Last week, the Toronto Star ran an interview with E.L. James. There are the usual claims of people not liking her because she’s a woman and that she went above and beyond the call of duty to research Albania but it also included a brief, interesting look into which fandoms she
‘ll be stealing from next enjoys:
She recently rewatched the first Harry Potter movie, which prompted her to buy the rest of the films, and now wants to read J.K. Rowling’s series again.
Somewhere, Cassandra Clare is already on the phone to her legal team.
Maxim is “storming” away from Caroline’s house.
I need a drink to help me calm the fuck down. I snatch a look at my watch. Alessia’s not expecting me back until seven. I have time.
This is interesting. Probably not on purpose. But ever since they went to Cornwall, Moss has been obsessed with being at Alessia’s side every moment but when he’s upset at Caroline he has to medicate himself with alcohol and that need overrides that concern about leaving Alessia alone. This is a very alcoholic thing to do and that’s an interesting thing that definitely won’t be explored because there just isn’t enough book left.
I cannot believe Caroline’s reaction.
Can’t you? You sat there and told us she’s a vapid, soulless fortune hunter.
Or maybe I knew it would be that bad.
Did I? That bad? Throwing-me-out-of-the-house bad?
Yo, that’s not why she threw you out. It was all the other stuff you said around the thing with Demelssia. I mean, Caroline wasn’t thrilled about Demelssia but you didn’t get thrown out until you were like, You picked my brother over me for his title!
What will Caroline say when I tell her I want to marry Alessia?
Probably nothing you want to hear but I’m not sure why you have to clear it with her in the first place. That would have been my last conversation with her.
What will my mother say?
Marry someone with money, darling.
Kit chose wisely.
So, I didn’t really get the idea from the lunch with dear old mommy that she approved all that much of Caroline, anyway.
My dark mood grows darker still as I stomp into the night.
Like a toddler in Batman pajamas.
We go back to Demelssia’s POV, where Anatoli is trying to force her to leave the grocery store with him. He grabs her arm but she pulls away from him.
His mouth presses into a hard line. “I came a long way for you. I am not leaving without you. You are promised to me by your father. Why are you dishonoring him?”
“Is it the man?”
“Aha!” you may be thinking. “Anatoli was behind the trafficking scheme!”
“That friend of your mother. She sent an e-mail. She said there was a man.”
Alessia is dumbfounded.
So am I. What was Magda’s motive here? Why is Magda the villain suddenly?
While Alessia is “dumbfounded,” Anatoli leads her like a sheep out the door.
Meanwhile, in Moss’s POV, he’s drinking.
The amber liquid sears my throat, but it calms the violent storm as it pools in my stomach.
Okay, he’s problem drinking. But at least he’s problem drinking a violent storm and not alcohol?
I’m a fool.
A priapic fool.
Guess who has a Word-of-the-Day calendar?
I knew that bedding Caroline was going to come back and bite me on the arse.
And here’s the thing. It was always going to. But this is the most boring way possible. You fucked your brother’s grieving widow. “She doesn’t like the girl who’s marrying me,” is not the lede here.
Time for the big revelation:
I’ve never thought beyond my dick. Until Alessia. And then that all changed.
Changed for the better.
It’s not like that type of behavior can get much worse.
I’ve never met anyone like her, someone possessing nothing–except her talent, her resourcefulness, and her beautiful face. I wonder what I would have made of my life if I’d been born in lowlier circumstances.
Is she what Mr. Darcy would call “accomplished”?
There’s so much that I take for granted. I’ve been coasting through my life, everything handed to me on a plate, nothing affecting me and doing exactly as I pleased. Now I have to work for a living,
But do you, though?
and several hundred people depend on me and my decisions. It’s a daunting task and a huge responsibility that I have to accept if I want to maintain my lifestyle.
You literally have a business manager who’s been running all this estate shit. So far, it seems like the only thing required of you in any real capacity is knowing what’s going on.
In the midst of this turmoil, I found Alessia, and in an indecently short time I’ve come to care for her more than I’ve ever cared for anyone.
Thank you for the recap? Is this entire section meant for people who bought a copy of the book with the first eighty percent missing or something?
I have to admit that I hate arguing with Caroline. She is my best friend. She has been forever. My world feels out of kilter if we’re at loggerheads. It happened occasionally, when Kit was
Dating, engaged, and married to her?
here to mediate, but she’s never thrown me out of the house before.
This fixation on being thrown out of the house is really disconcerting. Why did he want to even stay? So she could keep insulting this woman whom he allegedly cares about more than any other person in the world? Even more so than himself? He just wanted to sit there and listen to Caroline hurl abuse about the woman he loves. Okay.
