Stark World #2
✮✮✮ 4 STARS ✮✮✮
Lyle Tarpin is Hollywood’s and everybody’s darling and heartthrob. He is charming, talented, rich, a rising star and generally a lovely human being. And while all this is true nobody in Tinseltown knows about his nights with call girls, when he loses himself in meaningless sex, if only for a couple minutes. Erasing the guilt, the pain, the memories for that short time. He makes sure that the girls change every time, never going for seconds. To never form attachments.
What I want—what I’m paying for— is the cymbal crash at the end. That release. That moment when everything shatters. I’m not paying for pretty words and flowers. – Lyle
Sugar Laine needs money. Fast. The short-equity loan she took to perform emergency repairs on her house is due soon and her job as a waitress isn’t going to cut it. When her best friend lets her in on a little secret and offers her a solution to her problems, Laine is conflicted. Having sex for money, a lot of money, mind you, feels wrong. Yet, her childhood home is at stake so she agrees.
When Lyle and Laine meet there is an instant chemistry. But there is more – Laine sees the pain in Lyle’s eyes and he sees a woman he needs to walk away from but knows that won’t be as easy it usually is. When a picture of their clandestine meetings appears in the tabloids he needs to come up with a solution to cover the truth. Laine becomes his fake girlfriend but soon the fake feelings become real and Lyle will have a decision to make: Face his past and embrace love or keep on hiding and wallow in self-pity.
Sugar Laine is an endearing heroine – perceptive, kind, always looking on the bright side of things, sometimes a bit too nosy and pushy in my book but it got her results so who am I to judge? She has a little bit of a fire cracker in her and doesn’t let people walk over her. When she meets Lyle she sees his demons and once their feelings solidify Laine is brave enough to walk away until Lyle gets his shit together. I loved that about her, she didn’t play along because she was scared of losing him and so he could keep on wallowing in his pain and guilt. She took the situation in her own hands and hoped for the best, prepared for the worst.
All I can be is me. A woman desperate enough to have sex for money. A girl trying anything and everything to save her house. To protect her family’s memory. I can be that girl. But I can’t be nothing. I can’t be no one. – Sugar Laine
Lyle is as swoon worthy as any celebrity crush you’ve ever had. He is sweet, earnest, driven and charming. On the outside he is the down-to-earth Midwestern guy from Iowa who has no worry in his life. But on the inside he is slowly unraveling – the guilt, the anguish, his complicated childhood – the reasons for his drive – escalating. But Lyle isn’t a coward. He is brave when it comes to facing his fears and it shows when he tells the girl he has fallen for about his past, his pain and role he played in the tragedy of his life. I fell in love with Lyle – he is one of those broken heroes who just has everything going for him. The charm, the kindness, the vulnerability.
She tasted like summer. As warm as sunshine and as sweet as cotton candy. Hell, she tasted like hope. And damn him, he couldn’t get enough of her. – Lyle
Wicked Dirty wasn’t as dirty as I expected but that doesn’t mean it was bad. I loved the growth of the characters’ relationship, the slow burn until it was inevitable.
We snuck up on each other, creeping backwards and with blinders.
One thing that I find notable is that when these two actually have sex they don’t talk about birth control or STD. Lyle has been with multiple women before so I figured that would at the very least be a topic…but it wasn’t. Not that it annoyed the hell out of me but I found it noteworthy.
Another thing that I have to mention is that while I loved Laine I couldn’t always see the development of her feelings. The thought process wasn’t always clear to me in that, that she was thinking and saying things that, yes, were sad and dramatic but all of a sudden she was in tears – I never saw her tears coming because she sometimes sounded so matter-of-factly in my mind. I don’t know if I’m explaining it properly.
With all that being said, however, I adored this story. I was completely immersed into Laine’s and Lyle’s whirlwind romance and while they really fell in love fast it wasn’t unrealistic. The world J. Kenner has built around the Stark’s is fascinating and scintillating and it keeps me coming back for more – and hopefully one day I’ll have time to read the original Stark Trilogy. I can’t get enough of it so I’m waiting for Wicked Torture which will showcase Lyle and Wyatt’s (from Wicked Grind) friend Noah.
Wicked Dirty is the second in the Stark World series and can be read as a standalone.