Just Finished Reading …. Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Review of Dirty Little Secret
by Jennifer Echols
To be published by MTV Books
on July 16, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss. Please see my FTC disclaimer on the right sidebar.

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.

Summary from Goodreads: Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away. Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…
Buzzwords: Nashville, country music, sisters, band drama.

My take: I love Jennifer Echols. Such a Rush was one of my favorite YA books of 2012 -- you can read my review here. I didn't think that Dirty Little Secret was quite as strong, but still found it a completely enjoyable read with a lot of aspects I absolutely loved.

First thing I loved: the amazing world building. Authors and reviewers talk a lot about world building in speculative fiction, but I think that world building is just as important in a contemporary book that takes place a setting that's more familiar. I've never been to Nashville. I don't usually listen to country music. I can't even read music. But I'm completely fascinated by stories about musicians trying to make their dreams come true. Dirty Little Secret made me feel completely immersed in the city of Nashville and its music scene.

Second thing I loved: band drama. In the book, after Bailey Mayfield is sent into hiding by her parents, she's cajoled by Sam into breaking her promise joining his band. What Sam doesn't mention to Bailey is that the band's drummer is Charlotte, his ex. And that Charlotte is still pretty pissed off. I really enjoyed all the ensuing crossed wires of love between Charlotte and Ace and Bailey and Sam.

Third thing I loved: Bailey and Sam. I know some readers have taken issue with Sam, but I loved Sam's character and all his imperfections. He's the son of a longtime alcoholic and is determined to build a career in music so he can be different from his father. Sam's a good looking guy who's somewhat bemused at all the attention he gets from women. He's a person with a traumatic event in his past that explains why he switches girlfriends faster than guitar picks. But for me, all the puzzle pieces of Sam's imperfect personality fit together perfectly. I loved Bailey with Sam. I think what won me over was that he really respected her talent.

There was one aspect of the book that struck a bit of a wrong note for me, and that was the whole situation surrounding Bailey and her family. According to the book's blurb, Bailey and her sister Julie toured extensively together. Then Julie was offered a record deal without Bailey. That part made sense -- I mean, these kind of things happen all the time. But all the stuff about Bailey suddenly having to be a huge secret, stay hidden, erase her social media accounts, use a fake name, dye her hair…. In the age of Facebook and YouTube, it all seemed a bit strange to expect that everyone in Nashville would suddenly forget about Bailey. Or that Bailey's parents could think it would be worse for America to find out that Bailey got ditched by a record company than for America to find out that Bailey's parents told her not to come and support her sister as she debuted at the Grand Old Opry.

Beyond the whole plausibility issue, I think that the other problem with Bailey's hiding out is that the reader never really gets to meet Julie or see the sisters' relationship until the very end of the book.  I wish the book had spent more time forcing Bailey and Julie to work through a situation that had to be awkward and painful for both of them, work through all the jealousy and hurt and guilt and disappointment, rather than keeping the sisters apart until the very end and then having to rush our glimpse of their relationship into a chapter or two at the end. But, all in all, reading Dirty Little Secret really made me happy. I loved the performance scenes and loved pretending I was in Nashville and loved watching Bailey and Sam fall in love.

Random side note: When I first started Dirty Little Secret, I decided it might just be a YA version of Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore -- one of my favorite rom-coms. Have you seen it? Hugh's character is (I think) loosely based on Andrew Ridgeley from Wham!  You know, that guy that was in a fairly successful musical duo with George Michael, who ditched him for a more successful solo career. Like Bailey, Hugh's character has to play dreary tribute concerts in malls and gets no respect. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!


  1. I have a soft spot for Music and Lyrics (well, actually for anything with Hugh Grant) so that is kind of interesting me in this book despite my problems with the last few Echols books I've read. She has written characters that have absolutely infuriated me with boneheaded decisions and I'm afraid that the family here will annoy me in a similar way although at least the love story sounds okay.

    1. Well, I did see parallels in Bailey's playing at the mall and feeling really left behind. But beyond that, these are two different stories...

  2. I loved the movie Music and Lyrics.

    This book sounds great!

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. I enjoyed this book, too. I really did love the descriptions of Nashville--which is a beautiful city--and the world of country music from the roaming mall singers to the bar scene. I liked Sam's character ok. I was definitely rooting for him and Bailey, but it did bother me that he would do anything to make it, which made it hard to trust him. I completely agree with the whole family situation. Not only is it implausible in today's social media world, but I just wanted Bailey to grow a backbone when it came to her family. And it would have been nice if the book would have explored the sister's relationship a lot more. Great review!
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books

    1. I kind of liked that she made him that desperate -- Jennifer Echols definitely isn't afraid to have her characters be flawed and I love that about her books!

  4. Love this author and your review. I have this thing for reading county books. Will have to pick it up.

  5. BAND DRAMA! Yes, love it too:) You know I am a fan of this book. Loved Bailey and loved Sam, even though he aggravated me a whole lot while I was reading. I felt the same as you about the Nashville setting:)

    Good point about the family drama. I agree it would have been better to have Julie more developed and present. And really Bailey's parents, especially her mom, were turned into villainous characters. More interaction between she and Bailey would have been nice too.

