I apologize for the shortness of this recap, but the chapter is short and pretty much unnecessary until the last page.
In which we open the chapter with someone waking up.
The warmth of her body seeps into mine. Enjoying the feel of her skin on my skin, I open my eyes to greet the misty morning and the lovely Alessia. She’s fast asleep and curled around me like a fern, her hand on my belly, her head on my chest. My arm is wrapped possessively around her shoulders, holding her close, and she’s naked.
Setting aside the part where “naked” was already implied by “skin on my skin,” remember how in Fifty Shades of Grey nearly every single chapter began with Ana waking up and ended with her going to sleep? There’s nothing wrong with starting a chapter with someone waking up (in fact, one of my favorite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, begins with the protagonist waking up), but when it becomes an over and over and over again pattern, it makes the book feel longer. I really feel like doing this consistently, every single chapter, tricks the brain into believing it’s been reading all day long, even when it hasn’t. It also provides a reader with a natural stopping point, when you want them to keep turning pages. My advice: use this sparingly. Let your characters get in bed, sure, but don’t necessarily put your reader in the POV of drifting off to sleep. Stop before their eyes close. This is really difficult to do in romance novels, and I find myself using the sleep/wake device more often than I’d like, so learn from my mistakes and E.L. James’s infuriating patterns.
Anyway, it’s implied that they have morning sex, then we cut to:
The sun is shining. The air is crisp and cold. “No Diggity” blares over the sound system as I drive up the A39 toward Padstow.
I have never. In my life. Laughed so hard at something so unintentionally funny in a book before. “I need a really cool song to show how hip and sexy my hero is,” thought the author. “Aha! I have just the thing.”
Anyway, Moss skips going to church with Demelssia because she might find out he’s an earl, so they’re off on a drive.
She flashes me a quick crotch-tightening grin.
That’s her superpower. The dread crotch-tightening grin.
Man, she is captivating.
Man, captivating seems like the only adjective E.L. James knows.
Moss thinks about how sexy Demelssia was in bed, and he’s like, she seemed to enjoy the sex. Which. Okay, if “seemed to enjoy” is where you’re setting the bar, I guess.
My blood heads south at the thought.
Moss is suffering from priapism and it’s only getting worse. Like, come on. One’s dick can only get so hard before it becomes a medical emergency. I’m just imagining the end of his penis blowing out like an overcooked hot dog. Which I think is a description I applied to Christian Grey, so the hits keep coming.
I feel buoyant–[…]
Then get in the sea and let’s find out.
So, they’re going on a shopping trip so he can buy her clothes. And of course, she doesn’t want him to buy her anything because she has her pride or whatever. Like, that pride didn’t stop her from taking hand-me-downs and a free place to live and round-the-clock protection for her friends and a sexy escape to a luxury hideaway, but clothing is where we’re drawing this line.
I sigh. “They are a gift for all your hard work–”
“They are a gift because I have sexual intercourse with you.”
We have to know that she’s not prostituting herself. We have to know that our heroine would never do that.
Honestly, this detail wouldn’t bother me at all if she was like, no, I don’t want to feel like I owe you anything. But that’s not how it’s framed. The implication is that it’s bad to accept gifts from men you’re having sex with because then it’s transactional and therefore, shameful.
I try a different tack. “I’m going to buy them for you anyway, whether you’re there or not. So you can come with me and choose something you like or leave it to me.”
The different tack, see, is him steamrolling over her wishes.
We go into Demelssia’s POV, where she decides that no, Moss is right.
She trots beside him along the quay, trying to ignore the scandalized voice of her mother that rings in her head.
He is not your husband. He is not your husband.
She shakes her head.
She’s not going to let her absent mother make her feel guilty. She is in England now. She is free. Like an English girl.
Remember how we just heard in the last chapter all about how she doesn’t feel any shame? What happened to that? Also, pronoun-wise, her mother is in England now.
Demelssia thinks sexy thoughts about Moss while they walk through the streets of Padstow.
Padstow is a filming location for Poldark.
Alessia is amazed people can express their affection so freely on the streets. It is not the same in Kukës.
This has finally helped me put my finger on what bugs me about the depiction of Albania. There is no distinction made between cultural norms and law. The heavy emphasis on, “This was forbidden by law, that was dangerous to do under communism” is never distinct from, “We don’t do that.” It’s not that people in Albanian aren’t allowed to express affection in public. There aren’t laws or penalties for doing so, at least, that I can find through deep googling. It’s just not a cultural norm. More of a, “What would the neighbors think” issue that wouldn’t exist for someone who lived in a less-strict family. But when it’s phrased this way, it sounds like a definite law. It sounds like, okay, this thing is totally forbidden, when it isn’t. It just isn’t a part of life the way it is in other places.
