Dirty Promises, by Karina Halle

dirty promises 2

Grade: A

Doing it at: 8%

Catnip: Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Marriage on the Rocks, Revenge, Mexican Drug Cartels, Hate To Love You, He’s Basically A Criminal, Dangerous Criminal Villain, A Lot Of Blood, Adultery

Shame Scale: I can’t even rate this.

Fantasy Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, young Penelope Cruise

Book Description:

Dirty Promises is the final book in The Dirty Angels Trilogy. While the first two books can be read as standalones, Dirty Promises can not. Reading Dirty Angels and Dirty Deeds beforehand is HIGHLY recommended.

Also, people sensitive to violence and immoral characters who make questionable decisions should refrain from reading this book. The real cartel life is not pretty, not easy and certainly NOT romantic and that is more than reflected in Dirty Promises.

Blood. Sex. Revenge.
It ain’t easy being king.
Drug lord Javier Bernal has sliced and diced his way to the top of the Mexican drug trade, presiding over the country’s largest cartel. But his rise to power comes at a brutal price: the death of his sister, Alana. Devastated and wracked with guilt, he turns away from his new wife, Luisa, forcing their marriage into a steady decline. But it isn’t until she’s pushed into the waiting arms of Esteban Mendoza, his right-hand man, that Javier realizes everything he’s lost.
And it isn’t until he learns the truth about Alana, that he realizes everything there is to gain.
Blood will spill.
Cities will burn.
Heads will roll.
Because Javier will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
And what he wants is raw, ruthless revenge.
The most dangerous man is the one with nothing left to lose.


Mary: We were having an important Blog Meeting.

drunk alec

drunk amy

drunk lucy

Cleone: We are a PROFESSIONAL blog, so of course our meetings have cocktails! And we were drinking Old Fashioned’s, like Don Draper.

M: We were watching Too Wong Foo and discussing Karina Halle’s upcoming release, Dirty Promises (the sequel to Dirty Angels and Dirty Deeds), and how we needed to get our hands on a copy of the ARC at any cost. So that’s when we decided to drunk message one of our very favorite authors. Cleone wrote a very appropriate and polite request for an ARC. But then I left the room, and she went rogue and closed it with:

 P.S. The original draft of this message was, “Whose dick do we have to suck to get an ARC?”

C: I can’t be trusted, but I’m funny, right? Right!

M: Karina Halle never responded, which, duh, means our hilarious message went to her spam folder, and not that she decided to ignore our way-too-informal-for-a-stranger, totally tasteless email. Please don’t try and convince us otherwise, we live in this place called Denial with #noregrets.

C: It’s pretty here, all of our bad decision bar hook-ups look like Tom Hardy in Denial.

M: So we decided to go with our backup plan, which was entering every single motherfucking contest for a copy that we could find. AND WE GOT IT (No dick-sucking required). It was even better than the time we won a Jay Crownover giveaway and she sent us these ridiculous mugs (that I’m still hiding in the back of the cupboard and only using on weekdays when my husband is traveling #Bookshame):

mug

M: This was a good book for a buddy read. It gets really tough for like, well, only the first 90%?  Luckily we were able to coach and cheerlead each other through the whole book hard parts, like we like to do.

C: Mary finished this one almost a full day ahead of me, and I was really glad that she had gone first because I needed her wisdom and comfort:

text me

M: We started out with a pretty excited, cavalier attitude. All, “Yay! Finally!!!!” and, “We’ve got this, we’re pros at hard books. We read GREY, lol.” Then Javier starts talking about this fun erotic asphyxiation he was doing earlier in the day, choking Random Hooker with some barbed wire, and then decapitating her with it while she was coming. And we started nervous laughing.

Like, remember that moment in Mad Men when the secretary is riding the mower around the office party and she runs over that guy’s foot? This was like that. So shocking and awful that you burst out laughing and OH MY GOD WHY AM I LAUGHING?

mad men blood

(I still can’t look at this gif without grimace laughing)

C: Yes! It is exactly secretary on a tractor level of shock, and then it surpasses that. Joan Holloway would have known how to handle this, but we were pretty shaken up.

lawnmower

M: It doesn’t get better after that for a long time. It gets much, much worse. There’s a really sweet proposal flashback, but other than that it’s real tough, and Pro Tip: if it’s getting late and you’re looking for a happy place to stop reading for the night, stop right there at the flashback. Otherwise you’re in for a long night.

C: There’s another happy spot at around 43%, you could also stop there. We should add: Good Place To Stop For The Night, to our reviews! It’ll be like the Run Pee app, only for romance novels.

M: This book has trigger warnings for rape and adultery, and please don’t take them lightly. It’s one of the darkest, most difficult books we’ve read. Rape is rape, and I’m not trying to minimize or quantify it, but if you’re sensitive to these things, be aware that this isn’t like, Gone With The Wind rape, it’s going to feel more like I Spit On Your Grave, or that french film Irréversible: brutal, shocking, and absolutely heart wrenching.

Although I will add, that this series has a darkness to it already, so while there is a lot of brutality, its sort of just something you accept as the scenery for the story if that makes any sense? For me personally, the difficulty in reading this was mostly in how much my heart just ached for these characters.