    But this was such a fun read for me regardless:)

    And I have seen the Hugh Grant/ Drew Barrymore film you mentioned--but had NO idea it was loosely based on Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! Huh! Now I want to watch that movie again. You know I had a Wham! poster hanging in my room was like 10 or something;)

    1. Good point about the parents -- I was actually going to add that to my review this morning but ran out of time. Because the parents also weren't present, they came off as pretty evil and money-grubbing -- WAY worse than Sam in my opinion.

      Wikipedia says M and L was based on Wham! and/or Duran Duran. But as a huge Wham! fan, I like to think it's inspired by them. And Hugh's band was called Pop! or something like that….

  6. I totally agree with all your points on this review... I really was frustrated with the idea that her parents were trying to hide her and it made no sense at all to me how it would even have been possible in this day and age! LOL

    Great Review Jen!!

    I haven't seen Music & Lyrics but now I want to! LOL

  7. I just read your first paragraph because I'm starting this Friday and will have a review up this weekend or early next week. I'll have to come back and read the entirety, but it seems you did like it and so hopefully I will too. :) I haven't seen Music and Lyrics either. I'll have to look it up.

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

  8. Dirty Little Secret sounds like a great book. I'm glad I caught your review because the last one I read was more on the negative side-so now I think I have a more balanced idea if this one is right for me. I haven't read anything by Jennifer Echols yet, and was hoping to pick this one up. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I'm glad you liked this one! I love music in books ... it just makes me so happy! :) I haven't read anything by Echols yet, so this might be a good first read!

    Great review, Jen!

  10. I've been seeing a lot of mixed reviews on this one. I have it for review and need to get to it soon. I have lowered my expectations of it though, so hopefully I will enjoy it. It sounds like a lot of things will bother me about it, but if I try to brush them off it might be okay. Great review Jen!

  11. Okay this is making me want to read it more and more! I'm actually a bit nervous about Sam, but both you and Heather have fallen for him, so that's a big point in his favor. Love that his explores the Nashville music scene, which I find to be fascinating. I also love that Bailey plays the violin. I agree that the whole family drama aspect does sound strange and unrealistic, but it seems like the rest of the book makes it worth it. Oh I loved SUCH A RUSH too, though GOING TOO FAR is my favorite.

  12. Sam sounds great, and althought I haven't read Such a Rush, I need to.

  13. Loved reading this review Jen! I've been reading some not so positive reviews of this book and of Sam in particular, so it was really interesting to read a different perspective. I think the thing with Bailey's family will be problematic for me, I kind of want to throttle them for supporting one daughter and not the other, but I think we're obviously supposed to feel that way. So glad you enjoyed this one, fabulous review:)

  14. I really loved Dirty Little Secret, but it's still not my favorite of Echols. I wish she would've spent a little less time on the romantic angle and more on the family, but I'm still adding this to my ever growing Echols collection.

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

  15. Sam is definitely ruffling a lot of feathers, which I understand. I'm with you, I loved the Nashville setting, it was so immersive and I really felt like I was right in the thick of it. I loved Bailey and Sam, and I agree that my favorite part of their relationship was that Sam respected her talent. He may be manipulative, but above all, it's about the music for him, and I can respect that. I agree, I wish there had been more sisterly time in the book. Wonderful review!

  16. I totally agree with your review. I absolutely love Jennifer's books and while this one definitely wasn't one of the bests, I still really enjoyed it! The stuff with her having to be a secret really didn't make a whole love of sense, but it was necessary for what was going on in the story. And who wouldn't love Sam? I thought he was awesome! Great review :)

    -Jessica (Peace Love Books)

  17. I love Echols. Going Too Far is one of my favorite books ever but I've found a few of her recent spooks (while still very good) rely on far fetched contrivances to propel the plot. It seems to be the case here as well with hiding Bailey.

    I haven't read anything about Sam yet so I'm not sure where I would fall on that count lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  18. This sounds fairly interesting, but I'm a bit disappointed to hear that apparently the sisters' relationship, which sounds like it should be pivotal to the story, isn't really shown to the reader. I'm guessing it's more told, through description or flashbacks or whatever? I suppose that makes sense, but I can't see that being as vivid then. I appreciated the points you brought up about what you liked/disliked. I haven't read any Echols yet, but I'm thinking I probably won't start with this one.

  19. Ohhh! I love the comparison to Music & Lyrics. I was already planning on reading it because I love Jennifer Echols books, but the comparison to the movie makes me want to read it even more!

    I'm a little disappointed to hear about the lack of... detail to the family dynamic? I don't know how to phrase it, but I was really looking forward to reading about the big secret and the relationship between the sisters!

    Great review. (:

    - Tabitha @ Tabitha's Book Blog

  20. I can't wait to read this one (it will be my first Echols book) although I think I'll be disappointed that the sister relationship isn't delved into more. I LOVE sister stories!


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