They go into a store in Moss’s POV:
Alessia is hanging on my arm like a limpet.
Ah, what woman wouldn’t swoon to be described thus?
A young sales assistant approaches us. Blond and breezy […]
The sales assistant, Sarah, is immediately helpful. You know, so we can finally find out just how thin Demelssia is.
“I think you’re a small, either a UK size eight or ten.”
That’s a US size six or eight. In other words, totally inconsistent with our previous “a fourteen-year-old’s pajama hand-me-down fits” description.
While Alessia tries on some clothes, Moss thinks about how she’s Not Like Other Girls™:
I’ve been shopping with women before, but they’ve always known what they wanted. I am dragged along on these trips either to pay or to give an opinion that will be ignored.
Pfff. Women. Am I right?
He considers sending her shopping with Caroline in London. You know. The place where the kidnappers are? Then he’s like, oh wait, no can’t do that.
I frown. What am I doing?
I’m fucking my daily. That’s what I’m doing.
In my mind I hear her cry as she orgasms. My dick hardens at the memory.
Dude, do you need to go to the hospital?
Yes. I’m fucking her, and I want to do it again.
That’s why I’m here.
In the women’s clothing store? I don’t think Blonde Sarah is going to be thrilled with that. I doubt she gets paid enough to wipe the ensuing arterial spray off the walls.
He thinks about how this shopping trip is “redistribution of wealth,” and I immediately begin construction on a guillotine. Then he picks out a dress for her and she tries it on. Obviously, she’s the most gorgeous woman who ever gorgeoused:
Her hair cascades down below her breasts, which are swathed in a soft fabric that clings.
Breasts. Flat stomach. Hips. The dress stops short at her knees, and she’s barefoot. She looks sensational–a little older, maybe, but more womanly and sophisticated.
Damn, I guess now that she doesn’t look like a child, his erection can go away.
The fabric clings to her arse, too.
Well, Moss, it would be kind of a fucking weird dress if it was tight all over but baggy in the ass.
The weirdest thing happens in this chapter, you guys. After Moss pays for the clothes (in Demelssia’s POV so we can hear how much money he’s spent on her and more about how Albanians would never kiss in public), they leave the store without the blonde woman hitting on Moss.
I know. I got lightheaded, too. I think the simulation is truly failing.
Moss decides Demelssia needs shoes, too. In his POV. I shit you not, there are seven POV switches in this single chapter.
Ah. Shoes…the way to every woman’s heart.
Women be shoppin’. Am I right?
(Please tell me that reference isn’t too old.)
I’m skipping over a lot of the shopping because we really don’t have to care about the boots they buy, other than Moss’s disappointment that they can’t find “high-heeled fuck-me shoes” for her to wear. He suggests they recycle her old boots, but they’re the only thing she has from Albania, so he says they’ll have them resoled, instead.
Alessia tries not to dwell on Maxim’s generosity. It is rude in her culture to reject a gift, but she knows what her father would call her if he knew what she was doing. He would either kill her or have a heart attack. Probably both. She’d already dishonored him, and until recently she had the bruises to prove it. Once again she wishes he were more open-minded–and less violent.
So, her father is abusive, and over lunch in Moss’s POV, she tells him:
“You buy me all these things, and I can never pay you the money. And I don’t know what will happen to me when we go back to London. And I am thinking about my father and what he would do to me”–she pauses and swallows–”and to you, if he knew what we had done. I know what he would call me. And I’m tired. I’m tired of being afraid.”
How does Moss respond to this?
“That’s a lot to think about.”
He does go on to tell her that he wants to make sure she’s okay, and she’s like, okay, I’m grateful for that.
Her response angers me. I don’t want her gratitude. I think she’s got some old-fashioned notion about being my mistress. And what her father has to do with us, I don’t know. It’s 2019, not 1819.
…but so far, Demelssia has consistently been portrayed as an NPC from a Fiddler on the Roof LARP or something, so IDK why this is all a big, sudden shock.
What do I want? From her?
I’ve had her beautiful body.
And it’s not enough.
It hits me.
Her beautiful body?
Like a sledgehammer. Right between the eyes.
Ah, if only.
I want her heart.
So, they’re in love now, I guess. Whee.
My Impression So Far: The more this book goes on, the more it reads like a reskin of Fifty Shades of Grey but with a different type of kidnapper and some Poldark for extremely bland seasoning. We’ve also spent more time in this chapter focusing on what he’s buying for her and how sexy she looks in it than we do on his reaction to the revelation that she’s been abused. It’s more important to know that our hero’s dick is hard than it is to know what he’s going to do to protect Alessia, aside from sweeping her away on vacation and buying her things. This absolutely tracks with the author’s style, so IDK what I was expecting.