IDK about the veracity of a tabloid, but apparently, E.L. James is pretending she’s just like everyone else and has cause to fear that her next book won’t be published. Yes. I’m sure that after writing the fastest-selling book in the U.K. and producing a movie franchise that grossed over a billion dollars, a publisher is going to turn down your manuscript.
In the meantime, The Mister debuts on the New York Times bestseller list…at #2. Great for most authors. Not for one whose previous books all debuted right on top. And as of writing this, James is ranked #79 among authors on Amazon, and The Mister is falling fast in the Kindle store, currently at #46. Again, astounding success for most authors. But one sitting on one of the biggest franchises of all time? Definitely not what most people expected, even with lowered expectations.
Now, as we get further into the story, there is a lot more about sex trafficking and exploitation and stuff, so just keep that in mind if you want a content warning. This is like, a blanket content warning here.
So, Moss is driving down the highway and Demelssia is crying.
How can women cry so quietly?
Years of practice.
I think it’s best if I leave her alone to gather her thoughts. Besides, it’s late, and I have to make some calls.
And he calls people on speakerphone while she’s sitting there crying. I burst out laughing. I’m sorry, but there is some mean little part of me that would find that situation so funny. Someone just being like, “hang on, I have to make a call,” while you’re sitting there sobbing.
Moss calls his estate to see what parts of it are rented out for the next two weeks. Basically, he’s making a reservation to stay at his own house, which I know is probably a thing because nobody can afford to keep one of those places up.
“I need two of the rooms made up and some of my clothes and toiletries brought over from the Hall.”
“You’ll not be staying at the Hall?”
“Not at the moment, no.”
“Two rooms, you say?”
I had hoped for one….
She just. Told you. She. Was. Sex trafficked.
She just told you she was sex trafficked.
SHE JUST TOLD YOU SHE WAS SEX TRAFFICKED.
She’s sitting there crying about her trauma and he’s like, oh, man, too bad I can’t bang her.
SHE JUST TOLD YOU SHE WAS SEX TRAFFICKED!
He tells the woman on the phone, Danny, that he’ll need the piano tuned, as well, and she’s like, oh, they’re all already tuned, blah blah blah and I literally could not care even a pixie’s ass hair less about this detail.
I reflect on all my past interactions with Alessia in light of what she’s told me today. Now I understand why she’s been so reticent around me, and my heart is leaden. In my fantasies I’d imagined that when I was finally alone with her, she would be laughing and carefree, gazing at me with adoring doe eyes. The reality is different.
I’m just in awe of how swiftly this character went from “reasonably redeemable asshole” to “Civil War battlefield hospital gangrenous leg pile” so quickly. Like, I’m sorry that your horny fantasy is ruined by the fact that the object of your affection was.
And yet…I don’t mind. I want to be with her.
How noble of you.
He goes on about how much he wants to protect her and what horrible things must have happened to her. I’m glad that these are his second thoughts.
If I ever get hold of those men…
My rage is muderous.
What have they done to her? I want to know.
No. I don’t want to know.
I want to ask her what she’s endured. What she’s seen. But now is not the right time. All my plans, all my fantasies will be for nothing if she can’t bear to be with a man…any man.
And I realize that I can’t touch her.
So, what’s Demelssia thinking while Moss is worried about putting it in her?
Can she trust the man sitting beside her? She has placed herself in his hands. Willingly. And she’s done that before–with Dante–and that didn’t turn out so well.
Yup. Another E.L. James book where once the hero and heroine actually get together, she’s afraid of him. Yeah, she was wary of him before, but she’s wary of all men. Now, she’s wondering if she can trust this particular guy and comparing him to the dude who wanted to sell her into slavery.
In the next paragraph, though, she acknowledges that she can trust him.
Now, someone in the comments on the last recap mentioned that they thought Demelssia might have started off as a Polish character, and since she explicitly says that Magda got Demelssia a job through a network of Polish women, it does seem plausible. I’m not saying that’s definitely what happened, just that it’s plausible.
Thinking of Dante reminds her of her nightmare journey to England. She doesn’t want to think about that. She never wants to think about it again. But it haunts her in moments of quiet and in her nightmares. What’s become of Bleriana, Vlora, Dorina, and the other girls?
So, she’s thinking she’s in a situation where maybe she can’t trust Moss, but she does trust him, that she’s afraid for Magda and afraid for the other girls she was with.