I’m just still not buying the “Caroline is important in my life because she’s my bestest, bestest friend in the whole wide world even though she threw me over for my brother because she’s a snobby, title-seeking opportunist” thing. Especially now that he’s so devoted to Demelssia. Can she, the woman you love and with whom you have this unbreakable, instant bond not be your best friend?
What’s worse is that I had meant to ask for her help sorting out Alessia’s legal status in the UK. Caroline’s father is a senior director in the Home Office. If anyone can help, he can.
But that’s out of the question for the moment.
You can’t just call him yourself? He’s your brother’s father-in-law. You must have met before. And even if you can’t contact him, I guarantee you know other people or can buy other people to expedite this process. Demelssia is currently the most well-connect undocumented immigrant in the UK but she can’t even reap the benefits inherent because her main connection is so fucking short-sighted.
Moss notices that it’s now fifteen minutes past when he was supposed to be home, so he leaves the bar and we go into Demelssia’s POV, where Anatoli is taking her to get her stuff from Moss’s apartment.
What if Maxim is home?
Anatoli threatened to kill him.
The thought of what Anatoli might do to Maxim is terrifying.
You know what she should do? Trip the alarm when she comes into the house. Because, you know, we’ve heard about the alarm over and over again. And if she trips the alarm, who will come running? Moss’s army friend.
Magda must have written to her mother. Why? Alessia had begged her not to.
Because god forbid a man be the true villain of the story? Because it would be unacceptable for only one woman to stand in the way of Moss and Demelssia’s true love? Pick a reason.
She has to get away, but Alessia knows she cannot outrun him.
Think, Alessia, think.
Yes. Think. Think of Chekov’s Alarm that we’ve heard so god damn much about.
Anatoli asks Demelssia if Moss is really just her employer and if he’s “had what’s mine.” She denies any romantic relationship with Moss, even when Anatoli goes into the master bedroom and finds a condom in the trash. She tells him that Moss has a girlfriend and both of them are out, and Anatoli tells her to get her stuff.
“Go. Now. I don’t want to wait for him to return. I don’t want a scene.” He undoes his coat, slips his hand inside his jacket, and pulls out a pistol. “I am serious.”
Can y’all just get guns in the UK? And get them across the border real easy? I was under the impression that the opposite was true. I live in a country where I can’t go to the grocery store without knowing at least two people there have guns. Living in a place where every single time I enter a public establishment I am at risk of being shot has warped my perspective on how other countries operate.
Her fate is sealed. She will go with Anatoli. She must, to protect the man she loves. She has no choice. How did she think she could escape her father’s besa?
So, here’s the thing. I get that she has to leave now with Anatoli. But there’s no reason she can’t try to escape later. She escaped from traffickers but she can’t plot her escape from Anatoli? And again, if she’d just tripped the god damn alarm we had to hear so much about over and over again, Moss would know something was wrong, his friend would race over, probably call the police…none of this makes sense. Why set up the perfect escape mechanism that would make your heroine look super clever just to have her go, oh, I am so meek, I am so provincial, lead me like a cow back to Albania?
Demelssia tells Anatoli that she has to leave a note for Moss because it’s only fair to let him know his employee is leaving.
Alessia scribbles quickly, careful with her choice of words, hoping desperately that Maxim will read between them. She doesn’t know how well Anatoli speaks for reads English. She cannot take the chance–she cannot write what she really wants to say.
So, what does she write that’s so careful and coded and that won’t make Anatoli suspect a thing?
Thank you for protecting me.
Thank you for showing me what love means.
But I cannot escape my destiny.
I love you. I will always love you. Until the day I die.
Maxim. My love.
Yeah, no, none of that will tip off Anatoli at all. It’s super subtle.
But it doesn’t matter because though Anatoli reads the letter, he doesn’t seem to know what it says. He takes her out of the apartment and we go to Moss’s POV, where he’s just now approaching the apartment.
When I turn the corner, the road is quiet except in the distance a man is closing the door of a black Mercedes S-Class that’s parked in front of my building.
I turn to see Caroline running down the street toward me.
But Moss is torn between paying attention to Caroline’s melodrama and watching the car because something feels wrong. The driver is getting into the car on the wrong side.
“Maxim!” Caroline calls again. I turn, and she runs up to me and throws her arms around my neck with such force that I have to put my arms around her to balance us both and stop us from falling to the ground. “I’m so sorry,” she sobs.
So, Caroline is weeping in his arms as he watches the car drive away.
And then I see it. The small red-and-black flag of Albania on the number plate.
In Demelssia’s POV…well, we all know what’s happening in Demelssia’s POV. She hears Caroline shout Moss’s name and sees:
Maxim is standing at the end of the block–and a fair-haired woman runs into his arms, hugging him.
Who is she?
He cradles her head.
He holds her waist.
And she remembers–the woman wearing his shirt, standing in his kitchen.
