Over the top, outlandish and exaggerated heroes are trendy right now in Contemporary Romance, and they can be a fun break from reality and thoroughly entertaining. Jessica Clare’s heroes have always been a bit larger-than-life, but she went balls to the wall with hero Boone Price in Dirty Money. Unfortunately, she went straight through that wall and hurled off a steep cliff, because there is not much enjoyable or amusing about Boone, and he made reading Dirty Money a painful and arduous task.
Boone and his four brothers became billionaires when they hit the motherlode of all oil wells, but they are not allowing their wealth to change them and are staying true to their simple, Texas roots. Nothing’s gonna fancy these boys up! They might be rich now, but they still live in their trailer homes – although each has a separate one now – and keep their cash buried in jars in the ground. Yee haw!
Boone still works as a roughneck, which means he does manual labor on his drilling rigs, and he doesn’t groom his beard or hair very often. He walks around covered in oil field dirt leaving a trail of dust behind him – much like Pig-Pen from the Charlie Brown comic strip. Lack of personal hygiene is apparently an indicator that wealth hasn’t changed Boone, and he’s quite proud of his need for a bath and a haircut. He’s crude, speaks bluntly and claims not to care what people think of him, but he also whines when anyone assumes he’s poor and snubs him.
Boone sees a picture of Ivy Smithfield on a real estate pamphlet and decides he has to have her in order to class up his act – the one he swears he doesn’t care about – therefore, he invades Ivy’s office to hire her as his realtor while “dripping” dirt all over everything. He begins pursuing her with the finesse and maturity of a twelve-year-old boy, and he decides that day that he wants to marry her. He’s decisive, I’ll give him that; and he tells Ivy he intends to bed her and wed her. Ivy is inexplicably attracted to him – even though she describes his unkempt appearance A LOT – but she will not admit she finds his advances flattering, because she has a big secret that could destroy his deep feelings – those feelings that developed in less than twelve hours.
Yes, the silly and shallow plot at the heart of Dirty Money’s two hundred pages is a really lame secret – Ivy isn’t as fancy as Boone believes her to be. She is just as poor as he used to be, but she is pretending to be more sophisticated in order to get a better job. She’s worried he will not want her once he discovers the she’s not as classy as he believes. This dilemma could have been solved in about two minutes or with a tiny bit of reasoning on Ivy’s part. Boone is proud of his upbringing and gets angry when people judge him because they believe he’s poor. Although he is currently spouting drivel about needing Ivy to make him look better, it is reasonable to assume that he would readily accept her background and even be impressed that she is hardworking and attempting to make a better life for herself. Boone chooses to live in a trailer even though he is a billionaire. Why would he care that Ivy grew up in one or lives in one now?
Ivy and Boone’s grimace-inducing courtship consists of Ivy worrying about Boone discovering her secret and Boone badgering her to see him and have sex with him using frank and explicit language. This is not sexy, dirty bedroom talk – this is round after round of gag-worthy verbal bombs. One illustration of Boone’s charm is when he chides Ivy for leaving a big wet spot on the back seat of her car after he goes down on her – only to mention it AGAIN an hour later when her bodily fluids have not reabsorbed into the upholstery yet. Ivy responds by blushing while I struggled to not throw up.
Dirty Money has a plot worthy of approximately twenty pages, but Ms. Clare puffs up the story with Boone, Boone and more Boone and an incredibly long and laborious sex scene that became very boring. The only redeeming aspect of Ivy and Boone’s sexual marathon is that it affords a break from Ivy ruminating over what will happen when Boone finds out about her. Nothing, Ivy. Nothing will happen when Boone finds out.
Boone never develops from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, ridiculous caricature of a Texan rags-to-riches oil tycoon, and I can only suppose this was Ms. Clare’s objective when she decided to create this type of hero – but he offers nothing and is relentlessly annoying throughout the entire story. I’ve read quite a few of Ms. Clare’s books, and I have liked almost all of them, but I think she tried too hard with Dirty Money and it failed – epically. Hopefully, she will dial it back – way back – with the next book in the Roughneck Billionaires series, because Dirty Money is just the first book featuring the Price brothers and there’s five of these guys, which is a very scary thought.