In the grand tradition of renaming characters to reflect where E.L. James nabbed them from, Maxim Trevelyan is now Moss Troldark. Alessia is now Demelssia Carmachi.
And the author is still a real piece of work.
Honestly, as a reader, I feel cheated. I went into this with every intention of being open-minded. And I sat here like, wow, I’m really enjoying this! Sure, the writing isn’t great, but I can ignore terrible writing for a story this gripping!
I should have known the story wasn’t hers.
And what really gets me, deep, deep down, is that she clearly did so much differently from Fifty Shades of Grey based on what critical reviews dinged her for. There’s emphasis on consent, the hero isn’t an abusive and irredeemable douchebag, it just was reading like she understood the reasons people hated her first series and tried to make this some kind of example that yes, she can really write, yes, she can really learn.
The only lesson she didn’t take away from the experience was the part where people were like, “Hey, maybe don’t steal people’s shit.”
So, Moss Troldark gets a phone call while he’s in a cab at the beginning of chapter three. It’s his friend, Joe, whom he fences with, and they have a short conversation about how Moss can’t go fencing that day because now he’s an earl and has to do, quote, “Earl shit.” Moss grumbles to himself about not being able to do whatever he wants anymore, then blames his dead brother.
After a section break, we’re at Loulou’s, the bar where Moss has gone to find a “warm, willing body,” after a long day of work with the guy described as Kit’s “Chief Operating Officer.” Again, I’m not familiar with the peerage or whatever, being from humble swamp stock as I am, but the idea of someone being the CEO of someone else is hilarious because you could yell, “YOU’RE NOT THE CEO OF ME!” at them.
Oliver is slight, with a shock of unruly blond hair and eyes of an indeterminate color that miss nothing. I have never warmed to him. He’s ruthless and ambitious, but he knows his way around a balance sheet and can deal with the numerous personnel who answer to the Earl of Trevethick.
So, write him down as the potential George Warleggan of this story, I guess.
[…] I wonder if Oliver’s loyalty will extend to me or if he might take advantage of my naïveté while I try to come to terms with all my new responsibilities. I just don’t know. But the fact is, I don’t trust him, and I make a mental note to stay circumspect in my dealings with him.
Add another tick to that Warleggan column.
Moss is at least relieved to be able to quit modeling. Because this is an E.L. James book, he refers to his modeling agent, who is a woman, as an “old gorgon.” He says modeling can be boring and he’s not sure he’ll miss it, except for the chance to meet, “hot, skinny women.”
That’s what I want now: a hot, willing woman, skinny or otherwise.
See, it’s okay to put the emphasis on thinness, so long as you make it clear that the hero is DTF a woman who isn’t thin. He’s not going to, okay? It’s just enough that he might.
He spots a woman described as having hazel eyes and long brown glossy hair. She’s doing shots, which is something I’ll bring up later. I mean, it’s already kind of…eh. He’s going to pick up a drunk chick. Her name is Leticia and he takes her back to his place, where she’s extremely sexually aggressive:
“Let’s go to bed, Posh Boy,” she whispers, and kisses me. Hard. No preliminaries. Her coat is still in my hands, and I have to steady myself against the wall to stop us both from falling. Her attack takes me by surprise. Perhaps she’s more pissed than I thought. She tastes of lipstick and Jäggermeister–an intriguing combination.
So, this woman was doing shots of Jäggermeister and he’s like, oh, maybe she’s drunker than I thought. Is that going to stop him from having sex with her? Nope.
There go all the hopes I had for consent in this book.
On the other hand, maybe it’s still a step up, considering he didn’t force her to drink with the goal of gaining consent.
I bet you’re wondering when we were going to hear about the fact that you can see the Thames from his apartment:
“Do you act, too? Great view, by the way,” she says as she glances through the wall of glass that looks out over the Thames.
She asks him if he ever fucked on his piano and he thinks:
Lord, she has a foul mouth.
Like, dude. You have spent the whole book so far fucking everything you catch in a rabbit snare and you’re worried about the woman you brought back to your house using the word that describes exactly the reason you brought her there?
