We have come now to the end of our journey together. Unlike our Fifty Shades of Grey adventure, we’re closing this metaphorical chapter without any movie news. The books have fallen off the New York Times weekly bestseller list (at least, as much of that list as they show on their site). It’s out of the top 1,000 on Amazon. Don’t get me wrong; The Mister was a hit.
It’s just not a hit for E.L. James.
So, will she write another book? Certainly not for whatever advance she received for this one. But since several commenters have pointed out that The Mister borrows liberally from SnowQueens IceDragon’s other Twilight fic, Safe Haven, maybe the answer to whether or not we’ll be revisiting our favorite author again lies in whether or not she has some old fanfic lying around.
I wonder what PBS Masterpiece Theater varnish she’ll slap on the next one.
CW: Abuse apologia
So, Mr. Demachi has just turned his shotgun on Moss and commanded him to marry Demelssia.
Oh, Babë, no!
Alessia realizes that she hadn’t thought through her lie about the pregnancy. In a panic, she whirls away from from her shotgun-weilding father, desperate to explain the truth to Maxim. She doesn’t want to force him into marriage!
Manufactured drama like this always makes your characters look real stupid if you can’t justify why they’re having this reaction. We’re being asked to believe that there is some question as to whether the man who rushed to Albania to rescue her, who physically attacked a man for hurting her, who stood up to her father and mouthed off a bunch of shit while the man was holding a gun, actually loves her enough to want to marry her.
As if these are the actions of a person who was just interested in dating around a little, maybe testing the waters.
Since we all know the answer already, trying to wring out this last moment of suspense is cheap and makes Demelssia look like even more of a doormat that she’s already been made to look.
But Maxim is sporting the biggest grin.
Joy shines in his eyes, evident for all to see.
His expression takes her breath away.
The amount of, “Well, I give up!” on display here is astonishing. This is how she writes the climax of their romance? Three broad, store-brand, sentences?
But wait. Just wait for the romantic proposal. After he dramatically gets down on one knee, Moss takes out the diamond ring.
“Alessia Demachi,” Maxim says, “please do me the honor of becoming my countess. I love you. I want to be with you always. Spend your life with me. At my side. Always. Marry me.”
That’s right. Do me the honor of taking the matching title to the one I allegedly don’t want but now clearly define myself with. Oh, and yeah, I love you and want to be with you. But I’m gonna lead off with that countess part because the wealth and status are what our author’s loyal readership really crave.
Alessia’s eyes fill with tears.
He brought a ring.
This is what he came here to do.
To marry her.
No, he came to return those sunglasses you left at his house, organized crime bosses be damned.
He really does love her. He wants to be with her. Not Caroline. He wants her with him, always.
Well, the way this is written, he wants Caroline with him, always. But I have a little writing tip: if you want to give your heroine a romantic rival, it’s better if The Big Misunderstanding™ about isn’t “I saw her in a shirt at his house before we were together,” and “I saw them hugging on the street.”
Even if we take into account the whole “Albanians don’t really do PDAs” thing that would have maybe convincingly made the hug a BFD, we’ve heard too much about how well-versed she is in American culture for that moment to have ripped her apart and Moss already rescued her from kidnappers once. There is no suspense here for the reader because there was never any point at which they would have truly believed Caroline is a threat.
PS. Caroline is Tanya from the Denali clan who had her sights on Edward in Twilight.
So, of course, Demelssia says yes and Moss jumps to his feet and lifts her into his arms and we go into his POV.
“I love you, Alessia Demachi,” I whisper. Setting her down, I kiss her. Hard. Closing my eyes. I don’t care that we have an audience.
In fairness, it would have been weirder if you kept your eyes open, making deliberate visual contact with all these people.
Right now. Here. In Kukës, Albania, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Happiness? In Albania? In this economy?
So, they stand there frenching for an uncomfortably long moment until her father clears his throat and motions them apart by threatening them with his shotgun.
No shit, he points a shotgun at his presumed pregnant daughter and the man who just proposed to her.
Mr. Demachi is confused about the countess thing, and the translator tries to help. A couple things about the translator:
A few people brought up how fucking weird it must be for the translator to be sitting here during all this violence and people drawing guns. Now, a marriage proposal involving English nobility.
And this whole time, his girlfriend is waiting at the car
He’s going to have to try to explain all this shit to her on the ride back and she’s going to be so perplexed that she won’t know whether she’s angry she missed it or angry that her boyfriend was put into this danger in the first place or both. There is going to be shouting in this car on this long ass ride. Some of it will probably be directed at Moss and Tom.
Anyway, remember when I said the thing about how we didn’t need the whole backstory of these minor characters and that was shitty writing and ha ha, E.L. James, what a shitty, shitty bad writer you are?
I had to look up something in one of my own books for consistency and I did the exact same thing. I have this character who I must have found real interesting because I gave him a husband and a passion for surfing and all sorts of details that were fully unneeded because he’s just a random guy the hero is talking to at work in a conversation that is only there to get interrupted by an emergency.
