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Second Chance Book Club: The Mister, Chapter Two or, “Oh, now I know why I was enjoying this so much.”

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I was devouring this book. Devouring it. I was astonished at how much better the plot of this book was, how much she’d grown as a writer.

And then commenter Sushi pointed out that it’s Poldark.

No. Really.

E.L. James just rewrote Poldark.

  • Maxim is the only male relative of the Earl of Trevethick. Ross is the only male relative of the Master of Trenwith.
  • The Earldom includes an estate in Cornwall. Trenwith includes ownership of an estate in Cornwall.
  • Maxim is captivated by his young housekeeper who has escaped an abusive past. Ross is captivated by his young housekeeper who has escaped an abusive past.
  • Maxim’s captivating young housekeeper has an uncanny talent at the piano. Ross’s captivating young housekeeper has an uncanny talent for singing.
  • Maxim’s brother and closest male relative married Maxim’s first love and childhood best friend. Ross’s cousin and closest male relative married Ross’s first love and childhood best friend.
  • Maxim stands to inherit the Earldom until Caroline reveals she’s pregnant with her late husband’s heir (spoiler alert). Ross stands to inherit Trenwith until Elizabeth produces an heir before her husband dies.

And for extra fuckery? Ross Poldark owns mines in Cornwall. Trevethick is the real-life name of a famous Cornish mining engineer.

I shit you not. She did it again. She took someone else’s work and she did it again.

Now, lest you go, “Oh, well, it’s like when people remake Jane Austen novels,” Winston Graham’s final Poldark novel came out in 2002. We’re not talking, oh, this is so old and out of copyright and nobody alive even owns it anymore. This is quite literally Fifty Shades of Twilight all over again. And the poor dude can’t fight her because he’s dead.

So, yesterday we didn’t see much of the heroine aside from her “Go Dog Go!” impersonation. Now, she opens chapter two.

In third person, present tense.

I don’t have an issue with tense hopping. I really do not. But third person present is so clunky. Not just from my own personal position where I could never write in it. So many readers hate first person present tense, but third person present is nearly unthinkable. It would take a writer of immense technical skill to pull it off and…E.L. James isn’t exactly lauded for her grasp of flowing prose. No matter how gripping this story is, the third person POV comes off as omniscient narration:

In spite of the weather, she’s feeling a sense of achievement because she’s survived the cramped and crowded train journey without her usual anxiety. She’s beginning to understand that this is what London is like.

It’s also frustrating because we know from the back cover copy that she has a Big Secret, and that you can’t keep a Big Secret when you’re inside someone’s head in first person. So, right off the bat it feels like a choice made as a lazy cop-out.

Alessia, our heroine, is on her way to her cleaning job, a big, fancy apartment she’s taken over from her coworker, Krystyna. And what’s a morning commute without some subtle misogyny and a confusing slip into past perfect, express route, no local?

That morning Alessia had been lucky enough to find a seat on the train, but the woman beside her had spent much of the journey shrieking into her phone about her unsuccessful date the night before. Alessia had ignored her and read the free newspaper to improve her English, but she’d wished she could listen to music through headphones and not this woman’s loud whining.

What’s frustrating about this is that it shows how much smoother and more immersive Alessia’s POV could be if it were just written in past tense. Plus, Alessia focuses on her past a lot; she’s an immigrant far from home, without her family. Writing her in past tense while writing Maxim in first person present tense due to his self-centered lifestyle and unchecked id would have been a brilliant move. This is a real missed opportunity.

Oh, and the part where if another woman is in a scene with the heroine, she must be obnoxious. That could have been changed, as well.

Alessia also loves to play the piano, and she has synesthesia, which is a very cool character detail. She sees music in colors. She also hasn’t played in a long time, so she’s psyched that there’s a piano in Maxim’s apartment.

For a few hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, this wonderful place with its large airy rooms, dark wooden floors, and baby grand piano is all hers.

I just said yesterday that I wasn’t going to be happy if dailies didn’t come every day and now I choose to interpret this line as a personal attack.

When Alessia goes into the apartment, she’s afraid someone might be home (he is), and, like José’s epic “Dios Mio!” before, she thinks:

Mirë.

No. “Good.” Think in English.

So, Alessia is Albanian. Prepare for numerous exclamations in Albanian. Which I don’t remember from the widely-published excerpt. Were they…not wanting people to know she was an immigrant? That’s kind of…

Looking at Maxim through Alessia’s eyes before she’s met him, she thinks he’s a slob. She dresses for cleaning in a housecoat and blue headscarf–this detail will be important later. Then, the scene from the famous excerpt happens:

He’s here.

The man!

