This was a longer chapter, so this is also a longer recap. I’m glad to see the grand tradition of wildly varying chapter lengths lives on.
P.S. Did you know that I’m actually tagging these entries like a good person? POSITIVELY REINFORCE ME WITH YOUR PRAISE FOR A THING I SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING THE WHOLE TIME I’VE HAD A BLOG.
We open with Demelssia returning to the apartment the next day. When she finds that the alarm is disabled, she knows that Moss is home.
I’m not clear on the alarm being off meaning that he’s not home, but I’ve never been rich enough to live somewhere with an alarm. I got three dogs, that’s alarming enough. I guess if I were a rich person with an alarm, I would probably keep it armed when I was sleeping, just in case.
He has invaded her dreams ever since she’d seen him sprawled naked on his bed.
Wait, why are we going from present to past-perfect? Wouldn’t it be, “He has invaded her dreams ever since she saw him sprawled naked on his bed?”
Demelssia was so intimidated and thrilled by her sexy, shirtless employer, he’s all she’s got on her mind. It would be super unfortunate if something that’s supposed to be sexy happens today.
Her jeans are soaked from the torrential rain, too.
She shivers as she removes them and struggles into her housecoat, grateful that the plastic bag has kept it dry. The hem falls to below her knees, so that she’s not immodest without her jeans.
Yup. She was just soaked to the bone and had to take off her clothes and clean in a bathrobe today. Tee hee. Hope The Mister doesn’t see anything! Tee hee.
Zot! Turns out Moss is awake and he’s calling for her from the kitchen.
His smile is dazzling, lighting up his handsome face and his emerald eyes. She looks away, blinded by his good looks and embarrassed by her creeping blush.
She observes that he was “cross” when she saw him in the last chapter. Which…didn’t come across at all. I mean, I know she’s skittish of men due to her background, but their whole conversation seemed pretty cordial to me. Maybe if we’d seen the interaction in her POV, rather than his, this wouldn’t feel like an authorial “trust me, this is totally what you read” moment.
Why did Moss need to talk to her?
“Alessia?” he says again.
“Yes, Mister,” she answers, keeping her eyes lowered. At least he is dressed this time.
“I just wanted to say hi.”
And then he waits for her to say hi, and she does, and he walks out, straight into his own POV, dragging us along with him. Again, we get just the tiniest, inconsequential sliver of Demelssia’s POV before we move back to Moss.
Moss is kicking himself for being a nerd in front of her. He’s worried that since her feet are bare, she walked to his house barefoot. Like. I don’t want to be that person, but maybe examine how much you’re paying the people who work for you if you see one of them barefoot and think they must have walked shoeless through the pouring rain for want of shoes. Like, how little is she making cleaning this slob’s house that he’s not like, “Oh, her shoes were probably wet?” He jumps straight to, well, guess she can’t afford shoes. The people who work for you should be getting paid enough to afford shoes! That shouldn’t be a question that even enters your mind!
He realizes he makes her uncomfortable.
Is it me or is it men in general?
It’s a troubling thought. Maybe I’m the one who’s uncomfortable.
I wish James would have extrapolated more here. Imagine how likable Moss would have become if he had gone further with, “It’s a troubling thought,” and acknowledged that it’s not something he often thinks about because he’s a man and he doesn’t have to. Or he could have wondered, wow, what horrible past experience made her so afraid?
Instead, he leaps directly to his own discomfort.
After all, she chased me out of the flat last week and the idea that I fled to avoid her is disconcerting.
Okay, that didn’t happen, but I guess it’s too much work to scroll back up your Word .doc and make it happen. This makes it sound like they had some kind of confrontation that forced him to run away, but literally, the only exchange between them was him being like, who are you, why are you in my house, oh, you’re the housekeeper? Okay.
The lives of these characters must be so exhausting with this amount of manufactured drama coming from every simple interaction.
Moss goes on to talk about how much that exchange with Demelssia inspired him. He’s spent the whole weekend in seclusion, ignoring everyone and every obligation, just to compose. He wrote three piano pieces in one weekend. I need to get me a Demelssia, because holy cow, I could use that kind of break-neck productivity this week.
When he goes to his bedroom, he finally sees it the way other humans see it.
Bloody hell, I’m a slob.