I was like, “Fuck an IceDragon. Jenny, you hackpocrite.”
Hackprocrite (noun): One who criticizes faults in the work of others while being guilty of those same faults, themselves.
But just to be clear? The Mister still completely sucks. There’s no escaping that, even if the criticism is coming from an unreliable narrator here.
To get Mr. Demachi to understand what a count is (because Demelssia refers to Moss being a count), the translator references Lord Byron.
“Like Lord Byron?” Thanas asks.
“He was a baron, I think. But he was a peer, yes.”
This is my favorite part of this book, hands down. It really, really is. When I first read it, I squealed with the most malicious delight.
The woman who claims to have done such in-depth research on Albania. The one who bragged about her expertise and the painstaking steps she took to portray the country faithfully.
Didn’t bother to look up whether or not there were counts in Albanian nobility.
Wait. It gets so much better.
If you read that article, you find out that the title was reserved for Albanian nobility in Italy. How did the Albanians end up in Italy? Skanderbeg, the Albanian hero we learned about last semester. Referenced in that article as “founding father of the Albanian nobility and nation.”
This is the second Google search result for “counts in Albanian nobility.” Third for, “are their counts in Albanian nobility.”
She didn’t even google it. She just assumed that Albanians, with the rich history she painstakingly researched all the way back to the 1960’s, wouldn’t understand noble titles.
She actually has Demelssia use the word “count” instead of “earl.” In Albanian. She says she’s a “Kont,” which I phonetically agree with. So writing the Albanians not understand what a count is despite using the Albanian word as an equivalent to earl to explain it to them is just…chef’s kiss. You’ve outdone yourself, SQID.
And it. gets. so much better. Stay tuned.
Back in the story, Tom makes a crack about this being a great tale to tell their grandchildren and Mr. Demachi breaks out drinks–but just for the men, because horrible patriarchal Albanian backward peasants, am I right?–while Moss once again describes Demelssia the way men talk about their “missing” wives to the local news before confessing to the murder.
She shines. Her smile. Her eyes. She takes my breath away.
Then they toast and Mr. Demachi announces that Moss and Demelssia will be married in a week.
And that’s the end of a three page chapter.
We stay in Moss’s POV as we go into the final chapter of the book. A chapter that really didn’t need to be its own chapter so I’m not sure why the hell it is. According to my kindle, it’s only four pages, anyway.
Moss watches Demelssia run to her mother.
They embrace and cling to each other as if they’ll never let go, and both begin to silently weep in that way women do.
You know. In that way. The kind of way where women cry. That kind of woman crying.
Try to sound less impressed by your bride’s tearful reunion with the mother whose life she feared for.
Then Demelssia approaches her father and Moss is like, ready to fight him again, just in case.
I hold my breath, poised to intervene if he so much as lays a finger on her.
I don’t mind heroes who are willing to commit violence to protect the heroine. I do mind heroes who constantly remind us that they would commit violence to protect the heroine, especially in moments where the tension has broken and things seem somewhat resolved.
Demelssia, however, has a touching moment with her abusive father who she once feared would kill her.
Demachi raises his hand and gently holds her chin.
That sentence comes directly after “so much as lays a finger on her,” and I laughed out loud imagining Moss tackling Mr. Demachi to the ground.
“Mos u largo përsëri. Nuk është mirë për nënën tënde.”
Alessia gives him a timid smile, and he leans down and kisses her forehead, closing his eyes as he does. “Nuk është mirë as për mua,” he whipsers.
So, her father said not to leave again because it’s not good for her mother, and then he added that it’s not good for him, either.
I look at Thanas, waiting for his translation, but he’s turned away, giving them this moment–and I think maybe I should, too.
Okay, first of all? Thanas isn’t a sign language interpreter. He can listen to them speaking Albanian even if his back is turned.
Second, WHY ARE WE GETTING THIS ABUSE APOLOGY BULLSHIT? This man sold his daughter. Not even sold! Put her up as permanent collateral on a loan! She ran away because she thought her choice was to either marry an abusive guy or be murdered by her abusive father! HER MOTHER HELPED HER ESCAPE THE COUNTRY TO PROTECT HER FROM HER FATHER AND “BETROTHED”.
You know what, we’re going to move along to the next scene, still in Moss’s POV. He’s laying in bed at the Demachi house, where he’s been forced to stay.
I lie awake staring at the dancing, watery reflections on the ceiling. The patterns that form are so comforting in their familiarity that I grin. They mirror my ecstatic mood. I’m not in London, I’m at my soon-to-be-in-laws’, and the reflections are from the full moon, skipping over the deep, dark waters of Fierza Lake.
Recalling the Thames motif at this point does not work. It’s been too long since we’ve seen it. They spent too much time in Cornwall to make this anything more than a moment where the reader thinks, “Oh, right. The water thing.” It stops you rather than drawing you in emotionally.
So, anyway, Demelssia sneaks into his room and gets naked. Sorry,
I toss back the covers, and she slides into bed beside me, gloriously naked.