Yup. The Big Misunderstanding™.
The betrayal is swift and cruel, slicing Alessia into tiny pieces and shattering her faith in herself–and in him.
Him. Her Mister.
So, yeah. In spite of everything he’s done for her, Demelssia knows for certain that Moss’s love is all a lie because…he hugged his dead brother’s widow just weeks after her husband died.
I’m tired. I’m so, so tired. I’m tired of hearing about how smart and brave and clever this heroine is only to see her make rash conclusions, become paralyzed with fear, and not be able to figure out something a simple as, IDK, even just shouting for help or making a scene when Anatoli grabbed her in the store. Yes, she has PTSD from her earlier ordeal. We all get that. But this isn’t real life. This is supposed to be if I remember the exact wording, a roller-coaster thrill ride or some such shit. It’s not super thrilling to watch the heroine get led around, waiting to be rescued. Like, the solution to this problem was not “add more kidnapping.” The solution was, “let your heroine fight back.”
In Moss’s POV, he abandons Caroline on the street and runs upstairs. And the “abandonment” is, emphasized as Caroline chases after him. For example:
Leaving Caroline at the foot of the stairs,
Like, we get it. She’s following you and you don’t give a shit about her because she’s the evil blonde and we need to see how much you don’t care about her because not caring about her makes your love more pure and true or whatever but also she’s your very best friend whom you care deeply about and can’t stand to lose. Or something.
They have her. They have her again. My sweet, brave woman. What will those monsters do to her? Her clothes are not in my bedroom. Nor the spare room…
In the kitchen, I find her keys and the note.
My betrothed is here and he is taking me to my home in Albania.
Thank you for everything.
WAIT WHAT? That’s right. Despite it seeming very much as though Alessia had written that long thing about how much she loved him, she didn’t really write it. And we, the readers, had absolutely no way of knowing that because of how it was formatted.
“No!” I scream, overwhelmed by my despair. Picking up the phone, I hurl it at the wall. It shatters into pieces as I sink to the floor, my head in my hands.
Overwhelmed by my despair, I break the thing that will reach help the fastest.
Anyway, that’s the end of the chapter, basically. He falls on the floor and thinks about how he wants to cry and it’s over.
My Impression So Far: The other day, I went back and looked at what I’d written in this section in the first two recaps. Oh, what a fucking dumbass I was.
Let’s talk about the three things that bother me the absolute most about this chapter, things that an editor should have pointed out. Things that the author should have thought of in the first place. Things that would have made this scene so much better.
First of all, the alarm. Every time they go in and out of the apartment, we hear about the alarm. It’s as present as the Thames in these scenes (Maxim does mention the Thames at one point, by the way, so don’t worry, it’s still there). The one time the alarm would actually serve a purpose that would justify the author’s fixation upon it, she doesn’t use it. And that’s infuriating.
Second, the note. Alessia wants to make it clear to Maxim that she doesn’t want to go. She wants him to read between the lines. She leaves the note…in the kitchen. Why not leave it on the piano? The piano is another thing we hear about over and over. Why not leave it there as some kind of signal? Some poignant thing? Wouldn’t it be easy to tell Anatoli, oh, they’re super rich, they never go in the kitchen, I’ll leave it where they’ll find it?
Finally, the reader needed to be able to tell that what was printed in italics during the writing of the letter wasn’t what Alessia actually wrote. And there is one tiny change that would have completely fixed the whole situation. One single character.
She cannot take the chance–she cannot write what she really wants to say.
Thank you for protecting me.
We should have seen:
She cannot take the chance–she cannot write what she really wants to say:
There. It’s so tiny, I put it in bold and red so you can’t miss it. Maybe it could have gone further and instead of:
She shows him and watches as his eyes scan the words.
She shows him and watches his eyes scan the words she wrote instead.
But even just the colon would have been enough to clear up the confusion.
At this point, my assumption is that there had already been some missed deadlines. I say this because of the interview I linked above the jump. She didn’t grasp Alessia’s character until March of 2018, at which point she began rewriting the novel. And the book came out thirteen months later. In terms of traditional publishing, a book with this much riding on it would have had much more lead time. This explains why the announcement of the book came so close to the actual release. It explains why the media campaign and promotion were so slapdash. And if it was, in fact, a case of too many missed deadlines (especially since there was almost certainly a seven-figure advance involved, possibly higher), even being a hugely bestselling author wouldn’t alleviate the pressure of time as both publisher and author watched the success of Fifty Shades of Grey growing smaller and smaller in the rearview. All of this would explain why the ending of this book is so rushed, why the chapters are suddenly much shorter, and why none of the characters are making any decisions that would lead to having to write an extra few thousand words per chapter. There simply wasn’t time to write a good book.