I've always been searching for other good mystery series ever since Adrien English and I think I've finally hit pure gold. Dirty Secret delivers on the action, intrigue, hilarity, an absolutely charming and likable narrator, hot romance (and I cannot emphasize enough HOW hot), and emotional moments that will twist your heart out and possibly make you want to strangle a certain character with your bare hands...evil stepmothers.
Cole has become one of my favorite fictional narrators, alongside Victor Bayne. He is such an appealing character, at first glance a laid-back and funny ex-cop with a knack for getting shot at and getting himself into absurd situations. Underscoring that is a vulnerability lingering from the unexplained deaths of his lover and partner and his estrangement from his entire family besides his brother, who for all his support admits that a small part of him still hates Cole for his homosexuality. It was painful to see how he still held out hope for his stepmother only to have that cruelly ripped away with every cold and hate-filled word thrown at him, words that no son should ever hear from a mother.
Rhys handled the emotional and family aspect in this book very realistically and powerfully and that's what made this book even better than the first one for me.
Cole's predicament with his parents is obviously a foreshadow of the inner struggle and sacrifices that Jae will have to undertake with his own unyielding family. Coming from a strict Asian family myself, I can relate too well to Jae's fear of certain rejection and struggle to balance his own desires with his ingrained sense of responsibility and familial expectations. The tension belying Cole and Jae's relationship over Jae's family is something I will look forward to watching unfold as the series progresses.
Like the first book, the mystery and multiple murders kept me guessing right until the end as to who the perpetrator was. And much like the first book, I felt that the final reveal was slightly disappointing because I had trouble understanding how the motive of the murderer led to so many deaths. Insanity seems to characterize both Grace from Dirty Kiss and Lee in this one and I guess I was expecting something different than just uncontrollable jealousy . But in the end, it wasn't enough to detract my overall enjoyment and love of this sequel, hence the 5 stars. I loved all of the fully-fleshed out side characters, from the alluring Scarlet (I loved finally being able to see more of Scarlet's mysterious and powerful lover, and I only hope there will be more character interactions with him) to wise-crack and loyal Bobby. Cole and Jae have become a favorite couple and I just can't wait to see what's next in store for them.