According to my Kindle’s search function, Demelssia is just downright fucking glorious.
- “her glorious tits”
- “a glorious smile”
- “her glorious dark hair”
- “her glorious hair”
- “a glorious smile”
- “a glorious smile”
- “gloriously naked”
They have sex, complete with yet another list of body parts in place of actual description of what they’re doing:
She’s unleashed; her fingers, hands, tongue, and lips are on me.
It’s like, five paragraphs of stuff copy/pasted from earlier sex scenes. You know, the feel of her, her head thrown back in ecstasy, burying his face in her hair, etc.
No mention of a condom or pulling out because, you know, since they’re getting married it’s implied that they’re both down to breed right the fuck now, without any on-page discussion about it.
Hey, remember the part where her family is all puritan and stuff?
Although if her father knkew she was here, he’d shoot us both, I’m sure.
Then why are you taking this risk, you fucking marble?!
There’s more abuse apology:
Her emotional reunion with her mother–and her father–was affecting. I think he does love her. Very much.
No. If he loved her, he would not be willing to sell her to a mobster. He would not beat her. He would not be willing to kill her. This is irresponsible and shows that E.L. James still hasn’t learned that domestic violence is bad. This is chilling.
Moss thinks about how great it is that despite her upbringing, Demelssia is her own person.
Plus, she’s taken me on a epic journey of self-discovery with her.
A journey of self-discovery with side trips to a museum and the hard lesson that sometimes, you have to fly business class.
He thinks about how he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her, in case that hasn’t been hammered into us by now, and then they tell each other they love each other and once again talk about how her father might be willing to murder her.
“I think your dad will shoot me if he finds you here.”
“No, he’ll shoot me. I think he likes you.”
I know this is supposed to be jokey and cute but it probably would have worked better IN A SITUATION WHERE WE WEREN’T TALKING ABOUT A MAN WHO ACTUALLY WAS WILLING TO MURDER HIS DAUGHTER.
James’s enthusiastic willingness to write about serious subjects without any sensitivity or consideration is sick.
Finally, Moss asks Demelssia if she’s okay after her ordeal, and she apologizes for lying about being pregnant. Moss is like, that’s okay, I want kids, which is a great conversation to have after you’ve blown your load in someone.
I ease her onto her back and make love to her once again.
Mindful. Beautiful. Fulfilling. Love.
As it should be.
Later this week we’ll be married.
I can’t wait.
I just have to tell my mother.
Yup. That’s the line James chose to end the entire book on. This whole thing. Multiple kidnapping attempts, human trafficking, child abuse, spousal abuse, poverty, and death. And we go with a mention of a character who appears in one scene and how she’s not going to approve of this match.
The final page is followed by a chapter-by-chapter list of the music referenced, even if that piece has been referenced multiple times. It is nearly all Bach.
Now, I wanted to touch on something in the acknowledgments. They start off with thanks to her editor and a team of people at her publishing company, people at another arm of the company, and then:
Thank you to Manushaque Bako for the Albanian translations.
Followed by thanks to her agent and agency. Then:
Thank you to Grant Bavister from the Crown Office, Chris Eccles from Griffiths Eccles LLP, Chris Schofield, and Anne Filikins for advice on earldoms, heraldry, trusts, and property matters.
Huge thanks to James Leonard for his tuition in the language of posh young gentlemen.
She consulted one person about Albania and that was for the language translations.
She consulted five people to make sure she got the details of English aristocracy juuuuuust right.
Remember all the bragging she did about her in-depth research of Albania? Bako is the only person thanked for any sort of consultation on the country. Not about the culture. Not about the history. About translating her dialogue.
But it was really, really important to make sure we got an accurate feel for just how rich, important, and well-bred the English upper-class is. Albania she could just wing, right? She’s been there. She’s had stew. She read up on organized crime and communism. What more could there possibly be to a place that is so less than England?
She even consulted two people on clay pigeon shooting. Two people on clay pigeon shooting. One on Albania, to make sure her dialogue was translated appropriately.
I’m just gonna say it: if this bitch ain’t a Leaver, whoever is writing her characterization is just as garbage an author as she is because it’s inconsistent as fuck.
My final thoughts: This book started out with promise, then rushed headlong into total garbage. The first few chapters were written with careful pacing and insight into the characters. Then, it veered off into Poldark fanfic before becoming a somehow more xenophobic rip-off of Taken in which the role of Liam Neeson is played by an earl/model/DJ/photographer/composer who just can’t resist a museum.
There was actual promise here. Laziness, greed, and prejudice derailed it. And if she’s out of fanfic to recycle, her next offering will be even worse.
That’s a wrap on The Mister. Jealous Haters Book Club will resume with Beautiful Disaster recaps, and Jealous Patrons Book Club will start this week on my Patreon with a look at Safe Haven, the second Twilight fanfic E.L. James monetized. Some readers have asked me if the recaps of Safe Haven will be archived for those who can’t afford to join the $10 tier right now. Absolutely. Get on the ride when you can.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogcast.