This is a short recap because the chapter is really short and whiplash-jumbled in terms of switching POVs. CW: Suicide because this book was lacking plot points and needs to keep bringing this one up.
We arrive at Trevelyan House with Moss. Now, remember, because this is not at all confusing, that Moss’s last name is Trevelyan, the house his sister-in-law lives in is Trevelyan House, Moss’s title is Earl of Trevethick, and his big fancy earl house is Tresyllian Hall. No trouble keeping any of those straight, I assume.
The butler tells Moss that Caroline is in the morning room and offers Moss a drink, which Moss doesn’t take.
I vault up the stairs, turn left, take a deep, steadying breath, and open the morning room door.
Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen next? This is so thrilling. We got absolutely zero indication of Moss’s internal thoughts or feelings during this short exchange, aside from a brief mention of not liking to be called “my lord” but understanding that it’s going to happen because he’s the earl. We’re supposed to hang in suspense from this last line in his POV, but we simply haven’t been given anything to invest in before we jump to Demelssia’s POV.
She had never dared to imagine that one day she might be living here with him. She’d never aspired to live in a place as grand as this. She does a twirl in the doorway of the kitchen, feeling gidding and grateful–and happy. She still has so much to figure out in her life, but for the first time in a long time she’s hopeful. With Maxim at her side, she feels that no obstacle is insurmountable.
Thanks for laying all of that out for us in one big clump like that, rather than putting the effort into actually showing the change in her characterization gradually over the past few chapters so that we could come to these fairly obvious conclusions on our own. The worst part of reading is getting immersed in the story and experiencing all the emotions right along with the characters.
Then, she goes and plays the piano and we go back to Moss’s POV.
Moss’s meeting with Caroline is basically a copy-paste of his earlier meeting with her:
Caroline is sitting by the fire, staring into the flames, huddled in a tartan throw.
Compare this to the beginning of the book:
There I find Caroline, nestled in an armchair, wrapped in a cashmere shawl, and staring out the windows.
Caroline basically just sits around looking tragic, I guess. Which, you know. I would be fine with, considering she’s a widow and all but she’s a fictional widow and we need to see her do at least some work to make these encounters less repetitive.
“Oh, it’s you.” she says.
“Who were you expecting?” She hasn’t risen to greet me and I’m beginning to feel a little unwelcome.
The punctuation error there is in the book, that’s not mine. As for Moss not feeling appreciated enough, I think it’s interesting that he’s 100% like, “I am not an earl! I am a man of the people!” until someone doesn’t rise to greet him.
Plus, you fucked your brother’s widow whom you have spotty romantic history with and then you up and left without any explanation and ceased contact with her. Like…you need to be a little more humble here.
From nowhere my grief emerges and smothers me like an itchy woolen blanket.
Or is Caroline smothering you with her cozy tartan throw?
Caroline tells Moss she suspects that Kit killed himself because obviously there wasn’t enough going on in this book already. We need to toss in suicide.
“Caro. That’s not true. Don’t think that. It was just a horrid accident.” My eyes meet hers, and I’m trying for my most earnest look, but the truth is–I’ve had the same thought. I can’t let her knkow that, though, and I don’t want to believe it either. Suicide is too painful for those of us left behind.
Back it up. I know people commit vehicular suicide. It just seems like doing so in a garden variety motorcycle accident is a little too slapdash. I mean, you can’t guarantee you’re not gonna get revived and have to go through a long series of surgeries and therapies and I feel like more pain is not the end goal of suicide. If he’d driven off a cliff, maybe?
Moss sits with Caroline for a while, throws another log on the fire, and then they talk about the break-in. Then she asks him what he was doing in Cornwall.
“Escaping from gangsters, if you must know.”
“Yes…And falling in love.”
And back to Demelssia’s POV. Because we’ve finally gotten to the point of the conversation that we’ve been trying to get to but we need to build suspense…by watching Demelssia go through the pantries to find something to cook for dinner.
She has time to go to the local store to find something a little more enticing for her man.
