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Dirty Money is the second installment of Ashley Bartlett’s Dirty series (book one is Dirty Sex). Vivian Cooper and the DiGiovanni twins are on the lam from the mob. Ryan DiGiovanni has been Cooper’s best friend for years. To him, “Coop” is just “one of the guys” and he’d do anything for her—except choose her over his twin sister Reese.
The trio escapes from the mob with gold hoarded by the twins’ step-father, and they end up on a whirlwind trek, fleeing to Mexico, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. A myriad of complications ensue involving the twins, Mexican jailers, entrapment, and finally finds Cooper working for the very people she loathes.
The relationship between Cooper and Reese could be the love story of the century; however, things don’t quite work out the way Cooper envisions them. The friendship between Cooper and Ryan depicts soul mates who love and accept one another, but Ryan can’t be there for Cooper when his sister decides to take flight from the mob by leaving Cooper behind as a way to protect her. Deeply hurt and searching for a way to locate the twins, Cooper finds her way to the mob boss, Vito, in the hopes that she can get information about the twins’ whereabouts.
The odyssey that Cooper embarks on from that point on seems counter-intuitive to her personality, but she quickly learns to play the game in an effort of self-preservation and desire for one more thing—to find the twins. Her work takes her from the pot farms of the jungle to assisting a crazed, but likable, henchman—all the while trying to find her way back to the two people she loves most in the world. If she finds them, she doesn’t even know if they will want her back in their lives, but Cooper is driven to find the answer to that question. Along the way, she finds answers to questions she didn’t even know she has, and the answers take her into an ever more tangled web of lies and deception.
If she can survive, maybe she’ll be lucky enough to find her friend and her lover and they will be able to sort things out. But that’s a very big maybe. And there’s a very large underbelly of malevolence through which she must navigate first. Graphic depictions of torture, although not pleasant to read, do give insight into a character’s make-up and Cooper is not without sin herself.
Although the story is the second in a series, it stands alone well with just enough back story to clue the reader in without boring them. However, reading the first installment fills the reader in to the details and background offering entertainment and a fine transition to Dirty Money. The action is provocative. The love scenes are exhilarating. The pain is heart wrenching. The dialog is crisp and sometime even comical, especially as Cooper fumbles her way through life with the mob. The final pages reveal unexpected details and entangle Cooper in so many fabrications it’s a wonder she can keep them all straight. Maybe she can’t. Bartlett has succeeded in giving us a mad-cap story that will keep the reader turning page after page to see what happens next.
By Ashley Bartlett
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781602827868, 240 pp.