We have officially reached the part of recapping where I’m slightly behind. I’m trying to do a post a day so these get finished before I go into my annual week of seclusion on the Keweenaw Peninsula to write Neil and Sophie and El-Mudad’s next book. But I’m also in the middle of intense rehearsals for War Paint at the Kalamazoo Civic Theater (if anyone is going to use that info to find me and murder me, please do so after the final performance, but before strike) and a pretty intense running program to get in shape for the Mackinac 8 Mile.
Why yes, I am in full, 100% denial of time and my physical disabilities.
Anyway, if I miss a day or two in the next two weeks, fear not! I haven’t given up. I might just be in a coma.
Quick note: I’ve made hybrids of the characters’ names with the names of characters from Poldark in many cases. It never occurred to me that someone might read these out of order, but I’ve actually had a few people mention the names this week and I wanted to clear that up.
Also, CW: we’re gonna talk about rape and rape trauma response.
Before we begin, we need to set the mood for the opening description with a little music. Ah, this should work…
Now you’re ready.
It’s a cold and gloomy Tuesday afternoon. Exhausted, I lean against the chimney stack of the old tin mine and stare out toward the sea. The sky is dark and ominous, and a bitter Cornish wind slices through me. A storm is brewing, and the sea rages and crashes against the cliffs beneath, the sound booming and echoing through the ruined building. The first freezing spots of sleet froom the coming storm splatters my face.
Moss goes on to think about his childhood in the Cornish countryside playing with Kit and Maryanne. His visit to Cornwall hasn’t been all memories and brooding Poldarkly on the cliffs. He’s also learned to trust Oliver as a business manager (so, I guess he’s not a Warleggan, after all) and the estates are doing well. He’s peopled out, though, from meeting all the staff who work to keep the estates running.
Then there’s more about his idyllic Cornish childhood from the eighteen god blessed hundreds:
I gaze at the path that leads down to the sea and think of Kit and me as two young boys racing to the soft, sandy beach below. Kit always won…always. But then he was four years older than me. And then in late August, armed with bowls and buckets and anything else that would hold them, we three children would pick blackberries from brambles that lined the path, and our cook, Jessie, would make blackberry-and-apple crumble for supper, Kit’s favorite.
Kit. Kit. Kit.
Uh-oh. Thrice Kit.
Why race through the icy lanes on a freezing night?
Why? Why? Why?
And then Kit’s Irish Setters come bounding up and Moss thinks about how they’re not good gundogs and I think about where the fuck you find a gun-shy Irish Setter, especially if you’re as into game shooting as Kit apparently was.
I want to be back in London.
I want to be back near her.
My thoughts keep returning to my sweet daily, with her dark eyes, her beautiful face, and her extraordinary musical talent.
But not her personality, because they’ve yet to have any one-on-one conversation that wasn’t as employer and subordinate.
We jump into Demelssia’s POV, where she finds that The Mister is back early. First, we have to go through the endless repetition of arrival. The alarm is off. She’s happy about it. She takes off her boots. She goes to the laundry room (and it’s referred to as the laundry room several times in the book, I know some of you said that was an American term, but now I’m just confused as to why if there’s a laundry room, she was ironing in the scullery) and changes into her work clothes, etc. Every. Single Time. we have to read this same process over and over. Do they pay E.L. James by the word or something?
Anyway, she goes to dust and finds:
The Mister is here. Propped up on the L-shaped couch. Eyes closed, lips parted, hair mussed and standing on end, he’s fast asleep. He is fully dressed and still wearing his overcoat, though it’s open, revealing his sweater and jeans. His filthy boots are planted firmly on the rug. In the white light that swirls through the glass wall, Alessia spies the tell-tale trail of dried mud all the way back to the door.
How did she not notice this when she came in? I guess there’s a separate service entrance? But it’s never mentioned. And I’m sorry, but he tracked mud into the house and onto his rug? Who does that? Who does that? Ugh, this dude is filthy. Where did he get the mud from? Did he walk here from Cornwall?
She stares at him, enthralled, and moves closer, drinking him in. His face is relaxed but a little pale, his jaw is rough with stubble, and his full lips quiver with each breath. He looks younger and not quite as unattainable as he sleeps. If she dared, she could reach down and stroke the stubble on his cheek.
She’s looming over him, staring, and then he wakes up.
“There you are,” he mumbles, and his sleepy smile galvanizes her into action. She thinks he wants help to come to his feet, so she steps forward and takes his hand. All at once he tugs her down onto the sofa, kissing her quickly and curling his arm around her so that she’s resting on top of him, her head on his chest. He mutters something unintelligible, and she realizes he must still be asleep. “I missed you,” he murmurs, and his hand grazes her waist, then rests on her hip, holding her to him.
Is he asleep?
She lies paralyzed on top of him, her legs between his, her heart beating an insane rhythm, one hand still clutching the window-cleaning fluid and the cloth.
