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Jealous Haters Book Club: The Mister chapter seventeen or “Forget the plot, tell me where you put the bags!”

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Hey there, everybody! Before we get started, I’ve got a housekeeping detail for Trout Nation and it is a DOOZY. Starting yesterday, you’ll be able to read my Sophie Scaife series (written as Abigail Barnette) on the Radish app! A new episode will release every day, Monday through Friday, and the first twenty or so episodes of The Boss are free so you can try before you buy!

Also,  shout out to whoever left the Amazon review for Where We Land that pointed out the book is nothing like Poldark. I’ve had so many people mention that to me over the weekend.

Okay, now, let’s get into this book. The one you came here for. The one you don’t want to keep reading but find yourself inexplicably drawn back to.

Let’s get into.

The Mister.

Which, by the by, was a “deal of the day” on several book blogs last week when it was offered as a $2.99 sale ebook on Amazon. Like Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, The Mister has also been moved into categories it does not belong in to retain the illusion of super high sales numbers. Right now, it’s the #2 bestseller in “Mothers and Children Fiction” and #4 in “Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Literary Fiction.”

Again, let me be clear: The Mister would be a dream success for any author who previously hadn’t written the bestselling book of all time or whatever. But if you are that author, and your publishing house has thrown gobs of money behind your book launch? And you’ve been on television all over the world to promote it? And done numerous print interviews?

You shouldn’t be getting your ass handed to you in your own category by Kindle Unlimited banging-my-billionaire-stepbrother books.

Love. Confusing. Irrational. Frustrating…Exhilarating.

Exciting and new! Come aboard! We’re expecting you! THE LOOOOOOOOVE BOOOOOOOAT!

I am madly, crazily, ridiculously

“In love with Josh!”

 

via GIPHY Image: Josh and Cher kissing at the end of Clueless

in love with the woman sitting opposite me.

My daily. Alessia Demachi.

Moss can stop referring to her as his “daily” at any point here. First of all, we already know that Demelssia was his cleaning lady. We were there. And our memories are not so short that we’ve forgotten. This no longer feels like a necessary detail. It’s beginning to feel like this is how Moss views her: an employee first. And that would work for me if they were still in a boss/employee situation, but they’re not. It feels like James is trying to coast on a workplace romance dynamic that isn’t there because they’re not in the workplace, and it ends up feeling classist and weird.

Moss goes on to recount incidents that have taken place to lead us to this point. Things that we didn’t actually see on the page, but it’s okay because now we’re being told they happened differently than they were written:

I’ve felt like this since I first laid eyes on her standing in the my hallway clutching a broom. I remember how disconcerted I was…how angry. How the walls closed in on me and I had to escape because I didn’t understand the depth of my feelings.

When our hero and heroine first meet, Demelssia thinks that Moss is angry. He described himself as “bemused” and “unsettled,” but he takes care not to appear angry. He gets “frustrated” and “annoyed” at her, but James took great pains not to describe him as angry in his POV. He only appeared angry to us via Demelssia’s POV. So, he’s describing the situation as though he has read her part of the story.

I love her. That’s why I went after her when she fled to Brentford. That’s why I brought her here. To protect her. I want her to be happy. I want her with me.

Here’s the thing: it’s really hard to retcon your hero’s motives into something romantic when they were previously, “I’ll rescue her from kidnappers and then she’ll be sure to fuck me!” Especially when you’ve stated those motives in the text more than once.

Fuck.

It’s a revelation.

Fuck. I hate personal growth, too, Moss. But I have to point out that “It’s a revelation” is sneaking in from Fifty Shades of Grey and its spin-off duology. Everything was “a revelation” in those books.

And I know so little about her.

Okay, but that’s not your fault. There isn’t much to know.

I’m just. I’m sorry, I have to backtrack a little here. How has he fallen in love with her? How did he fall in love with her the moment that he laid eyes on her in his hallway? They’ve had very, very little interaction at all, even this far into the book. They didn’t even meet until four chapters in. And he’s fantasized about her sexually, but when he was doing that, there was never any fantasy about who she is as a person. Just, oh, I want to fuck her, gross, she doesn’t dress like the sexy woman I meet at bars, oh dear, what am I to do. So now, he’s saying he doesn’t know much about her and it’s like…bro. You know:

  • That she was trafficked
  • That she was abused
  • That she’s really super poor
  • That she doesn’t want to throw away rotten boots because they’re from home
  • That her grandmother was English
  • That her grandmother had a best friend/pen pal from Poland
  • That she plays piano
  • That she’s good at chess
  • That she has synesthesia
  • That she’s plagued by nightmares
  • That she allegedly has a sense of humor that the reader doesn’t get to see but you can
  • That she went to college
  • That she taught English (inexplicably)
  • That she can escape from kidnappers
  • That she thinks her home country is shitty
  • That she doesn’t want to be paid for sex
  • That she’s shy about sex stuff

And good news, that’s ALL THERE IS TO KNOW! There isn’t anything else going on with her! I mean, I really feel like you know more about Demelssia than most people know about their cleaning staff. And really, way more than most people know about someone after like, a couple of weeks of casual acquaintance and a weekend away.

I’ve fallen in love with my cleaner.

Just in case you forgot he’s banging a peasant.

And now she’s finally opening up to me–but in spite of all I’ve done, she’s still afraid. I’ve not done enough.

Another ugh moment. The stuff he’s done isn’t that different from the stuff the kidnappers did, to be honest. He took her away from her home, didn’t tell her where she was going, prettied her up…he just did it in a different way. Demelssia is still being dragged around on the whims of a man she doesn’t know and who has power over her. It doesn’t matter if the intentions are different because Demelssia’s trauma isn’t going to linger on the fine details. The situations are just gonna feel the same.

She tells him she didn’t mean to be a “kill buzz” and bring the mood down, and he’s like, that’s okay, you didn’t, and his stomach growls and they laugh about it and he’s like, oh good, her sense of humor is back. Then we go into Demelssia’s POV and she’s like, wow, it’s so weird that I was running from danger and it brought me to him, or whatever, and how her grandmother would approve of his table manners and that his eyes are the color of the Drin river back home. Go look up pictures of the Drin. It really is like, super green.

She never expected to fall in love.

Love is for fools, her mother used to say.

I’m super confused about her mother. So, here’s the deal. Demelssia’s mother’s mother was a modern woman from England, right? She married an Albanian man and…raised a super conservative daughter who fits completely into the super conservative culture of the country? From what we understand in the text, Demelssia’s English grandmother was the type of woman who would smuggle books, an act of radical rebellion. She never raised her daughter to be, IDK…anything other than a slut-shaming traditionalist? She never thought, ah, my granddaughter is being beaten by my son-in-law, I better step in or try to get her and my daughter out of the country? I’m just not getting this dynamic at all.

She’d like to make her home with him. Permanently. But she knows it’s not possible.

Why? Why is it not possible? Elaborate. Because right now, just having the heroine go, “There is an obstacle to our love!” isn’t enough. Show us what that obstacle is. Show us why she thinks she could never be with him forever. Honestly, this whole thing seems so fucking backward. Moss, the love-’em-and-leave-’em playboy is the one going, “Well, I had sex with her, now I have to marry her,” and Demelssia, the men-and-women-can’t-hold-hands-unless-they’re-married virgin is the one going, “sex doesn’t mean we’re going to be together forever,” and these things are BACKWARD and MY BRAIN HURTS because there is NO EXPLANATION AS TO WHY EITHER OF THEM HAVE THESE ATTITUDES WHEN THEIR CHARACTERIZATIONS ARE COMPLETELY OPPOSITE.

So, they go to Tesco and get the ingredients for Demelssia to cook Moss dinner:

[…]tavë kosi, her father’s favorite dish. She hopes Maxim will like it.

Again, what is happening here?! Earlier, comparison between Moss and her abusive father were (rightfully) negative, but now she’s like, oh, I’ll cook him my father’s favorite food! Why? Why would the memory of her father be something she wants to apply to her love interest when that very situation upset her before?! DID NO ONE READ THIS BOOK BEFORE THEY JAMMED IT INTO THE PUBLISHING MACHINE AND HIT THE SWITCH?!

Demelssia thinks about Magda and Michal.

It’s Sunday, so Michal will probably be doing his school homework or online gaming, and Magda will be cooking or talking to her fiancé, Logan, via Skype, or maybe she’s packing for their move to Canada.

New headcanon: Magda’s Canadian boyfriend, Logan, is Wolverine.

But seriously, Demelssia, do you really think that things have just returned to normal for your friends? Just a couple of days after being put on lockdown with a private security detail because of threat from a violent, international trafficking operation? Things are hunk dory? Business as usual?

Alessia hopes they are safe.

She has a passing thought that maybe later, she’ll ask Moss if he can find out if her friends are like, alive or whatever, and then it’s time to talk about…

“What is this music?” she asks.

“It’s from the soundtrack of Arrival.

Yup. Magda and Michal get a whole paragraph before we jump into basically half a page about the music from Arrival. And this is a nit I’m required to pick, as a theater geek kid. It’s from the score of Arrival, not the soundtrack. And I know this, because it is very, very important to impassioned drama club high schoolers to know the difference between a soundtrack, a score, a cast recording, and concept album.

Duh.

Anyway.

“Have you seen it?”

Yeah, that was the in-flight movie on her harrowing trafficking journey, Moss. She loved it. Can’t wait to see the unedited version.

What the fuck is even happening at this point? Demelssia thinks he’s brooding about something, so she’s like, are you mad at me and he’s like, why would I be mad at you, and sorry, Moss, but “Are you mad at me?” is something you’re going to hear a lot if you want to get with someone who has been abused. That, and “Sorry.”

Wanna see the most hilarious, like, obviously I-don’t-want-to-scroll-up-and-fix-it-ah-fuck-it-I’ll-just-add-a-line-and-nobody-will-notice editing fixes I’ve ever seen?

“Is there any food you don’t eat?” she asks, and wishes she’d found out before they went shopping.

I would lay money that this is exactly what happened:

Manuscript: “Is there any food you don’t eat?” she asks.

Editor: Isn’t that something she should find out before they go shopping?

E.L. James: “Is there any food you don’t eat?” she asks, and wishes she’d found out before they went shopping.

Honestly, the only way I can tell that any of her books have ever been edited is specifically because of these transparent moments where you can practically see the editor’s comments with your own eyes because the fix is so bad.

Time for more English rage! Moss tells Demelssia that he went to boarding school.

But Alessia’s knowledge of boarding schools is limited to Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, a favorite book series of her grandmother.

Demelssia, the part-time English teacher/university student/granddaughter of an Englishwoman has read a series of English children’s books.

Think about who children’s books are written for and what they are meant to encourage.

Is it.

IDK.

Literacy? Fluency in language?

Again, I beg of you, tell me, what even is happening here?

They get back to Sexington Manor (which is what I’m calling it from now on because I made myself laugh when I thought it up) and Moss has a minor breakdown over where he should put the clothes he bought her.

I put them in the spare bedroom, then change my mind and place the bags in the walk-in wardrobe in my room. I want her in here with me.

It’s presumptuous.

Fuck.

I’m tangling myself in knots. I don’t know how to behave with her.

Sitting down on the bed, I put my head in my hands. Did I have a game plan before we got here?

I’m dying. Like, laughing so hard that tears are rolling down my face. The thought of something so inconsequential as where you should put down some shopping bags being this dramatic is just killing me. I’m imagining the movie version of this. Like, the dramatic, suspenseful music swelling and all kinds of dramatic, quick camera cuts like that scene in The Jury where Gerard Butler’s character falls off the wagon. Just that level of stress and acting out. That’s what gets me about E.L. James’s books. It’s just like, every god damn little thing is so dramatic, but then big stuff is like, “It was very, very sad, now let’s move on,” or some bullshit. Like, the fact that his brother recently died, he fucked his sister-in-law, he’s trying to rescue someone from kidnappers, all that stuff is background noise when compared to…THE SHOPPING BAG CONUNDRUM.