While Moss’s primary concern is how to heal her PTSD real quick so they can bone.
They stop at a travel plaza in Moss’s POV, and he wakes her up.
“Hey. It’s me. You’ve been asleep. I want something to eat, and I need the loo. Do you want to come with me?”
To the…to the bathroom?
She asks him not to leave her there, and he’s like, I didn’t intend to. She doesn’t want to go into the building.
“It was a place like this.” She looks around again.
“What? A motorway services?”
She nods. “They stopped. They wanted us to wash. To be clean. They were being…um…kind. Or so some of the girls thought. They made it seem like it was for our…um…What is the word? Our…um…good. Benefit. our benefit. But if we were cleaner, we would bring a higher price.”
Demelssia tells Moss that she overheard the men speaking in English. They didn’t know she could understand them, so she was able to tell the other women what was going on. Only three of them believed her, but she doesn’t know if they tried to escape the way she did. Moss hugs her, and she wants him to kiss her.
Not after what she’s been through.
Not in a service area on the M5.
Yeah, that’s the problem with it. The setting isn’t romantic enough.
We hop back into Demelssia’s head, where the smells and sights of the travel plaza trigger her PTSD. She goes into the bathroom and other women are there.
Neither of them looks as if she’s beeen trafficked from Eastern Europe.
How would you be able to tell? That’s like…the whole way traffickers succeed.
Whatever. Demelssia notices a Starbucks and thinks about how she recognizes it from London. And you may think to yourself, “Albania is a modern country, of course they have Starbucks!” but as late as 2018 they were a country totally without Starbucks. According to the Starbucks website, they still are. I’m honestly and truly amazed at this information.
We all learned something today.
Moss wants to buy her something to eat, but she declines, so obviously, since this was written by E.L. James, he buys her something, anyway.
Oh, and of course, the woman at the counter tries to seduce him with her eyes because, again, E.L. James.
“I’ll bring them over,” the barista replies, directing a coquettish smile at Maxim.
“We’d like them to go.” Maxim hands her a twenty-pound note.
“Of course.” The barista bats her eyelashes at him.
“Great, thanks.” He doesn’t return her smile but turns his attention to Alessia.
This is an important scene to include because it is imperative that we know every woman wants him but they can’t have him because the pure and virginal
reader heroine deserves him more.
Demelssia has a lot of questions.
She’d like to ask him, but it’s not her place to question a man.
Oh my god, I know a guy from another book who would be perfect for you.
So, are you ready to rage?
“You speak very good English,” he says.
“Do you think so?” Alessia flushes at the unexpected compliment.
“Yes, I do.”
“My grandmother was English.”
First of all, there is a thing called “citizenship by double descent.” This is the point where Maxim should immediately call his lawyer. If she establishes that, she wouldn’t have to worry about being deported back to Albania. Second, she learned English from her grandmother, a native speaker, when she was a child. But she started out the book with, “I am cleaner.” Okay, sure, whatever, I guess. And I suppose that explains why Demelssia’s grandma was a Christian in a predominately Muslim country. But it raises more questions. Does that mean Demelssia has family in England? Why wasn’t she going to stay with them, instead of her mother’s pen pal? And why, if her grandmother was English, did Demelssia’s mother raise her with super provincial values? Did her English mother hold those same values and encourage them?
Moss asks what her grandmother was doing in Albania:
“She visited in the 1960s with her friend Joan, who is Magda’s mother. As children Magda and my mother sent letters and became friends. They live in different countries but have remained very good friends, though they have never met.”
That doesn’t answer the question. Again, it just raises more. Did her grandmother stay in Albania? Why? What kept her there? Why did she visit her Polish friend in Albania? Or is Joan also English but somehow ended up in Poland? Why are there so many names in that paragraph? I don’t need a hellish six-degrees-of-separation from Magda, especially when it doesn’t answer the fucking question Moss asked.
They get their sandwiches and go to the car and Demelssia marvels at how clever Moss is because he knew all along that she really was hungry and oh my god, this is going to be “Have you eaten, Anastasia?” all over again.
He stops for gas and takes Demelssia inside with him to pay.
In the queue for the register, Alessia stands beside me, taking the occasional bit of her sandwich and gazing at the shelves in what looks like wonder.
“Do you want anything? Magazine? A snack? Something sweet?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “There is so much to buy here.”