Fast asleep facedown and sprawled naked across the large bed. She stands, shocked and fascinated at once, her feet rooted to the wooden floor as she stares. He’s stretched across the length of the bed, tangled in his duvet but naked…very naked.

How, pray, can one be “a little” naked?

But I deconstructed this section on Twitter already. And yes, they did cut all the Albanian out of the first public excerpt. I find that extremely sketchy.

His back is sun-kissed with a tan that fades as his hips narrow to dimples and to a pale, taut backside.

Backside.

He’s naked!

Lakuriq!

Zot!

Lakuriq, by the way, is Albanian for nude.

I also just learned that Zot is Albanian for God, and that my favorite candy is no shit called “Gods!” in Albanian.

So, he kind of wakes up but then he goes back to sleep and she runs off to do laundry and hide until he hopefully leaves or she can sneak out without interacting with him. She’s not so much overcome with lust for his gorgeous “backside” as she continues to call it (backside is gonna become the “down there” of this book. I can feel it) as she is disappointed that she won’t get a chance to play the piano.

Okay, fine, she also can’t help but think of this guy, the first naked man she’s ever seen. But that leads to other thoughts, about another guy she’s afraid of. So, Alessia isn’t just afraid of getting fired. It’s directly stated that she’s uneasy around men, too, and he’s her only male client.

He does eventually leave without actually seeing her, so he thinks she’s Krystyna. There’s a mention of finding a “customary” condom in the pocket of his jeans, and the staggering number of condoms she finds in his wastebasket:

She tries to avoid looking at the used condoms as she dumps the contents into a black plastic trash bag. It was a shock the first time she did this, and it’s still a shock now. How can one man use so many?

How…how many condoms are we talking here? His “daily” comes every other day to ruin my life. If he brings home a woman every night, how many condoms is he running through? They must be switching out V to A, if you catch my drift. I mean, obviously you’re going to switch out A to V, but I bet he’s doing the reverse, as well.

Hey, look. A hero who actually uses condoms.

Alessia moves through the rest of the apartment, cleaning, dusting, and polishing, but avoiding the one room she’s not allowed to enter. Fleetingly, she wonders what’s behind the closed door,

A gif of Ana Steele from the 50 Shades movie saying, "Like your X-box and stuff?'

Yes. He is kinky. I haven’t gotten to the part where that’s his sex room yet, but at least she doesn’t have to clean it or, presumably, the butt plugs. I mean, I only guess that he’s got a sex room based on the fact that he ties someone up later.

Once her cleaning is done, Alessia sits down and plays the piano for the first time since she went on the run or whatever, and it’s a good moment for her. And then:

Gently, she pushes down the keys, sounding an E-minor chord. The sound rings clear and strong, a bold and verdant green, the color of the Mister’s eyes, and Alessia’s heart fills with hope.

So, now we know the title of the book comes from Alessia’s label for Maxim. And they said the name of the thing in the thing!

Even though Alessia is the heroine of the book, that’s all the time she gets for now. We cut to Maxim walking up to his brother’s house, which he now owns and Caroline lives in. It, too, overlooks the Thames.

A better title for this book would have been, The Reflection from the Thames. It would have sounded like. Suspensefulish.

The butler greets Maxim with a “Lord Trevethick,” and asks to speak to Caroline. And she’s upstairs, gazing out a window crying. Oh, and she’s gazing out at the Thames, which is again mentioned as being viewable from the house.

Caroline wants to know whey he hasn’t called her, and even though he doesn’t tell her, she knows he’s been with other women. She calls him a whore and apparently has a whole catalog of insults about his sexual pursuits that she uses a lot. He notes that she still slept with him, though.

Besides being pissed off that Maxim has too much sex with people who aren’t her, Caroline wants to know if it’s true that her husband left her penniless. When she finds out that the will named Maxim sole heir, she’s super upset.

“I loved him,” she says, her voice small and quiet, like a child’s.

“I know. We both did.” Though I know she also loved Kit’s title and his wealth.

Okay. Here is where I’m starting to get nervous. Ever since the text messages, I’ve thought maybe Caroline was being set up to be TEH EVOL BLOND, and with Maxim thinking stuff like this, I’m getting more and more concerned that James is going to fall back on old patterns.

Caroline is like, you shan’t cast me out into the streets! You mustn’t! Okay, not really, but she does ask if he’s going to evict her from the house. I’m still not 100% sure this isn’t a Regency romance rewritten as a contemporary romantic suspense or whatever this genre is.

Anyway, at one point in the Caroline scene, Maxim remembers seeing Alessia that morning. But he doesn’t think it’s Alessia. He, no shit, no foolin’, thinks he saw the Virgin Mary:

[…] recalling a fragment from a dream I had last night–or was it this morning? A young woman, an angel? Possibly the Virgin Mary or a nun in blue standing my bedroom doorway watching over me as I slept?