He’s all like, should I tell her that I love her, what does she feel for me, etc.

She’s here with me.

That means something, surely?

I mean. You drove her there. She can’t really leave. She doesn’t even have a fucking clue where she is, probably.

She could have stayed with her friend, but that would have meant those gangsters resturning and finding her.

Also, you basically made her go with you.

I was her only option. She has nothing. How could she go on the run?

There you go. You finally figured out why it’s actually unethical to be boning this woman you pretty much kidnapped yourself. It’s not going to stop you from boning her, but at least you had a split-second of self-awareness.

So, finally, he lands on the subject of immigration and the fact that her grandmother was English and oh, hey, that might do something.

Maybe that will help.

Fuck. I don’t know.

What else could I do?

I could marry her.

You could also just get on a website and look up the grandma thing like I did. It took like, zero dollars and there was no paperwork.

He can’t get married to Demelssia, you see. For it simply isn’t done.

It would freak my mother out. For that reason alone, it’s worth popping the question. Tom’s words from our night at the pub come back to me: You know, now that you’re the earl, you’ll need to provide an heir and a spare.

I could make Alessia my countess.

But wouldn’t the ton be scandalized?

I don’t even know if she has feelings for me.

I could ask her.

I roll my eyes. I am going round and round in circles. The truth is, I need to find out more about her. How could I ask her to be my wife? I know where Albania is on the map,

No, you don’t.

and that’s about it. Well, I can put that right, now.

I drag my phone out of my pocket and open Google.

Moss has officially done more research in his story that the author did for his story.

There’s a little section break and then Moss has done so much research about Albania, it’s gotten dark and his phone’s battery is dying. What has he learned about Albania?

It’s a fascinating place, part modern, part ancient, with a turbulent history. I’ve found Alessia’s hometown. It’s in the northeast, nestled among mountain ranges and a few hours’ drive from the capital. From all I’ve read, it does appear that life is more traditional in that region.

So…you looked it up on Wikipedia? It took that long?

Now, I’m still stuck on how researching Albania is going to somehow uncover how one specific Albanian feels about him in a romantic way, but sure, let’s just pretend that it was a constructive decision and go downstairs to the kitchen with him. Demelssia is cooking the lamb casserole thing her dad likes. Moss asks if she wants help.

“No. This is my thank-you. Would you like to drink?”

I laugh. “Yes, I would like a drink. Do you mind that I’m correcting your English?”

“No. I want to learn.”

“‘Would you like a drink?’ is what we say.”

She was going to university to learn English. She taught English informally. English is the language her grandmother spoke and read to her throughout childhood. She reads English books and watches American TV.

And she needs Moss’s help to learn the difference between a preposition and an article like it’s never come up before.

He tells her that he read about Albania and he’d like to know more about life in her home town. If you would also like to know more, I guess you need to Google it, too because James doesn’t think it’s important enough to waste time on:

Maybe it’s because she’s distracted while cooking supper, but she finally opens up and starts to describe the house she lived in with her father and mother. It’s beside a vast lake, surrounded by fir trees….And while she’s telling me, I watch and marvel at how she moves about behind the counter with such ease and grace, as if she’s been cooking in this kitchen for years.

Blah blah blah, she’s “finally” opening up, but the reader doesn’t need to hear anything about her life. What’s important is that we know how Moss feels about the way she looks when she’s cooking.

We hit the age thing again as she tells him stuff E.L. James remembered from that one book she flipped through before she opened a new Word document and really went to town:

“So you don’t drive?”

“No,” she answers as she lays the table for us.

“Does your mother drive?”

“Yes. But not often.” She smiles when she sees my consternation. “You know that most Albanians did not drive until the mid-1990s. Before the fall of the communists. We had no cars.”

Again, we’re running into the age issue. Demelssia doesn’t drive…because people didn’t drive until after the fall of communism. But that was the mid-nineties, and Demelssia is twenty-two or twenty-three, again, I don’t give a shit about looking. I know I’m in the ballpark. I’m thirty-eight. This explanation would make more sense for someone my age. Demelssia couldn’t possibly remember an Albania that was car-less due to communist rule.

Also, if E.L. James is your very most favorite writer and you wish you could write books just like hers? It’s really simple. What you do is think of a story. Then think of all the things in the story that are important. Then you throw all those in the trash and concentrate on shopping, going out to eat, and what communist Albania was like. Heroine talking about her childhood memories that probably tie into her characterization as a survivor of child abuse? Fuck that, gloss right over it. Focus instead on cramming as many unnecessary details about what your heroine’s country of origin was like before she was even born. That way, people will know you did the research!

Demelssia asks Moss if she can call Magda, so we go to her POV for that conversation HA HA HA no, we stay in his POV while he watches her talk on the phone to Magda:

Unconsciously, she winds a lock of hair that’s escaped from her plait around her fingers as she tells Magda about the sea and her impromptu dip in it yesterday.

Again, the heroine is talking to the only friend she has, who is under threat of some horrible fate from an Albanian crime cartel or something but none of that is more important than hearing Moss think about marrying her again.

Alessia laughs again, and her voice changes, becoming softer…sweeter. She’s talking to Michal, and I know from her tone that she’s exceptionally fond of him. I shouldn’t be jealous–he’s a kid–but maybe I am? I’m not sure I appreciate this new and unwelcome feeling.

Well, I’m not sure I appreciate having to hear you get jealous of a fourteen-year-old because he’s talking on the phone to your girlfriend but apparently that’s what’s gonna happen instead of any insight into Demelssia’s thoughts during this phone conversation.

Demelssia hangs up and she and Moss talk about how Magda and Michal are doing and how they’re going to be moving soon, etc. and Moss offers to buy her a phone and she’s all, no, that’s too much, and you know he’s gonna do it, anyway.

Hey, are we going to get her POV again? Why yes. Of course, we are.

When it’s time to serve dinner.

So, anyway, he obviously loves the food and he tells her she can cook any time and she thinks about how she’d like that and we go back to his POV.

Yup.

The most important thing in this scene that we need to see from her POV is whether or not he likes the meal she cooked him.

We talk and drink and eat. I ply her with wine and questions. Many questions. About her childhood. School. Friends. Family. Reading about Albania has inspired me. Sitting across from Alessia is inspiring, too; she’s so full of life. Her eyes are shining and expressive as she talks.

None of what she talks about with regard to her friends and family matter, though. We skim over that and go straight into dialogue about how Albania is traditional but the capital is becoming more modern, how she has read a lot of books and watched Netflix and HBO, that they can get BBC World Service on the radio, and how she plays piano gigs on the side. When we finally reach something about her father, her mood changes and I honestly think we’re going to just jump straight into another sex scene, rather than get any background about her at all. Instead:

“Would you like to go back?”

“Back?”

“Home.”

Her eyes widen with fear. “No. I cannot. I cannot.” Her tone is a hushed, rushed whisper, and the fine hairs on my neck stand on end.

“Why?”

She remains mute, but I want to know. I press her. “Is it because you don’t have a passport?”

“No.”

“Then why? Was it that bad?”

She screws her eyes shut and bows her head as if ashamed. “No,” she whispers. “It’s because…it’s becasue I am betrothed.”

Betrothed.

She knows “betrothed” but not “truck”.

That’s the hook where the chapter ends.

My Impression So Far: My family has this big Easter egg hunt every year. The kids race around outside to get candy and little toys and eggs with money in them. While they’re doing that, there’s always a kid who goes off chasing a frog or something instead and completely abandons their original objective.

E.L. James has the storytelling instincts of the frog kid.

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133 Comments

  1. Small jar of fireflies
    Small jar of fireflies

    My favorite thing about reading these on my phone is that the soft background of the cover looks luminescent, as if it’s showing an actual mist.

    In my head, THE MISTER is about a young woman who works in a greenhouse. She tends the plants, maintains the irrigation system, and tinkers with improved designs. Periodically the metal fixture on the ceiling kicks on and the flowers are watered. The plot is simple, but it also isn’t an offense to Albania.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Rebecca
      Rebecca

      I would read the HELL out of that book.

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
    • Kerry
      Kerry

      The sequel could be set in AZ, where an epidemiologist investigates an outbreak, tracking it down to one poorly maintained outdoor mister system at a popular restaurant.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Jules
        Jules

        “outdoor mister system”

        mister, Mister, lol that would make the book title make far more sense than it does now.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
      • Small jar of fireflies
        Small jar of fireflies

        “The Mister,” a gripping psychological horror. It’s about one housecat’s struggle to live its best life against the ever-waiting squirt bottle.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • Jules
          Jules

          That plot is far more suspenseful than the actual one we got. I already feel more for that poor housecat than I do for Dick and Dim.

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
  2. Maggie
    Maggie

    Gaaaah, how long is this book? It haven’t reached 50’s levels of boring quite yet but it’s getting there.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Perlite
      Perlite

      Between the stale dialogue about how sexy the other person looks and brief interludes of Albanian history, I’m trying to figure what there is here for anyone who actually is a fan.

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      492 pages.

      Feels 1,515 pages.

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
  3. many bells down
    many bells down

    You know, I can give a pass to grammar errors when the grammar of one’s native language is substantially different than one’s second language. Like, my friend Nancy has two siblings that are Deaf, and I can always tell when they comment on Facebook because ASL grammar is dramatically different then English despite the languages being related.

    I don’t know enough about Albanian to say whether the grammar is distinct enough for those sorts of errors to be reasonable. But there’s still no excuse for her not knowing the word truck. Or… shouldn’t it be “lorry”, if she’s consuming British media and is IN ENGLAND?

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  4. MyDog'sPA
    MyDog'sPA

    Also, if E.L. James is your very most favorite writer and you wish you could write books just like hers? It’s really simple. What you do is think of a story. Then think of all the things in the story that are important. Then you throw all those in the trash and concentrate on shopping, going out to eat, and what communist Albania was like. Heroine talking about her childhood memories that probably tie into her characterization as a survivor of child abuse? Fuck that, gloss right over it. Focus instead on cramming as many unnecessary details about what your heroine’s country of origin was like before she was even born. That way, people will know you did the research!

    That was Step #1. You missed step #2, namely, Bring in the antagonist in Chapter 8 at the Act II break, make them meek, polite milquetoasts, and then leave them out of the story until way past the midpoint so the unnecessary details in Step 1 are tedious, monotonous & boring. to read.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  5. Tami Marie Alexander
    Tami Marie Alexander

    “And good news, that’s ALL THERE IS TO KNOW! There isn’t anything else going on with her! I mean, I really feel like you know more about Demelssia than most people know about their cleaning staff.”

    Well, we don’t know if she needs Lemon Pledge, or if Meester Superman is no home. (Obligatory Family Guy Reference)

    You know, EL James needs to make up her mind on whether she wants to write fictional romance novels or travel guides — although she sucks at both — because putting more thought into about shopping in small English villages and the topography of Albania than you do about developing your main characters’ personalities and their feelings for each other is not why people are buying these books.

    Something else I’ve noticed, and I had to go back a couple of recaps to make sure I was not imagining it, but why is Moss so stuck on that first image of her “standing there clutching a broom?” It’s always the same fucking description. “Clutching a broom.” There are other redundancies that are giving me a serious case of deja vu. Repeating something once for effect is different from doing it over and over to bolster your word count.

    I found Moss getting jealous of listening to her talk to Michal really creepy. Jealous of a 14-year-old? Talk about insecure — and yet, he’s such a stud and all women want him. If I’d written this, I would have had him thinking, “She’s so good with kids, I bet she’ll make a wonderful mother someday…” But, no. Every male, regardless of age, should be seen as a threat to the hero’s virility and claim to his woman. Because she’s his daily and therefore his property. Alessia Demarchi, henceforth thy name shall be “Butterfinger” and The Mister shall be “Bart Simpson.” So let it be written, so let it be done.

    And she still doesn’t know the word “truck.”