That being said, don’t just jump into this series with Dirty Promises. If you’ve read Dirty Angels and Dirty Deeds, and you liked them, you know what you’re getting into, and you can probably handle this book. And if you didn’t read those books – READ THEM, THEY’RE GREAT! But this book is one you need to work up to. I don’t think you’d want to go into their story blind, without already feeling invested in the main characters. This isn’t a falling in love story, it’s what happens to them afterwards, when faced with the types of normal challenges every relationship faces as it matures. LOL j/k! Their challenges are more in line with the big sins: wrath, greed, pride, lust, envy…

C: Paperback Purist was expressing interest in Dirty Promises after hearing Mary and I kevelling over it, and I was all “well really you should start with Sins and Needles.” And I stick with that, but you need to have at least read Dirty Angels. That will:

  1. Introduce you to the characters so you know the back story.
  2. Make you fall in love with Javier
  3. Give you a gauge of what you can stomach RE: violence

M: You know that story about the frog and the boiling water? It’s like that. Read the first books, sit in the water, let it warm up gently. Don’t take the plunge into Dirty Promises or you’re going to be like, #WhatTheShit.

If you haven’t read Dirty Angels and/or Dirty Deeds (or you like to go into all books totally blind), take a second to look at this hot guy, then scroll down really fast and don’t stop till you see him again (in other words, spoiler alert):

Gael 1

C: Like Mary said for us the violence was shocking, but it was really our hearts that were hurting reading Dirty Promises. It’s been about a year and half in story time since Dirty Angels. Javier’s sister has been murdered and he’s grieving hard. Almost all of his sisters have been brutally murdered, and it’s all been because of him, because of his climb up the cartel ladder. In his grief he’s pushed Luisa away. She was his queen, and now he can barely look at her. Instead of making love to his wife, he’s creating snuff theater with a string of whores. In her sadness Luisa has turned to wine and is looking for compassion anywhere she can find it, even if that means turning to Javier’s right-hand-man, Este. Yes, its very violent and dark as dark can be, but its also gut-wrenchingly sad. Luisa and Javier were breaking my heart six ways from Sunday.

M: The heartbreak was the most difficult part of this book. I swear my chest just ached for Javier and Luisa. You just want to shake them and be like, figure your shit out! Stop hurting each other. Ugh. They made me so sad, you guys.

I had failed as a husband because of my own damn grief. And I failed at grief because I hated her so. And I hated her so because I loved her more than anything. And that’s how everything was going to end. In a big fucking mess. Because we were terrible people who did terrible things to each other. We were slaves to hate because hate was strong, and we sacrificed love to fuel it.

C: Este is the third player in our drama and he is the woooooOOOOOOOoooorst.

M: Este reminds me so much of Diego in Blow, and this scene in particular.

C: When we met him in Dirty Angels he seemed annoying, but harmless, like a floppy eared, over eager puppy. But not a real threat. But as we learned in Dirty Deeds, he’s now looking to take over Javier’s cartel, spurred on by jealousy and some very real sociopathic tendencies. Every moment spent inside Este’s point of view is cringe worthy, his inner monologue is not a comfortable place to be. I mean you have to be pretty dastardly to make the guy who is cheating on his wife and making amputees look like the good guy, hey.

M: (HO!)

C: Dirty Promises is a cinematic book, there’s a lot of action, it’s plot heavy and emotional and has some killer dialog. I think if you can sit through a Tarantino film (say Kill Bill 1 & 2) with minimal flinching, then Dirty Promises is a book you’ll love.

M: Tarantino is a very good comparison: violence and murderous antihero’s, plus romance and humor. C and I had this text exchange pretty early on in the story:

dp 1

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C: Even when things are very heavy Halle finds ways to make us laugh, Javi in particular has a sharp dry wit and brings levity amidst the bloodshed and heart break:

I nodded, trying to keep focus, and yanked the knife back out, wiping the brain and blood on my pants. They weren’t my pants anyways.

………………

“He’s there.” Evaristo said that morning, handing me a cup of instant coffee. It wasn’t much better than gas station runoff, but it would have to do. I never understood why roughing it had to be “rough.” Even a French press and some good local beans would go a long way out here.

C: I mean sure he’s plotting to find his enemy and piss in his wounds, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a decent cup of joe!

M: And we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t point out that this book still has a bunch of really hot doing it, like we’ve come to expect in a Karina Halle book. There’s one part in particular that reminded us SO MUCH of Sons of Anarchy, and if you’ve watched that and read this, you have to know what I’m taking about and you should send me an email all, “OH MY GOD That was so hot, I shouldn’t be as into that as I am!”

Gael 2

M: This book was spectacular. I’m emphatically recommending it to anyone who’s into the dark stuff. I’m maybe not recommending it to say, diehard Lisa Kleypas fans or my mother in law.

C: We don’t want to spoil this for anyone, but we want to stress that it is worth the read. There is redemption, and an ending that we couldn’t have imagined any better ourselves. I cried at the end (partly of relief cause we made it through!), and it takes a lot to make this book-jaded girl cry.

Check it out:

AmazoniBooks • Kobo

4 thoughts on “Dirty Promises, by Karina Halle

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