Then, Caroline just up and announces that she might be pregnant.

“Kit. Not you. You’re too bloody careful.”

Also, they only just fucked a few days before. She wouldn’t even know by then. So, the baby has to be Kit’s. But it’s weird that Caroline says he’s careful like it’s a bad thing. Was she wanting to get knocked up by him or something? And if he’s constantly having tons of near-anonymous sex, why would she think being careful was negative?

But what does this pregnancy mean? Kit might indeed have an heir to the title of Earl. And he doesn’t know how to feel about that, because now that he’s got the title, he kind of wants to keep it.

My impression so far: I’m still reading it. And I’m still invested in the story. It’s interesting and it hooks you right away. I’m just concerned about how quickly the small incidences of misogyny are starting to snowball, the way they did in Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’m concerned about the way Caroline’s character is evolving. Still, while the writing is bad and some stuff is eye-roll worthy, it’s not a bad book.

Note on the above: Now that Sush pointed out that this is a Poldark rip off? Fuck this book, let’s shred it to pieces.

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78 Comments

  1. Cris
    Cris

    What do you say to people who accuse you of being jealous of her success? I have friends who I have encouraged to read your “JHBC” blogs and a couple of them came back to me saying “looks like she just enjoys hating on someone famous”. How do you answer that?

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Gwen
      Gwen

      Pull up her author-page and show them that Jenny is, herself, a bona-fide published author. She also got quoted in Folding Ideas’ 50 Shades review series, which also points out the various plot holes, plot conveniences, general bullhonkey…

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
    • Sadie Coffey
      Sadie Coffey

      It’s called Jealous Hater Book Club precisely because she’s gotten that accusation before.

      Shitty writing is shitty writing, regardless of how famous someone is.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Well, if they were talking about the Handbook For Mortals recaps, I would ask them by what metric they consider Lani Sarem famous.

      But no, this is an allegation I get a lot. And I feel like the logical answer is, if I truly jealous of the success of everyone more famous than me…how would I ever enjoy anything? There are tons of writers way more successful than I am. I’m super excited about Good Omens coming out on Amazon because I love Good Omens and I want more people to know about it so we can share the love. If I hated Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman for being more successful than me, I’d have missed out. I would have never read or watched Game of Thrones or Outlander or The Lord of The Rings or Bridget Jones’s Diary or Shrill. But I have read, watched, and enjoyed those things because they were good. They were well-written, not plagiarized, and while they have various degrees of problematic stuff, there are other qualities to them that make them worthwhile to me as a consumer.

      The reason I don’t like the books picked for Jealous Haters Book Club is because…they’re bad books. They would have been bad if they were written by people who never got famous, or if nobody had ever published them. I just wouldn’t know about them to blog about them.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
      • Anon
        Anon

        @Jenny — not to mention you’re a fan of Twilight and, um, until you hate on JK Rowling’s writing, that’s just never going to be valid criticism of you because, hello! Do people think James is anywhere near that category of famous or successful? Aside from MAYBE GRRM, I’m not sure she isn’t the most successful writer ever.

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
    • El
      El

      why are you telling on yourself though? ignoring a ‘hater’ is literally free, yet you confirmed someone you dislike was critiquing something you enjoy and spent time to write the above?

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
      • Sigyn
        Sigyn

        As a reader of her blog, I find it cathartic to indulge in her responses to bad writing, whether or not she personally dislikes the author. I’m glad she does what she does the way she does it.

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
    • This often turns sexist, too. Women can’t have legitimate criticisms or insights. Gosh, no. We’re “just jealous” of other women who are successful.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
  2. Sadie Coffey
    Sadie Coffey

    BURN IT TO THE GROUND. I’ll bring matches. And marshmallows.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Juliana Coons
      Juliana Coons

      Yes, yes! Jenny, shred it! I can’t wait!

      April 18, 2019
      |Reply
  3. Ishi
    Ishi

    I didn’t find your 50SoG recaps until you were halfway through Freed, so I am overwhelmingly excited to see a real-time destruction of this latest plagiarization.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  4. Sushi
    Sushi

    Ahh, sorry if I soured it for you, but once I saw the similarities between the two, I couldn’t unsee it. And even then, I didn’t know about the baby and the Cornish estate and the mines, so that’s all on E.L. But I am looking forward now to playing “spot the difference” when I read your recaps because I’ve read all the Poldark books and deeply enjoyed them.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • El
      El

      I appreciate you pointing out the similarities because I’m entirely ignorant of Poldark as a series (books or TV) and because James needs to be called out on her nonsense.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
    • Casey
      Casey

      Honestly, I just requested the first book from the library because I was getting caught up in this plot and would like to read it from a better author. (There’s a little bit of me that’s concerned that the first one was written in like 1940-something, because I tend to enjoy older books in a “this is good but feels like homework” kinda way and am not sure I’m in the mood for that right now, but that’s also just me being vaguely . . . ageist? is that possible to be towards books?) Anyway, glad to see other people getting into them; it’s a nice vote of confidence. 🙂

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
      • Anon
        Anon

        Some older books are rough to get through. A lot of the classics leave me wondering WHY.