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Perlite
      Perlite

      Still finding it hard to find anything that may top Christian being jealous of his not-yet-conceived baby, but I’m sure Eel is working very hard.
      And yeah, I’m trying to figure out why Moss is so fixated on her being his maid (sorry, “daily”). She hasn’t done any housework for him in, like, ten chapters and I’m finding it hard to believe that she’s going to go back to cleaning up his rank-ass room after all this is over so…

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Xebi
        Xebi

        Because he and his family are disgusting elitist snobs who are obsessed with maintaining their pure blue bloodline and the thought of Earl Poshpants bedding down with a mudblood, sorry, I mean a pleb like her is just unthinkable. So it’s naughty and thrilling and oh gosh what if Mummy finds out?

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
      • Mr. Fell
        Mr. Fell

        The thing is, Christian at least is a narcisistic mess and was afraid he wouldn’t be Anastasia’s number one priority, which is why he was always insisting she should quit her job and stuff. He’d be jealous of Ana binge watching. It makes sense.

        Maxim is supposed to be a normal dude…who apparently sees a fourteen year old as a rival for Demelza romantic and sexual attention.
        Yeah, no.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • It’s the ELJames/RapeyAlphaDomAsshole cornerstone ideology: if he is insanely jealous, it means he LOVES you! YAY! It’s not abuse or control, it means you’re soulmates! *cues birds chirping*

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
          • Tami Marie Alexander
            Tami Marie Alexander

            AMEN!

            My sister loved the FSoG books. Then again, she is in a relationship with a narcissist — as was I, once, but I “got woke” (read: therapy) and once I had my eyes opened, I stood up to mine. Once they find they have no power over you, like Jareth the Goblin King, they disappear. My sister’s husband would call her repeatedly when she ran up to the store near her house and if he heard any male voices in the background (like, other shoppers nearby), he accused her of cheating. He was jealous of any male doctors she had and made her stop going to them. He would LIE and say he was watching the house and call her at home and say he saw someone come over. And he fucking hated me — unless I was spending money on them, then he put on a smile and was “nice.” He had abused my sister physically, and her daughter from another man before him, and would threaten to kill the family dog in front of their little children (actually putting a knife to the dog’s throat until the girls were screaming and begging him not to do it) because he believed they loved it more than him. His own kids (from his first marriage) would tell my sister to kick his ass to the curb and as miserable as she was (and as much as she started contemplating old, now rich boyfriends), she stayed with this asshole. Probably because they’ve both done a lot of shady shit together and know each other’s secrets… But she’s also gone back to being friendly with our father (our first narc) who abused us as children in every way — once again, because he spends money on them.

            As for me? I never want to be around a narcissist, ever again. I lived that life, it is unhealthy, and it doesn’t just affect the person directly connected (the narc’s main target/partner) but it affects the kids, too. And I’ve already seen how my eldest niece has inherited her mother’s desperation to have a man, even if he beats her up or sits around playing video games while she is forced to work.

            “But he SAYS he loves me!” No, honey. That is not “love,” not by any definition. People (and not just men, because I was with a woman and she was a textbook narc) who see you as property or who put you in a class/caste system even if they’re fucking you (Maxim constantly referring to Alessia as “my daily”), who want to dress you in a manner that pleases THEM without asking if it’s what YOU want, who are jealous of anyone else you associate with — even old friends and family members! — and monitor your phone calls (Christian looked into all of Ana’s calls, texts, emails; Maxim is sitting here listening in on Alessia’s call instead of giving her privacy); if they show zero empathy for your situation and are more concerned about how soon they can bone you, or treat/regard you as ignorant or childlike? That is not someone you want to be around. That is not someone who is even capable of true, unconditional love. They want something from you, usually sex, because it pleases THEM. They are not into getting you off, or they take it as a personal triumph when they do, not as an act of love done for your satisfaction.

            Who hurt you, EL? Or is this who YOU are? Because if this is YOU? I feel sorry for your husband.

            May 22, 2019
  6. Perlite
    Perlite

    You know, it’d be pretty nice to know what Alessia thought about all this- oh, I guess she’s just thinking about more ways to please him… okay.
    “I’ve learned so much about her.” Oh? It’s just gonna talk about how he definitely and truly cares about her life, by just… narrating about how sexy she looks while talking-and making you dinner. Mhm.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  7. Almira
    Almira

    Sorry, I am a Hungarian girl and I thought that “Would you like to drink” is grammatically correct. I can imagine that maybe in that context a native speaker would use the other sentence with the “a”, but what she said was a good English sentence, or not? Moss corrected her, like it was a sentence that they never use.

    The clever phone thing which has not come up here, but a constant issue… Actually, we used this expression in English class to spite our teacher in high school, we knew it was incorrect, but it would have been a literal translation of the phrase that we use for smartphone in Hungarian.

    Sorry if I made mistakes, I can’t even use my spellchecker here 🙁

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Rebecca
      Rebecca

      The distinction is that “would you like a drink?” invokes a casual/ordinariness to the action–a host says this to a guest, or a friend to another friend, to be welcoming and indicate that there are drinks on offer, and the person can have some if they want. “Would you like to drink?” implies more urgency–something has gone very wrong or very right, and you’re talking to some alcohol about it–you’re drinking with a purpose.

      Examples:

      “Would you like a drink? We have wine, beer, coffee, fruit juice, and water.”

      “Your boyfriend just ran off with your best friend and took your dog?! Would you like to drink, or do you want the ice cream instead…?”

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Tami Marie Alexander
        Tami Marie Alexander

        Also reminds me of a movie, “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming,” where said Russians are trying to blend in with the Americans by speaking English. “Egermancy! Everyone to get from street!” was their way of saying, “Emergency! Everyone clear the streets and go to your homes!” Hilarious movie, with Alan Arkin (who speaks fluent Russian) playing the leader of that group. Note, this is a comedy and was not portraying Russians as ignorant, but as doing their best to communicate in their non-native tongue which only one of them could speak semi-fluently. Given her background (teaching English, reading English books, having an English grandmother, and watching American TV shows), she would have a MUCH better grasp of the language (and yeah, she doesn’t know “truck” but as someone else pointed out, in England it WOULD be “lorry”).

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • IsobelA
          IsobelA

          British English is becoming more and more Americanised, as we consume so much American media. Truck instead of lorry and store instead of shop, etc. are now very common.

          Having said that, Delmessia apparently learned English from her grandmother, and Enid Blyton. Her English should therefore be charmingly old-fashioned, not broken.

          May 23, 2019
          |Reply
          • Xebi
            Xebi

            I can’t remember the context in which “truck” came up but actually truck and lorry are slightly different in British English. All lorries are trucks but not all trucks are lorries. As in, we’d use lorry to refer to a big artic, but if someone called it a truck we’d know what they meant. However, the smaller vehicle that Americans would call a pickup is definitely not a lorry.

            May 23, 2019
    • Nanani
      Nanani

      “Would you like to drink” is not wrong, grammatically, but you’d expect the phrase to include a specific drink, like “Would you like to drink some wine” or even just “Would you like to drink it” if the drink being offered is obvious (like if you’re pointing at it).

      The correction to “a drink” changes the offer to a non-specific one, and can be answered with an affirmative and a specific request, like “Sure, just water” or “Beer if you have it” or something like that.

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Almira
        Almira

        Thank you for the clarification. I recognised that what she said was elliptic, and the other sentence with “a drink” means a slightly different thing. But in the expert it seemed like she had said something completely wrong. Moss could have explained the difference, not like “this is how we say”. But I am probably overreacting this.

        May 21, 2019
        |Reply
        • Nanani
          Nanani

          Nah, you’re fine. Moss is also being condescending since her meaning would be completely clear (and he’s not her language tutor!)

          May 21, 2019
          |Reply
          • Sheila
            Sheila

            yeah he may be correct but he’s also being super rude, since he know full well what she means. the context is obvious.

            May 22, 2019
          • Xebi
            Xebi

            Some non-native speakers really appreciate being corrected on little things like this because you don’t necessarily pick them up otherwise. My Polish friend always asks me to. But the key difference is that she asked me to. It’s incredibly rude to do it if the person hasn’t asked you to.

            May 22, 2019
    • A. Noyd
      A. Noyd

      Actually, we used this expression in English class to spite our teacher in high school, we knew it was incorrect, but it would have been a literal translation of the phrase that we use for smartphone in Hungarian.

      Native English speakers play with English like this all the time. I think it’s good for people learning English to do the same thing. If English is going to be a lingua franca, then non-native speakers should be able to add their own flavor to it. If they always obey an outside authority, then it can never become their own language.

      So, as an English teacher, I’m happy when my students do this sort of thing. Even if they’re trying to spite me.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Nanani
        Nanani

        That’s a beautiful point!
        It’s not like English is monolithic among native speakers either, so let’s embrace the flavour!

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I just wanted to add that I think the reason we say “Would you like a drink?” is because it has a common omission of additional words. It’s really “Would you like to have a drink?” but since people in the service industry say it a lot I suspect it was shortened there first and then it caught on as the casual way to say it among everyone else. Just my theory. 🙂

      Of course, “What will you have to drink?” is also common but the former sounds more friendly and less like a waiter.

      May 23, 2019
      |Reply
  8. Carrionbird
    Carrionbird

    “It would freak my mother out. For that reason alone, it’s worth popping the question.”
    Getting married just to fuck with your mom’s head is totally the foundation of a healthy relationship.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  9. Emily, a newbie
    Emily, a newbie

    See, this being classified under “Mystery Fiction” is something I could agree with. It is indeed a mystery how this got published. It’s an even bigger mystery if these editors were real individuals, or if they were all just Colleen Hoover in six different wigs. Good to see they’re leaning into it.

    I’m kind of convinced that the concept of “show don’t tell” is dead, and those of us who still do it are practicing a long-forgotten craft; I say this because so, so many authors anymore just…don’t seem to know about it. It’s not like they tried and just didn’t do it well enough, but they just don’t know that it’s even a thing.
    And Ignoring the very blatant POV skew with Maxim’s first meeting with Alessia (feel like an editor would’ve caught that), I agree that it’s very concerning that he apparently felt angry about being attracted to her. Is…is that a normal reaction? Cause I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so gorgeous that I suddenly just went, “You’re so hot that you make me wanna punch some drywall.” I mean, I could be wrong, I guess. But if this is romance now, I don’t want any.

    Maybe this is me being nitpicky here, but it feels like E. L. renders the idea of “love” to nothing more than just how fuckable you find someone, and whether or not you can maintain that attraction. 50 Shades was guilty of this too, but at least there was the whole “Christian doesn’t do love ’cause he’s such a Bad Broken Boy(tm)” thing tacked on to it. That didn’t make it any more right, but at least there was an attempt at reasoning for it. But here, we don’t have that. Maxim has never expressed an deep aversion to falling in love with someone aside from Operation: Catherine (as far as I recall. Correct me if I’m wrong). If he did, it wasn’t something that E. L. felt worth repeating as a theme.
    Even setting aside the whole “Love is a choice, not a feeling” thing taught in some psych classes, it just feels super gross to suggest that love can only exist so long as you want to partake in some nudist bed dancing with the other person. Maybe that’s just the asexual in me talking and I’m just not connecting to it, I don’t know. I’m very obviously not E. L.’s targetted demographic (as you said before though, Jenny, I really don’t want to find out who is), but it just seems a little…bleh. Like the people that supposedly make up her fanbase probably already feel like their marriage is super vanilla or that the magic is fading, so putting out that love is based on sexual attraction doesn’t seem like a good message to be putting out there. That shows even more with just how void of all personality Alessia is, yet she’s Maxim’s ideal based entirely on her appearance. Makes me wonder if E. L. is one of those people that believes, “Saying a girl has a ‘nice personality’ is just another way of saying she’s ugly.”
    Also, Maxim’s constant reminding of Alessia being his maid just kinda makes this whole idea taste even worse. We get it, she’s so poor and downtrodden and you’re saving her, how romantic and considerate of you. Such a good guy, caring for a lowly peasant and treating her as an actual HUMAN. BEING. Not equally, of course, cause he’s still gotta lord his status over her in his thoughts. But who needs equality when you can just make it rain on her, right? Yes, good. Applause to you, Maxim. And people say chivalry is dead. Pfft.

