Getting Dirty falls into the trap a lot of the books in Harlequin’s Dare line fall into, in that it wants to be daring and naughty but falls afoul of typical romance conventions. And the conventions it shows us aren’t that great, either.
Private dick Ash has been assigned to uncover the secrets of high society scandal center Lady Coco Lauren (yes, really). Coco’s brother Philip has hired Ash to expose his sister’s secrets, and since Coco is spending time in high-end sex clubs, that shouldn’t be too hard. It’s Ash’s job to get close to Coco – yes, like that AND not like that – and keep her from disgracing the family name.
Coco normally enjoys the kinky world of the sex club, but her grandmother is on the verge of death, and that’s put a bit of a damper on her Pants Feelings. If her granny finds out Coco’s been doing the deed in public with strangers, she’s worried she’ll lose the woman’s respect forever. But that doesn’t stop her from being attracted to Ash and wanting to bone him too.
For Ash and Coco, it’s horny at first sight; they have sex moments after meeting and soon settle into a not-quite-friends but lots of benefits relationship.
Yet something about Ash has Coco yearning for more. But Ash isn’t looking for romantic attachment – not after escaping his “stuck up bitch” of an ex, Jess (ugh). Can he convince himself that Coco isn’t Jess? Will Coco forgive Ash for lying to her about his true purpose in approaching her? And will Ash be able to figure out Phillip’s motives for wanting Coco investigated before it’s too late?
This is one of those Dare books where we’re introduced to something truly interesting – the heroine has been having sex at a sex club for months – which should lead somewhere complicated, or at least erotic. But the sex club feels like a piece of background information; aside from an unpracticed threesome, we hear that Coco’s been having fun there but we don’t get to see any of it.
Coco is bisexual and portrayed on-page as such, to my delight, and she seems like a nice girl. And I like the notion of a ‘nice girl’ still being written as a nice person who loves her grandma while getting metaphorically tag-teamed by muscular football players. But I tire ever so much of heroines who are using sex to mask the pain of wanting a traditional, white picket fence romance. What’s wrong with wanting to be sexually adventurous AND romantic? And if she’s so afraid of being caught having indiscriminate public sex, why not hire sex workers or develop a small, close-knit ‘play’ group that won’t snitch to the press?
Ash, meanwhile, for all of his talk about principled behavior and nonstop sweating about his double agency, is a dick about his ex-girlfriend and “high class” women, who must all be stuck up and evil like the unfortunate Jess. This still isn’t a fun trope, romance authors, and I also tire of the ‘you aren’t my evil ex, baby’ Garbo treatment of other women in narratives like this. That severely affected my enjoyment of his character.
Ash and Coco have decent, high-quality banter, and their sex is top notch, but I failed to see how they might make great long term partners. They like and are wildly attracted to one another, sure – it’s why this novel isn’t a D-grade one – but what, in the end, does a private detective have in common with a woman like Coco? We don’t get much time to figure out the answer to that one.
So much attributed behavior goes down in this novel. We don’t get to see Coco with her grandma – in fact the only time we really spend with the woman she’s unconscious in the ICU – but we hear about it. A lot. We hear about Coco’s charity work, but don’t see it. Phillip’s pat motive is as predictable as you imagine it might be.
Sparkly character chemistry keeps this one from being a dud, but the book’s compressed page length really gets in the way of the story. Getting Dirty’s dirtiest work is how short a shrift the characters are given by the plot.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier