Since I don’t have any news about The Mister, I’m going to shamelessly hijack your eyeballs for news of my own: The Boss, which began as a serial I wrote to subvert the tropes in Fifty Shades of Grey, spawned a seven-book series, the first five of which are now becoming available in serial form on the Radish app. Since its premiere on May 20th, it’s a #1 trending title with over 100,000 views. Are you kidding me? Is this real life?
If you’ve never read the series but you’ve always been mildly curious, this is a great way to dip your toes in. A new episode unlocks for free every day, and if you want to read ahead, you can pay a few cents to unlock more chapters.
Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your parents that you’ve found a great hardcore BDSM soap opera! They’re gonna love to hear about that!
In other news, while this is gonna translate to some extra income next quarter (which is sorely needed), my husband severely injured himself about a month ago and has missed some work and is rapidly accumulating medical bills, resulting in a big income shortfall this month which is a supergiant pain in my ass. ZERO pressure, but if you’ve been thinking, “I should send money to Jenny’s Kofi,” this is a good time. I absolutely hate mentioning it (hence the stupid thing at the bottom of all my posts, sitting there like a guilt bomb when you finish reading the damn thing, sorry about that) especially after I just mentioned it not too long ago, but man, I have been super broke lately. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. There’s always ups and downs, right? Don’t sit there like, “OH MY GOD I FEEL BAD BECAUSE JENNY IS GOING TO DIE IN THE GUTTER! I AM STEALING FOOD FROM HER CHILDRENS’ MOUTHS BY READING THIS CONTENT WITHOUT GIVING HER A DOLLAR!” because I won’t and you aren’t. I’m Domino. I always luck out somehow (and my weed hook-up extends credit). If you can donate and want to, awesome, if you can’t or don’t want to, you’re still awesome because you’re here.
PS. Mr.Jen’s injury is some kind of spinal nerve damage thing that’s causing severe chronic pain in his shoulder and arm. At least, that’s what they’re going with for now. We don’t know how he got injured, which is complicating the diagnosis and treatment; all we know is that he woke up suddenly with 10/10 pain and a cramp in his trapezius muscle that won’t ease up with any muscle relaxers that they’ve tried. He’s on a shit ton of drugs to control pain and help him sleep (which they barely do), as well as so many OTC pain relieving patches and gels that he smells like the dirty, loose Certs at the bottom of a grandma’s purse. Cross your fingers that’s it something simple to fix and I’ll keep you guys updated if you’re interested in knowing what’s happening with him.
Now, let’s escape from the career realities of a working writer, into a magical world of a super popular novel written with as much care as one would take with a grocery list.
Moss races back to the Hideout, lamenting the fact he left her behind in the first place.
Is it them? The bastards who trafficked her? I feel sick to my stomach. How the hell did they find us? How? Maybe they were the fuckers who burgled my flat.
Right here? This should have been his first thought when he learned about the break-in. Why? Because it’s literally the most dangerous thing happening to Moss and Demelssia at the moment. Being pursued by kidnappers is a big deal, not just because it’s the plot, but because it’s perilous and unusual. They should already be on high alert. When a second perilous and unusual situation arises, they would naturally link the events in their minds. The fact that Moss didn’t make that connection right away makes him seem like a fool who hasn’t been paying attention.
But I mean, it would have ruined the last chapter hook, so…
Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.
At the three-times repetition of the word, the car transformed into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and he flew merrily across the countryside to the rescue.
If they locate her at the Hideout…I’ll never see her again.
If only there were some kind of agency or department that one could call for help in such matters. Maybe a whole group of people whose entire job it is to protect other people from criminals and to find people who have been kidnapped. And wouldn’t it be wild if you could call them before catastrophe struck? For example, when shady characters who have been stalking you show up at your house, regardless of whether or not they’ve kidnapped your girlfriend yet?
In Demelssia’s POV, she hides in the bathroom and looks for a weapon, but all she comes up with are Moss’s razor and her toothbrush. And I want to say, thank you, E.L. James, for finally including details that show your character’s emotions, rather than just telling us.
With shaking, clammy hands, she locks it behind her while she gasps for air.
See? Was that so difficult?
She’s dizzy with fear. Feeling powerless, she quickly scans the room for something to use to defend herself.
God damn it.
Trapped in the bathroom, which is now basically a dead end, she remembers that Moss will be back soon and Ylli and Dante could hurt him.
He is no match for them. He is one man–and they are two.
And the award for least effort expended in the production of a tense metaphor goes to E.L. James, for that sentence right there.