    Alessia’s mom feels like a mishmash of like…every bad YA/NA parent trope ever. She’s super conservative, she’s super strict, a hovering parent, cared enough to try to help her daughter in a sense with leaving Albania, yet also just looks down on her daughter and sucks the “magic” out of everything. She seriously reads like a classic Disney mom, just without the poisoning or cursing bit. As far as we know.
    It makes it hard to actually picture how their relationship was/is, because we keep getting hit with a different mom trope everytime she’s brought up. This is actually the first time I’ve seen this amount of incompetence with character consistancy.
    I’m also a little thrown off by the sudden Magda development. If she was engaged to someone in Canada and has been planning on moving (which I’m assuming has been a plan for a while now, unless this is an impulsive engagement), what exactly was Alessia’s plan for like…/after/ they moved? Cause that would leave her homeless, right? She can’t go with them where she’s undocumented, at least not without some sort of spy shenanigans. This had to be in the works for a while, before the Great Albanian Duo Disappearing Act were even like…an actual threat. So was Magda, this good family friend who is portrayed as at /least/ empathetic to Alessia and her situation, just going to say, “Sorry, gotta go” and just Seacrest out? This just seems like a really not well thought out attempt at some kind of depth.

    “I don’t know if she has feelings. I could ask her.”
    Don’t be stupid, Maxim. If you approached her like that (y’know, like an actual, mature adult) you’d screw everything up. This is a NA novel. If you two actually talked your author wouldn’t know how to pad out the story to novel length. This would be an essay at best. How dare you even suggest using logic, Maxim.
    You romance pleb.

    I’m calling it now, Alessia is only saying their love can never be because she’s just /such/ a poor girl who came from nothing. The “obstacle” is her status, that’s all. I feel it; she’s going to say, “I love you, but we just cannot be! For you are a Lord, and I am just a cleaner. You’re so good-looking and rich and perfect while I’m just average and UGLY,” and then Maxim will caress her cheek and say, “Ah, but you are so much more than my daily. You are truly beautiful, both inside and out. You’re not ugly, and could never be.” And then, to quote Insanereader on YT, she’ll be like, “…YOU’RE RIGHT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME.” Then, after some sex that’s as spicy as flour, we fade out on a scene of Alessia cooking Maxim dinner. Cause it’s super important that we understand that Alessia is an Albanian woman and therefore cooking is her personality. Cooking, cleaning, and Albania, that is her personality.
    Then we cut to credits. Another billion for Erika, you go Erika.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dracon Ra
      Dracon Ra

      I know wanting to bang my head against the wall in frustration, when I meet someone who’s hot and know there is no chance in hell.

      But off course, I’m just an ugly, dysfunctional enby and not a hot, irresistible alpha male…

      I could understand getting angry at yourself for falling someone while being in a monogamous relationship.

      But just getting angry? Nope. And, who thinks that is sexy?

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
    • many bells down
      many bells down

      Re: being angry that she’s attractive – I wondered that too! I was baffled as to why exactly he was so upset! Like, if I came home and some hot dude was mopping my kitchen, I might be confused. I might be attracted to him. But I wouldn’t spend all day yelling “Fuck!” in my head about it?

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Jules
        Jules

        “But I wouldn’t spend all day yelling “Fuck!” in my head about it?”

        I would but it would be followed by the word me, and it would be on a loop, as I imagined him naked.

        More and more Moss is coming across as a 12 year old girl. “OMG! Do you think she likes me? Does she like me? Oh I hope she likes me? She can’t like me. She’s not into me. OMG what am I going to do if she doesn’t “like” my tweet? OMG my life will be OVER!!!!!!!”

        He is getting less and less attractive (though he did start pretty low to begin with so IDK how much lower he can get) the more Eel writes from his POV. If I thought of Dimzelda as anything more than a blow up doll I’d tell her to run. Then I remember this is a girl who has spoken and read English and even taught it for most of her life and doesn’t know what a truck is so she probably can’t do any better than Mister Insecure Walking Hard-on so… They are made for each other, I guess.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
    • Tami Marie Alexander
      Tami Marie Alexander

      Emily, a newbie — I don’t know who you are or where you’re from, but I fucking LOVE YOU. 🙂

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Emily, a newbie
        Emily, a newbie

        Aw, shucks c: thank you <3

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
    • Errapel
      Errapel

      It’s mentioned briefly earlier in the book that Magda’s moving to Canada, and Demelesia needs to find a new place to stay but isn’t thinking about it because it’s scary (to be fair, finding a place to live in London is scary even if you have a well paying job and aren’t in the company illegally).

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Emily, a newbie
        Emily, a newbie

        Shows how much I pay attention XD thank you for the correction.
        Though I guess if it was brief, I can blame that and not just my memory. Still feel like that would’ve been a bigger plot device to mention more than just once, briefly.

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
  10. Alexa
    Alexa

    Okay, so I’ve been thinking more about the whole “doesn’t know the word ‘truck'” thing, trying to find some way to make sense of it, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I learned a second language and studied it at university and taught a few classes (so roughly the same level of competency as Alessia here), and I would say that it’s *possible,* if you were stressed/tired/panicked enough, to momentarily blank out on a pretty basic word in your non-native language.

    If I were a more charitable person, I might think that EL James put this in intentionally to show us Alessia’s mental state after being located by her kidnappers, and that it’s just poorly executed. However, it’s obvious that James isn’t interested in actually exploring the alleged heroine’s thoughts or feelings, so it’s far more likely that the truck thing is just a shitty way of infantilizing the character and/or not having any understanding of how language acquisition works.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • A. Noyd
      A. Noyd

      If I were a more charitable person, I might think that EL James put this in intentionally to show us Alessia’s mental state after being located by her kidnappers, and that it’s just poorly executed.

      As a fellow learner of a second language, I thought the same thing. But, this being James, if that’s what she was going for, she would have spelled it out six different ways for the reader. Or more like one way, but repeated six times. She’d have to make sure we patted her on the back for it, after all.

      Also, the blanking on words things goes both ways. Just yesterday, I couldn’t remember the word “abbreviation” in English, which is my native language. I could say it in Japanese, though. My brain absolutely refused to translate it, so the American coworker I was talking to resorted to looking it up in a Japanese-English dictionary for me.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
    • Masha
      Masha

      Yes, this exactly. It could’ve worked as a sign of Demelssia’s trauma, and wouldn’t even be that hard to do, with her vocabulary becoming more sophisticated as she becomes less afraid, and it would even segue nicely into Moss noticing it and her telling him about her English studies and how, after she was kidnapped, she found it harder to express herself in English words, therefore she’s grateful she could play piano at his place, because it helped her unlock her self-expression, or hell, maybe it was even his gentle correcting of her (if done well) that brought back her fluency… see where I’m going with this? There’s a gazillion ways to keep the stupid truck thing and make it work.

      Fuck, it could even work as mild comic relief, with Demelssia face-palming and self-depreciatingly going: “and to think I taught English, fucking hell, don’t think I ever blanked on a word that simple”. And then we can easily go back to her knowing “betrothed” and so on.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
  11. Esme Weatherwax
    Esme Weatherwax

    OK, I now have a 30-year-old earworm. On the old TV show Cheers, Coach was studying (or helping someone study, I can’t remember), and he sang this song:

    “Albania.
    Albania.
    You border on the Adriatic.”

    That’s the whole song, which I last heard about 1986, and it popped into my head on “I know where Albania is on a map.” It’s still running.

    I have a feeling that is not the mental soundtrack the author was going for.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • H
      H

      My parents inadvertently (or on purpose? MALICIOUSLY??) taught me that little mini-song by randomly repeating it over the years, and it’s been popping up in my head regularly while reading these recaps! Didn’t it have a second verse that went something like, “Your beaches are mostly mountains, and your main export is chrome?”

      May 23, 2019
      |Reply
      • H
        H

        It’s only the first part that comes into my head, too, though.

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
  12. “The stuff he’s done isn’t that different from the stuff the kidnappers did, to be honest. He took her away from her home, didn’t tell her where she was going, prettied her up…he just did it in a different way. Demelssia is still being dragged around on the whims of a man she doesn’t know and who has power over her. It doesn’t matter if the intentions are different because Demelssia’s trauma isn’t going to linger on the fine details. The situations are just gonna feel the same.”

    This is the type of shit that completely goes over the heads of Eel & her readers. They think it’s okay because he’s rich/hot/wants/loves her, and she’s attracted to him. It’s like how Jack Hyde had planned a scenario — kidnapping, restraining with duct tape, drugging, and raping Ana — that was EXACTLY LIKE the first couple of encounters she had with Christian, even before they went on a date. Christian bought duct tape and cable ties fantasizing about binding her up with them, he kidnapped her from the restaurant, he constantly fed her booze even when she said she didn’t want it, and he planned to beat and fuck/rape her from the second their eyes met, and actually raped her more than once.

    Yet Jack was the “bad guy” and Christian was the romantic hero.

    Quintessential Eel.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  13. Heather
    Heather

    Moss’s “Love. Adjective. Adjective. Adjective. PAUSE. Adjective.” speech gave me some serious Angelus vibes. This led me down the dark and perilous path of wondering what 50 Shades would’ve been like if it had been inspired by Season 2 of Buffy instead of Twilight. It was like a fandom gratitude exercise tbh, I really recommend it.

    It also got me to both rewatch Passion and to go reread The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch so thanks Moss! (And thank you Jenny. For this recap and that recap, both of which are excellent.)

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  14. Kat
    Kat

    New Headcanon re: Logan is accepted. Magda is internet-dating Wolverine, and telling him all about the trouble her friend has endured. Wolverine is already hatching a plan to rescue Alessia from this horrible book and help her start fresh, possibly in Canada, and is going to enjoy taking out the human traffickers, since it’s been a while since he could slice up any Hellfire Club goons, and Logan is super-protective in a good way about girls. His connections are going to come in handy as he finds ways to get the other kidnapped women home, or where they want to go, and then we’ll discover that Moss is just a badly programmed Doombot or Clone of someone that went awry, so we don’t have to feel actually bad about Wolverine popping claws on him.

    Either that, or he’ll send Laura to deal with them all. Laura will be far less forgiving. She and Gabby will do the rescuing and fighting, and Logan will make phony papers that can’t be detected, and everyone who isn’t Moss will live happily ever after till the next crossover event….

    Does anyone else listen to the podcast, “The Worst Best-Sellers?” I’m pretty sure I just figured out the “Snikt” option in their “The Rock, Paper, Snikt” game, if they ever do this book.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • ShifterCat
      ShifterCat

      I would read this.

      What’s the “Rock, Paper, Snikt” game? I Googled it, but got no useful info.

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Nanani
        Nanani

        “Snikt” is the usual sound effect for Wolverine’s claws in the comics, so although I don’t listen to that podcast, I think Kat just made a connection between it and Wolverine.

        I, too, accept this Logan theory and would read that version.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • Alice
          Alice

          The Logan theory makes everything so much better.

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
    • Tami Marie Alexander
      Tami Marie Alexander

      I need to find this podcast. The moment I saw the reference to Logan, my kneejerk reaction was “SNIKT!” (I also use “BAMF” a lot, e.g. Loki “BAMFed” off with the Tesseract.) Non-comic book people always look at me like I’m nuts for having sound effects in my vocab. 🙂

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • H
        H

        Since I know BAMF in its slang usage as the acronym for badass motherfucker, the idea of Loki “BAMF”ing off with the Tesseract is funny to me on multiple levels.

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
      • ShifterCat
        ShifterCat

        Interestingly, “BAMF” is also the sound effect they used for Nightcrawler’s teleportation.

