My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I’m going to start this review by saying, there is a time when you’re a reader/purveyor of many books and you’ll come across some that are so inexplicable you have no idea where to start on reflecting about the experience of reading them. Many of my fellow reviewers, friends, recommenders told me that my brain would break during the reading of this once previously noted Twilight fanfic, but I find my brain’s broken after the fact because I have no clear cut idea how to reflect on “A Million Dirty Secrets.”
It is one of those books that I question where the appeal comes from, why it isn’t seen as offensive, and why it was picked up for publication in the first place with its many caveats. I’m judging this on the level of the writing and presentation I see here, not on the fact that it was once fanfic or what have you (though I’ve debated that also in the past, particularly in explorations where I talked about “The Submissive” and “Beautiful Bastard”). The presentation of this story was all over the place, had odd attributions, wasn’t edited well, and for a sensuous/sexual read – it really wasn’t evoking of that particular sense at all. It was over the top on almost every dimension it tried to put across. That’s a series of critical and heavy statements to make if considered in themselves, but I’ll take the time to expound.
“A Million Dirty Secrets” follows in the line of many erotic titles that base their successes on the formula paved by E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” – not just in the measure of the P2P fanfic notation, but also in the portrayal of erotic stories that have this template of taking two generic character types – throwing them into said situations with very little development or plot – and focusing on the intimate interactions between them without exploring the deeper connections and context they may have. And it’s worth asking – how can you explore physical intimacy if there’s no other intimate backbone to speak of? I’m familiar with the erotic genre, I do believe there are ways of showing the intimacy between two people without necessarily defaulting to the sexy times. Ultimately – when I read in this or any other genre, I look for how the story can pull me into the struggles and explorations of the characters they’re portraying, as well as the overarching narrative in itself.
I had a hard time, like many of the derivative P2P fiction I’ve picked up, remembering the characters for their names, rather than their stereotypes. And let’s be real, this story is NOT new, as opposed to what the blurb says. You can name either of these characters anything you want, whether they’re Bella and Edward or Delaine or Noah, but the fact of the matter is that this story features the klutzy girl defined by her virginity submitting herself to the cocky billionaire under a tragic circumstance. It’s insulting considering Delaine lies to her parents about attending UCLA, but instead signs a not so defined contract of 2 years to submit herself to this billionaire in any way he wants her to (which implies sexually among other things), and she ends up liking it despite going through things she doesn’t want to do. The cost is 2 million dollars, which will go toward paying for her mother’s transplant surgery when she’s clearly on her deathbed and its not a guarantee whether the money will aid her or not.
Noah is a jerk in every shape and form. It’s not just the measure that he’s overconfident, but the things he says and does are not alluring or attractive in any sense of the word. The forced intimacy and what he makes Delaine submit to even when he knows full and well she’s inexperienced doesn’t make any kind of sense or give any sort of equivalence or true chemistry. Add to that some of the odd dialogues including Delaine actually talking to her crotch and addressing it as “Double Agent Coochie” at the frequency of “oh mys” and “inner goddess” in Fifty Shades, and the ridiculous factor multiplies by a thousand fold.
I’m also weirded out by the amount of pop culture name drops throughout this work to try to evoke humor or familiarity with the situations. That is usually not a good idea, especially when the supposed humor seems forced and relies so much on the reference to carry it. And for those who may not know the reference, it may fly over their head and make the narrative antiquated if used too much. Personally speaking, I would rather not have my memories of Inspector Gadget, Pretty Woman, or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom tainted by this book, thank you very much. You can’t evoke comparisons to Richard Gere, or drop name brands or childhood staples without any level of intimacy to them. Especially not in the same mention as “Double Agent Coochie”, “Go go Gadget Cockblock”, and “Steel Dick” (which is pretty mild considering how many times Noah’s particular appendage is referenced, for glorified size and length). Spending more lines on being “coo coo” for Cocoa Puffs seems disingenuous compared to focusing on say – oh I don’t know, how the heroine’s being treated and how her mother’s nearly on her deathbed. It made the narrative juvenile and even in the interest of humor, it seemed formulaic.
The sexy time scenes lack fire and creativity, and are rather repetitive in the narrative rather than having any kind of significant payoff, especially considering the connection between the leads is threadbare to begin with. The story has really irritating conflict drops for jealousy that don’t really have any grounds to begin with, and the ending…really wasn’t one. The side characters are as forgettable as the leads, some cultural stereotypes applied, and then you have the problematic measures such as slut shaming, female-female hating, etc.
Suffice to say, I’m not going to continue with this series, and I would most definitely say there are better books in this respective genre and beyond to spend your time and expense on.
0 stars. Because there really weren’t any positive points I could say about this novel in the aftermath.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House.