship with her. He doesn’t press her farther than she’s willing to go (though he’s assertive), actually listens and responds to her, and the only point at which he presses her beyond her boundaries is when he’s trying to get down to the issue of what’s keeping them from becoming more than just two individuals having sex. Elle says she doesn’t want the commitment, but the reality is more that she’s torn between the pain of her past and the promise of the present in her relationship with Dan.
I was also impressed with the secondary characters that were a part of the side stories in this work, they engaged me just as much as the main storyline. I had my suspicions as to where some of those threads would go (some of them had positive resolutions, others of them were much more melancholy), but they hit me hard in terms of how Hart addresses and develops them, with Elle remaining as the observer and participant in those threads. They were very well developed and paced throughout the story.
I think when the story came to its climax it slowed a bit of momentum getting to the conclusion, but I saw what it was ultimately leading up to, and I still felt content with the way things resolved themselves by the end of the work. “Dirty”, on the whole, is a wonderfully written story with a lot of emotional punch and steamy scenes that engaged me, but the aftermath of all the events and emotionally resonant characters left me thinking long after I finished the work. Those are the kind of stories that I love and I can say that this is indeed one of my favorite works from Hart to date.
Overall score: 4.5/5