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I also accept this whole Wolverine idea as headcanon (and always loved Logan for his fatherly mentoring of young mutant girls) but that means that Magda will end up dead and Michal will become a troubled superhero down the road… Well, it could be worse. Hopefully, she’ll have a great time before she dies. XD

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Alice
        Alice

        Also Magda is the name of Magneto’s wife, the only thing missing is her son being called Pietro instead of Michal and we’d have some real X-Men family drama in the background XD

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
  15. Amy Too
    Amy Too

    How does a POV character, the heroine of a ROMANCE story, keep the secret that she’s engaged? We’ve been in her point of view a lot! I imagine part of why she wanted to get out of Albania was because she didn’t want to marry this guy that perhaps her father set her up with? So when she’s remembering leaving Albania, this should’ve come up. When she’s remembering her father, this should’ve come up. When she’s reminiscing about her country and talking about it with Moss, and mentioning how much she likes it there (despite also apparently thinking its backwards and awful) she should be thinking about how she can’t ever go back home because she’s escaping this guy. When she’s having sex for the first time, losing her virginity, she should be thinking about how this is something she had always thought would happen on her wedding night and how it would be so different with the guy she’s engaged to. She should be comparing Moss to the guy she’s engaged to and thinking about how she’s falling in love with this man who isn’t her fiancé. His is just such a huge secret to keep! When she was about to have wax with Moss, she didn’t think she should maybe tell him she’s engaged!?

    Moss is keeping the secret that he’s an Earl from Demelessia and yet that secret isn’t kept from the reader. The fact that we know he has a secret he’s trying to keep and is wrestling with when to tell her and what her reaction will be creates some tension. Not much, obviously, and it’s stupid tension, but it’s something the reader can worry about. The reader could’ve been worrying all along with Demelssia about the fact that she’s engaged to this guy back home but she’s falling in love with someone else. That’s good tension! And it would give us a reason to be in her POV that is interesting and character building.

    For the whole book, I’ve been wondering why we ever even go into her POV. We never stay in there for long and we’re never in there for the important things we should be in there for. And now she has this big secret that’s supposed to be kept from the reader? A really good way to do that is to not go into her POV!

    God, I hate this book! Why not just tell the story completely from Moss’s POV? Then there could be a little bit more tension for the reader when he’s wondering about whether or not Demelessia likes/loves him back or what her intentions are. We already know that they both love each other so all the romantic tension just comes from stupid miscommunication/no communication bullshit, when it could come from Moss (and thus the reader) trying to find out where he stands with Demelessia and if she’s into him.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Emily, a newbie
      Emily, a newbie

      I’m assuming that E. L. thought that writing Alessia’s POV in third person was a good enough excuse to be able to keep the whole “I’m betrothed” thing a secret. She’s of course wrong, because not even having a single /hint/ about it beforehand just makes the ‘big reveal’ super out of left field and entirely random. Like when a newbie fanfic writer has to come up with a conflict on the fly. But I do know that E. L. has said that the third person POV was deliberate for keeping Alessia’s entire backstory a more mysterious thing to attempt to build suspense, or something along those lines.
      I personally think it was more because she didn’t care enough about Alessia’s actual story and character to want to give her the depth a first person POV demands, yet still had to give her some spotlight to be able to claim feminism, buttttt…

      May 21, 2019
      |Reply
      • Nanani
        Nanani

        I figured she just decided to add that twist when she was writing chapter elventytwelve and was too lazy to insert it or go back to edit in some foreshadowing.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
      • Jules
        Jules

        Wait! Eel thinks this book has suspense? Well, I guess I’m on the edge of my seat wondering if we will ever see the Thames again. And I’m mildly curious where those two generic thugs went, but other than that, I’m not really invested enough if Hard On and the Blow Up Doll to really care if they ever tell each other they love each others naughty bits (cause they can’t possibly love each other for any other reason. They don’t even know each other). The dictionary is more suspenseful than this. I’ve felt more tension when reading a menu.

        I just feel sad for Eel. She’s a terrible writer who somehow got thrust into the stratosphere and now thinks she’s the shit, but really she’s just some colossal joke who must have the most miserable love/sex life imaginable if this is what she finds romantic, sexy and hot.

        This book has basically been two people thrust together, they like each other and just won’t say it. It’s a middle school romance and those are just painfully awkward.

        I do miss the Thames. When I first looked out that window and saw it there, holding it’s broom…I thought “FUCK! I love that river. I want to be balls deep in that river, and I don’t even have balls! What am I going to do? Could I grow some balls? Would the river even want me? Oh, Thames, I miss you so!”

        Yep, this book broke me. And I haven’t even read it. Thus is the power of EL (I really wish her middle name had started with a W. It would have been more fitting. EW

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • “I’ve felt more tension when reading a menu.”

          SAME.

          EL needs to be sat down in front of the bomb-under-the-table interview with Hitchcock.

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
        • Emily, a newbie
          Emily, a newbie

          I share your concern for the Thames. With every recap, I’m just getting more and more nervous that its gone. I’m growing worried :c

          I’m also wondering where the thugs went. I’m somewhat hoping that next chapter will have like…some mention of them? Cause we know their names, and they’re supposedly attached to Alessia’s trauma, but I’m left wondering if they’re *actually* the kidnappers, or if Dante is her thuggish “husband-to-be”.
          That’s kind of a problem here too that I’ve noticed. Where E. L. is up on her mountain of green shouting, “All Albanian men are BAD and THUGS!”, that makes it hard to differentiate between the two. Like the kidnappers are thugs, her “fiance” is also a thug, but they’re in two different thugdoms. Not at all related. Purely coincidence, because you see, groups of thugs are just a dime a dozen over in Albania. (I literally want to punch myself for typing that, even with the heavy sarcasm it feels gross.)

          I’d feel more bad for E. L. if she hadn’t proven time and time again that she’s genuinely just a bad person, likely blinded by greed. She very much so comes off like an older version of Lele Pons: very not self-aware, thinks everything she does is gold and the critics are just haters, has never had any genuine struggle in her life, possibly never had anyone even be mean to her before, and has a very know-it-all attitude.
          If she were actually passionate about her craft, she’d take in the criticism and see what she could learn from it. One could argue she did do that with the emphasis on consent during the sex scene, but she overdid it to the point where it just felt almost mocking? Like, “Oh you want care for consent? I’ll GIVE YOU consent.”
          I know that not all critics are right, and some are just hateful to be hateful, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Can’t please everyone, after all. But she had very valid criticisms to listen to, and many weren’t even that mean about it. Just general constructive criticism to help an author, nothing more.
          But she seems like she always has to be the one in the right, no matter what. It shows in her info-dumping on Albania, her interviews about the book, how she approached victims of abuse criticizing 50 Shades, and many other instances.

          It sucks cause I don’t like disliking someone if I don’t know them. I’m a huge believer in “Hate the art, not the artist”, because it’s just not right to base an opinion on a real person just because you don’t like the stuff they put out. But I just. I get /that vibe/ from E. L. She definitely has a bit of an “I’m better than you” air to her. Just wish she’d take in the valid criticism and use it to grow. Before we could blame first-time-author ignorance, but now it’s just blatant laziness and an unwillingness to change.
          The Mister is just 50 Shades, but without any attempt at an excuse for the hero to be a jackass.

          May 23, 2019
          |Reply
          • Side note: there are now enough Emilys here that we should totally start an exclusive club or something.

            May 23, 2019
    • Errapel
      Errapel

      I remember Allesia thinking about a man with ice blue eyes (or something like that) who scared her, and who was the ‘only man her father approved of’. But it’s all jumbled together with the trauma from the traffickers. Which kinda brings out another issue with this book, she has TOO MUCH backstory (that’s never really developed, but exists). It just jumbles together and forms an amorphous mass labeled ‘Traumatised and waiting to be rescued’.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I legit think that she wrote the book in Moss’s POV entirely but the editors rightfully pointed out that Demelssia would be a much better protagonist. EEL didn’t want to rewrite the book, I suspect she knew she had a great idea but she just didn’t want to do that much work in the first place, but she conceded by adding in these useless snippets here and there. Of course, her editors didn’t have enough weight to throw around and this is what we got.

      Ironically, I think it’d make the reveal so much more awesome if the readers knew in advance and were just waiting to see when she’d tell Moss about her fiance and all the other shit, then get his reactions from his POV. That could be satisfying if handled properly.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Amy Too
        Amy Too

        That’s exactly what I think too. We know that Moss is an earl and we’re waiting to see when he dumps that on her. It’s some vague background tension that he’s worrying about and that we can worry about, and it’s a plot point we know is coming at some point so we keep reading to find out when. But Demelessia having a fiancé is way bigger than Moss being an Earl, and the tension readers would feel waiting for him to find out or her to trust him enough to tell him, could keep us reading. It just seems like it could’ve done so much to illustrate how her feelings for him are growing and how she’s becoming more comfortable and trusting of him, if we could see her first not wanting to tell him bc she was worried he’d send her back to the fiancé, then wanting to tell him but not knowing how, and then feeling safe telling him. It would’ve at least been something to fill her POV segments with so they wouldn’t be so short and pointless.

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
    • Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)
      Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)

      The POV character can keep some secretes, but they have to let the reader know there’s a secret, even if they don’t get many or any details. It’s called foreshadowing.

      Don’t think about Dennis.

      Now we know Dennis is associated with something bad or unpleasant and we want to know who Dennis is and why she shouldn’t think about him. Throw in something about a guy looking like Dennis later on so when Dennis, or a discussion about him, shows up, we aren’t scratching our heads wondering where the fuck the fiancé came from? (Answer – the hole in the plot.)

      Just my two cents, but when she banged Moss, where was the “I have a fiancé and I’m having sex with someone else” guilt? This book. This fucking book.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
  16. Jenn H
    Jenn H

    “It’s a fascinating place, part modern, part ancient, with a turbulent history.”

    How many countries don’t fit that description?

    “Would you like to drink?”

    There isn’t enough rakia in Albania to make this book bearable.

    Alessia’s whole backstory is a mess. I think E. L. James needed her to be too many things for the plot to happen the way she wanted it to.

    And Moss is kind of useless. Dude is rich as, and his family has got to have political connections. This is a problem he can fix!

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Alice
      Alice

      What you say about all the countries fitting the description is so, so true!

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
    • Errapel
      Errapel

      “And Moss is kind of useless. Dude is rich as, and his family has got to have political connections. This is a problem he can fix!”

      He really is. Obviously someone pointed out to EEL that Moss could just lawyer-up here, so she has him briefly contemplate it, then go off on a tangent. Because what she WANTS him to do is dither about marrying Demalisia, to add extra unnecessary drama.

      Moss is entirely capable of picking up the phone, hiring a team of lawyers that specialise in this, and BAM, she’ll be fine. Particularly with an English grandma, she’d have a pretty good case. But if he did that, she’d be free. She wouldn’t need him. She wouldn’t be helpless and dependant. So naturally he’s going with the solution that keeps her his property.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Well, she would kind of owe him… lol I mean, not really, but if EEL wanted to lean into that angle, then she could’ve. Allesia could be forever grateful for that and when she asked why he helped, Moss could say because he loves being around her or something vaguely romantic. Point being, he could still ATTEMPT to do that, have everything set-up with his lawyers and she’d be happy, then the villains could arrive to interrupt that. I think she just really didn’t want to do more research.

        May 22, 2019
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      • Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)
        Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)

        I want Moss to lawyer up, get her a visa, passport, or other legal documents and then she runs off with one of the goons who came to his house, either because she’s in love but wants to say in England or Stockholm syndrome. Don’t care which.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
  17. Ethyl
    Ethyl

    Every time we have to remember that she saw him sleeping naked, all I can picture is Sterling Archer, passed out naked and surrounded by bottles on a bed in a hotel room in Tangiers or wherever, and farting.

