Rating: 3.5 stars
I'm gonna start this review with a very weird statement: I probably would have liked this book more if I wasn't a gay, Asian (Chinese) man. But I'll go in that sentiment later...
Cole McGinnis is an ex-cop and current PI who stumbles upon a case brought up by a client of his brother's security business. It's during this investigation into a Korean family that our main character stumbles upon the exotic and mysterious Jae-Min. What follows this investigation includes murders, the beginning of a relationship, a nice cast of characters, and the occasional Korean word thrown here-and-there.
Overall, I would say I like Dirty Kiss. Cole is a great main character to get behind (figuratively and literally speaking!), with the whole “tragic past” with scars. Yet he sees hope in the form of one stubborn Korean man and refuses to let go of that light in his bleak tunnel. He's an understanding character that I find very little to dislike – funny at times, serious when it matters, and actually takes the time to talk his conflicts out as opposed to wasting page time with unnecessary avoidance.
In fact, Dirty Kiss has a whole cast of characters I enjoy: Scarlet, the cross-dressing sensation, Claudia, the sassy secretary/mother figure, Bobby, the pervy best friend, and the list goes on. Note how a certain love interest isn't included on that list.
So that leaves Jae-Min. The thing with Jae is that I actually understand
him. (Word of warning, I tend to get personal in my reviews!). Let's see: traditional Asian family? Check. The belief that family is more important than the individual? Check. The duty of taking care of the parents? Check. (Been doing it all of my life since I was a kid.).
The idea of a homosexual son in a family? While I can't say my parents would have been as hateful as the Kims, they did feel humiliated and very sad for me as I will never have a traditional family (which is considered the ultimate goal). And even worse: how will relatives react to them having the gay son? So yeah, part of me wanted to give Jae-Min a hug and tell him that I get it
. I would tell him that some of the worst mistakes I've made were made for my family's best interests and not my own, and that these decisions have and will continue to haunt me for many years to come. And because I've been there and done that, I would beg him not to be stupid like I was.
And yet, part of me wants to smack Jae-Min over the head and tell him to get the fuck over the whole “duty to family.” Mostly because I've lived through it, and I have this jaded view of “so should he” (which I know is all kinds of wrong, but these are
my uncontrollable feelings we are talking about). So yeah, I think if I didn't understand Jae-Min as much as I did (with being a gay Asian man), I would have enjoyed Dirty Kiss more. He was also a little too “damsel in distress” and too quick tempered for my liking as well. I like my fictional love interests to be a little more than a beautiful decoration to look at and with more manners.
Since I'm reviewing the audiobook version, let me make a last comment on the narrator. Greg Tremblay is a fucking voice God. He does such a good job with the voices for Cole and Jae-Min (and everyone else) that I felt compelled to listen even when the story felt like it dragged (which wasn't too often). Seriously, he made a story that I would have found “blah/okay” as a book, and made it “good” as an audiobook. What more can I say?