I finished Bad Idea earlier today and I spent a fair amount of time reading reviews before sitting down to write mine. I expected it to be a polarizing book and I wasn't entirely wrong. People seem to either absolutely love it or get so confused by it they have trouble expressing an opinion, and they end up feeling guilty or perplexed because it didn't knock their socks off like it happened with Damon Suede's debut novel, Hot Head.
I'm one of the people who loved Hot Head when they first read it. It wasn't that I didn't see its flaws, but the intensity of Griff's emotions and his incredible chemistry with Dante helped me overlook them since the book provided a wonderful reading experience, overall.
That wasn't the case with Bad Idea. I could tell something was wrong right from the start, when the story's opening paragraphs, the pace, the dialogue, the characters, the writing style itself felt so weird, so alien, I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a Damon Suede, that I should be enjoying this, that I shouldn't be forcing myself to continue. But no dice. I kept putting it down and I had to psych myself up before picking it up again.
So, what went wrong?
This book is so bad, it ends up being good.
The sappiness! The cheesy lines! The bad sex! The narm!
It burns. It burns so good.
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This was a little heavy on the telling, maybe. And I know it's already a short, but it could have been a bit tighter.
But eh. It was ok. It was cute.
I had the strangest feeling with this book. I kept thinking I was reading a Heidi Cullinan. Other than the similarities in style, I don't know how to interpret it. Maybe that I should be reading a book by Heidi Cullinan next? :)
Anyway. About this story.
The MCs were fairly likable. I didn't love them, but the chemistry between them worked fine after a certain point. The sex was hot and abundant. A bit on the porny side at first, but it didn't bother me. It was well done. There's dirty talk, too. And it came across as actually dirty and erotic, not raunchy or vulgar.
It dragged a bit somewhere after the 50% mark. It might have worked better if it were a bit shorter, tighter. It was funny though.
Overall, it was ok. I'd read the next one in the series.
You guys. I'm in love.
This book is a real gem, with all the natural inclusions that make it special. I could talk about its flaws, the technical aspects, but they don't matter, because this book had what I call the "book oxytocin effect" on me. That is, I fell in love with it. And when you fall in love, you just bask in the euphoria and sod everything and everyone else.
That first chapter? It hit all my pleasure centres. And then? Oh, the delicious anticipation of something you suddenly know you'll enjoy. I was positively giddy. Ash's interaction with Darian? Such a source of delight. And who cares about the Essex speak. The dialogue parts in this book? They're splendidly done. Funny and natural and meaningful. The side characters? Excellent. You understand them. Even that bugger, Niall. The plot, the pace? I didn't feel it dragged—not for one moment. And who cares about the literary prose. It was Ash's mental processes and they felt natural for him.
This book is also an excellent example of how even the most common tropes can be revisited and explored in new and interesting ways. Because nothing in Glitterland felt boring to me.
Little extra things I enjoyed: references to books and writers, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to Dan Brown, to Martin Amis. The movie references, from My Fair Lady, to The Shawshank Redemption, to Breakfast At Tiffany's, to Grease, to Notting Hill. The glardigan (it's a glamour cardigan, obvi)! Nabble (a way cooler version of Scrabble)! The cottage pie recipe!
One last thing. Alexis Hall. Remember the name. He has great, great things ahead of him.
The idea behind this story was decent, but the execution was lacking. It didn't help that it read like a rough first draft. Some further editorial involvement would have been beneficial.
This story is executed in a bit of an unconventional way. Non-linear timeline, bare bones characterisation of everyone but the narrator, major plot elements delivered in a dense, factual way ... It's the kind of story where you are thrown into the proverbial deep end and asked to swim or drown. It's up to you to take the challenge.
Just a side note: I've only read this and An Immovable Solitude by this author but I truly believe she can do great things on the page if she wants to. I would like to see a third-person POV story by her; I think it would help bring out her full writing potential.
This book is so weird. First, it reads like a rough first draft, with all the awkward sentence constructions, the typos, and grammar/syntax mistakes. Second, it uses British English spelling while it is set in Ellery Mountain, Tennessee. Third, it seems like it aspires to be something between a standard whodunit and a romantic suspense novel but it falls so flat it's embarrassing.
Eh. At least it is short.
I started this right after Nowhere Ranch by the same author and I had higher expectations, but maybe I shouldn't have read two books by Heidi Cullinan in a row. Or maybe I shouldn't have read these two books in a row.
First, because there is an easily recognizable pattern/formula. In no particular order:
Second, because in Dirty Laundry, Ms Cullinan chooses to explore anxiety disorders—OCD in particular—and though she manages all right (and maybe it's just me because I already know enough about the disorder and the medication involved in its treatment,) Adam's long-winded and repetitious mental processes/loops, the way Brad (the nasty ex, see point about the unpleasant side character further up) is conveniently used to push Adam into several panic attacks, the various tropey scenes with jocks bullying Adam, the didactic tones of Louisa (see above, the fixer female) and Adam's new therapist, as well as various other similar details, had Adam come across as a caricature of a person and at the same time had me feeling I was being bludgeoned with the message Ms Cullinan wanted to deliver.
Third, because I didn't feel there was any real chemistry between the MCs, I didn't get why Denver was so interested in Adam, what set him apart from the other twinks Denver had his pick of, at least in the beginning. And, unlike Nowhere Ranch, the BDSM element wasn't very convincing, either.
Fourth, because there were parts that didn't add anything but clutter to the story, like the conversation Denver had over the phone with Adam's mother near the end of the book. Louisa's character felt largely redundant, too, but I suppose she was deemed necessary because Adam needed to also discuss his issues outside the clinical setting and, anyhow, if Denver had El then Adam needed a best friend too.
I won't comment on the atrocious cover. Others have covered that already in their reviews.
All in all, Dirty Laundry wasn't a particularly enjoyable reading experience. It's two and a half stars rounded down, because I gave three stars to Nowhere Ranch and I enjoyed that story much better.