    Only there’s no good doggo to redeem this trainwreck.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
  18. Emily, a newbie
    Emily, a newbie

    Upon rereading this, I also just realized something: if Maxim Googled Albania and actually learned about the country and how it /really/ is, wouldn’t it be a little weird to realize that the country is far more advanced that Alessia has made it seem? The information’s all there, he could easily see that they have smartphones and credit cards, even internet and access to the sea. So wouldn’t it be suspicious like…at ALL to him that she’s never seen these things apparently ever?
    In an AU, one could take this into account and build it up as “Alessia really isn’t who she says she is. She isn’t really from Albania and has been lying this entire time, and only knows Albanian history up until the mid-90’s.” Endless possibilities with that alone.

    May 21, 2019
    |Reply
    • Veronika
      Veronika

      Put it like that and you could have a real interesting story.
      Some people already suggested Alessia could be some sort of spy. But she could also be some … i don’t know impostor … someone to get this rich dude to marry her just to get her hands on his money.
      Or she’s a friend of Caroline and they’re in the plot together. Maybe to get Ross to bone his maid (since he’s sooooo concerned about that fact) and then introduce some kind of blackmail.
      Only I tend to think Alessia should actually know more about Albania to be convincing.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
    • Alice
      Alice

      Or, to keep with the spy theory, she’s been frozen for years because of some spy stuff which is why she only knows history until the nineties: she has litterally not known the past years in Albania. She’s been trying to learn at Magda’s who may be some sort of contact in London so that’s how Alessia knows stuff like netflix (also she may have known Magda’s mum, not Magda?). But sometimes she gets things confused, hence why her story doesn’t make sense and mixes past Albania and present.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • Jenn H
        Jenn H

        She’s an Albanian Winter Soldier.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          That would’ve been a way hotter romance right there! XD

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
          • Alice
            Alice

            Max was trying to enter Kingsman when his brother died, so he had to leave to become the Earl. He expects his life to be everything he tried to avoid. He meets his new cleaner and is immediately attracted, but his instincts tell him something is off in her story and behavior. He discovers she is an “albanian winter soldier” (perfect!), she gets more and more of her memory in order and her skills back. Cue some plot in which they both kickass while trying to figure out what they want heir future to be.
            (I need to stop making this wilder and wilder XD)

            May 23, 2019
  19. Villa
    Villa

    I am so grateful for your commentary so far- it’s not only hilarious but critical in a wanting this to be better than it is way– that is really what criticism should be (also I loved your new book!).

    As an Albanian American who has been to Albania, and has family there, thank you so much for calling out how backwards and offensive this book is. This book makes me sad for all the young Albanian women like my cousins who are starting programs for women and businesses and other things in Albania, and definitely know what credit cards and trucks are. Thank you for calling out the weird infantilization of this woman, who the author clearly doesn’t care that much about, judging from the amount of POV she has. Yes, communism only fell like like 20 years ago and cars for the average Albanian are a new thing, but you are 100% right, there is no way she would feel that as a 20-25 year old. I know I am a bit biased but I would go back to Albania in a heartbeat- beautiful country that is very religiously tolerant (You will find lots of mosques and churches next to each other with people drinking outside and enjoying football together many nights). In terms of gender roles, women in families where the man died often lived their lives as men and had the freedom of men, even in the 19th century (not that EL James actually cares about the complex gender roles and dynamics of Albania), but it makes me sad because this book feels so offensive and there is so much to actually explore in terms of processing trauma, gender dynamics and geopolitical positioning (being a part of the Balkans but also the Ottoman Empire). Anyway, just wanted to comment and thank you for calling out many of the ridiculous and offensive parts of this book.

    May 22, 2019
    |Reply
    • Alice
      Alice

      The religious tolerance is especially important compared to the rise of islamophobia and xenophobia in UK with the Brexit and everything. But I guess we can’t have any point of “well England sucks at that compared to Albania”.
      And what you say about gender role sounds super interesting!

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
  20. E dog
    E dog

    E.L. just can’t do anything right, can she? One of the characters in her romance novel is a domestic who cooks — just throw in plenty of sensuous cooking and eating descriptions, ya dumbass. Food pron would be so easy to include and a nice distraction for the reader who is disappointed by the lack of… everything else. Tave kosi is SO GOOD that I’m having magical realism sex with it in my head right now; it would not be difficult to throw in some references to creaminess and tender lamb. This is the dullest damn book!

    May 22, 2019
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  21. Gretel
    Gretel

    Alessia is an obstacle to overcome in order for the romance to happen. Her characterisation is not important because she is so blatantly an avatar for the read that TOO much information would enstrange the fans. Of course, EL doesn’t care about Alessia but it’s also the product of instinctually knowing that the reader doesn’t care about her.
    They care about the feeling of being wanted. It’s not even Moss. It’s being the object of uncontrollable lust and adoration that attracts the readers. And while this is true for any romance novel, there are at least writers and readers who create actual characters and make the pining believable.
    Here, it doesn’t matter who Alessia and Max are. She’s a stand-in and he represents any good looking, wealthy hunk that is infatuated beyond reason and that is more than enough for her fans.

    And I bet that Alessia getting no discerning qualities is also rooted in xenophobia. Albania is like a tid bit. Give too much info on her culture and it’s gonna alienate her core readers: white, middle-class Christian women.
    Just enough Albanian to pretend you give a rats as about characterisation but not too much as to turn off your rabid fanbase. It also fits the fact that Alessia is described as pale and slim so she’s not too foreign. Her almost perfect English makes her look English enough to not be read as foreign, either.
    Because if she was poor, uneducated and not white/slim enough, the fans would probably throw the book into the fire.

    Basically, Alessia’s not a person but an avatar and the pining is the focus so any character traits are “in the way” and she has to be Western enough as to not alienate her core readers.

    May 22, 2019
    |Reply
    • Masha
      Masha

      Plus, the way it reads now, she represents the longing for simpler times, when women knew how to cook and take care of their men. She cleans, she cooks, she was a virgin, haven’t the fat hairy feminists ruined everything that was good and pure? BLERGH.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
  22. Masha
    Masha

    You know, as for Demelssia’s family dynamic, I think that would have been an awesome detail in the hands of a better writer. Her grandmother the “modern” woman who tries to raise a daughter the same way, but doesn’t account for peer pressure and the general environment. She could even be so “modern” that she doesn’t quite see the misogyny all around her (I occasionally stumble upon some gobsmacking sexism and realise that’s what it was much later, because my brain simply doesn’t work that way). Demelssia’s grandmother could consider some things self-explanatory until it’s way too late, and because of that mistake she makes sure to explain things to her granddaughter. But Demelssia’s parents consider the overly-emancipated old woman nothing short of a witch, so they verbally and physically beat those lessons out of the girl. And then Demelssia’s trafficking nightmare serves as a trigger to her understanding that hey, her mother and her female friends were treated pretty much the same by the men who were supposed to love them, and then her grandmother’s words start to surface and she begins to ascertain her own self in the relationship with Moss, and he’s all like, well, she was a little weird before but I like the new, “modern” her.

    Basically, I like the idea, but of course ELJ ugh.

    As for their food shopping, wasn’t he, y’know, there with her? I mean, if I went shopping with someone and they picked up shrimp, I’d be all, cool, but you’re eating those yourself (and that was our last date, but that’s just me).

    I also quite like the shopping bag conundrum, because I know full well what it feels like when the tiniest things cause a whole mental avalanche and it makes sense to me that he would try to be so careful that even things like that had to be thought out. It could even work nicely as a paralell, if the less self-conscious she became, the more he did – it could also serve as a moment to show personal growth, with Moss being all, well I cared only in passing that she’s got one pair of boots, now I care what she thinks about where I put some fucking shopping bags. BUT as you point out, that would only work if actual problems were treated appropriately in terms of relative drama.

    At the risk of repeating myself, ELJ ugh.

    And I call bullshit on Demelssia’s being graceful in an unfamiliar kitchen. I’ve cooked in my best friend’s kitchen, and my partner’s kitchen, and my mum’s kitchen, and I know those very well, and it’s always an exercise in stumbling compared to my own. You never know how to regulate the temperature juuust right, or where the mid-sized spatula is.

    Laslty, is it just me, or does “plying with [alcohol]” carry a somewhat negative association? It’s an honest question, I’m not a native speaker, but that’s what my instincts would suggest.

    May 22, 2019
    |Reply
    • “…is it just me, or does “plying with [alcohol]” carry a somewhat negative association?”

      YES. YES IT DOES. You don’t “ply” people unless they’re being reserved about drinking. It’s not always grossly malicious, it can be a “slightly pushy friend who stops riiiiiight at the edge of your boundaries” kind of thing, but in this context it was very much ALARM BELLS.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
  23. Pre-Successful Indie (now with less misquoting)
    Pre-Successful Indie (now with less misquoting)

    I am ever more convinced that ELJ’s audience is “people who a) subscribe to the Deluxe Edition of Misogyny Quarterly and b) don’t read books otherwise.”

    By which I don’t mean they’re bad people, or stupid. They just don’t have any taste yet. Like, I rarely drink wine, so I have no idea what’s good or bad wine or what would appeal to other people. It just has a taste. And sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t. And I probably like some hot garbage because I don’t know any better.

    Like that, but with books. Yeah, it sounds condescending, but I think it’s human nature to have a newbie phase or casual interests. The misogyny is where steam starts coming out of my ears.

    May 22, 2019
    |Reply
    • I think this is probably the most charitable interpretation I’ve heard so far.

      I really just wish her audience could accept that they have a big forceful-man-takes-what-he-wants-and-the-woman-ends-up-liking-it kink, but that their kink is more comparable to inflation fetish than to bondage or whatever, in that it can’t be replicated IRL. When it happens to real people, it plays out differently, and the only problem I have with these fans is that they don’t seem to understand that bit.

      A WIP I really liked actually got cancelled because the fans were so nightmarishly “this is a romance!!” when it was clearly horrifying abuse that it made the author so uncomfortable that she quit writing it.

      May 22, 2019
      |Reply
      • I’ve had more than one publisher/editor reject my MSS that involve a FMC leaving a shitty man/marriage because “she’s supposed to stay and help him heal” because that’s what “readers want” and is “real romance!”

        Fuck that.

        May 22, 2019
        |Reply
        • Tez Miller
          Tez Miller

          If you ever want to name names (the publisher), we’re here to listen.

          May 22, 2019
          |Reply
          • Tez, luckily, a couple have already gone under (including the one who sent me a rejection letter in Comic Sans), but naturally, Mills&Boon really didn’t like my stuff. I also was part of an online writing critique site that is ridiculously abusive and anti-feminist, and several of the romance writers there were adamant that, say, when my FMC said “no” and the MMC said “okay,” that he was “a pussy” and “this is when he should sweep her off her feet, carry her upstairs, and fuck her passionately!”

            So… ignore consent, and rape her?

            “No, we need to see how much he loves her and wants her and won’t take no for an answer! That’s not rape!”

            If he loves her, HE WILL TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER AND THAT WAS MY WHOLE FUCKING POINT WITH THE GODDAMNED SCENE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

            Pretty much all of my romance MMS now purposefully include a scene where the FMC says no to something, and the MMC respects it, and it’s fine.

            May 23, 2019
          • Tez Miller
            Tez Miller

            Ugh, that critique site sounds terrible.

            Reminds me of a book I reviewed. I wrote about how I hated how the older guy said no, but the younger woman kept pursuing him, instead of accepting his rejections. Their reasoning was that he was rejecting her because they first met when she was a teenager, but now that she’s of age they’re TruLuv and should totally bone happily ever after.

            They called that romance. Apparently no means yes in their version romance. *headdesk*

            The author subTweeted about my review, and her followers agreed that I was in the wrong and the author was right.