I’ve been wondering why his dates haven’t noticed this, frankly. In the second chapter, his closet is described as basically just having clothes thrown everywhere. And what if he brings a woman back to his apartment on a day one of his dailies hasn’t been there? Do they just not notice that the floor is absolutely covered with clothes and junk?
In the grand tradition of people everywhere, he makes his bed before the cleaning lady can see it. Then he passes her in the hallway.
I regard her retreating figure in the shapeless housecoat: long pale legs, a gentle sway of slim hips…are those bright pink underpants I can see through the nylon? From beneath the headscarf a rich brunette plait snakes down her back to just above the line of her pink underwear, and it swings from side to side as she walks. I know I should look away, but I’m distracted by her underwear. They cover her backside and come up to her waist. They are possibly the largest knickers I’ve ever seen on a woman. And my body stirs like I’m a thirteen-year-old boy.
I love how one of the requirements for being the largest knickers he’s ever seen is that they cover her whole ass. It explains why they turn him on. He’s used to women in thongs, so this is something new and exciting.
We go back to Alessia’s POV now. And in case you were worried that yet another chapter might go by without mentioning that you can see the Thames from his apartment, fear not:
She opens the curtains fully and stares out at the river. “Thames.” She whispers the word aloud, her voice wavering a little.
She thinks about how different Albania was. She lived in an extremely rural area, with “fertile countryside and snow-capped mountains.” London is too crowded and urban for her, which makes sense; the population of London is larger than the population of the entire country of Albania. Like, over twice the size. And she misses her home, so this passage at least gives her a little more personality and conflict. She’s not in London because she wants to be.
This bothered me back when I was still enjoying reading the book:
She wonders if he’s going to be here all day, and the thought that he might bothers her. His presence will keep her from playing her favorite pieces.
But on the plus side, she gets to see him.
The man who’s been dominating her dreams.
What annoys me about this is that just a chapter ago, she was aching to play. She was willing to risk her employment to do so. Playing the piano is a part of her soul or something. And now there’s a hot guy and she’s like, well, just so long as I get to be around this man, I’m fine losing the rare chance I have to do the only thing that’s left from the life I miss desperately.
When Demelssia cleans the bathroom, the smell of his soap or cologne or whatever is clinging to the air and it gives her sexy thoughts that must be denied in triplicate:
Stop! Stop! Stop!
She finds the wastebasket is condom-free and that makes her happy. Then she checks out the photos he took of two sexy nude women. One of them is described as pale with blonde hair, so I’m wondering if we’ll find out that it’s a photo of Elizaline or something.
In Moss’s POV, he expresses dismay that he doesn’t know how to manage a farm, and I express my dismay that he doesn’t just hire someone who specializes in that shit. It’s not like these people don’t exist.
Kit had been reading economics at the LSE when our father died. Ever the dutiful son, he’d dropped out of the LSE and enrolled in the Duchy of Cornwall’s university to study farming and estate management. With thirty thousand acres to oversee, now I understand that it was a sensible decision.
I did the math. That means they own a whopping .01% of England. That’s not sarcastic. I’m saying that’s a lot. And way too much for one dude to keep track of, no matter where he went to school. That’s why people hire other people to oversee their shit.
You know what I wonder? I wonder if he can see the Thames from his apartment.
I stand and walk over to look at the view. On the river there are a couple of barges heading in opposite directions, a police lauch cruising east, and the river bus heading to Cadogan Pier.
Oh, thank god. I’m so glad he can see the Thames from his apartment. That question has been weighing on me.
He thinks about how he always wanted to go on the river bus, but his mother would never take him. IDK, dude, you live right by the river and you have a shit ton of money. Just go do it and heal your bullshit childhood wound.
I mean, that said, I prefer his bullshit childhood wound of not getting to go on a boat ride to the childhood wounds of his cousin Christian. Which, by the way, is what I decided. I decided that Chedward Grullen is Moss Troldark’s cousin on the maternal side. Anyway, I don’t think Moss is going to date someone who looks like his mother just so he can “beat the shit out of” her by proxy for never instructing his nanny to take him on a boat.
Moss sits down at the piano to play his compositions from the weekend, and we jump into Demelssia’s POV so we can, you know, see her react to Moss before jumping back into his head right away. But first, she thinks about how much nicer and cleaner and better his rich people kitchen is compared to her parents’ poor people kitchen. Then we get her reaction to the piano playing.