Oh good. She can’t wait to be domestic and doting on her man. We all know how much that appeals to me in a heroine so obviously, I won’t be biased against this whole line of characterization at all.
Anyway, then she heads to the store and we go back to Moss’s POV.
“What?” splutters Caroline. “You? In love?”
“And why would that be so improbable?” I note that she doeesn’t continue her line of questioning about “gangsters.”
“Maxim, the only thing you love is your dick.”
“That’s not true!”
That’s not true! It’s just the personal image I’ve carefully cultivated through years of behavior designed to give you that exact impression! How dare you believe me!
She demands to know who he’s fallen in love with, and her reaction is absolutely predictable for a blonde E.L. James character:
“Maxim. She’s your fucking daily–literally!” And a dark cloud crosses her face; a storm is brewing.
We all knew that she was going to be the evil blonde. There was no escaping that. And the way she begrudged Moss tipping the cab driver earlier in the book was a dead giveaway that she’s a snob. But she goes full soap opera evil here:
“I knew it! That time when I met her. In your kitchen. You were so weird and attentive toward her.” She spits each word out like venom. She’s horrified.
“Don’t be so dramatic. That’s not like you.”
The only time we’ve really seen Caroline is when she’s either wrapped in a blanket and indulging in an emotionless stare or when she’s just finished fucking her dead husband’s brother. These are not exactly the marks of an undramatic person.
Caroline says that she totally is dramatic (because she’s been reading the book), and Moss asks her since when.
“Since my bloody husband upped and killed himself,” she hisses, her eyes glassy with animosity.
She went there. She’s using Kit’s death in an argument.
And you used Kit’s death to get into Caroline’s pants.
More of my thoughts on that bullshit later in the broadcast.
“Bloody hell!” She stands suddenly, looming over me. “Don’t give me some bullshit clichéd homily. She’s just a grimy little freeloader, Maxim. Can’t you see that?”
How did you see it, Caroline? You met her for like two seconds and you have no idea what kind of relationship Moss has with her. And when he points that out, she says:
“I know her type.”
“From where? From where do you Know. Her. Type, Lady Trevethick?” I enunciate each syllable, my words echoing off the blue-painted walls and framed artwork of this small drawing room.
I thought you were in the morning room. Also, what the fuck is up with that punctuation and capitalization? That’s not my slippery fingers. That’s just…bizarre.
Equally bizarre is that he seems to be insinuating that Caroline somehow married for money and title? But then later in the argument, he thinks:
How dare she judge Alessia? Caroline, like me, has led a life of utter fucking privilege.
So, either she led a life of privilege or she was a fortune hunter. You can’t really have it both ways, especially when it’s been established more than once that Caroline is extremely wealthy in her own right.
“Caroline, it’s not the end of the world.”
“It is to me.”
She glares at me with a look that’s both wounded and enraged. I shake my head. “I don’t understand. Why is this such a big deal to you?”
“What about us?” she asks, her voice wavering, her eyes wide.
“There is no ‘us.'” God, she so annoying.
EXCUSE THE FUCK OUT OF ME?
I don’t like Caroline. But let’s remember that she recently lost her husband in an accident that may or may not have been a suicide and then two weeks later found out that she wasn’t actually pregnant with a baby she wanted and had been trying to conceive for two years. And in that time, knowing that she was your ex and there was a messy history there, you fucked her.
“What did you think? Us? Together? We had that! We tried that! And you chose my brother!” I’m shouting.
“We were young,” she whispers. “And after Kit died…”
“No. No. No. You do not get to do that. Don’t try to make me feel guilty–it takes two, Caroline. You made the first move when we were both empty and aching with grief. Maybe it was just an excuse. I don’t know. But we’re not a good combination. We never have been. We had our chance but you went off and fucking my brother. You claimed him and his title. I am not your fucking consolation prize.”
Remember how we’ve heard through this entire book that Caroline is his “best friend” despite there being all this romantic fallout or whatever? What the fuck exactly does E.L. James believe friendship is? This is the first we’re hearing about Caroline choosing Kit merely for his title. Which, by the way, doesn’t make a shitload of sense to me. Maybe I’m not hip to the nobility thing but what could the advantages possibly be in this day and age, if you’re already very rich and established in society? I just don’t buy earl-hunting as a plot device in a contemporary romance, I’m sorry. Especially when it comes out of fucking nowhere to create unnecessary drama late in the book.
