Jennifer Echols is such an expert at writing smart, complex teen girls. The last book of hers that I read, Such a Rush, was about a girl living next to a small airport who decided that she’d learn to fly planes. In Dirty Little Secret, the heroine is an expert fiddle player with perfect pitch. How does Ms. Echols think of this stuff? And how much research does she do to accumulate all the minute musical details? Yes, I’m a fangirl.
Bailey is eighteen, and she has a sixteen-year-old sister, Julie. From the time she could hold a bow, Bailey has been playing the fiddle, and she and her sister have toured the bluegrass festival circuit around their Nashville home their entire lives as an adorable musical sister act, with a lot of help from their stage mom and passive dad. A year prior to the novel’s opening, a record company picked Julie to be a star. They didn’t want a sister act. And they didn’t want any hint that Julie had left a sister act, so the suits and her parents told Bailey to quit music and fade into the background. Nice, right?
Bailey tried to rebel to piss off her parents, but she didn’t completely succeed because it interfered with her songwriting and fiddle practice time. Still, her parents are angry enough with her that they send her to live with Grandpa while they go to LA with Julie, and they threaten to take away her college tuition if she performs. Bailey misses her sister and the whole family dynamic of performing. She doesn’t know anything but music, and she’s adrift.
Grandpa gets Bailey a job playing with celebrity impersonators at the mall — since she’ll be in costume, and using a different last name, no one will connect her to Julie. Then Bailey meets Sam, who plays backup guitar for his Johnny Cash-impersonating father. Sam wants Bailey for his own band, and he’s not opposed to manipulating her and lying to others to get her to join.
I loved Bailey. She was smart, and talented, and tough, and she loved her family. She appreciated her talent and didn’t throw it away in a fit of angst. I loved how she translated her feelings into songs, and how she stood up for herself all the time, doing battle with an aging Elvis impersonator or with Sam or her mother. I wasn’t as in love with Sam, mainly because Bailey is the narrator and she is very wary of him. She figures him out quickly and keeps her guard up while Sam kinda sorta doesn’t have her best interests in mind.
My only objection to this book is the time frame. I believe the events all happen over the course of about 10-14 days, and Bailey doesn’t even meet Sam until a few days in. Then there’s hesitation and arguing, leaving very little time for Bailey and Sam to really come together and make me believe in them as a couple. I mean, they had a lot in common, and with their drive and talent they could go far…maybe I just feel jilted that the story ended too soon. Things wrapped up too quickly, when I could have easily read another hundred pages of “what happened next.”
The heat level is low, kind of fade-to-black, but there is romance and lust and desire. Plus the story takes place in such a unique world, I really enjoyed the glimpse into the world of Nashville and bluegrass and trying to make it in the music business.
Click to purchase: Amazon
Dirty Little Secret
by Jennifer Echols
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: MTV Books