It’s from the manuscript she’s seen so many times on his piano, but the melody goes further than she’s read, the notes soft and sad, falling in mournful blues and grays around her.
Okay, I know someone will probably complain that her synesthesia matches up to the colors he thought about when he was writing the piece and all, but I demand we suspend disbelief for that point because it’s actually pretty romantic and I am grasping at straws to find anything original and interesting.
Cut to someone in the comments pointing out that it’s from some other, well-established piece of media, probably.
As she watches him–his brow furrowed, head tilted, lips parted–he takes her breath away.
Thanks for clearing that up.
By the music.
Can we move on?
She thinks about how he’s the most handsome man she’s ever seen, then remembers another man, one with ice-blue eyes, and it’s a painful memory she doesn’t want to revisit. But now she has to clean the living room, where Moss still is. He’s stopped playing and is sitting at his computer when she comes in, so now that he’s not at the piano with his eyes closed, you know what that means.
It’s time to go back to his head.
Moss can’t concentrate at all with Demelssia there in her provocative housecoat and Hanes-Her-Way underpants.
She moves to plump the black scatter cushions on the couch, and her housecoat swings forward and stretches out across her backside, betraying the pink underwear beneath.
My breathing shallows, and I have to surpress a groan.
I’m a fucking pervert.
Pretty much, if you’re sitting there watching your cleaner, who you already know is kind of unsettled by you, and getting turned on. This scene would have been so much more important in Demelssia’s POV. In the next POV switch, we learn that she was aware he was watching her, and we get her thoughts on it, but getting those thoughts in the moment is more important than hearing about how Moss gets an erection watching her polish the piano:
With a deliberate and even pace, she works her way around the piano, bufffing and polishing, her breathing becoming faster and harder with the exertion. It’s agonizing. I close my eyes and imagine how I could elicit the same response from her.
She looks at his sheet music and he wonders if she knows how to read it, and then she sees him watching her and he sees that she sees and she licks her lip and it’s all supposed to be unbearably erotic except, you know, I keep coming back to the fact that she’s literally your cleaning lady who has do these things in front of you while you sexualize them and you think she’s doing it for so little pay that she can’t afford shoes.
He gets a phone call and steps out of the room, thinking:
Hell, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let her chase me out again.
But…that isn’t…is my copy of the book missing key sentences or something? You got a phone call and left the room, you didn’t run away or get chased out.
Now that the piano polishing scene is over, we get the instant replay from Demelssia. She acknowledges that Moss had been watching her, but she doesn’t have any sort of response to it besides thinking that he must have been making sure she was cleaning correctly because he certainly couldn’t have been looking at her for any other reason. She, however, is all hot and bothered.
The way women are when they’re alone in a house with a man who is creepily watching them and also signs their paycheck. And they’re already afraid of men in the first place.
I mean, okay, I guess I have to suspend disbelief on this point because yeah, she’s the love interest and they’re going to be in love, but the idea that she’s unsettled by his presence isn’t nearly as effective as would be some kind of indication that his presence makes her feel safe or something.
Let me divert just a second here for a quick romance writing suggestion: if you give your characters needs that can only be filled by each other, it works better than trying to force two characters together who don’t fulfill each other’s needs. We saw this in Fifty Shades, that Ana fulfilled Christian’s need to…cause pain to women who looked like his mom, gross, but he didn’t fulfill any of her needs. When she explicitly expressed them to him, he gave excuses as to why he would not meet her needs based on his own personal wants and desires. We were supposed to be happy that Ana’s love saved Christian, but we were never supposed to examine the part where Ana had to overcome her fear of Christian to do so. That book could have been saved from so many pitfalls if Ana simply had felt safe with Christian, or if he had fulfilled some other need that made the relationship worth staying in, but there was nothing. No incentive at all for her. Here, with Demelssia, it would be so much more poignant and her attraction would be so much more believable if he was the only man she’d met in London who didn’t make her afraid, rather than, “I’m so afraid of him and he’s so hot, I can’t stop thinking of him.”