        But some are easier reads than others, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it. I haven’t read them, so I can’t offer any specific thoughts. I have found that books from the ’40s on tend to be easier reads than anything written before 1900.

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
      • Sushi
        Sushi

        I started reading them because the TV show was on hiatus and I wanted to know what happened next… and then I couldn’t stop reading them. They do have their problematic moments (the bit where Ross visits Elizabeth when he finds out she’s going to marry his arch-nemesis is VERY rapey, sorry to say) but tbh, in a historical romance, I would’ve been surprised if there hadn’t been anything dodgy, and overall, I did very much enjoy them.

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
        • whimbrel
          whimbrel

          Tbqh that is the only scene I recall from the BBC costume drama version. I was far too young to be watching it, I’m sure (definitely in the older single digits), but it made a vivid impression on me.

          (I’m also pretty sure it’s the reason I love costume dramas.)

          April 17, 2019
          |Reply
  5. Ashley Shadowheart
    Ashley Shadowheart

    -goes and fetches the popcorn-

    Dis gonna be goooood.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  6. Erin
    Erin

    Yesterday you had me so scared! I was also kinda thinking maybe I should pick up a copy of this book if it’s better than 50 shades. Now, I’m very glad I opted to see what you said about it a couple of chapters in before doing so. I finished *MAYBE* a third of 50 shades before I DNF it. Instead, I’ll continue to devour Beverly Jenkins books and leave you to EL James.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  7. Anon
    Anon

    “E.L. James just rewrote Poldark.”

    Will someone PLEASE just sue her and her publisher already? Enough. He may be dead, but someone owns the rights.

    As for “remakes,” every one I know of at least is honest about it. The Hours is a remake of Mrs Dalloway, but he doesn’t even sort of pretend otherwise. Same with Bridget Jones’s Diary and Pride and Prejudice. Neither of them modernized a tale and then pretended it was entirely original work. Copyright issues aside, if she AT LEAST gave a nod to the source material, it wouldn’t be quite as offensive.

    I’m pretty sire this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a novel written from third-person present. It’s so awkward. I’m one who hates first-person present. As far as I can remember, I only ever read one book where I thought it worked and that was when I realized the writer must just be that good because I never like that POV.

    “Were they…not wanting people to know she was an immigrant?”

    Considering what’s going on over there right now, that’s probably the case.

    If she’s never seen him awake, how does she know what color his eyes are? I guess photos, but it’s often tough to tell in photos.

    Caroline went to boarding school with aristocracy, but she needed her husband’s money? Maybe this gets explained later, but … And she would presumably have attended a prestigious university and have a degree and a way to make her own money rather than be “cast out to the street.”

    Is Maxim Catholic? They exist in the UK, but it’s less likely than that he would be Anglican. Maybe James is Catholic.

    Anyway, of course the misogyny is there and going to get worse. She hates women and especially EVIL BLONDES.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Sushi
      Sushi

      If something about Caroline doesn’t make sense, just remember she’s not actually an original character, she’s Elizabeth from Poldark (who I might add, was blonde in the books), a character set in a period when women had very few rights. So Caroline needs her husband’s money and can’t just go and get a job and make her own money because she’s really Elizabeth, who needed her husband’s money and couldn’t go and just get a job because she was an upper-class lady in the late 1700’s and that wouldn’t have been Proper. (also she had an infant and aging parents to support, but that’s doesn’t seem to be the case here, possibly because that would make Caroline too likeable.)

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
      • Anon
        Anon

        *sigh*

        Another reason to hate James. When other authors have modernized and retold old stories, they at least made details fit the new time period, FPS. How is such a stupid woman so rich???

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
      • And yet this money-grubbing weakling is ALSO Maxim-Ross’s best friend? As usual, Eel’s “friendships” make as much sense as her views of women.

        April 17, 2019
        |Reply
  8. Susan Reader
    Susan Reader

    For extra bonus points, is she ripping off Poldark-the-books or Poldark-the-TV series(es)?

