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REVIEW: Dirty by Megan Hart

Dear Ms. Hart:

Large ImageYou came on the blog a while back during a discussion about erotica and erotic romance. You were very upfront about the fact that your book was erotica. I kind of poo-poo’ed most erotica as being a woman’s sexploration which didn’t sound very appealing to me. As your release date rolled around, I thought that I should buy the book and see for myself instead of making a blanket statement about a genre I am fairly new to.

I am now even more confused about what erotica is. You were right. This isn’t a sexploration book. If I were to categorize it, I would put it in the general fiction section because I just don’t see how explicit sexual content actual makes a book erotica. There is one threesome scene which I think Emma Holly made de riguer in erotica books but for the most part, the sex scenes are fairly run of the mill. If sex had anything to do with advancement of the plot it would be that the heroine uses her body as a weapon to punish herself, but she was very much a martyr and used everything from the austerity of her home, to her lonely life to punish herself.

Elle Kavanagh is a successful business woman with a very lonely life. She has no friends. Her interaction with the opposite sex generally involve single furtive encounters wherein she gives a fake name and nothing else. That is Elle’s whole motto, it seems, take nothing, give nothing. She has reasons. Her father is a drunk. Her eldest brother is dead. Her mother is a nagging bitch. Her younger brother lives too far away to be supportive. Elle meets Dan in a chance encounter and is beyond turned on. When she gets the chance with him, she attempts to treat him like every other guy, but Dan won’t take it.

The major problem that I had with this book was the narrator. It’s first person and I had a hard time seeing why I should care about Elle. The storytelling is very flat, almost monotone. There were very few movements in the tone. It could be that the emotionless aspect of the narrator was intentional given her emotional problems but it was just too flat. I wasn’t able to find a reason to cheer for Elle.

I thought, too, that at times you had the characters emote too much. In the midst of a public fingering, Dan is described as “looked determined, admiring and quizzical, but the last passed in a moment. . . Now he looked honored.”

Dan, the male protagonist, was presented as almost a fantasy male, a cypher. He knew exactly what to do to make Elle want him. Exactly when she needed the commanding touch. Exactly when she needed space and when she did not need space. Too often he slipped from dominant male to insecure suitor. He told Elle what to do but was constantly seeking affirmation from Elle.

But I like being with you, too. Don’t you like being with me? Just hanging out?

It was also hard for me to see why Dan cares about her other than she represents a challenge. He does make a comment that she “acts like an angel . . . but fucks like a demon.” Elle regularly snubs him and tosses off cruel comments.

There was one quite beautiful piece in the book that happened late in the story but it was short and it wasn’t enough to save this story from the gloomy monotony or the forced redemption scenes at the end. I guess, by that time, I had given up my capacity to care for this couple. C-.

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

34 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 06:34:44

    I have this one, too. Interesting. Will have to read it.

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  2. Tara Marie
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 07:39:12

    I started this and put it down. After reading your review, I’m still not sure I’ll read it. But, then again I paid $14 for the darned thing, I should read it.

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  3. May
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 07:53:06

    Megan’s sending me this one.

    Somehow, I think her next Spice novel sounds more interesting.

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  4. Eva Gale
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 10:26:12

    I looked at this one too but put it back down. I need some emotion, I admit. Ok, alot of emotion.

    My favorite erotica so far (other than some classics) has been LYING IN BED by MJ Rose (Spice). The language is rolling and liquid, with only one sex scene, but it’s highly erotic throughout and the emotion is brilliantly rendered. I would love to see what you thought of that one. People (not ya’ll) think erotica is porno in words and when they read MJ’s book they’re astounded.

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  5. Ana / Annie Dean
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 10:32:39

    I looked at this, but ultimately I didn’t buy it. The heroine didn’t interest me at all. It was like she was already dead.

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  6. Jane
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 10:32:51

    I’ll definitely be interested in what others have to say. Her three amazon reviews were very positive (one only had Hart’s book as a review so that might be a suspicious opinion and one was by Lauren Dane who admittedly is a good friend of Ms. Harts). She appears to be selling well. Her plog stated that she was on Booksense’s trade bestseller list at #17.

    I think I understand what the author was going for and it just didn’t work for me. Maybe it works well for everyone else.

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  7. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 10:43:50

    Well, you’ve piqued my curiosity about this one. I’m a sucker for the well-adjusted guy who cares about the troubled girl. Though I guess I’ll have to keep in mind this is erotica not erotic romance.

    Thinking of Eve Gale’s comment, emotion can be a funny thing. I tried one MJ Rose and found it very distancing when I don’t think it was supposed to be so.