She’s from Kukës. It’s a county seat and tourist destination. Google “supermarkets Kukës Albania” and you know what comes up? Grocery stores and convenience stores that are EXACTLY LIKE THE ONES IN AMERICA AND THE UK.
I laugh. “The shops aren’t tidy in Albania?”
“Not in Kukës. Not like this.”
At the register I slide my credit card into the chip and PIN machine, conscious that she’s watching my every move.
“Your card is magic,” Alessia says.
So, you know how E.L. James is like, I traveled to Albania, I know what I’m talking about?
This means she traveled to Albania…and decided that it was dirty and provincial and backward and the people were all bewildered peasants who’d never seen a fucking credit card and then she took the opportunity to depict it that way to the entire world.
No fucking wonder the Albanian ambassador to the UK is pissed off at her. This is the most needlessly detailed and condescending Trip Advisor review of all time.
Back in the car, she explains that in Albania, people shake their heads to mean “yes” and nod to mean “no” and Moss wonders if that caused confusion in their earlier conversations. She tells him about her hometown and how it’s so isolated and rural, and then she tells him more about her grandmother. She didn’t just visit the country with Joan. She went there as a missionary:
“Missionaries? In Europe?”
“Yes. The Communists banned religion. Albania was the first atheist nation.”
Albania was the only atheist nation.
“Oh, I had no idea.”
I did! It was in a bathroom book with weird facts that I used to read when pooping.
“She came to help the Catholics. She smuggled books into Albania from Kosovo. Bibles. You know. What she did, it was dangerous. She met an Albanian man and–” She pauses and her face softens. “They fell in love. And…how do you say it? The rest is history.”
God, this just gets worse and more patronizing. Don’t worry, everyone. Grandma and Joan are here to save your souls, you godless Communists.
I’m sorry. I’m not a fan of missionaries. That whole colonization thing really ruined their reputation.
We have to hear the backstory about how Joan went to Poland as a…Catholic…missionary…
Because, you know. There are no Catholics in Poland.
Now we hear again how Demelssia’s mother became friends with Magda and how Magda has been a good friend and protected her after her escape, etc.
Then they talk about how Moss is a DJ and she doesn’t know what that is, and she doesn’t know what a dance club is. I’m not going to Google this. I’m just going to build Albania up in my head as a paradise where there is no EDM.
How sheltered was this girl’s upbringing?
That’s what I’m wondering. Damn.
Moss thinks about how she was, you know, trafficked, and he’s like,
I hope, for her sake, that she managed to avoid any horror. But somehow I doubt it. The journey alone must have been a nightmare.
You think? What an insight! You’re a regular god damn Sherlock Holmes. We got a Miss Fisher solving cases all over the place. He unraveled the mystery of whether or not getting kidnapped is traumatic. Fucking Bill Nye the Obvious Guy over here.
They get to his estate. He’s taken her to “one of the luxury holiday homes” on his land because he doesn’t want to overwhelm her with the Hall. I don’t blame him. She’d probably be like, “Is this…how you say…building? In Communist Albania, building builds you!”
The truth is, I want her to myself.
There we go.
Demelssia is asleep, and he thinks about waking her with a kiss, then he’s like, damn my eyes, I have made a vow to never touch her! And he actually does use the word “vow,” which made me snort with laughter. He wakes her up by saying:
“Hello, beautiful. We’ve arrived.”
And the chapter is done.
My impression so far: Why is it that in E.L. James books, the heroes might be a little okay until they meet the heroine? Like, to be honest, Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t start out with Christian being a super stalker. He just met Ana at his office, then later had coffee with her. It was only after he got interested in her that he became a full-on predator. Maxim was, as I mentioned above, reasonably redeemable in his actions so far because people do weird things when they’re grieving and he decided to rescue his housekeeper from kidnappers. Then they get in the car together and bam. Oh, her PTSD is cockblocking me, woe, woe, angst and woe. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all to show him caring for her as a human being first and a fuck object a very, very distant second, but that’s not the path James chose. And I cannot fathom why she and millions of other women think that’s sexy.
I also don’t know why she assumed that human trafficking would be the perfect issue to explore in a romance novel, but here we fucking are.
On top of all that, what do you call the opposite of a tourism commercial? Because that’s what’s happening about Albania here. It’s absolutely ridiculous.