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Elyssa
      Elyssa

      Ooooooooooooh I am interested to see how that plays out.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
  9. 3rd person present tense just has me imagining Johnathan Van Ness reading the narration haha

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Anna Claire
      Anna Claire

      That would make things so much better honestly!

      April 17, 2019
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    • Ren Benton
      Ren Benton

      I was hearing Werner Herzog as I read the excerpts, documenting the curious rituals of the rare, wild Albanian housekeeper.

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
  10. Tami
    Tami

    All the references to gazing at the Thames immediately reminded me of the episode of American Dad! where they do the stage play and the line “Damn this heat!” is repeated throughout, and everyone wipes an arm across their brow. I think we should develop some kind of physical motion to go with every line referencing the Thames — hey, how about a finger down the throat? Because that pairs well with anything by this author (“backside” is the new “down there” — for that, I’m giving her such a ZOTS!).

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  11. Small jar of fireflies
    Small jar of fireflies

    If they’re that similar, wht not switch it around and read Poldark as the primary, with a couple paragraphs of the matching events from The Mister at the end? I’m also curious if the plagiarism is beat-for-beat in the chapter structure, or just a kind of retelling. Inspiration vs remodeling on the bones, as it were.

    At least you’ll have more fun. And the “any publicity is good” factor will be diminished a bit.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  12. Casey
    Casey

    I actually have a friend who almost exclusively writes in third-person present, to the point where I don’t see it as particularly jarring anymore — not as much as first-person POV, in any case. (But then again, she’s exceptionally talented and James is not, so that’s probably tilting the scales quite a bit.) It actually works fantastically for smut — adds an immediacy and urgency, removes a layer of detachment. I assume other people like first-person for that very reason, but since I can’t get into that the third-present actually works quite well.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Hek
      Hek

      Uh, yes, I was going to point out that to me, third-person present feels quite natural for action scenes, which I suppose technically applies to smut too. 😉 Third-person present is a good way to show that things are happening NOW and make it more suspenseful, though it doesn’t work in every style, as Jenny pointed out.

      April 18, 2019
      |Reply
  13. Mike
    Mike

    So my thoughts on the last chapter were that it might be worth reading if it was written by a competent writer. I guess I should look into Poldark…

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  14. Khristle
    Khristle

    Knew she couldn’t get away with not ripping something off.

    Still really high key worried that there’s crossover potential for 50 Shades. The last thing we need is a 50 Shades extended universe where Chedward is Maxxie’s terrifying, yet adorable, troubled cousin in America.

    April 17, 2019
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  15. Lee Weatherbee
    Lee Weatherbee

    Thank you! So so so much!

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  16. J
    J

    I can shed some light on the immigrant stuff. I’m from the UK and there’s a really nasty anti-immigrant climate here at the moment, and it’s particularly strong against Eastern Europeans. I did an internship at a publishing house a few years ago and was explicitly asked to take the word immigrant out of some cover copy I wrote so I’m pretty sure the direction to remove the Albanian must’ve come from her publisher.

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  17. Morgan H.
    Morgan H.

    I’ve noticed that third person present is far more common in fanfiction, of all genres.

    (Fun fact, the popularity of reader/character fic has increased the popularity of second person. Not just second person, but SECOND PERSON PAST OMNISCIENT. I know it’s cool and empowering or whatever to enjoy reader fic but even if I could get past the boring heteronormitivity in that genre [I can’t], I would struggle with the screwy tenses and POV.)

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Sigyn
      Sigyn

      Yikes :/ I can barely tolerate second person present (and I only do because I’m addicted to visual novel games like Episode and Chapters).

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
    • Fluffy
      Fluffy

      Where are you finding fanfic with boring heteronormativity? Try archive of our own if you are looking for other fic, it’s very searchable!

      April 18, 2019
      |Reply
      • ShifterCat
        ShifterCat

        I think she meant the specific fanfic genre of “reader/character” romance. It always seems to have the fictional character be male, and presumes the reader is female.

        April 27, 2019
        |Reply
  18. L
    L

    Ok, I’m sorry but the moment you said “omnipresent narrator” I started reading the third person part in Morgan Freeman’s voice and now I can’t stop, help

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
  19. Kyerin
    Kyerin

    I’m so confused. Is this her first time cleaning his house? Because that would explain why it’s her first time playing his piano, and why he assumes she is Krystyna. But then it can’t be, because it says she cleans the house ‘Monday, Wednesday, Friday’ which in the weird present tense implies it’s ongoing, and also how would she know about the piano, or the regular condom use?

    And either way, how on earth does she know what colour his eyes are if they’ve never interacted beyond her looking at his naked butt?

