I am so, so ill, and so, so full of every kind of OTC cold medicine you can safely mix (and some you can’t) that I was tempted to just make this entire recap, “Then they had sex.”
But it’s really, truly bad. As compellingly written as the terms and conditions of the warranty on your new refrigerator, as sexy as the cracked concrete floor of a franchised oil change garage, this is not something I can skip over. Oh no.
Especially not after the staggering generosity everyone showed yesterday and today. Sweet Jesus, I almost feel guilty. You guys literally funded next month’s rent! I cannot thank you enough. Even though I look like I’m auditioning for the role of Zombie Outbreak Patient #3 in a musical production of The Walking Dead, I’m gonna deliver. I’m gonna detonate all around you and start to move, really move. I’m gonna take you into this muted pastel room of pain with me. It will, however, be a short recap because the chapter is short and there’s really not a lot you can say about four pages of kissing.
Get on your masochist bikes. We’re going for a super painful ride.
So, Demelssia is like, oh, shit, I thought playing this piece for Moss would make him happy, but she was not prepared for Dead Brother Grief Fest 2019.
Three weeks is no time. No wonder he’s still grieving.
And she thinks about how her grandmother has been gone for a year and she’s still grieving, and I want to say, you know, I actually like this. I like that Demelssia acknowledges in her POV that grief isn’t something that just stops after the funeral. My baby brother died in 2000 and it fucked me up for life. We have a weird cultural attitude about grief and how long it’s supposed to last and oh, we’re malingering, we’re wallowing if it still bothers us down the road, but I gotta tell you if you’re lucky enough to never have experienced grief, it lasts forever. I’m so happy that James didn’t downplay it.
So, basically, Demelssia is like, I have to make him feel better, so she kisses him, and we go into Moss’s POV, where Demelssia tells him, “I’ve got you,” echoing the bazillion other times he’s said this to her.
I want to crush her to me and never let her go. I can’t remember the last person who consoled me in my hour of need.
Remember when you grief-fucked her?
Gradually, my grief recedes, leaving only hunger in its wake.
But not for food, wink wink nudge nudge.
I’ve been fighting my attraction to her since I saw her standing in my hallway holding that broom.
Really? Was that when you were kissing Demelssia in your laundry room or buying condoms with the intention to fuck her and throw her to the kidnappers?
She’s exposed my grief. My need. My lust. And I’m powerless to resist.
Oh, okay. Well, as long as you have no self-control, then.
I’m lost. Lost to her compassion, her courage, her innocence.
Because nobody likes a ruined sex trafficking victim, right?
So, they kiss more, then she pulls back and looks in his eyes, and she tells him she’s never even been kissed by anyone but him. They kiss again. Two pages of tedious kissing written with all the burning passion of a dental hygiene textbook:
I kiss her again, tempting her lips apart with my tongue, and this time I’m met with the tip of hers.
Then he grinds up on her and that gives her pause, so he asks if she wants him to stop and I have to check and make sure I have the right author’s book open on my Kindle.
“You’re beautiful. I want you.”
Her lips part as she inhales.
“I want to touch you. Everywhere,” I whisper. “With my hands. With my fingers. With my lips. And with my tongue.”
When you use Grammarly, there’s this thing that pops up and is like, “Whoa there, Pulitzer Prize Winner, but you have some really repetitive sentences going on and it’s monotonous as hell.” I mean, not in those exact words. But whatever software James is writing on should have that feature, and it should use those exact words.
So, Moss stops like every two seconds to ask if he’s going too fast, if she’s still into it, etc. and while I appreciate that James took at least some direction from the criticism lobbed at Fifty Shades of Grey, it begins to feel a little bit like a virginity fetish, or like we’re supposed to be super turned on by her inexperience, which always makes me a little bit…eurgh. I’ve written virgin heroines. My book that comes out next week (WHERE WE LAND, it’s out Tuesday, buy it) features one. But the emphasis put on Demelssia’s virginity and uncertainty in this scene make it really, really feel like she’s not ready to have sex at all, and that Moss gets off on that. For example, when she finally does make an assertive move:
She stills for a second, then grips my hair firmly, tugging hard, and kisses me with ardor–greedy and feverish.
“Easy,” I breathe. “Let’s take this slow.”
he is the one who steps things back and tries to return to a dynamic where she’s timid and hesitant. Why? After going on about how much he likes “willing” women in all the past chapters, when she’s finally enthusiastic about sexual contact with him, he adjusts the situation so that he can continue being unsure about whether or not she wants him.
Her moan is soft and husky as her head falls into the palm of my hand.
Shouldn’t have untied the green ribbon, I guess.
It’s music to my dick.
There is no photo. No gif. No witty reaction to capture the tremendous horror of this line.
All I can think of is “The Music of the Night”. I already hated that song. Now it’s worse. Somehow, without knowing the depths of her awesome, terrible power, E.L. James has made me hate The Phantom of The Opera even more than I already did.
There’s more gross virginity fetishizing in the guise of obtaining consent:
I cradle her face with both hands and brush her lips with my thumb. “Talk to me. Do you want to stop?”
and when she’s like, nah, let’s do this, he’s all:
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Tell me, Alessia. I need to hear you say it.”
Okay, but she said it. She’s said it numerous times. At one point, she specifically asked him to kiss her. She straight up says during this exchange, “do not stop.”
Face shining with what I hope is lust and excitement, […]
Bro. If you don’t know, even after she has firmly, verbally established that she wants to have sex with you, you need to not be having sex with people because there is some issue here with understanding what constitutes consent.