Now, here’s where I kind of held my breath, like, okay, she’s a trafficking survivor, we know she has been kidnapped, we know she’s afraid of men, this better not be played off as a cute scene.
She lies stiff and unyeilding on top of him, terrified and fascinated at the same time. But what if…? What if he…? All manner of horrible scenarios suddenly run through her mind and she closes her eyes to bring her anxiety under control.
So far, so good, right? She’s having a panicked reaction to her male employer grabbing her and pulling her into an intimate position.
Isn’t this what she wants? What she has been longing for in her dreams? What she secretly desires in her private moments?
Aaaaand bam. There it is. From “what if he rapes me?” to “wouldn’t that be okay since it’s what I want?”
Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that James writes stuff like this and thinks to herself, ah, I’ll make it sound like the heroine thinks about wanting to be raped. I think what happens is that she knows what she wants to put in a scene, but she doesn’t see the holes she’s leaving on the page. All she had to do to make it not sound like her heroine is thinking it would be okay to be raped because the dude is hot would have been to simply have Demelssia think something along the lines of how she feels she can trust him never to hurt her or that she’s shocked that she’s not as afraid of him as she would be of someone else, then maybe a thought about what she would do if he tried to make a move on her consensually. Something to reassure the reader and put distance between her wondering if he’s going to rape her and thinking, well, wouldn’t I like it? James is clearly a writer who reads what’s in her head and not what she’s written on the page. Everyone does that, to an extent, but it’s an editor’s job to catch it. If there were any editorial control, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue, but the reins are clearly off.
What makes it worse is that, without any thought as to why she feels comfortable or safe doing so, she continues to lay in his arms, captivated by a glimpse of his chest hair and his “familiar scent”, and kisses his skin. Words like, “thrilling” and “provocative,” and “delights” are all used to describe the feelings of this woman who only a page ago fleetingly worried that she might be raped. Considering she’s in a situation where she absolutely could be raped, that she’s already wary of men as a result of her kidnapping, there just needs to be more conflict here for it to be believable.
She wakes him up so he’ll let her go:
“Shit!” He sits up and gapes at her in utter dismay as she scrambles off him. But before she can run, he grabs her hand.
“No!” she shouts.
And he lets go immediately.
So, again, there’s some reaction here, some acknowledgment of her past trauma. He apologizes for his actions while asleep, and she keeps a distance between them. We’re whiplashing back and forth between, ooh, this is so sexy and romantic and aw, she’s so traumatized, but we’re touching more on on the sexy than the trauma.
Moss tells her he’s been driving all night and apologizes, too, for tracking in the mud. Instead of being annoyed that she’s going to have to clean mud out of a rug, Demelssia thinks about how he gave her that umbrella and helped her with her coat. So, she kneels down and takes off his muddy boots for him.
“You sleep now,” she says, and grasping his boots in one hand, she holds out the other to help him up.
He glances from her eyes to her fingers, his hesitation unmistakable. After a beat, he takes her hand, and she hauls him off the sofa. Gently she leads him down the hallway and into his bedroom. There she releases him, draws back the duvet from his bed, and points. “You sleep,” she says, and walks around him to the door.
Then she goes out into the hallway and has to lean against a wall to get her composure.
She’s gone from uncertainty and confusion to delight and wonder to compassion and assertiveness in the space of a few minutes.
Yes. We know. We were there.
She’s like well, you know, he was dreaming so he probably didn’t mean to grab me, and goes off to clean while we check in with Moss.
I stare at the closed bedroom door, feeling every shade of stupid known to man.
Oh? Are there perhaps…FIFTY of them?
E.L. James can never use the word “shades” again in any of her writing. It’s always going to make people think of Fifty Shades of Grey. She cursed herself there. It would be like Dan Brown writing a book about the Enigma Machine. It would be impossible. Readers would insert, “Da Vinci” every time he used the word “code.”
Oh my god. I just thought of what it would be like for E.L. James to get her nails done and I felt a deep and true stab of sympathy for her.
Anyway, Moss feels real, real bad about what he did to Demelssia. He thinks about how caring she was toward him, and he can’t remember any other time a woman did that.
I don’t remember any woman putting me to bed and leaving me….
And I frightened her.
So, he feels bad about that. But then he gets into bed and thinks:
As I shut my eyes, I find myself wishing she had undressed me completely and joined me…here.
Thanks for specifying the location.
Going from, “I scared her,” to “I wish she’d decided to fuck me after I scared her,” ain’t a great look, Moss.
There’s a section break to indicate time passage and Moss wakes “with a start.” I swear to Christ, nobody can just wake up in one of James’s books. They’re in a constant state of alarm, just from opening their eyes. He’s missed a call from Caroline and finds his wallet and a condom on the bedside table and he’s like:
Fuck. A. Duck.
The phrase so nice, she had to use it twice.
Just kidding! It’s a phrase so nice, she has to use it…thrice. It shows up one more time, later.