    April 17, 2019
    |Reply
    • Kyerin
      Kyerin

      Also, a comment I meant to make yesterday before I got distracted by the Trevelyan thing – there is absolutely no way that will would hold up in court. British law technically allows you to exclude your spouse from your will, but they also have a right to be ‘adequately provided for’, and this super rich dude has definitely not done that for his wife, for no reason that we know of.

      The title and the wealth/property are totally separate, so while there might be some aristocracy nonsense about who gets to be Earl, that doesn’t explain why Caroline gets nothing. Also pretty sure you can’t pass a title to a foetus, though I’ll admit my knowledge on this is limited!

      April 17, 2019
      |Reply
      • Margaret
        Margaret

        Caroline would get nothing if the estate was entailed, and the original settlor or testator stated the property was required to go, e.g. to “the male heirs of his body” along with the title. But Kit would have been able to bequeath his personal wealth so his widow should not have been penniless. And now I damn well want to know more about these books.

        April 17, 2019
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        • Kyerin
          Kyerin

          If it was a an old title, yes, but modern law would certainly allow it to be challenged. I looked this up to see how different it was to Ireland (where I’m from). It’s actually meaner than I would have expected in the UK – in Ireland legal precedent sets the amount a spouse should receive at two thirds.

          April 18, 2019
          |Reply
      • Contemporary titles and historical titles differ, but some titles can be passed on even today, and the mother of the heir would possibly have a title — certainly a stipend — of some sort.

        If James attempted to tackle the unborn child v. brother of the deceased’s ability to inherit the title, that might be interesting. I’m guessing that once the child was born and DNA tested, the title would go to it, but Maxim-Ross would have it until then…?

        I’ve probably now just put more thought into this than Eel.

        April 17, 2019
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        • Xebi
          Xebi

          That jarred with me as well. At the time of Kit’s death, which would be the defining factor, he had no heirs. It would make an interesting legal case, but I wouldn’t automatically assume that Maxim would have to give up the title he’d rightfully (at the time) inherited.

          April 18, 2019
          |Reply
          • Anon
            Anon

            I don’t know as much about how it works now, but in the past, definitely an unborn child could inherit the title. Kit didn’t leave no heirs. He left one that just hasn’t been born yet. British laws and inheritance may have changed, but that was definitely how it worked in the past. If a king died, his wife had to go into seclusion for a certain amount of time to determine if she was pregnant. If they had no previous children and she was pregnant (specifically with a boy in most cases), the baby would be the next king.

            April 18, 2019
          • Caroline (a nice one who doesn't shag at funerals)
            Caroline (a nice one who doesn't shag at funerals)

            Historically (which I guess is valid here, given the basis of the story) a title was held open for a few months to see if the dead guy’s widow was pregnant. If she did turn up pregnant, they would wait to see if she had a (living) son, because that kid would then get the title. I don’t know 100% for sure about today, but AFAIK a title can only be inherited based on the rules spelled out in the patent granting it originally…which are often centuries old and generally exclude all females.

            Also, because they didn’t have pregnancy tests or know much about gestation, they waited like ten months for the widow to produce a child, just to be sure.

            Only after they were sure the widow wasn’t pregnant, or she had a daughter, or I guess a stillbirth, would they grant the title to the dead guy’s little brother. Needless to say, there are *still* strict Rules about this stuff.

            Also, yeah, pretty sure a modern court would award the widow a nice chunk of change. HISTORICAL courts would have.

            April 18, 2019
          • Xebi
            Xebi

            [Out of nesting] thanks for the interesting info guys, I didn’t know all that! But my comment was based on a title being taken away from someone who’s already inherited it, not waiting to see if it should be given. It doesn’t look like they did wait to see if Caroline was pregnant. If he’s already officially received the title can they just take it away again? I’m guessing they can’t, not just like that, otherwise they wouldn’t have ever had that waiting period to see if the widow was pregnant.

            April 18, 2019
  20. Jenny (But not Jenny Trout)
    Jenny (But not Jenny Trout)

    What a fucking bitch! Not Caroline – EL. Ughhhh. I can’t even. Of course she stole it from someone else. I was surprised Jenny was so engrossed and I was considering borrowing the book from the library, but nope. The tense thing only bothers me when I notice it and if the writing is good, I won’t. One of my favorite books is third person present tense and I’d read it at least three times before I realized it. Burn it to the ground. I’m bringing hot chocolate. 🙂

    This is way I stick to writing Fanfic – I can write what I want and acknowledge the original material as applicable.

    Now I want to watch/ read Poldark because Ot sounds interesting and I’d rather support the original.

    April 17, 2019
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  21. Lucy
    Lucy

    Reviews are starting to come in and are ripping it apart, I think one said it’s worse than 50 Shades, which sounds like a feat.