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  8. Sarah McCarty
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 15:23:18

    Now, Jane, you’ve got me curious. Literally. This is the second time I’ve read a post of yours that’s stated you’re unsure what erotica is, and both times I’ve found myself stopping and asking myself, “Do I really know what it means to me?”

    I write erotic romance, so I’m clear on the definition of that , but ever since I read your first post, I started questioning my certainty of what erotica is. I like the concept of woman’s fiction being in the definition, because I think todays erotica is explored in the context of a bigger picture which makes for a deeper story, but with the genre now being written in by so many talented authors, I think the definiton I used to attach to the genre is no longer appropo. And I’m stumped as to how to redefine it. Maybe because it’s growing and redefining itself every day?

    *sigh* You know what this means, don’t you? Everywhere I go from now until I figure it out, I’m going to have this piece of paper beside me with all kinds of scribbles and combinations of terms across it.

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  9. Jane
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 17:00:17

    Ms. McCarty – I am definitely going to do a blog post on it at some point. I haven’t researched it very well and I probably need to read more of the genre to coalesce my thoughts. I think all I can say at this point is that I don’t know what it is. Fiction + sex? But how much sex? Does sex have to be the focal point?

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  10. Sarah McCarty
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 17:36:42

    Hi Jane!

    And please, call me Sarah, That Ms. makes me feel every discreetly dyed grey hair on my head. *G*

    I just posted this as a discussion question on my chat group, and you know what? We’re all stumped, It should be fun working all our barely formed, half coherent thoughts into some semblance of a consensus.

    I am thinking for it to be erotic some of the character growth would have to be exhibited through a sexual component, but I’ll be honest, I’m only saying that because I can’t think of a plot line where it would be erotic without that and not just be women’s fiction with some explicit sex in there.

    I’ll be looking for your blog post when it comes. Maybe I’ll have some sort of soild idea by then.

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  11. Lauren
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 21:37:25

    I state that I’m a friend of Megan’s right in the first part of my review so that’s certainly not a secret.

    I don’t think Dirty is erotica. I think Dirty is an erotic novel, which is how it’s labeled. And yep, I think it’s a romance with a satisfying romantic resolution.

    Is Dirty a novel for everyone? Shrug, I doubt it. I can’t think of any novel I’d say would work for everyone. In fact, it takes a lot of risks, the first and biggest one is putting the narrative in the first person and making Elle a flawed character. Ultimately, it’s that up close perspective and the unflinching look at her insides that made the book so compelling.

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  12. Collette
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 23:09:37

    Okay, I read this last night. I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I stayed up way, way too late.

    I was caught up in the language of it and I thought it was both highly emotional and erotic. It always seemed to me that although there was so much about Elle that was hidden, mostly by choice, there was so much that we could see about her. The pain, the intense feelings she constantly submerged and I liked her inner thoughts. I enjoyed Dan (quite the alpha man while not exactly typical hero material)–I thought perhaps there was a pinch too much of him always doing the right thing but I liked that he wasn’t instantly in love with her or she with him. And the back story/conflict that was woven throughout was well-written and intense.

    It was important to me that it wasn’t a cheap ending and that they had to work for it. In fact, you could tell that they were still going to have to work on it even though I would describe it as a HEA. There was a lot of emotion and struggle and give and take–much closer to real life than a fairy tale. Only with lots and lots of hot sex. You gotta love that.

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  13. Jane
    Jan 11, 2007 @ 23:36:00

    Collette – I am glad that you enjoyed it. I wonder if this will just be one of those books I don’t get and everyone else does. It happens all the time. ;)

    Ms. Dane – I do know you are being honest in your opinion on amazon and everywhere. It’s just, well, because you are such good friends, it’s hard to take the recommendation seriously. I think if my BFF wrote a book, I would think it was the best thing ever too.

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  14. Tara Marie
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 07:55:53

    I don’t think Dirty is erotica. I think Dirty is an erotic novel, which is how it’s labeled.

    Ummm, what’s the difference between erotica and an erotic novel?

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  15. Jayne
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 08:04:40

    I dunno Tara Marie but this has got me rethinking calling “Alien Communion” erotica (which is how it was labeled at Fictionwise). I think it’s more erotic romance (as the heroine has a HEA with her alien hero) but she also has a sex scene with another male alien (along with the hero) so does that change it back to erotica?

    I’m confused too.