He notices she cleaned up the clothes he left on the floor and doesn’t have a thought about how that meant she was in his room while he was naked. Just that he doesn’t like the idea of her emptying anyone else’s pockets, so maybe he should hire her full time.
Ah, the possessiveness. I knew it. I knew it would be back.
I wonder what time it is. There are no shimmers on the ceiling. Glancing out the window, I see nothing but a wall of white.
OH GOD THE THAMES HAS BEEN ERASED.
Nah, it’s a blizzard. So, it’s like 1:45 in the afternoon and Demelssia is still there cleaning. He goes out and finds her and apologizes again, and asks how she’s going to get home in the snow. The trains to West London probably aren’t running, he tells her and then checks to make sure.
“They’ve suspended all services.”
“Sus-pen-ded?” Her brow creases.
Oh, she doesn’t understand.
“The trains aren’t running.”
“Oh.” She frowns again, and I think I hear her say “suspended” several times under her breath, her lips forming the word.
The rage builds inside of Jenny like pressure in an Instant Pot. She cannot wait to hit the release valve.
Moss offers to let her stay at his apartment and she’s like, no, I have to go home. He asks her how she plans to get there, and she says she’ll walk. He tells her he’ll drive her, and he won’t take “no” for an answer.
We go to Demelssia’s POV while Moss goes to get his shoes on.
She will be alone in a car with him.
Is this okay?
What would her mother say?
A vision of her mother with her arms crossed and her face etched in meek disapproval comes to her mind.
And her father?
Instinctively she cups her cheek.
No. Her father would not approve.
Her father had approved of only one man.
A cruel man.
No. Do not think of him.
So, her father was abusive, too. The abusive situations are stacking up in such a way that it’s going to take a lot more skill than the author has to pull off a believable trust between the protagonists.
Moss told her she could play the piano while he gets dressed, so she sits down and does so.
Her memories of her father, her six days of homelessness, and her mother’s disapproval are lost in the whirling, icy colors of the music.
Then we go to Moss’s POV, where once again he’s watching her and being mesmerized by her, etc., then imagines her naked with her hair unbraided. I’m skimming a lot of this because the descriptions and interactions aren’t all that different from what we’ve seen before, including once again being in awe that she, an accomplished pianist, is able to memorize music, which is, you know. Part of being an accomplished pianist.
She stands, and it’s the first time I’ve seen her out of that hideous housecoat. My mouth dries. She’s slimmer than I’d thought, but her delicate curves are all woman.
Just say she has curves in all the right places. This is already fanfic.
“How old are you?” I ask in a sudden panic.
“I have twenty-three years.”
Old enough. Good.
For what? Old enough for what? She’s not having sex with you. She’s never implied that she wants to have sex with you.
As they go down to the garage, Moss thinks about how Demelssia doesn’t trust him, blah blah, but he’s all overwhelmed with lust for her, too. We find out he drives an F-Type Jaguar, which I’m on board with, but he also has a Land Rover, which I’m less on board with but grateful that he chooses it instead of the Jaguar for the blizzardy weather. The interior is a total wreck, which I am also on board with. I swear to Christ, my car had ants once. #TeamMessyCar
He has to instruct her to use a seatbelt.
“Oh.” She’s surprised. “We don’t wear these where I come from.”
Albania has a seatbelt law. I looked it up.
So, obviously, he thinks she doesn’t get to ride in cars much.
You know. Because she’s from rural Eastern Europe. Hey, that makes zero sense! People in rural areas are more likely to own cars than people in cities with mass transportation! Like, I realize that after the fall of communism in the region, Albania went a little bit in reverse, but Jesus Christ. People have cars and seatbelts.
As they drive, Moss asks Demelssia what brought her to London and she shuts the fuck down.
Something is off. Way off.
He doesn’t press the issue and changes the subject to the piano:
“I wanted to ask you, how do you remember each piece so well?”
In the article I linked in an earlier recap, James said she gives her characters the ability to play piano because she never learned and wished she had. I wish she would have done basic research about it.
Demelssia tells him that she sees the music in colors and that helps her remember.
I’ve heard of this. “Synesthesia.”
“Syn-a-thee–” She stops, unable to pronounce the word.
She tries again, with a little more success. “What is this?” she asks.
“You see musical notes as colors.”
She is a musician.
She has to have heard of synesthesia before.
The word for synesthesia is practically the same in Albanian as in English.
She would be able to pronounce it.
There’s a section break and they arrive at Magda’s house, where Moss sees Michal and asks if it’s Demelssia’s boyfriend. She’s like, no, he’s Magda’s fourteen-year-old son. Moss apologizes for grabbing her again, and she’s like, no prob, you were dreaming. Then she invites him in for tea:
“Do you want to come in and drink a cup of tea?”
and when he turns her down, she says:
“We have some coffee,”
So, she’s suddenly okay with articles and sentence order out of nowhere. I love the consistency.
But Moss still declines and tells her he’ll see her on Friday, and Michal frowns at him and that’s the end of the chapter.
My impression so far: Fuck. A. Duck.