Hey guys and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Jennifer Echols' Dirty Little Secret! Below you can find more about the book and author as well as my review and a giveaway :)
Publisher: MTV books
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
From the author of the “real page-turner” (Seventeen) Such a Rush comes an unforgettable new drama that follows friends-turned-lovers as they navigate the passions, heartbreaks, and intrigue of country music fame.
Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.
Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…
The following review is based on a copy I got from the publisher via edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’d heard a lot about Jennifer Echols’ amazing contemporary novels but had never read any, so when I got the chance to be on this tour I just had to take it! Though there were some things about Dirty Little Secret that didn’t sit completely well with me, I was very impressed with the characterization and I loved the description of the music and what it meant for Bailey to perform!
Even though I am not at all well-versed in the country music or bluegrass scene, I ended up enjoying that aspect of an unknown-to-me but still familiar world a lot! When we first meet Bailey, she has a very jaded attitude to music or at least that’s how she wants to appear. After playing on bluegrass festivals for years with her sister, she feels like she’s seen and done it all. The chord successions are always the same and she thinks of musicians as interchangeable building blocks of a song. However, it’s clear that Bailey’s anger at being shut off from her sister’s music deal and from the rest of her family is responsible for her changed view.
Ever since her sister got signed and she didn’t, Bailey has had a hard time at home. The record company forbade her to publicly perform or basically do anything to do with music, and since her parents backed that, Bailey had to obey (or else). So she rebelled in other ways, trying hard to be a bad girl and just basically not caring about anything anymore, until she really screws up and is sent to live with her granddad for the summer. Despite the threat from the rec company, he gets Bailey job playing with various bands at the mall.
When she meets Sam (playing Johnny Cash’s son), there’s an attraction between them right away, which is strengthened when they find out that they actually have history. Sam wants Bailey to play fiddle in his band, and though she isn’t supposed to perform in public, Bailey just can’t resist. When their first show is a success, Bailey is in a tug of war between doing what and who she loves or obeying her parents (and thus securing her college tuition and her sister’s career).
Also, Sam’s thirst for success does not always paint him in the most favorable light. Is he only with Bailey because of her talent and connections, or does he really have feelings for her? When Bailey finds in harder and harder to keep the two lives she is suddenly juggling separate, how will she choose?
I feel torn about Sam. On the one hand, he’s cute and fun and incredibly talented, but on the other hand he is a master-manipulator when it comes to getting what he wants most – so much so that I’m not even sure whether he is always aware of it. He said and did some things that made him come across as a real jerk. Still, he was a complex character and there was definitely chemistry between him and Bailey, which made for some steamy scenes! His and Bailey’s relationship develops very quickly, but they also spend a lot of time together so that didn’t bother me too much apart from a few scenes. It wasn’t all roses, so that was realistic.
This novel is very much about family bonds, which is something I always enjoy, especially when it’s about two sisters! We learn about the changes in Julie and Bailey’s relationship gradually through flashbacks, and it wasn’t always what I expected. Bailey’s mom is a total nutjob though. I hated that woman. What she did to both her daughters is not okay at all. In a way, both Bailey’s and Sam’s families are really screwed up, just not in the same way.
This ties into one of my points of critique: is it realistic that a record company could force Bailey to stop playing music, or pursue any kind of musical career in the future? I’m sure that’s not even legal. Also, I can’t believe her parents went along with that, sacrificing the future of one child for that of the other! Bailey’s inner conflict hinges on that ban, and I just found it a bit hard to believe. Moreover, I thought the resolution and the ending were a bit rushed and too neat.
Other than that, I loved the parts of the novel where Bailey is on stage with Sam and the rest of his band! I felt like I was there myself, experiencing the crowd’s reaction and the joy of making music and clicking as a unit. I also grew to really like Ace the bassist and Charlotte the drummer as characters, though in Charlotte’s case not right off the bat.
All in all, I really enjoyed Dirty Little Secret despite its minor flaws! The writing was incredibly engaging and the story flowed at a good pace that made it hard to put down. The characters were well fleshed-out and I could relate to them even though I am in a very different situation in life. The book explores what it means to follow your dreams, be creative, and figure out who you are and where you want to go. Though I couldn’t back the romance 100%, I still enjoyed most of Sam and Bailey’s moments together. If you’re looking for a great contemporary summer read set in the music biz, you should definitely give Dirty Little Secret a try!
Some great quotes (subject to change in the finished copy):
“I was an anachronism no matter what I wore, an expert on a sixteenth-century instrument nobody wanted. I’d thought I could enjoy this job. Instead I’d been sexually harassed by one dead rockabilly, and I’d developed a hopeless crush on the son of another.” (ARC, location 518 / 16%)
“Sam was creative and dedicated, but his wasn’t the plodding bright-and-early work ethic of the morning person, like mine. It was the crazy creative burst of the night owl, long dark hours of despair before dawn.” (ARC, location 2408 / 73%)