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.
Elle Kavanagh, the main character in Megan Hart's 'Dirty', reminded me a lot of Marguerite, the heroine of Joey W. Hill's duology, 'Ice Queen' and 'Mirror of My Soul'(select link for review of each). I kept comparing the two characters throughout my read of 'Dirty' and I think that distracted me a bit. I'd be reading along and think, Wow, Elle just totally sounded like Marguerite! or Didn't Marguerite have nearly that exact same experience? Meanwhile the heroes of both books were only mildly similar and I was able to stay focused on Dan, Elle's hero. Yet still, the premise and plot where pretty damn similar.
Once again, Megan Hart writes 'Dirty' in 1st person and from Elle's point of view. Something that I love about Hart is that she never tells everything up front about the main character right away. The reasons for who and what makes the character, whether it be a tragedy in their past, a broken relationship, etc., is trickled out slowly to the reader throughout the novel leaving you desperately turning each page to get to the heart of what ultimately drives them. No matter how tempted I am to skip to the end and read the truth, I always hold back because the slow discovery of what makes the character tick is written so beautifully that I would never want to ruin the experience. It's almost like meeting your first love. Each moment with them you're learning something new and as your trust with each other slowly builds, you finally just tell that other person everything. That's what Hart does to me. With each turn of a page, I gain more of her trust and with that I am able to learn that much more about the main character and her story.
In addition, Hart never fully describes what her 1st person POV character looks like. Throughout her novels, I always forget or even wonder if Hart ever described to me what her heroines look like. Firstly, I think this stems from the fact that her characters are never obsessed with their appearance. For one reason or another, they dislike who they are and they'd rather not even look themselves in the eye. Secondly, you always get a sense that they are beautiful yet this generally stems from the comments made by the hero. What's spectacular about this specific approach is that the hero, while commenting on how beautiful they are on the outside, truly find them beautiful on the inside and this is telling due to their actions and their ultimate want being the heroine's heart. Lastly, this allows the reader to implant themselves into the story. When I picture the heroine, I picture myself for lack of a better image. I feel as though I'm truly living and experiencing the novel through the heroine because of this.
Finally, with Megan Hart, I get a sense of real life. A sense of the fact that I've met this person. And while Elle is hardly perfect and she does things that I wouldn't normally agree with, she is real, she's totally and completely human and for this I can completely sympathize and relate to her.
Now moving on to the review.
Elle Kavanagh counts. She counts to relax; she counts to focus and she counts for a living. An intentional loner, Elle likes things to be either black or white; never red. She has no personal relationships and she purposefully avoids cultivating anything that could possibly lead to a deeper attachment than a label of "acquaintance" or "one night stand". Yet Elle's categorized world will be tossed upon a raging sea with a mere greeting by a very handsome man.
He says Hi, and Elle responds in kind to her total shock. He woes her on that first meeting with candy and tells her to come have a drink with him that very moment because he says she wants to, and Elle obeys. They have a drink, they flirt and in the end they say good night. Elle can't stop thinking about him yet she never even asked his name and he never asked for hers.
Elle's work colleague, Marcy, is an endearing yet nosey bitch and she forces her way past Elle's shields with comic finesse. You know this woman, we've all met her and some of us are her. After much cajoling she convinces Elle to go out with her and her new boyfriend. Elle agrees and who should she run into? The drop dead gorgeous man from the candy store whose name she doesn't know. She tells him her real name while with every other man she's told a lie. As she sways with the music and her body explodes with sweet release in his arms, Elle learns his name along with a healthy dose of mortification over having an orgasm on a dance floor. Daniel Stewart slips her his card and leaves her without a backwards glance. Elle waits a week before she calls him.
Elle and Dan's first sexual encounter is in a bathroom stall. The whole experience while erotic was rather comical as well because in the midst of this very intense and sexual moment...
I heard voices, two chattering women who used the stalls at the far end of the room without a break in their conversation. One of them peed forever, a waterfall of piss, and a bubble of laughter leaked out of me...I laughed, and laughing made me come...
While Elle asserts repeatedly to Dan that she doesn't date; Dan finds a loophole to continue their relationship.
"I don't date."
"I'll make another appointment."
Although 'Dirty' doesn't delve deeply into the realm of D/s (unlike Ms. Hill), Dan exerted his dominance over Elle both conversationally as well as sexually. Dan had an uncanny ability to know what Elle wanted whether it be emotional or physical. This is mainly because he truly wanted the same things but understood Elle's hesitance and need to have someone lead her in even the most basic of decisions.
"You want to put on something stunning and come with me tomorrow night."
"Where?" I had nothing stunning. I also had no plans for tomorrow night.
"A place I have to go. Dinner. Formal."
"And you want to take me? In something...stunning." I thought about it. "What do you consider stunning? I don't have anything formal."
"I'll have it delivered to your office. You'll wear what I choose. You'll come with me to this dinner."
"Maybe I don't want to go with you tomorrow night."
"You want to." was all he said, and then he hung up.
I loved how Dan directed Elle in her decisions. It wasn't that he was an ass; it was that he got Elle. He understood what it was that she needed and he was confident enough to know that he could give it to her. And Elle, knowing that if he had just asked, she would have said no, but he told her what to do and she did it because it was what she wanted to do anyway, but was merely terrified to actually say it. I suppose on the surface Dan is doing all the work, but Elle's internal struggle is tremendous, and Dan, once again understanding, provides her a much need release of her personal burdens.
Gosh, the is truly a hard book to review because if I divulge anything about Elle's tragedy, I'll be giving away massive spoilers simply because of the way Hart choreographs her novels. As I stated above, we are given Elle's history by way of tiny details distributed steadily throughout the story that finally culminate into a huge tell all which serves as the climatic moment in the plot. Suffice it to say that Elle's idiosyncrasies were justified without a doubt.
I had only one complaint. I understand that this novel was primarily Elle's struggle but I wanted to know more about Dan. I wanted to meet his family. I wanted to hear him talk. There is only one time during the book that the reader truly got to see Dan and that is when he takes Elle to his high school reunion. He wants to make the girl he loved and lost jealous of his new lady love. The whole scene was hilarious but even with the humor, the reader was able to see a different side of Dan when he wasn't completely wrapped up in commanding Elle to live. And while this exposed side to Dan was petty, again it was human and I loved it. Lastly, I wanted to hear him tell Elle that no matter what happened, he loved her for her. He did this in his actions, yet, but for some reason I just yearned for a verbal confirmation.
Otherwise, I loved this novel. You can even follow up on Dan and Elle in the short story 'Reason Enough'. Hart doesn't call this a sequel but rather the continuation of Dan and Elle's journey. There is also some wonderful scenes with Elle and her therapist, Sadie, whom of which has her own spectacular story(and my ultimate Hart favorite), 'Broken'. If you want to read an emotional roller coaster of a novel, I highly recommend 'Broken".