Top positive review
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent! A look into the the darker side of human nature, love, and family...
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 23, 2012
Tarryn Fisher's next installment in the Love Me With Lies series came out yesterday and of course, I had to put down the book I was reading, immediately download it, and dive into the new release. And oh my God you guys... it is SO GOOD!!!
Dirty Red is told from Leah's perspective. The first person narration immediately pulls the reader into the war zone that is Leah's psyche. You remember her? The evil viper from The Opportunist (Love Me With Lies #1)? She was the conniving, ruthless, manipulative antagonist Olivia was up against for Caleb's affection. Oh yeah, that's her. Like The Opportunist, Dirty Red's chapters switch between the present and the past. This gradual release of information helps shed light on Leah's past, the history of her relationship with Caleb, her family dynamics, and ultimately the reasons behind her malevolent behavior(s).
The first chapter starts out with Leah and Caleb in the hospital just after the birth of their first child, Estella. I have to admit, these first few chapters were scary for me. Not in an, "oh my God, don't open that door!" kind of way. More in the, "oh my God, I can't believe I am relating to her as much as I am" kind of way. In some crazy twist of fate, Leah's thoughts and fears about being a mother actually echoed some of my own.
"The truth was, babies made me nervous. People were always shoving them at you, trying to get you to hold them and coo at them. I didn't want to hold someone else's spawn. Who knows what you could be holding? The kid could be the next John Wayne Gacy and you'd never know it." - Leah
Nuts, I know. Anyhow, right off I was thrown by how much I could empathize with her. I wanted to hate her like I did in the last book. I wanted to continue to vilify her and pass judgment on her, but as the book progressed I found it more and more difficult to do so.
Now, let's get this straight. Leah is shallow. She is vain. She is vindictive, calculating, and unforgiving. Truly, she is an "ends justify the means" kind of gal... but why?
"Honesty is sticky, and I hate it. It always has consequences that f@*! up your life...God I'd rather just wade around the truth and find a lie I can live with." - Leah
You would think she lacked depth, but in reality she is a dynamic, multi-layered character with a lot more to her than meets the eye. She is incredibly smart and cunning, though her fears and insecurities rule her and completely overshadow any positive attributes she has. She has come to rely on her beauty, wealth, and sex appeal, using sex as a weapon and control mechanism. The sad thing is, it doesn't seem like she believes she has anything else to offer.
"When I was seventeen, my therapist told me that I use sex to validate myself. I promptly had sex with him." - Leah
A lot of her beliefs come from the relationships she has with her family members. As we learn in The Opportunist, her dad basically set her up to take the fall in a huge pharmaceutical scandal. Her mom resents her and goes out of her way to point out her flaws at every turn. And both parents clearly display favoritism toward her younger sister, Courtney. Although she is mysteriously missing from all the `present' chapters, it's clear that Leah depends on her sister's love.
"She was the love in my otherwise loveless life... the warm blanket in a household that valued frigid emotional temperatures. When everyone else skimmed right over me, my sister zoned in." - Leah
"It was kind of awkward to idolize your baby sister. It was hard not to, since the minute she walked into a room, every eye was stuck to her like she had some sort of ethereal fairy magic flowing from her pores." - Leah
Not only were her parents clear about their lack of feeling for Leah, but it had always been made clear to her that appearance is valued above all else. Never mind honesty. Better to have skeletons and dirty little secrets...
"I remember being a child, having her stroke my hair, kiss my face, comment on how pretty I was - all in front of her friends. After they left, I would be sent back to my room to study or practice the violin - basically get out of my mother's hair, until the next of her `good mommy' performances." - Leah
It's no surprise that the family she grew up with helped shape the woman she became. She is a master at anticipating people's emotions and is always playing an angle. She seems lost inside her head and can never just be herself - not even around Caleb.
"I have a malicious side to me that Caleb finds offensive, so I curb it when he is around. When he is not around, I swear like a sailor and throw things." - Leah
"He was drawn to kindness, turned on by it even - which is exactly why I was insecure. I wasn't exactly on Santa's Nice List. Either he hadn't figured that out yet, or he was too distracted by my boobs to care." - Leah
As the story unfolds, readers may wonder if Leah even knows who she is. Does she have a history of mental illness? Does she battle depression? Or is she just a completely detached person sculpted by the cruelty of loveless parents and a less than happy childhood? Is she okay with that or does she long for the humanity she sees within Caleb?
Oh Caleb. Through everything, Leah clings to Caleb. Good, honest, pure, selfless Caleb. He seems to be the one person who makes her feel alive to an extreme - in the best and worst of ways.
"I feel heavy under my rage. Like I can lift it from my shoulders where it landed and throw it at him." - Leah
Her love and need for him propels her into unhealthy obsession territory. The crux of the story is whether or not Caleb can love her in return...
"Love is illogical. You fall into it like a manhole. Then you're just stuck. You die in love more than you live in love." - Caleb
Her animosity toward Olivia is all consuming. She blames her for everything that has gone wrong in her relationship with Caleb. She is dominated by her jealousy of the love that Caleb has/had for Olivia. Again, I couldn't help but feel pity for her.
"Have I always known in the back of my mind that I am second choice?" - Leah
"I look at his face: hard, determined, sorry. I don't want his sorry. I want what Olivia has. I want to be enough for him." - Leah
In Dirty Red, Fisher shows us a darker side of human nature; a darker side of love, of obsession, of family. Her writing allows us to experience these things in an almost physical way. We are reminded what true anxiety and depression is, what torture is, what turmoil and self hatred look like. She was able to make me empathize with the villain of the series against all my best efforts not to and she did it with ease. I didn't love Leah in the end, but I understood her. I was able to feel compassion for her - a feat I would have sworn unachievable after The Opportunist.
The final chapter is an explosion of revelations between Caleb and Leah which makes for an amazing conclusion to Dirty Red. I gasped aloud, especially on the last sentence. It is a HUGE bomb! HUGE - and I found myself reeling the same way I did at the conclusion of The Opportunist. The only drawback I could find with Dirty Red is the fact that it ended. We're going to be waiting a while for the next book to come out. But when it does, I have no doubt that it will be an amazing finale to this powerful character driven series! If you haven't picked up The Opportunist yet, do, and then move right along to Dirty Red. You won't be disappointed. Happy reading!
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