    Re Caroline, in a historical novel, would she also be unlikely to inherit money from her own parents? Are we to believe that in a modern setting, she has no family money at all, considering her social class?

    April 17, 2019
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    • Anon
      Anon

      Up to a certain point (I’d have to look up when, but it would likely be sometime in the 20th century), women were not allowed to inherit. She would have had a dowry, though.

      April 18, 2019
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  22. Shannon
    Shannon

    I knew it was too good to be true. I remember someone who was in the Twilight Fanfic Community said that James was a businesswoman, not a writer. And they were right. This woman has no creativity nor original thought in her head. Tear it to shreds and burn every last piece.

    April 17, 2019
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  23. Sigyn
    Sigyn

    I am stubbornly determined to root for Caroline…because Mrs. Leonard (“James” is the given name of my FIL and I refuse to use it for Erika in any capacity) does not wamt us to.

    April 17, 2019
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  24. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    Prediction: There should be a body in the river by the end of this book. You don’t make this many references to a river unless it plays a part in the plot. ELJ is far too heavy on the foreshadowing, though.

    Then again, I haven’t read/watched Poldark, so I don’t know if anyone ends up in the river in that. So my prediction may be entirely incorrect.

    April 17, 2019
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    • Kylie
      Kylie

      It’s because Ross Poldark is always staring moodily into the ocean.

      April 17, 2019
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      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        Ocean, river – that would explain it. Thanks!

        April 18, 2019
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    • Sushi
      Sushi

      Francis drowned in a mine in Poldark, so perhaps Kit’s accident was him drowning in the river.

      April 18, 2019
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      I originally assumed it was to emphasise his wealth because Central London property is ridiculously expensive. And also because people took the piss out of her before because her American characters spoke in weird British slang, so maybe she was putting extra emphasis on the fact that the book was set in the UK so people didn’t get the wrong idea.

      But after about the millionth time it did start getting too weird.

      April 18, 2019
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  25. Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)
    Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)

    Poldark on Amazon prime FTW. Guess what I’m doing during my lunch break tomorrow?

    April 17, 2019
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  26. BananaNuts
    BananaNuts

    I wonder if EL James bid on a house that overlooked Thames but lost. So now she just writes about it endlessly.

    I also wonder if her writings about wealthy people will get more realistic now that she’s been rich for a hot minute. Although from the sound of it she wants to write about old money and customs, which she doesn’t understand. Ahh EL, always biting off more than you can chew.

    April 18, 2019
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  27. cher
    cher

    I’ve been a professional housekeeper for 6 years and the very thought of going into a place with the anticipation of playing with anything, especially an expensive musical instrument, in a client’s home turns my stomach. I don’t even know why anyone would risk it, especially someone in a precarious position and worried about retaining work. Its such a huge no-no.

    The uses condoms and the naked ass dude would have sent me packing as well, but I’m in a stable situation with the freedom to refuse clients without worry, so I get that the heroine here isn’t in the same position.

    But gurl, keep your hands off the piano. People have cameras like you wouldn’t believe.

    April 18, 2019
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    • Kate
      Kate

      I had the same visceral response you did. I’m not a housekeeper, but the idea of someone playing any of my instruments without my permission or knowledge is deeply unsettling. Instruments aren’t just expensive, they’re extremely personal.

      As far as characterization goes, it’s not bad. It shows Alessia is naive–either she doesn’t think she’ll get caught or doesn’t think the client will mind–lacks a sense of professionalism, and/or demonstrates that she’s so desperate for something familiar and pleasant that she’s willing to jeopardize a job for it.

      Of course, it would work better in the hands of a stronger writer.

      April 18, 2019
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  28. Hek
    Hek

    Not gonna lie, the random sprinklings of Albanian are kind of pissing me off. I can’t speak for other immigrants, but it just feels so forced and clunky.

    I mean, most people generally don’t *think* in full sentences unless they’re rehearsing what to say in their head or there’s some kind of inner reassurance/mantra thing going on.

    A good way to work in her non-native-speaker thing into the narration would have been, say, to show her struggle with phrasing things or finding the right word in conversation, because that’s when someone is actually aware of the limitations of the language they’re speaking in. Maybe you could even work it into the internal narration, like, Alessia sees an object she doesn’t know the name of in English so she uses the Albanian substitute in her narration, while trying to describe it in English so we the reader still get what she means.

    But just sprinkling in random words? Bah.

    April 18, 2019
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  29. Bree
    Bree

    I’m gonna be real, I have this gut feeling that she named this book The Mister because The Boss was already taken.

