Here we are with another short recap due to a super short chapter. Which honestly, I’m fine with. I could use a lazy day. At least this isn’t packed to the brim with multiple sex scenes.
I think that’s in like, two chapters.
Earl of Trevethick?
This is how the chapter starts. And in any other book, this would be a totally normal way to start the chapter following the revelation that the love interest is an earl. In this book, however, the character thinking this line has a habit of repeating in bewilderment, either mentally or out loud, the last thing another character said. So, it kind of loses its punch.
Danny tells Demelssia that Moss owns the house and the village and the land, wonders aloud at why he never told Demelssia that, and leaves.
Stunned, Alessia stares at the closed door, her mind imploding. Her knowledge of the English peerage is limited to two Georgette Heyer books […]
You and your author have that in common, probably.
Now, it’s time for another history lesson to prove that E.L. James did all that research she’s been bragging about.
As far as Alessia knows, there is no aristocracy in her country. In ancient times, yes, but since the Communists had seized all the land after the Second World War, the nobles that lived there had fled.
But here…Mister Maxim is an earl.
No. Not Mister. He’s Lord Maxim.
She doesn’t know the word for truck, but she knows the proper address for English nobility. CHECKS OUT.
Why didn’t he tell her?
IDK, maybe he thought you got the hint when everyone kept calling him “milord?” That would have been an interesting scene. Moss confesses to his shameful secret of being cash and land rich and Demelssia goes, “Yeah, I know, everybody keeps calling you ‘milord’.” But since it’s this book, we don’t get that. We get more manufactured angst.
And the answer exhoes loudly and painfully in through her head.
Because she is his cleaner.
I love the backassward logic here. “He’s rich and fancy and he hid the fact he was rich and fancy from me because I’m his cleaning staff.” Because we all know that rich and fancy people are super duper careful about what they say in front of their cleaners. Plus, she already had to know he was fabulously wealthy. There is no way to build this into a “maybe she’s a gold digger/maybe he thinks I’m a gold digger” conflict at this point because that ship sailed the moment Demelssia became his cleaner.
Why did he keep this from her?
Because she is not good enough for him, of course.
She is only good for one thing…
Her stomach lurches at his betrayal.
He’s lied by omission, yes, but this isn’t a betrayal. A betrayal would have been if he told her he was going to help her and her friends then didn’t help her friends at all and turned her over to the kidnappers after he got what he wanted. And we already have enough drama in this plot. We don’t need more. Go back and add a little of this to the five books you wrote before that had zero going on in them.
Her relationship with him has been too good to be true.
Deep down she suspected this. And now she knows the truth.
He just dramatically rescued her from violent criminals. This isn’t proof that he cares about her?
But there’s more angst, of course. He never told her he loved her, she made all of this up in her head, she’s just his concubine, blah blah blah.
She takes a long breath–she’s cried enough. Her deepening anger gives her momentum. She’s not going to cry over him.
That’s a paragraph after we hear about her tears of “anguish,” by the way. She’s not going to cry over him, but she cries in anguish and then has to stop her tears with a long breath because she’s cried enough, but for sure she’s not going to cry over him.
In heer heart she knows that her fury is masking her hurt, and she’s grateful for it. It’s less painful than his betrayal.
Again, not a betrayal. Moss has never betrayed her. He’s done everything he’s told her he would do. The only thing he hasn’t done is told her that he’s an earl. While his reasons for not telling her aren’t supported by the text, neither is this insistence that he somehow “betrayed” Demelssia by not telling her. In fact, this seems pretty minor and petty considering all the stuff that’s just happened.
She has her clothes from when they first arrived, including the giant panties, so she puts all that on.
Dante and Ylli will be arrested, and surely once the police estabilish the extent of their crimes, they’ll be incarcerated and those brutes will no longer be a threat to her.
She can leave.
Okay, bye. That’ll make this book a lot shorter. Because we still have thirty percent of this god damn thing to go.
She doesn’t want to be with a man who has deceived her.
A man who will cast her aside when he tires of her.
Not a valid point. There has been no indication whatsoever that this is Moss’s intention and there’s no real way to extrapolate that out from, “He didn’t mention he was an earl.”
While Demelssia plots her escape, we go into Moss’s POV. He arrives at the house and learns that Danny spilled the beans about the earldom.
Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
By the power of three!
I wanted to tell her.
No, you didn’t. Or you would have.
What must she be thinking?
Nothing justified by the text so far.
He goes to the bedroom to find her, but she’s gone.
I check the bathroom. It’s empty except for the trace of her scent. Lavender and roses.
That’s weird because she just took a bath with your pear and freesia bath gel.
Moss tears around the house shouting for her, with his brother’s dogs chasing him, and we go to Demelssia’s POV. She’s gotten lost in the house.
On the landing there’s a mullioned bay window, beside which stand two suits of armor holding what look like pikes.
She can’t be sure they’re pikes, but she knows the window is mullioned.
On the wall over the staircase is a massive faded tapestry, bigger than the kitchen table she saw earlier, that depicts a man on bended knee to his sovereign. Well, Alessia assumes he must be the sovereign, judging by the crown he’s wearing.
Whoa, we got a regular Hercule Poirot on our hands.