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  16. Sarah McCarty
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 08:19:33

    Jayne-

    I think the HEA makes it an erotic Romance. The HEA is the key to being labeled romance as has been discussed on another thread here. The erotic part allows for a broader spectrum of sexual encounters. Some author will test limits here, others won’t.

    Erotic novel versus erotica- I think this where the woman’s fiction angle comes in. Authors are expanding the message through sex plot device that used to be ertoica to a much bigger world which we recognize but can’t quite squeak into the old definition of erotica.

    I know, not much help am I? I’m still struggling with a coherent definition.

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  17. Tara Marie
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 09:15:29

    Erotic novel versus erotica- I think this where the woman’s fiction angle comes in. Authors are expanding the message through sex plot device that used to be ertoica to a much bigger world which we recognize but can’t quite squeak into the old definition of erotica.

    Now, I’m really confused, because I’ve always thought of erotica leaned towards women’s fiction. I’m going to have to think about this.

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  18. Tara Marie
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 09:18:45

    I dunno Tara Marie but this has got me rethinking calling “Alien Communion" erotica (which is how it was labeled at Fictionwise). I think it’s more erotic romance (as the heroine has a HEA with her alien hero) but she also has a sex scene with another male alien (along with the hero) so does that change it back to erotica?

    I’m confused too.

    I think this sounds more like erotic romance, I’ve read a bunch of EC that have bed hopping characters but still have a HEA, hey some even have multiple partner HEAs and that really confuses me–LOL.

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  19. Jane
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 10:25:19

    I think that parsing a difference between erotica and erotic novel is a bit fine. It’s like – let’s make up our own labels for own our books. This isn’t a sexploration book. But it’s got a lot of sex in it. Sex sells. Let’s call it an erotic novel. LOL. It’s general fiction with sex.

    I don’t have any idea what the difference is. I do think I know what erotic romance is although the line between the erotic romance and thot romance probably may be a blurred area as well.

    Erotica has always been the Story of O to me. Sasha White’s book, Bound, fit my understanding of erotica – the search of a woman to find her place, using sexual encounters instead of shopping excursions to define markers in her life.

    Dirty read like a fiction story that had sex in it. If you define erotic novel as a fiction story that has sex scenes, then yeah, I guess that is an erotic novel. Take out the sex and it’s . . . a novel.

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  20. Lauren
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 10:41:28

    Well, LOL, I’m trying not to be offended by the idea that simply because I like Megan I’m incapable of an honest opinion about a book. If I hadn’t liked it, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. I’m a writer, I know lots of people with books out. Some I review, some I don’t. I don’t even review the ones I like most of the time. But some are, in my opinion, singular and I review them.

    And, in my definition – an erotica is a novel *about* sex. Whether it centers on the progress of the main character through sex or because of sex. An erotic novel is a novel that has erotic content. In Dirty’s case, without the sex, if Megan had closed the door and just indicated sex occurred, it would still be a novel that stood on its own.

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  21. Jane
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 10:45:29

    Ms. Dane – I really am not trying to be offensive. I think its great you disclosed your relationship. As a reader, though, I tend to view those type of reviews something akin to cover quotes. I mean if Jayne ever wrote a book (not that she has any plans to do you Jayne?), I don’t think anyone would take my recommendation seriously.

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  22. Jayne
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 11:10:17

    Heck no. I can review ‘em but I know that that I can’t write ‘em. I hate to think what kind of review grade I’d get here! [g]

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  23. Julia
    Jan 12, 2007 @ 14:03:45

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, how different people will see the same book? I stayed up all night to read this book. Then I went back to the store to buy three more to give to friends, and (!) my mother.

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  24. Amy Wilson
    Feb 06, 2007 @ 17:04:54

    I absolutely loved “Dirty”…unlike Jane, I felt that there was a strong emotional tone to the book. Elle seemed so lost, such a hopeless and desperate soul, that I cared about her unconditionally. In fact, this book comes back to haunt me all throughout the day and night. It was not the sex scene descriptions that drew me in, but the experiences of Elle and her reaction to them. This book was recommended to me by a former boyfriend who said the story reminded him of he and I…so I suppose I can relate to an emotionally wrecked woman!

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  25. May
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 09:10:38

    I loved this book.

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  26. Jane
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 10:02:32

    Have any of you guys read Erica Orloff’s, The Roofer? It has essentially the same construct as this book (same emotional problems and victimization with the prince charming hero) . The female protagonist resonated so strongly with me. Of course, it doesn’t have the explicit sex so it can’t be called erotic fiction but it is a great work of fiction.

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  27. May
    Feb 07, 2007 @ 10:13:34

    Haven’t read The Roofer, but I imagine there are other books with this construct too?