    April 18, 2019
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    • Indigo
      Indigo

      I like to privately imagine that the titular character is in fact a plant spritzer.

      April 19, 2019
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      • Bree
        Bree

        Hahaha I love that. I’ll be picturing a spray bottle as the main character from now on

        April 29, 2019
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  30. I am all here for some Poldark fanfic, but not like this.

    April 22, 2019
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  31. fiona
    fiona

    I had no intentions of reading this book to begin with, after the mess that was the last series she wrote it put me off her for life. I still don’t understand how anyone can relate to these books or the lead character. She betrayed him and the lifestyle completely wrong. Apart from doing a dis-service to the BDSM community, the lack of research that she made was disgraceful.

    I’ve never understood the allure to these books and I refuse to give substance to the name.

    April 22, 2019
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  32. Jamie
    Jamie

    @Sushi @Jenny If either of you know about the Dragon Age fandom/realm you’ll find a lot of similarities there as well. It sounds like she mixed Poldark and Dragon Age Inquisition lore/fic.

    April 23, 2019
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  33. So I’m loving your recap and uh… screaming my way through it.

    I think so far, it feels like it’s a book I *can* read without having a massive panic attack (which happened TWICE when I was trying to read the 50 SoG series), but one I think I’m satisfied with just learning about from your recaps.

    (I read some of the excerpts that Kayleigh Donaldson posted on her way to doing her review for Pajiba and like… those were a mess, but I’m always ready for you to rip into ELJ – especially now that you’ve laid out the Poldark connection. That’s WILD.)

    April 23, 2019
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  34. Isidra
    Isidra

    I think Megan Whalen Turner proved with the Thief that you can actually have your viewpoint character keep a big secret in first person. But then MWT is a craftsman. EL James is definitely not.

    I think my biggest problem with the book so far is that I can’t really make heads or tails of the tone. Fifty Shades was stupid, but it is a kind of frothy stupid that makes it easy to read (if infuriating). This seems all over the place. And honestly, certain of the themes are way way too heavy for EL James to mess with

    April 23, 2019
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  35. Isidra
    Isidra

    It also occurs to me that I have no idea how inheritance laws work in England, but in America at least, a man can’t cut his spouse out of an inheritance entirely. Most, if not all states, have some kind of elective share that a spouse can take to avoid leaving him or her penniless. I’d be very very shocked if England didn’t have something similar. There’s no way that Caroline should be THAT dependent on Maxim.

    April 23, 2019
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  36. Karen
    Karen

    When I first heard that E.L had vomited up a new book my first thought was ‘I wonder who’s she’s ripped off this time?’ I honestly hope whoever owns the rights to the Poldark books sues the crap out of her.

    May 2, 2019
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  37. Victoria
    Victoria

    I am not a big fan of E.L. James, but talking about plagiarism is not justified. You found one book with a similar plot, but I can give you at least five more.

    We have the second son ( cousin, uncle, nephew) of a noble British family who inherits or stand to inherit some title after the death of his older brother ( once again it could be cousin, uncle or a nephew). Usually, he is a black sheep, gambler, playboy or all those things. He hates his family, or part of it because they separated him from a girl he loved, or the girl preferred his brother who had the title. This past love interest is usually in the book and spends her time trying to maintain her way of life by having a child to inherit, or manipulate everyone to win our hero back. He, of course, ends up with a beautiful penniless lady of unknown birth and no connections. Most of the time she has been a victim to some personal drama, more or less terrifying, depending on the author’s imagination and most of the time she has some talent or some exceptional quality that sets her apart. I am not even trying to count the number of Cornwall estates, I’ve read about. All those are basic facts in most Regency and Victorian romance, I’ve read and if I look long enough I can even find them in a few contemporary novels.
    So, no E.L.James did not rewrite Poldark, she just got inspired by all those bodice rippers invading Romanceland for years now. It may be extremely similar to some of them, but those clichés are used so often that it is impossible to talk about one particular author’s rights and that is why no one will sue her.

    May 11, 2019
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    • ceares
      ceares

      I mean she probably did directly take the plot from Poldark, but so what. As you pointed out, the Poldark plot is far from original and in the hands of a good writer, reusing common romantic tropes/plot elements is not an issue. The Same with Fifty Shades which isn’t even really recognizable as fanfic. People are just super hung up on the idea that it started that way but there seem to be very little common plot elements between Fifty and Twilight. And rich, handsome, dark and brooding guy meets sweet, innocent, virginal young woman is the plot of a thousand romance novels. Someone on AV Club I think mentioned that she basically writes like she’s writing romance novels from 50 years ago when those plots were super popular. (And no I’m not a fan at all, I just think people are dissing her for the wrong thing)

      May 16, 2019
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