On the opposing walls above the staircase, there are two portraits. Huge. Both men. One is from an ancient time, the other far more recent. She sees the family resemblance in their faces and has a flash of recognition. They each stare at her with the same imperious green eyes. His green eyes.
So, she’s grasping now that he’s a big deal and she can’t quite get her head around it.
But then her gaze falls on the carved twin-headed eagles that sit on the newel posts at the top, the turns, and the bottom of the staircase.
The symbol of Albania.
I know what I think is going to happen with this. There’s going to be some kind of thought about how, oh, it’s fate or something that she happens to be from Albania and they have that eagle, and then the eagle is a thing for Moss. It’s super on the nose but whatever. On-the-nose isn’t always unbearable. I think if you’re going to be that on the nose, though, you should use a less-common heraldic symbol (eagles, lions, unicorns, harts, etc. are way too common) or make it something to do with her name somehow. That’s not a criticism of the book, just an off-hand observation that might serve someone reading this down the road when they’re trying to write something similar.
She hears him calling her name and kind of freezes in place. And now let’s talk about misplaced tension:
She’s torn. From far off beneath her, a clock with a booming chime signals the hour, making her jump. Once, twice, three times…
I mean, it sounds like it’s making her jump three times, but since three is the theme of the book…
“Alessia!” Maxim calls again, nearer this time, and she can hear his footsteps. He’s running–running toward her.
The clock is still chiming. Loud and clear.
What should she do?
Well, if she were an author asking that question, I would say, “Don’t make the scene where the hero is running to the heroine to beg forgiveness and express his love sound like such a fucking horror novel.” This is what I meant about “misplaced tension.” There is more suspense in this description than in the part where she was hiding from the kidnappers. That was very cut and dry, in the moment of her trauma response. And it’s great to write it that way. I’m just saying that a romantic reunion should not be more suspenseful than the part of your romantic suspense where the villains are involved.
We go to Moss’s POV, where he sees her in her old clothes and is like, okay, the situation is bad. She tells him she’s leaving. He asks her why, and she’s like, you know why.
“Alessis, I’m sorry. I should have told you.”
“But you did not.”
I can’t argue with that. I stare at her while the hurt in her dark eyes burns a hole in my conscience.
“I understand.” She lifts one of her shoulders. “I am only your cleaner.”
Danny and some of the other servants overhear the commotion and come running, and Moss orders them out of the room.
“This is why I didn’t bring you here. There are just too many people in this house.”
She tears her gaze away from me, her brow furrowed, her mouth a tight line.
“This morning I had breakfast with nine staff, and that was just the first sitting. I didn’t want to intimidate you with all…this.” I wave at the portraits of my father and the first earl while she traces the intricate carvings on the eagle with one finger. She remains mute.
“And I wanted you to myself,” I whisper.
Okay, that’s nice. But telling her that you’re an earl doesn’t mean you have to stay at the house instead of the Hideout. Telling her that you’re an earl doesn’t make people suddenly appear.
Demelssia tells Moss what Ylli said about her being his concubine and I legitimately cannot believe we’re using such an archaic word multiple times.
“That’s…absurd. It’s the twenty-first century….”
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, Moss!
“I would say that you’re my girlfriend. That’s what we say here. Though I don’t want to presume. We’ve not discussed our relationship, as this has all happened so quickly. But that’s what I want to call you. Girlfriend. My girlfriend. Which means that we are together in a relationship. But that’s only if you’ll have me.”
When she doesn’t answer him, he adds:
“You’re a bright, talented woman, Alessia. And you’re free. Free to make your own choices.”
“But I’m not.”
“You are here. I know you’re from a different culture, and I know we’re not economic equals, but that’s just an accident of birth…. We are equals in every other way. […]”
No. You’re really not. There are so many ways you’re not equal. For example, you’re a white man in your own country. She’s an immigrant in a country that is currently embroiled in a highly xenophobic debate about immigration, a large part of which specifically concerns immigrants of her own nationality. And she’s a woman. There are so many ways you’re not equal. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be together, but you’re not equal. This is one of those places where the author tells on herself; for all her bluster about understanding and being fascinated by power dynamics, she doesn’t have any real grasp of what constitutes institutional power.
Why is she avoiding me? What is she thinking?
Is it the trauma she’s just been through?
Or is it because those fuckers are out of the picture, so she no longer needs me?
Yes, Moss. She was using you. I mean, she ran away from your house and refused your help several times but somehow you were simply a means to an end.
“Look, I can’t keep you here if you want to leave. Magda is moving to Canada. So where you’ll go, I don’t know. If nothing else, stay until you know where. But please don’t go. Stay. With me.”
Your only support system is leaving, by the way, so I’m your only option. Ah, the romance of it all!
She turns her tearstaned face to me. “You are not ashamed of me?”
I can bear it no longer.
GOBLIN KING, GOBLIN KING, WHEREVER YOU MAY BE! TAKE THIS EARLDOM OF MINE FAR AWAY FROM ME!
I skim the back of my index finger across her cheek, capturing a tear. “No. No. Of course not. I…I…I’ve fallen in love with you.”
And of course, what happens now? She falls into his arms, sobbing, and he tells her, “I’ve got you,” they confess their love for each other and the entire incident is wrapped up in a neat twelve pages. Join us next time for a twenty-page tour of the house.
My Impression So Far: This is an author who cannot stand for the plot to impose itself on her characters.