    See, I like Erica Orloff. I would go so far as to say I admire her. But I do not find her work compelling, the way you, Jane, and Angie seem to. I pick up her books at the store, flip and put them down for something else. I would have picked up Dirty, flipped through, and hugged it to my chest and taken it to the cash register right away.

    Without the sex, I’d agree, it’s general fiction. But I consider this book to be erotica, because so many of Elle’s issues are revealed, even dealt with at points, in the sex scenes.

    I wouldn’t say that Elle resonated with me; it’s oddly distant for first person. But I felt it was beautifully written and evocative all the same.

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  28. Miki
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 00:32:41

    Wow. Well, Jane, this’ll be one of those times I’ll just have to disagree with you. I thought this book was very emotional and moving, even though I didn’t find it a big turn-on (which is usually expected from romantic erotica).

    In fact, the sex scenes seemed almost too integral to the plot. It seemed to me that I could see every step Elle made toward Dan (and away from him, when panic was directing her actions).

    Maybe it’s because I’ve known women like Elle, who’ve been through abuse. But I never saw her as cold. I saw her as barricaded, hiding from her feelings. Not that they weren’t there, but that she was desperate not to feel them.

    I’d decided to pass on this book after your review, but then it showed up at my library (in the library’s ebook collection, too!) and I thought, “what the heck.” I’m so glad I checked it out, and I’ve made a point to “support the author” and buy the book for my own collection (couldn’t resist adding this bit). :)

    I will agree that Dan was almost too good to be true, except at the end when he seemed a little more human.

    My only other thought on this is that it almost seemed too deep for erotica/romantic erotica. I expected something, well, sexier, with this cover and write-up. I had actually picked it up because I was in the mood to be…uh, well…in the mood! This book definitely got into my head and my heart, but it wasn’t one that made me want to go jump anybody’s bones!

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  29. Eva Gale
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 08:16:43

    I think the one bad thing with the waterfall of erotica/romantica is that people sometimes expect that a book will be a bit of a turn on. Sometimes they are, and alot of times they aren’t. None the less, it doesn’t disqualify the label. Maybe Ms. Hart’s story was more literary? I admit to liking literary erotica more than say…EC, but EC in a way has redfined erotica and people picking up a more classically styled story may flounder because of their expectations not being met. I think Spice is more literary and I believe Bantam’s erotica line is a literary line.

    What do you think?

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  30. Tara Marie
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 13:19:17

    I think the one bad thing with the waterfall of erotica/romantica is that people sometimes expect that a book will be a bit of a turn on. Sometimes they are, and alot of times they aren’t. None the less, it doesn’t disqualify the label. Maybe Ms. Hart’s story was more literary? I admit to liking literary erotica more than say-EC, but EC in a way has redfined erotica and people picking up a more classically styled story may flounder because of their expectations not being met.

    Eva Gale thank you for expressing my exact thoughts better than I could have. I’ve been thinking about this since I finished this book over the weekend and thought it was wonderfully done. “Literary erotica” my preference too. “Flounder” is exactly right as the books may be “a bit of a turn on” but I’m almost always disappointed on some level.

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  31. Eva Gale
    Mar 03, 2007 @ 21:07:47

    Ok, I’m reading it, and I’m in love with it. Hart is going to be an auto buy for me from now on. I think it’s wonderful.

    I see Elle as so disconnected from herself that I’m utterly drawn in. I mean, she sees herself inthe mirror and calles herself “the woman in the mirror.” Ouch. And she also explains Dan’s talk, how that in normal everyday conversation it would be cheesy, but when they moment’s right, it’s a turn on. And I see her redeeming herelf by letting Dan have parts of her that she’d held apart before, but it’s a process that happens so softly, at first you don’t see it.

    I think you should read it again. :)

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  32. Jane
    Mar 03, 2007 @ 23:09:36

    I think its great that you all loved it, but Eva, I just have too many books to read the first time around to go back and read one that I didn’t like much the first time around.

    And even if I did love this book, it is not the type I would re-read because of the subject matter. As much as I loved Orloff’s book, The Roofer, it’s not one I am going to pick up again.

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  33. Janine
    Mar 04, 2007 @ 00:05:34

    Maybe I will read it and do a second review sometime. I’m interested in this book.

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  34. Dear Author.Com | Dirty by Megan Hart
    Apr 18, 2007 @ 04:02:32

    [...] in January, Jane reviewed this book and gave it a C-. I am happy to say that I liked it about two letter grades better than Jane did. [...]

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