Tears well in her eyes, and she sinks to the floor as her legs give out under her.
This is the reaction she’s having to the thought of Moss getting hurt. She’s not even allowed to be priority #1 in her own response to danger.
Demelssia hears Dante and Ylli come into the bedroom and they yell for her and call her a fucking bitch. Before anyone mentions, “Hey, why would they speak in English?” as we continue along, James does make it clear that all Albanians in this scene are speaking Albanian. Obviously, she’s not going to write a whole scene with dialogue in Albanian, in an Albanian character’s POV, for English-reading people. I mean, it’s not like a movie, where you can put on subtitles. So, don’t ding her on that.
Alessia puts her fist in her mouth to stop from screaming, and tears trickle down her cheeks. Her body starts shaking.
See, again, James is actually making the effort to show what her characters are feeling. She knows how.
Dante tries to break down the door.
Zot. Zot. Zot.
And then Almighty God appears as if a genie from a lamp and smites everyone and the Earth is cleansed from the scourge of this book.
“When I get in there, I’m going to kill you. You fucking bitch. Do you know how much you cost me? Do you?”
It probably would have been less of a loss if you hadn’t spent so much money traveling all over the country looking for her.
Anyway, Demelssia knows she’s about to get Taken, and her only thought is that she never told Moss that she loved him.
We go to Moss’s POV:
The Jag hurtles down the lane toward the Hideout, and I spot an old BMW encrusted with at least a year’s worth of dirt, and it’s abandoned haphazardly outside the garage.
No, no, it’s just that dirty because it’s Eastern European. Trust me, I’ve been reading the book.
No. No. No.
That’s my line.
Calm down, mate. Calm the fuck down. Think. Think. Think.
He parks the car in front of the gate so they won’t be able to leave that way and sneaks into the house through a service entrance.
Calm down, mate. Calm down.
Maybe call the police?
No. No. No.
That’s what I thought you’d say.
I hope we get a chance to see Moss and Demelssia bond over their shared repetitive interior monologues. It’s wild how they both think in threes like that. I’m sure it was a totally intentional device chosen by a skilled author to illustrate how very similar the two leads are.
The good news is, the guns from their hunting day are in in the house, so he gets those.
Keep calm. You will only have a chance to save her if you keep calm.
I repeat this mantra in my head.
In Demelssia’s POV, Dante breaks down the door and she wets herself in fear.
She’s dizzy. Dizzy with fear.
I’m super glad you mentioned what she was dizzy with because otherwise I would have assumed she’d been spinning round and round just moments before.
So, Dante grabs Demelssia and slaps her and says:
“Do you know how much you’ve cost me, you fucking whore? You’re going to pay every fucking penny back to me with your body.”
Which, again, you could have saved that money by just letting her get away and focusing on the girls you still had. I feel terrible that I’m sitting here and doing profit analysis on human trafficking but isn’t this just common sense? How much could Alessia possibly have cost him? Why is she so sought after and highly valued?
His face is inches from hers. His eyes dark and feral and full of rage. Alessia gags. His breath is rank, as if something died on his tongue, and his body odor washes over her in a haze of squalor.
Okay, “haze of squalor” is incredibly telling. Squalor is literally filth from neglect due to poverty or immorality. Now, I get it. This is the bad guy. But after spending most of the book so far talking about how provincial and dirty and violently repressed Albania is, James goes on to describe one of the few Albanian characters we see on the page as “feral” and having horrible poor-people teeth? I’m sorry, but I can’t go, “Well, it’s okay to describe him this way because he’s a villain.”
Just kill me. Just kill me. She wants to die.
We got that from “Just kill me,” thanks.
Here’s another thing that doesn’t make sense. Dante is like, beating the shit out of Demelssia, dragging her around by the hair, he kicks her in the gut while she’s laying on the floor in the fetal position…but she’s such valuable merchandise that he had to chase her everywhere? Why physically damage the product you’re relying on to recoup your expenses? I mean, I don’t have my MBA, but again, this seems like it should be obvious. If he beats Demelssia to death, he still doesn’t have her body to sell and all of the man hours he’s invested are for nothing. At this point, what’s his motive for coming after her?
Anyway, Moss comes in with the guns:
Maxim is standing on the threshold, shrouded in his dark coat like an avenging archangel, his eyes flashing a deadly green, and he’s brandishing his double-barreled shotgun.
He’s here. With his gun.
Again, thank you, we’re all very stupid and wouldn’t have been able to get that from the part where he showed up with his gun.
God, I know I said I wanted more showing, but I mean more showing and less telling, not in addition to telling.
We pop into Moss’s POV, where he describes Ylli:
He looks like a fucking rodent, drowning his oversized parka.
Wow. We’ve got “feral,” now we’ve got “rodent.” There had to be different words to use, words that don’t read like fervent anti-immigration propaganda.
Moss gets the guys away from Alessia and tells her to get out of harm’s way.
Her face is red on one side where the cunt must have hit her.
I realize that “cunt” is a much milder, less contested word in the UK, but I still find it amusing that James can barely stand to describe genitals in her sex scenes but she’ll put “cunt” in as an insult.
There’s a lot of macho posturing about how Moss will blow the balls off Dante and Ylli (with his gun) and then Moss’s cell phone rings. He has Demelssia answer it. She identifies herself as his cleaner, and Dante and Yllli have a two-line conversation in Albanian, which Google translate tells me is Dante saying that launderer must be how you say concubine and Ylli responding that it doesn’t matter because someone named Grueja is “a bellows for trouble.” I mean, I’m assuming Grueja is someone’s name because it didn’t translate. But okay.
The phone call is from Oliver, so Moss tells him to call the police and to send Danny and Jenkins over to the Hideout. Now, wait a damn minute. You want a kindly old lady to come down and help you with the violent criminals? What?
I’m skimming a lot of this part because it’s repetitive, with Moss just kind of constantly threatening to shoot them and ordering them to do this or do that or they’ll get shot, etc. Danny and Jenkins, aware that something must have been wrong when Moss bolted, already had followed behind him. Moss tells Danny to take Demelssia back to Tresyllian Hall while Jenkins gets twine to tie up the evil Eastern Europeans.
In Demelssia’s POV, she’s on the way to the house, wrapped in a blanket while Danny drives.
She would never forget how he looked when he saved her, in his long coat, brandishing a shotgun like a hero from an old American movie.
“I need to make sure everyone realizes how cinematic that description was!”
Now that the shock is wearing off, Demelssia has to vomit, so Danny pulls over and lets her barf on the side of the road. That’s when they hear police sirens, Danny tells her she’s safe, and Demelssia thinks:
He’s saved her. Again.
I hate to keep pointing this out. I really do. But she wouldn’t have needed saving. Again. If Moss had just involved law enforcement in the first place.
In Moss’s POV, Jenkins has tied up both the dudes and found that Ylli is armed. So, I’m not sure why he never tried to shoot Moss. Yes, Moss could have shot him, but it’s really all about luck, isn’t it? And if you’re facing all the charges they’ve got stacked up, you’re going to prison anyway. Might as well take a gamble, right?
Moss lightly brutalizes Dante and explains to Jenkins that they’re human traffickers. Jenkins is like, you know, we could just kill them and hide the bodies, and I’m like, right on, Jenkins, can I come to your book for a while?
In Demelssia’s POV, it’s time get impressed:
They drive through an open and rolling pasture. It looks…groomed, not wild like the countryside she’s seen since she got here. It’s dotted with well-fed sheep. As the car rattles down the road, a large gray house looms before them. It’s imposing. The biggest house Alessia has ever seen. She recognizes the chimney. It’s the one she saw from the road when she was walking with Maxim. He said it belonged to someone, but she can’t remember who. Perhaps this is where Danny lives.
No, it’s where Lady Catherine de Bourgh lives. Let me tell you about the glazing and all her fucking chimneys.
Inside the house, Alessia is impressed by the kitchen but fearful of the dogs, as indoor pets are apparently not a thing in Albania. Danny offers Demelssia a bath and urges her not to cry because “His lordship wouldn’t want that.” So, even in the wake of being beaten and terrorized, Demelssia must put Moss’s emotional needs first.
Demelssia notices the part about “His lordship” and the fact that the en suite bathroom in the bedroom Danny brings her to has Moss’s body wash in it. Kind of suspicious, right?
In Moss’s POV, he’s told the police all about what happened to Demelssia, but he’s described her to them as his fiancée. They say that they need to talk to her.
“Of course,” I respond. “Once she’s recovered. Those bastards really roughed her up. If I hadn’t arrived back here when I had…”
It must be nice to be a rich white man and be able to give orders to the police. They ask him if he’ll get Demelssia medical attention, and we learn that the sergeant who responded to the case knows Moss and has been a local cop since Moss was a child, and he was also the officer who notified the family of Kit’s death. The sergeant’s partner, however, is a young woman who is inappropriately psyched to be dealing with a violent crime. It’s so gosh darn cute when women think they can do things!