So, yadda yadda yadda, they start getting down and Leticia is rough, bossy, and she uses her nails a lot, so he decides to tie her to the bed. Here’s my thing with this: she’s drunk. Drunker than he expected her to be. And he’s going to tie her up? Here’s a pro-tip: if a woman is drunk enough that she will let you, a man she has never met before, tie her up in your bedroom? She’s too drunk to consent.
“I won’t hurt you,” I reassure her. That’s not my scene. “I’ll just keep you in line.” But the truth is, I’m worried she’s going to hurt me.
I’m torn about this scene because when you read it all in one sitting, it’s actually funny. She’s enthusiastic with her fingernails and when she gets to his fly, he panics and that’s when he’s like, hey, ha ha, just kidding, let’s tie you up. At the same time, she’s drunk. He is at least tipsy, I presume. So, they shouldn’t be having sex, but they definitely shouldn’t be tying any knots.
But obviously, they do.
I tie the silk around her left wrist and thread it through the slats of the bed’s headboard, and then, taking her right hand, I deftly tie her right wrist to the other end of the restraint.
There are some pretty jarring breaks in here. Like, it’s clear that James wants to write a sex scene, but maybe she got bored and wandered away and forgot to go back and fill stuff in? I’m not kidding. Check this out:
She quirms. “Will you spank me?” Her voice is less than a whisper.
“If you play nice.”
Oh, this is going to be fun.
She comes quickly and loudly. Screaming and straining against the silken straps.
I sit up between her thighs, my mouth slick and wet, and I flip her over and slap her arse.
Okay, so first of all, this “flipping someone over when their bodies are restrained in such a way that you would actually dislocate their joints” talk really takes me back to our Fifty Shades of Grey days. But more importantly…where is the stuff that happens between him tying up her hands and her coming? Like, seriously, what is the point of writing just this part of the scene? This section ends with him thrusting into her, and then suddenly there’s another break and he’s watching her sleep. It honestly reads like she planned to go back and fill this stuff in. It’s such a weird stylistic choice. Either you want us to see Moss fuck, or you don’t.
Hey, did you miss characters waking up in a state of panic?
I wake with a start.
He was having a dream about chasing something blue before falling into an abyss, and it scared him awake. It’s a good thing he can see the Thames from his apartment:
The pallid winter sun seeps through the windows as reflections from the Thames play on the ceiling.
I’m glad this detail gets thrown in so often, because I keep mentally shifting the setting to early-19th century Cornwall.
Though Moss thinks Leticia has left, he hears a noise from somewhere in the apartment and he’s like, oh great, now I have to people, which like, honestly? I don’t blame him. Finding out you have to people when you didn’t expect you’d have to people is exhausting, even if you just woke up. I need at least forty-eight hours warning before all human interaction.
So, he puts on his jeans and leaves his room, shirtless, and you guys know what happens.
I’m expecting to see Leticia, but a slight young woman stands in the hallway staring at me. Her eyes are large and dark, reminding me of a startled doe, but she’s dressed in a ghastly blue housecoat, cheap overwashed jeans, old trainers, and a blue headscarf that conceals her hair.
Thank you for explaining what a headscarf does, Moss.
Anyway, he asks her who the hell she is, and the chapter ends.
My impression so far: Before I learned about the Poldark connection, I got to this point and was kind of expecting Alessia would find him with the woman. So, I was kind of surprised when that didn’t happen. It made that whole scene totally pointless. But I wasn’t surprised at all that he was shirtless when he and Alessia met. This chapter was really tiresome because I felt like, okay, we didn’t need to meet a friend who wasn’t even going to end up doing anything in this chapter. We didn’t need to see Moss bring home yet another woman. We didn’t need to hear again about how he never worked and now things have changed. It was just a super repetitive chapter full of stuff we already knew.
And I’m still pissed off about the Poldark thing, especially when I started rewatching Poldark and realized that the one-night-stand from the last chapter was the equivalent of the tavern girl who says mysterious things to Ross and sleeps with him in the first few episodes of season one.