            May 23, 2019
      • Emily, a newbie
        Emily, a newbie

        My best friend was a huge E. L. fan, and honestly I partially blame her reading 50 Shades at a younger age (18-ish; grew up in a more religious background, so a tad sheltered in anything romance-related) for some of the outright terrible situations she ended up with men; because to her, that seemed like the ideal. She didn’t realize that any of it was “that bad” until the actual trauma started affecting her daily, and scared her away from certain intimate things entirely. Now that she’s older, more experienced in the world, and recognizes the bad for being bad instead of “He just loves me /differently/”, she can’t even look at quotes from this book without either laughing at the ridiculousness or cringing.

        It’s sad just how much the media influences and what kind of things it can make you believe

        May 23, 2019
        |Reply
        • Jules
          Jules

          That is why that book scares me. It’s not just badly written and a piss poor example of BDSM but it is being held up by many of it’s fans as an ideal. Young, impressionable women, usually inexperienced, are being made to think that it’s okay for a guy to control them because it’s “romantic”. It is not. It’s abuse and Eeel won’t be a responsible adult and own up to this, or even say “It’s fantasy, don’t try this at home”. She’s literally saying “do this! It will save your love life” and that disgusts me.

          May 23, 2019
          |Reply
          • Alice
            Alice

            Exactly this. My main problem with 50shades is not the bad writing, the fanfiction origins, or even the abusive relationship, it’s the way james talks about it. If from the start she had go “it’s a specific fantasy, but of course it’s not to do in real life, of course it’s not a model of romantism, of course on internet it would be tagged non-con, dub-con etc.”… But instead she digs deeper about how this is romance, and not abusive at all how dare you, and being awful to abuse victims speaking up…

            May 23, 2019
        • Hell, it was fucking MARKETED as “what all women really want!” and we were told that if we weren’t on board with it, we were kink-shaming frigid anti-feminist bitches! It’s sick as fuck.

          That’s literally what propelled me to writing romance, specifically, and why I started my blog: I was so fucking sick of being told that abusive, red-flag behaviors were “sexy,” that actual demonstrations of love, connection, consent, or concern were “wimpy,” and that anyone who questioned anything about these problems were “jealous/haters” who were “trying to destroy something women really love/the romance genre!”

          Maybe I should’ve just responded that it was because I loved them so much and couldn’t leave them alone, and then it would’ve been okay…?

          May 23, 2019
          |Reply
          • Jules
            Jules

            “we were told that if we weren’t on board with it, we were kink-shaming frigid anti-feminist bitches! It’s sick as fuck. ”

            Which is kind of hilarious since most of the people most vocal about how dangerous the book is are into the exact kinky lifestyle she is pretending to have written about.

            I am all about being dominated, but in a sexy way, not by some fucking control freak stalker who clearly has no concept of boundaries or other people’s rights.

            May 23, 2019
          • Emily, a newbie
            Emily, a newbie

            Yeah, in my friend’s case it was a combination of the media hype (like what you said about “What women really want!” and blahblahblah) as well as just not knowing what abuse was. She was raised super heavy LDS (the kind that makes most other LDS people almost offended to be associated with them) so her parents didn’t really do any talking to her about relationships. She was expected to find a nice guy that just finished his mission and pump out babies, that was it, so it wasn’t exactly a good starting point for her. Didn’t help that her mom would on and off ban her from being at my house cause of my family and their traditions, so my mom couldn’t even do much side-parenting to help her. E. L.’s fanbase seems to mostly be women like that, I’ve noticed. Sheltered in some way, not much real experience, taught that the man always needs to be praised and obeyed, etc.
            Might be why I have a very personal issue with 50 Shades and E. L. James as a whole. I’ve seen first-hand the damage it can do, and it’s baffling, honestly.

            Honestly this book is making me just want to finish my current WIP too, since it does have a lot of similar elements. So I guess that’s the one good thing E. L. has done for us: inspired us to write to try to put good messages out there.
            Silver linings, I guess?

            May 23, 2019
  24. Johanna
    Johanna

    It’s rather obvious that EL James doesn’t actually know anything at all about people in their early 20s. There’s no reason to provide a justification for why a young European doesn’t know how to drive. In most cities in Europe, less than half of 18-25 year olds have a licence. There’s nothing unusual about being 22/23 from a city and not having a licence. No need to try to justify it by communism or anything like that. Our cities are just easy to move in with public transportation or a bicycle, so driving lessons are not a prioritised expense for most of us.

    May 22, 2019
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  25. Budgie
    Budgie

    Other people have pointed out how “Would you like to drink” using the infinitive isn’t actually wrong grammatically. I would just like to offer that a hero who says “Teach me how to say that in your language” is 100X sexier than the hero who gently and spontaneously corrects the heroine’s English because he needs the conversation to be on a plane where he is the expert and she is the pupil (even if his explanations are wrong). Not that this is a thing among men who chase Asian women or anything.

    May 22, 2019
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    • Emily, a newbie
      Emily, a newbie

      10/10 idea, gold stars all across the board, would read and absolutely love it.
      Seriously I would DIE for that male lead. There is so, so few things that are as connecting and personal as being able to speak to someone in their native language, and be able to share that bond with them. It makes the other person feel more comfortable, and even maybe a little giddy, cause someone is actually taking an interest in their culture and mother tongue. Would actually give Alessia the chance to shine and be in the lead for once.
      Ultimately though, that would provide so many routes for endless cute moments, even build up a more unique and special bond (or in this case, any bond. At all.) while also actually making Albania more than just a personality trait for Alessia. Seriously, I used this to my advantage in my own WIP, and it would be so /easy/ to apply here. I’m almost mad.

      Just adding this to my AU for Max, the less douche-y, actually considerate, slightly troubled but willing to change hero. c:
      Not Maxim though, he’s a lost cause.

      May 23, 2019
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    • Dove
      Dove

      I don’t even speak any other language fluently but I can easily see how that’s a huge turn-on. A definite show of empathy too… lol EEL tried so hard to make Maxim seem more compassionate but it’s all surface level and mostly in his thoughts. It kills me too because I’m sure many of her readers will make the mistake of thinking they don’t like a tenderhearted hero after reading this book, but really they don’t like Nice Guys TM. That’s absolutely what he is… or worse, he’s a Nice Guy Manchild.

      May 23, 2019
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  26. Kat
    Kat

    I know quite a few people who said that EL James wrote Americans weirdly in 50 Shades, but she writes British people oddly as well, despite being British herself!

    Nobody says “my daily”, especially not someone as upper class as Maxim, or if his age group. He would say ‘cleaner’ or ‘housekeeper’. ‘Daily’ is extremely old fashioned and was used more by middle class people.

    The way he keeps on saying it is weird and jarring but would be no matter what term he used.

    May 22, 2019
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    • I’m waiting for her to use something super-classy for her aristocratic hero, like he calls a napkin a “serviette” or says “beg pardon” or ends a joke with “INNIT?!”

      May 22, 2019
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  27. Alice
    Alice

    I know that forced marriage still exist but for the moment I’m confused about that plot point. How can her father force her if she doesn’t want to? I admit I don’t know much about that subject, but what I know it can involve the woman to be a minor, not to warn her in advance, taking her passport, going in another country etc. And it doesn’t feel like Alessia’s situation fit? Albanian law is probably on her side too. I don’t want to sound unsensitive or anything but I’m seriously puzzled… And the way it feeds the idea that all albanian men are abusive and that women have no right there ><
    Was sending her to England via illegal means really her mother's only solution to help her? Which reminds me we still don't know why she had to leave this way instead of using a travel visa or a student visa.

    Also, for me betrothed sounds like historical nobility. Not sure why.

    The repetition of my daily doesn't make a lot of sense to me. She's been working for him like two weeks? He saw her three or four times at her job? Maybe it's just me but I feel in his head his cleaner should still be the woman before alessia, he should still be getting used to the new cleaner. Especially since he had no idea in advance there would be a change. Idk I may be thnking too much about it.

    "And now she’s finally opening up to me–but in spite of all I’ve done, she’s still afraid. I’ve not done enough."
    First, she has actually opened up to you very fast, she's hardly 'just' opening to you.
    Second, what you've done? Dude you've offered only a short term solution without considering once the future!

    I like the love at first sight trope. So why do I find it so so bad here? So bad I feel it could stop me from ever liking love at first sight again.

    Does james knows that there are boarding schools outside of England? And in several movies and shows?

    "I shouldn’t be jealous–he’s a kid–but maybe I am? I’m not sure I appreciate this new and unwelcome feeling." So first, gross. Second, never known jealousy before? Mister 'my big brother is perfect and I'm the spare'? Not believing him.

    Making her father's favorite for the first time she cooks for Moss… wtf?

    May 22, 2019
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    • Alice
      Alice

      Also the netflix and hbo thing… That tells us nothing about her? He could say “she watched movies and tv shows” and that’d be the same (well except that it wouldn’t be a contradiction to “poor us only have an old computer”). WHAT was she watching? does she like sci-fi? cooking shows? period movies? does she like to binge watch tv shows or does she prefer to take her time? There’s such variety you can’t just say “she watched netflix”.
      Same goes for books actually.

      May 22, 2019
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      • Mr. Fell
        Mr. Fell

        Also how did she pay for any of those without one of those magic cards.

        May 22, 2019
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    • Dove
      Dove

      Yeah, those are all great points. EEL didn’t spend enough time rereading/researching/getting feedback. Much like H4M, it would be pretty easy to fix things while keeping them mostly the same but it’s also easy to come up with radically different results that are still better. She played it too safe, was determined to stick with most of her initial details, even if they didn’t make sense, and got bored but didn’t bother to step back, reassess, and rewrite. If she had, both characters would’ve been so much better for it. 🙁

      May 23, 2019
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  28. Sophie
    Sophie

    I can’t believe she’s trying to ruin the score for Arrival the way she ruined Thomas Tallis. why won’t she just leave the music I like alone??

    May 22, 2019
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    • Tami Marie Alexander
      Tami Marie Alexander

      For me, it was her ruining Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” by having it on repeat during one of the sex scenes in FSoG. It was blasphemy.

      May 23, 2019
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  29. Mr. Fell
    Mr. Fell

    I’m learning so much about Albania from the thrilling and detailed descriptions of this book. It’s like I wa there!

    (Jk, but all the googling I am doing about Albania is surely teaching me more).

    >“It’s because…it’s because I am betrothed.”

    So fucking what? It’s Albania in twothousandsomething, they can’t legally make you, her family is poor and (according to this book) lives in the middle of fucking nowhere, and it’s not like she needs to marry whoever that guys is to save her family/preserve her family’s reputation like in Pride and Prejudice.

    Also are you even truly betrothed if someone else arranges everything and forces you to agree.

    Like, I get not wanting to go back because she does not want to, but if her only reason is that she’s betroth— oh god, it’s going to turn out that she was promised in marriage to some organised crime boss/feudal lord who can use ALL THE MONEY to kidnap her back AND NO ONE CAN STOP HIM because Albania be corrupt or smth, isn’t it. He saw her walking around the fields and now he has to have her or some shit.

    May 22, 2019
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  30. Cat Mara
    Cat Mara

    FWIW, I am an Irish IT contractor in my day job. One of my most recent contracts was for a company that makes software for vehicle inspections, one of whose markets is… Albania! This notion that cars are rare in Albania is as wrong-headed as it is insulting. There is no doubt that Albania suffered greatly under communism and the aftermath of its fall, but the picture painted of the country in this book is absurd.

    May 22, 2019
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  31. marie
    marie

    I don’t think EL James had any real thoughts about assimilation or the challenges of someone coming from a multicultural background, but I could imagine that Alessia’s mother could have decided to reject her grandmother’s cultural influences and try to be more assimilated with Albanian culture. Again, I think EL is just a lazy hack, but that’s a way in a better book this could make sense.

    May 22, 2019
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  32. amblonyxx
    amblonyxx

    The more I read about Albanian cuisine, the more disappointed I am that she chose to make tavë kosi instead of paçe.

    May 22, 2019
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    • Dove
      Dove

      “You don’t want to eat a cow’s face? But why? It’s delicious!”

      Also, I did a tiny bit of research because of this comment and now I’m deeply disappointed that she isn’t hugely addicted to coffee.