Demelssia thinks about how her mom would be scandalized at the idea of her daughter ogling a sexy guy. Moss has to go out, so he tells Demelssia that her money is on the table, and she’s like, yes, finally, I get to play the piano. But it’s still raining so Moss offers to loan her an umbrella.
“You’re welcome to borrow this. It’s still raining cats and dogs outside.”
Cats and dogs?
This stopped me. Why wouldn’t she be able to get from the context that it’s an idiom? Why is she confused, rather than going, “Huh, what a weird expression?” There’s a saying I heard in France years ago, that I had to take from context. It was something like being in the salad, and it was like, I heard it and went, “Oh, okay, that’s telling a lie, what a weird way to say it.” I always think it’s weird when we choose to show ESL speaking people being confused by idioms or figurative speech as if the concept doesn’t exist in any other language. And again, as we go on we’ll get even more enraged about Demelssia’s Amelia Bedelia approach to English.
As soon as Moss leaves, Demelssia sits at the piano and we whip right back into Moss’s head, where he congratulates himself on loaning her an umbrella.
I am ridiculously pleased with myself. I’m finally able to help her with this small gesture. I’m not accustomed to doing good deeds–though I probably have an ulterior motive for my kindness, a motive I don’t want to analyze too deeply right now, as it might confirm I’m the shallow fucking bastard I think I am.
Like, as the book goes on, I find Moss less and less likable, specifically for things like this. Before, he thought she didn’t have any shoes. So he lent her an umbrella. And now he’s patting himself on the back about how he did this wonderful thing for her. Bro, you thought she didn’t have any SHOES.
There’s a section break and he’s done with his meeting. Walking with Oliver through the construction on the building project Moss just inherited, he’s dismayed that Oliver won’t refer to him by his first name.
“Oliver. It’s Maxim. Please use my name. You used to. Before.”
“Very good, my lord.”
Remember when this same author wrote an entire five-book series in which the hero refused to call the heroine the name she specifically asked him to call her until she finally gave up trying? And it was endearing and romantic? Weird how when it’s a guy doing it to another guy, it’s a real issue.
Moss suggests that Elizaline could do the interior designing for the model apartment, and Oliver is kind of cagey on the idea, so Moss says he’ll consider some other people, too. Then he goes home and plays the piano and thinks of Demelssia more.
Who would have thought I’d be so attracted to a woman in a nylon housecoat and large pink panties?
The panties are quickly becoming the Thames of her ass, they’re mentioned so often.
How could she have worked her way under my skin in such a short time? I know nothing about her, except she’s unlike any woman I’ve ever met. The women in my life are bold and confident and know what they want and how to ask for it. She’s not like that.
Because she’s working for you. She can’t be “bold” and ask for what she wants. What she wants is to keep her job, and boldness and confidence are like, antithetical to keeping a job as a domestic. He thinks yet again that maybe she knows how to read music…like at this point, it’s basically a complete recap of the boring, over-long scenes we’ve just read. We get it. Let’s move on.
To Demelssia’s POV. She sleeps on a folding cot in a teensy room at Magda’s house, much in the way Demelza slept in a cupboard in Ross’s house but WHATEVER. She starts thinking sexy thoughts and touching herself.
She gasps, embracing her fantasy, and her hand moves farther down, and she imagines that it’s his hand on her.
I’m sorry, I think you meant, “down there.”
She thinks of him as her body builds.
I’m sorry. Please still love me.
Anyway, she thinks of him in such erotic terms as “behind” that she comes and falls asleep.
In Moss-vision, he’s having a sexy dream about Demelssia polishing the piano in only her panties. This is a little…
Okay, I know I’m supposed to have a huge problem with the power imbalance of an employer-employee relationship, but I really love that trope. Like, I love it so much. The issue I have with this one is like…she’s a human trafficking survivor (spoiler alert, sorry) who doesn’t speak the language of the country she’s in, is tragically impoverished, and is terrified of losing her job. I feel like if we removed even one of those, I would be able to enjoy the romance more. For example, off the top of my head, the human trafficking part, which becomes a very euuurgh situation as the book progresses. I’m trying to not get ahead of us here, but anyway. I just feel like the power imbalance way, way too wide for him to be having sex dreams (and then beating off to them) about his housekeeper doing her housekeeping job. It stretches the appeal of the trope way too far.