Oh god, if we find out he raped Elizaline “by mistake” or some bullshit and that’s why he got kicked out of school, I’m going to set a junkyard on fire.
They go upstairs and he does more fetishizing of her childlike innocence:
She ends up with her back against his chest while he kisses her neck and undoes her bra. Then he gets his hand down her enormous panties while she throws out a Zot and some other Albanian and he tells her to speak English.
I kiss that spot behind her ear,
You know. That one.
and slip my hand inside her pajamas and slide my fingers over her sex.
My very first thought was, “because the traffickers made them do it at the rest stop.” And it got immediately unsexy. Well, I mean. It was already unsexy. This just catapulted it into, “I, Jenny Trout, may never feel tingling in my genitals again,” territory. You’d think after what she told him about being forced to shower that he’d have the same thought and be like, oh man, this is wrong, I shouldn’t be doing this with this chick, she’s been through it. But of course, he doesn’t. He’s just thrilled that she’s completely bare down there, which makes the whole innocence angle even more troubling. I’m not saying, oh, people who like a bare vulva are pedophiles. That’s not where this is going. What I’m saying is, we’ve heard all about how innocent and untouched and totally unaware of everything having to do with sex she is and how much that arouses him, and then she’s sporting a bare pussy, something we tend to think of as grooming we do to be more sexually appealing. He’s getting this fantasy woman with a pornstar lack of pubes and an effortlessly perfect body, but he’s also getting the fantasy of “breaking in” a virgin.
You guys. It’s gross.
So, he starts playing with her clit:
“Yes,” I whisper, and continue stroking her. Teasing her. Arousing her. With my fingers.
Thanks for specifying. For a minute, I thought you might be using a garden hose.
Her legs start to tremble. And I tighten my arm around her. She’s close.
Does she know?
So, again, the fantasy of being the man who unlocks her sexuality entirely.
“I’ve got you,” I whisper, […]
Her orgasm is now on par with a total emotional meltdown over dead brothers and kidnappers.
She whimpers and suddenly cries out as her body slowly convulses,
How does one slowly convulse? I’d like to practice it the next time I seize.
and she comes apart in my arms.
I’m just imagining all her limbs dropping off and hitting the floor.
My jeans feel several sizes too small, and I want to rip off her pajamas and bury myself in her. But she needs time. I know this. I wish my cock understood.
Well, I wish my brain understood, so we’re in the same boat.
He takes his jeans off and gets into bed with her, and there’s more talk about how shy she is.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask.
I want her to get up, put her shirt on, and go, “You know what, Mister Maxim? Why don’t you come find me when you’re sure you want to do this.”
Then there’s more kissing. Just. So. Much. Kissing. I don’t mind characters kissing. But Jesus Christ, lady, there are only so many ways to describe tongues and mouths touching and you landed on precisely two and just kept running with those.
My fingers slip under her waistband and she pushes her sex into my hand. I have her. In the palm of my hand. I groan. She’s wet.
Slowly, slowly, I ease my finger inside her.
She’s tight. And wet.
Hang on, now, is she wet? And is your hand somehow involved? I’m so used to having things repeated three times that I just can’t tell if we only hear about them twice.
“Time to say good-bye to these,” I murmur against her belly.
And then he rips out her intestines.
Nah, he’s talking about her pants. But that doesn’t come up until after more of Demelssia’s dialogue.
Tasting her skin, I skim my lips down her throat to her gold cross. I twirl it with my tongue, enjoying the taste, […]
Do you also enjoy chewing on tinfoil, Moss?
There’s more tit play (there was some before, as well), more Zots, and hey, let’s get a vaginal weather report:
She’s wet. Still.
It’s been like maybe three minutes.
So, here’s the sequence of this sex scene so far:
- Partial undressing
- Partial undressing
- Nipple play
- Partial undressing
- Nipple play
It’s so. Fucking. Boring. It’s just the same thing, over and over.
Finally, it’s time for the penis in vagina part.
Reaching for a condom, trying to keep my body in check, I whisper, “Are you ready? It’ll be quick.”
He asks her one more time if she wants to have sex with him, then he almost unmans himself just putting on the condom.
Slowly. Slowly. Slowly, I sink into her.
See, here I know that he’s doing it slowly because it’s stated three times.
Sadly, though she does cry out, we don’t get to hear his dick turn her into a pirate the way Christian’s did to Ana.
[…]I take her at her word and begin to move. Into her.
Oh, I thought you meant like, to Scotland.
Once. Twice. Thrice. Again. And again.
Whoa. Whoa. That’s five times. Slow down. Some of us didn’t go to expensive, Albanian-capital-teaching schools.
So, he’s thinking about how he doesn’t want to come yet, and she’s writhing under him and begging him to do more.
I move once, twice…a third time,
This is the same page as when he moved once, twice, thrice. We’re talking, a few short paragraphs apart.
Anyway, she has a screaming orgasm with zero clitoral stimulation and:
I come. Forcefully. Loudly. And calling out her name.
IT’S OVER NOW, THE MUSIC OF MY DICK!
[IMG: gif of the Phantom of the Opera clutching his scarred up head and crying]
My impression so far: Not great. The “sexy” writing swings from cringeworthy to boring to repetitive, sometimes blending all those elements into a single sentence. The first sex scene in the book, the one with the nameless harlot or whatever, is hotter than this, and it didn’t even get to the penetration. Maybe I just can’t get aroused by a hero who’s so turned on by the heroine’s lack of experience and knowledge. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been less than twenty-four hours since she was running away down his fire escape and sobbing in his car about how she was almost sold as a sex slave.
I’m clearly not the target audience here. I don’t know who is, but I probably don’t want to know.