      May 23, 2019
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  33. Dvärghundspossen
    Dvärghundspossen

    Is it EVER explained in the book, btw, why Maxim doesn’t wanna reveal to Alessia that he’s a lord? Maybe Jenny has explained it somewhere in the recaps and I just forgot… but it seems really weird.

    First comparison that pops up in my head is live-action Cinderella, where Kit lets Ella believe that he’s some regular dude who just works at the castle when they first meet. And that’s somewhat comprehensible, I guess – he wants to be seen as a normal person, not this special above-everyone-else PRINCE.

    But in this case, Alessia is already fully aware that Maxim is super duper RICH; there’s ALREADY an enormous class gulf between them. Adding Maxim’s status as lord wouldn’t really change much, would it?

    May 23, 2019
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    • Emily, a newbie
      Emily, a newbie

      If I remember right, he says in a super brief thought that he doesn’t want her to know he’s an Earl pretty much just because he doesn’t want to come off as “intimidating” or make her feel lesser than him. Or something like that. Kinda feels like an attempt to be like the live-action Cinderella that you mentioned, but you’re right. Alessia already knows he’s loaded, she knows he’s got this position of power (because absolutely no other reason could apply for a whole bar of people to call him “Milord”), so there’s no point in hiding it.

      It’s also super odd that she actually doesn’t know either, because you’d /think/ she would’ve been told he was an Earl when she took the maid job. I feel like you’re usually told who you’re being a maid for, especially if you’re going to be their sole housekeeper. Maybe it’s because he is still new to the Earl position, technically. It doesn’t feel like it with how it’s dragging, but it has just been a couple months, tops, so maybe that’s why, but still.

      Just another lazy attempt to build suspense and add “conflict”, and I say that very loosely.

      May 23, 2019
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      • Dvärghundspossen
        Dvärghundspossen

        ”I’m gonna pretend like I’m just her powerful billionaire employer banging her. If she knew I was her powerful billionaire aristocrat employer banging her, she might feel intimidated.”

        May 23, 2019
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        • Emily, a newbie
          Emily, a newbie

          The reveal will probably be something like:
          “He’s an Earl.
          An Earl.
          AN EARL?!”

          Cause if it’s not said three times, it doesn’t count.
          The Beetlejuice Rule.

          May 23, 2019
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          • Jules
            Jules

            “An Earl? I thought he said his name was Max!”

            “Cause if it’s not said three times, it doesn’t count.
            The Beetlejuice Rule.”

            So THAT is why she keeps repeating stuff three times!??!! It all makes sense now. The reason Dimsi is so out of touch with Albanian reality is that she’s been dead since the 50s or so. But someone accidentally said her name 3 times and now she’s here, in our time, trying to deal with the realities of a new world. Poor thing.

            May 23, 2019
    • Alice
      Alice

      There could be so many reasons, like perhaps he is actually opposed to the idea of aristocratie and hates being a lord. Or he is in denial about his new responsabilities. Or he doesn’t want to think about it because his brother’s death hurts too much. Or instead his relationship with his brother and father was very toxic, partly because he wasn’t the heir, and so uncounciously he rejects the idea of being the earl (maybe he hasn’t accepted yet the toxic nature of their relations. Like “haha yeah, boys are like that, also boys should be tough and don’t cry so clearly I’m fine with the way my brother treats me since everyone say it’s normal).
      As always, none will be developed.
      Actually for the moment him being an earl has zero importance? He could be “only” rich, and the plot would be the same since his responsabilities only made him leave one week end.

      May 23, 2019
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  34. Sabayon
    Sabayon

    As someone living in the UK on a spouse visa the idea that you can just get married and boom she’s safe…….. Kind of makes me want to spit acid like the frilly dinosaur in Jurassic Park. IT AIN’T THAT EASY, YO. And EL James is English and should know better what sort of immigration system her country actually fucking has. Like, the friendly term the government came up with for their approach to immigration is ‘hostile environment’. That’s UK immigration in its Sunday best. I mean, Maximillian Nopespierre is an Earl so they’ll be fine, because if there’s anything a tory government likes better than kicking immigrants it’s beating off toffs, but like if they were regular peasants….. Immigrants have to get permission from the home office just to get married in the first place. They can choose to investigate you to see if you’re a ‘real couple’. Like I’m a white American who was on a valid visa years from expiring when we got married so they left us alone, but you can be goddamned sure an Albanian who entered the country illegally (even if they believed her about being trafficked) and they’d only known each other a few weeks….. Some people had immigration officers raid their homes in the dead of night and get declared a sham couple cause they were in pyjamas rather than sleeping naked (you know how famously open the British are about nudity, surely they all sleep naked if it’s real love). Couple routinely face detailed and humiliating interrogations about their sex lives that can last hours. Another couple had the home office say they wouldn’t investigate only to have officers show up at the wedding and stop it. All that’s before they even get married and apply for a visa. Like, the idea that marrying a citizen is a magic bullet against deportation is complete fucking nonsense, and it makes me really angry that so many members of the voting public believe it. This government will very happily split up families to keep official net migration figures down, and the people responsible for voting them in or out of office should God damned know that. So thanks for nothing EL

    May 23, 2019
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    • Tam
      Tam

      I don’t know if EL James saw “Green Card” and thinks that’s how it works — marry an American and you’re in — because that’s bullshit. My sister is married to a man who came here illegally 30+ years ago with his two sons from a previous marriage — one a toddler, the other an infant. Before Obama, one of the boys had to go back to Mexico for five years as soon as he graduated high school and turned 18; my sister and brother-in-law had to pay a lot of money and my sister had to make a lot of trips to Mexico to get the paperwork done and get her stepson back. The next one turned 18 and graduated during Obama’s presidency, and was going through DACA to become a citizen. Then Trump took office. My nephew was thisclose to being legal when he fell asleep at the wheel on the way home from work one night. No one was hurt but he still had to appear in court. The judge let him off but ICE was there to grab him as he left. All the money he had paid, all the paperwork that was being finalized, went out the window. He was put in prison, they would only let him have two visitors every Monday for 20 minutes. He was looking at being deported to Mexico and would not be allowed back in the country for 10 years. He barely speaks Spanish and while he has a few distant relatives in Mexico he doesn’t know them or anyone else there. Fortunately, they were able to get a judge to let him go back home with my sister (on bail) but it messed up his life and his future. They are STILL trying to raise the money to keep him here, and in the meantime, he can’t work. The same time this was happening to him, there was a story in the news about another Mexican here in Michigan who was being ripped away from his American wife and their children and being deported. They showed them all crying at the airport. Oh, and that was another thing: if my nephew is deported, my sister would have to pay for the airline ticket to send him away. Insult to injury. But that’s how it goes. They don’t care what hoops you jump through to become a legal citizen, they don’t care if they destroy lives in the process. Alessia stands a chance of seeking asylum through the embassy because she was a victim of trafficking, but they would want to know why she was living there so long and working as a maid instead of going straight to the consulate/authorities the instant she got away from her kidnappers. And they would also want to know why an Earl would not take her in as soon as he found out about her situation. I don’t know about England but in America, that might fall under “obstruction of justice.”

      May 24, 2019
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      • Sabayon
        Sabayon

        Ugh, that’s so horrible. I hope you family can find a way to sort that out and that drump dies in a dumpster from tertiary syphilis.
        Realistically if Alessia’d gone to apply for asylum as a normal she’d be shoved in a detention center while they sorted her claim out, but technically she’s still a victim not a criminal. The trouble would be getting immigration to believe her claim to have been trafficed. The current UK government is really good at writing laws that have exceptions you can claim that make it look perfectly decent and humane (try googling the rape clause and three child rule), but first you have to have the ability to Marshall an army of paperwork to prove you fit the exception (and for all immigration stuff the unwritten rule is it’s cool if you are white from an Anglo country). But, with a Earl and the fleet of immigration lawyers he can afford it would be no problem. This strikes me as one of those times when it’s obvious James doesn’t actually come from the privledged background she writes about. A real toff would’ve thought to just call their lawyer immediately and let them deal with it. Even if he is kind of a dipshit toff he still probably went to Cambridge or something and has a college bro working at the Home Office and/or a major law firm

        May 24, 2019
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        • Alice
          Alice

          I think the reason she didn’t go to the autorities when she escaped is that she wanted to go to London, she just didn’t know the men taking her and the others were going to sex trafic them instead of enabling them to enter the UK? It seems that way but most of it is still not clear so…
          So I guess it can be argued by autorities that she wanted to enter and remain illegally in London and this is what matter the most? Her reason for leaving Albania seems to be her abusive fiance, and I’m not sure it would be enough to be granted asylum? Perhaps if we suppose Albania is the conservative dumpster James describes?
          Anyway, I guess Alessia always meant to go to Magda once the men got her in London so she didn’t change her plans. And it doesn’t seem she had any plan beyond that? (cause you know, Moss can’t save her if she has already prepared for everything, and has contacted associations that could helpor that sort of things)

          May 24, 2019
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            I didn’t think about that but you’re right; she was probably on her way to Magda and just assumed she’d be fine up until Magda told her they were moving soon. To be fair, it sounds like everything was pretty recent and I’m not surprised Allessia didn’t go straight to immigration. Maybe Magda pointed out how horrible the experience would be and how hard it would be to prove what happened, along with so much recent trauma (even if it was more about being lied to and the previous abuse from her family.)

            Allessia’s temporary coping method was to try and ignore it for now and I don’t blame her for that. I guess I don’t entirely blame Moss for having a short term solution either, this whole thing sprang up so quickly, but I’m with everyone else; he should be thinking about hiring some lawyers right now.

            Yeah, it’s a rescue fantasy and I accept that. I’m more offended by the methods here. If you’re writing modern day then you should know how it works, EEL. Don’t create all this drama if you don’t want to deal with the logistics.

            May 24, 2019
      • Dove
        Dove

        The US and the UK both suck as far as immigration goes. I wish tribalism and fascism would stop getting in the way… 🙁

        It’s especially raw that the government has stolen so much money from your sister’s family (including that wasted bail, god damn it) and then they’re going to get more so your nephew can stay… but I hope he can stay. Maybe your sister can get some help from crowdfunding?

        May 24, 2019
        |Reply
  35. Amalthea
    Amalthea

    It’s a nitpick, I know, and maybe it’s because I’m reading recaps and not the book itself but it really annoys me that the book title is The Mister and not The Daily. Like Fifty Shades alluded to Grey’s character but the POV was Ana’s. Alessia doesn’t even get the most intimate POV in this. The title hints that we are going to learn about this mysterious person through Alessia’s eyes, but then the author lost interest in her female lead and it’s all about Max’s feels. I really wonder if this is a first draft that went to print because they couldn’t/wouldn’t spend the money to have it edited when they knew it would be a quick bump because name recognition/notoriety and then drop off.

    May 23, 2019
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  36. Diana
    Diana

    So, I was born the year after the Soviet Bloc collapsed. I’m almost 30. I went to Russia and the Baltics last year. I saw plenty of magic cards and clever phones, there were so many cars in Russia that Moscow was impossible to get around by vehicle, and even in the countryside no one batted an eye at cars, clever phones, or magic cards. Now, I realize none of those countries are Albania, but even so, it’s almost like “being a previous Soviet Bloc country” doesn’t preclude having made any technological progress in the last 30 years.

    May 24, 2019
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  37. Maaike
    Maaike

    Damn it I was always the frog kid! But instead of vhasing frogs I’d be staring dreamily at a spiderweb or something. I always got kinda left somewhere. I’d get lost during school trips in museums. My parents left me with a ski class while they did their own thing on the slopes, but I lost track of my group (probably staring at snow or something) on that gathering place. I didn’t speak the language so I just strayed from group to group joining them in their starting exercises before they went down the mountain, until my parents came to get me a couple hours later.

    Looking back it seems it would’ve been so, so, so easy to kidnap me during my childhood XD.

    May 24, 2019
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