After a brief exchange about how Moss has been doing since his brother died, the police leave, wishing Moss well on his engagement:
“Thank you. I’ll pass your well wishes on to my fiancée.”
I just have to ask her to marry me first…
So like. What’s the point of lying and saying she’s his fiancée?
Jumping back to Demelssia, she’s in the bath while Danny goes to fetch her some clothes and painkillers for her head.
It’s throbbing because Dante pulled her upright by her hair.
Yeah, we just…we just read that a few pages ago. In the bathroom, when he was beating her? Remember?
Alessia thinks more about Dante and how much he stinks. Like, the filthiness of Dante is really emphasized:
The stink of him. Fetid. Stale sweat. Unwashed. And his breath.
If you choose to make your villains members of a group that has been maligned and sensationalized by the media in your country, perhaps packing in as many stereotypes as you can isn’t a great idea? Yes, we get it, they’re villains and you’re trying to make them unsavory. But I feel like “they are human traffickers” is a high enough bar. “They are dirty, stinky foreigners who are also human traffickers” is xenophobic overkill that is really unnecessary.
Demelssia thinks about the fact that Ylli called her a concubine.
The word is apt. She doesn’t want to acknowledge it, but it’s the truth. She is Maxim’s concubine–and his cleaner. Her mood grows bleaker still. What did she expect? The moment she defied her father, her fate was sealed.
Woe, my fate, to be loved by a rich man who gives me everything I want even when I don’t want it. All is ashes.
Baba would not go back on his word. He would bring great dishonor to the family name if he did. Her mother’s solution was to unwittingly put her in the hands of those gangsters. But now that they are in police custody, they are no longer a threat to her,
And the book can be over? Yay!
and she has to accept the reality of her situation.
Which reality? The one where you’re dating a super-rich man who “gave you the sea” or some shit? You’re out of danger now.
While she’s been in Cornwall, laughing on the beach, drinking in the pub, eating in fine restaurants, having sexual intercourse and falling in love with Mister Maxim,
I’m getting so tired of seeing “Mister Maxim” written out like that. Yes, we know it’s the title of the book, dumbass. Just use Mr.
she has lost sight of that reality.
Okay, but WHICH FUCKING REALITY? She has to face the “reality” of her situation and it’s soooooo dire and soooooo dark and oh, their love is imperiled because she’s his concubine, blah blah blah. The grim reality of her life was that she was being chased down by traffickers. Now, she acknowledges that reality is over. What could possibly be worse than the trafficking thing? What is a greater danger here?
Being with him has filled her head with illusions. Just as her grandmother had done–given her crazy ideas about independence and liberation. Alessia left her homeland to escape her bethrothed but also, in good faith, expecting to find work. That’s what she needed to do. To work, to be independent–not a kept woman.
OMFG. That’s the conflict. That’s the conflict we’re supposed to get invested in now. Demelssia’s “reality” is that she doesn’t want to be a kept woman but somehow her grandmother’s “crazy ideas” about independence and liberation were…bad? But she needs to keep doing them? I don’t…
Danny comes back and finally introduces herself to Alessia. She helps her out of the bath and gives her headache pills and arnica cream and all that mom stuff.
“His lordship will be along as soon as he’s dealt with the police. Come now.”
Alessia frowns, and Danny’s expression echoes hers.
“Did you not know? Maxim is the Earl of Trevethick.”
So, Demelssia finally knows the truth and dun dun duhhhhhhhhn she found it out from someone other than Moss. I can’t wait for this to become an enormous source of angst and conflict that is immediately resolved the moment it’s finally addressed.
My Impression So Far: If this book has made one thing obvious to me, it’s that E.L. James has real difficulty committing to scenes that she’s not enthusiastic about. The last two chapters have been ungodly slogs through, “he feels this way, she feels this way,” with very little tactile detail to immerse us in those feelings. But in this chapter, James actually takes the initiative to include those details. She can do it. There are just scenes where she declines to do so.
She is the Bartleby of her own self-sabotage.
The result here is that it’s obvious to the reader which scenes she should was excited to write and which scenes she just endured. And that makes for an incredibly uneven book with a horribly sagging middle. I don’t remember noticing this with the Fifty Shades of Grey books, but I sure do notice it here and I’ll bet I’ll notice it when I’m forced to re-read them in hell.