Caroline orders Moss to leave and he reminds her that it’s his house before he goes because he is a gentleman.
In Alessia’s POV, she’s walking down the street and serving as a walking stereotype:
In Albania, at night, she would be wary of the djinn–the demons that roam the earth after sundown. But she knows that this is superstition.
Wait, shouldn’t she have been worried about the wolves that her father had to go out hunting every night in their small village of sixteen-thousand people?
Demelssia goes into a Tesco and starts browsing the aisles when:
“Hello, Alessia. How have you been?” It takes a fraction of a second for her to realize that the calm, familiar voice is speaking in Albanian. It takes another fraction of a second for fear to grip her heart and her soul.
No! He’s here!
You always run into the damndest people at the grocery store.
Since this chapter is needlessly drawn out with “suspense,” we don’t learn who “he” is right away. We jump back to Moss as he stalks away from Trevelyan House.
How could Caroline think she and I had a chance?
Because you fucked her immediately after her husband died and she’s not thinking real rational because of the grief and such?
We know each other too well. We’re supposed to be friends. She is my best friend.
But why though? If she broke your heart by marrying your brother for his title why are you still friends with her?
But truth be told, I had no idea that she had designs on me beyond the occasional fuck.
Really? Hang on, I have retained receipts:
Shit. It has to stop. I don’t want or need the complication. As I shave, solemn green eyes blaze back at me. Don’t fuck it up with Caroline. She’s one of your few friends. She’s your best friend. Talk to her. Reason with her. She knows we’re incompatible.
That’s from page nine.
Not of this chapter. Of the entire book.
Since page nine of this book, Moss has been aware that Caroline might have romantic designs on him. He knew had to cut things off because they weren’t going to be able to have a successful relationship. He doesn’t get to go, oh, wow, I had no idea on page 421.
We go into Demelssia’s POV where we find out that the next Albanian fiend to try and kidnap her is her ex-fiancé, sorry, her “betrothed,” Anatoli:
“I have been looking for you,” he continues in their mother tongue.
He’s just been out there searching every Tesco in London or something? Or was this a wacky happenstance?
His full lips are twisted in a seemingly casual smile that doesn’t touch his piercing, pale blue eyes. He scrutinizes her, looking for answers. His chiseled face is thinner and his fair hair longer than she remembers.
Jesus Christ, Erika, we get it. You hate blonds.
While Demelssia is terrified into silence and immobility, Anatoli tells her that he’s spent a bunch of money looking for her, that her parents have been worried about her since she disappeared, and Demelssia is like, oh shit, is my mom okay or did he do something to her?
He tightens his hold on her arm. “You should be ashamed of yourself. But we’ll deal with that later. Right now let’s go and collect your things, I’m taking you home.”
And that’s where the chapter ends.
My Impression So Far: I’m torn between whether the Caroline subplot is extraneous or just poorly executed. It is a good subplot but it doesn’t seem to fit into the book. It’s possible that there’s just too much going on already and it doesn’t fit, but I think the more likely explanation is that it’s how James chose to head hop from character to character. If the exchange with Moss took place all at once, then we went to Alessia’s POV and did her scene, maybe it wouldn’t seem so jumbled? But we also needed more internal thought about Caroline while Maxim and Alessia were in Cornwall. Not just, “Oh, we played here as children, ugh, she called me again.” We needed to have this allegation of fortune-hunting introduced explicitly and far, far earlier. And we need to know what Caroline’s motive for wanting the title was. And above all, that plot needs to be written in such a way that Maxim is taking responsibility for his actions rather than being absolved of them. Right now, James is asking the reader to accept Caroline as the villain who covets Alessia’s true love and ignore the fact that the womanizing Maxim continued leading Caroline on during an incredibly vulnerable time in her life.
Of course, we’re also being asked to accept two kidnappings in one book. So.