So, now let’s get into “Jenny is super fucking confused and wonders if she missed something, or if this is just classic E.L. James.” The next day, Moss goes to the office where the estates are managed. He calls it, “our offices,” and mentions that he’s trying to concentrate, but:
[…]I’m concious that the door to Kit’s office is ajar. It’s distracting. I cannot bring myself to work in there yet. I can almost hear him talking on the phone or laughing at one of my poor jokes berating Oliver about some transgression. I half expect him to bound in off the street. He was so at ease in this world and in charge of his domain.
So, maybe I’m just misreading it, but it sounds like these are things that happened often, and that’s why Moss remembers them? Or is there something I’m just not getting? Because it sounds like Moss straight up has an office in this building and used to hear his brother talking on the phone or laughing and there was this rapport that’s now missing in the office setting?
I stand over Kit’s lifeless, fractured body with the A&E doctor.
Yes, this is him, I confirm.
Thank you, Lord Trevethick, she murmurs.
It’s the first time anyone had used the title.
Now look. I’ve checked in with several people who are from honest-to-God England. And they have reasonably assured me that a random doctor in an emergency room isn’t going to be so well-versed with the peerage that they would immediately title switch. This isn’t like the dude is the crown prince and the king just died. And according to two of the people I polled, nobody even gives a shit who is an earl or not anymore.
Moss and Oliver talk about the estates and how most of the nobility is poor now, but not them. He talks about the ways the various properties make money, and this is one of them:
Tyok in Northumberland is rented out lock, stock, and barrel to a rich American who fancies himself a lord.
I will go to my grave believing this person is Chedward Grullen and his lovely wife Anabella.
While they talk about business, Moss thinks about Demelssia until he gets a text from Elizaline. It reads, I shit you not:
I’m not pregnant. :'(
I have nothing of Kit’s.
Not even his child.
Reader, I died laughing at that crying face.
Moss immediately cancels the workday and texts Elizaline to tell her he’s on his way over, but she wants to go out to a club, instead. Not like, you know. A dance club. A private club where you have to be a member and all that. He meets her and she’s in a real state, wearing Kit’s sweater and walking around with puffy eyes and messy hair. She asks Moss why she hasn’t seen him over the weekend and asks if he’s met someone. Moss denies it, but Elizaline sees through him, especially when he tells her that he spent the whole weekend alone. He finally confesses:
“There is someone. But she doesn’t know I exist.”
“Yes. Seriously. It’s nothing. Just a flight of fancy.”
Caroline frowns. “This is not like you. You’re never distracted by one of your, um…conquests.”
I can’t help my hollow laugh. “She’s not a conquest–not by any stretch of the imagination.”
Then they decide to get food, and they raise their glasses to toast Kit.
There’s a section break and we rejoin them as they drunkenly arrive at Moss’s apartment. Elizaline asks for cocaine and Moss is like, I don’t have any, which makes me wonder what quantity he’s buying in, because didn’t he just have some earlier in the week that nobody wanted to do with him? Like, IDK, Moss, but maybe it wasn’t your housekeeper that inspired you to such heights of productivity over the weekend.
Elizaline asks Moss to take her to bed and he’s like, sure, the guest room is open. Which is not what she wants to hear.
“Don’t. Please don’t cry.” I pull her back into my embrace. “We can’t do this anymore.”
Since when have scruples stopped me fucking?
Earlier in the book, it seemed like they might, at least where Elizaline was concerned. You were trying not to have sex with her when you picked up Leticia.
There’s a section break again and it’s the middle of the night. Elizaline won’t take no for an answer and gets into bed with Moss, but he’s still like, hard pass. He lets her sleep in his bed, though, so you can guess where chapter six is going.
My impression so far: At this point, I was getting a little tired of the repetition. Nothing is really happening aside from Maxim doing earl things, playing piano, and watching Alessia clean. All Alessia does is explain what she’s doing so that we can go back to Maxim’s POV and see him experience the thing she’s doing, then we pop back to Alessia thinking about how hot it was when Maxim experienced the thing. It’s like she’s only there to set up Maxim’s attraction to her, then swiftly step out of the way. The further we go in the story, the less I feel connected to Alessia. She’s beginning to feel like an annoying, boring distraction from the story going on with Maxim. Sadly, it kind of seems like the author felt the same way.