Aaaand we’re back.
Since the announcement of Grey, I’ve had some Tumblr messages and a few emails asking me if I would ever rewrite the Boss series from Neil’s POV. I can’t see a way that I could do that without being extremely derivative of E.L.’s move, but it would be an interesting project. In the meantime, I do have dual POV novels coming out on August 4th, entitled First Time. You can pre-order them now, if you’re interested.
Other thing: I get messages every now and then from people who are like, “I want to donate to your blog,” or whatever. And I appreciate it, and I always tell people to buy my books if they’re interested in supporting me, but if you’d prefer, I put up a Patreon. The higher level donations are definitely intended to be one time only, so please be sure to cancel your subscription or whatever after you make the one-time donation.
This day in history: Actress Barbara Stuart, of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. fame, died.
For your reference and enjoyment, here’s my chapter three recap of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Now, let’s do this:
Chedward starts his Sunday out with a run to clear his head. He dreamed of Ana the night before, instead of having a nightmare, and it has so disturbed him that he needs to push his body “to its limits” to get her out of his thoughts. Then there’s a section break and it’s two hours later, and he’s still out running. He sees a coffee shop and thinks maybe he should take Ana out for coffee. As always, underlines indicate italics in the text:
Like a date?
Well. No. Not a date. I laugh at the ridiculous thought. Just a chat–an interview of sorts. Then I can find out a little more about this enigmatic woman and if she’s interested, or if I’m on a wild-goose chase.
It would be ridiculous to assume that one would take a woman they’re interested in out on a date. How droll. Instead, we shall interview the aforementioned woman as though she were a candidate for employment. This proves how very businessy and Master of The Universe-ish we are.
Christian goes back to his hotel room, where he stretches, and:
Breakfast has been delivered and I’m famished. It’s not a feeling I tolerate–ever.
If you don’t like feeling hungry, here’s a thought: DON’T GO OUT RUNNING FOR OVER TWO HOURS. Shit like that has a tendency to make you hungry.
I hate the absolutes Christian throws out. “It’s not a feeling I tolerate–ever.” I know that it’s meant to show his very serious and dark and powerful side, but instead he comes off like a total brat who would start kicking and screaming if he got slightly hungry and food wasn’t immediately accessible.
We learn that he plans to eat before he showers, and there’s another section break. Dear fucking lord. I know this book was supposed to give us new insight to this fascinating character, but do we really need to hear about the order in which he’s going to eat and shower when it does nothing to propel the story? Most of this page is just him running, thinking about how he dreamed about Ana, thinking about coffee, then planning to eat breakfast and shower later.
Only in the third section, the bottom quarter of the page, does anything happen at all. Taylor knocks on the door and tells Christian that they’re ready for him at the photo shoot downstairs.
Room 601 is crowded with people, lights, and camera boxes, but I spot her immediately. She’s standing to the side. Her hair is loose: a lush, glossy mane that falls beneath her breasts.
If Ana has that much hair growing under her boobs, though, that might actually be a symptom of a serious endocrine disorder. She should get that checked out.
She’s wearing tight jeans and chucks with a short-sleeved navy jacket and a white T-shirt beneath. Are jeans and chucks her signature look? While not very convenient, they do flatter her shapely legs.
Ugh, I hate it when a woman’s clothes don’t allow me immediate access to all the holes I would like to stick things in. But at least they make a part of her body pleasing to my eye, and that’s all that matters.
Chedward greets Ana and considers kissing her hand, but he doesn’t, stopping just shy of becoming a creepy, fedora wearing “m’lady” guy. Katherine is there, and is described by Chedward as standing “too close” to Ana, because he is Master of The Universe and dictates where everyone should stand. All the world is a stage, and Chedward Grullen will give you your blocking.
“Mr. Grey, this is Katherine Kavanagh,” she says. With reluctance I release her and turn to the persistent Miss Kavanagh. She’s tall, striking, and well groomed, like her father, but she has her mother’s eyes, and I have her to thank for my introduction to the delightful Miss Steele. That thought makes me feel a little more benevolent toward her.
Why do you dislike her in the first place? Because she’s well-groomed? Because she has her mother’s eyes? Or is it just that you like people more depending on how much they’ve done for you? I doubt it’s that last one because HA HA HA that would make you a gigantic dick bag.
Chedward calls her “the tenacious Miss Kavanagh.” Two things I’m real tired of this motherfucker doing. One, calling anyone “miss.” “Miss” is a word all men need to strike from their fucking vocabularies, because I have no patience for it (except in the case of when women self-apply it, like my friend’s stage name, Miss Quinn). It’s condescending, and there’s a reason men like Chedward do it. That reason is to be shitty on purpose. You can say “Ms.” and your precious masculinity won’t suffer. Second, he attaches adjectives to women and it drives me up the wall. The “delectable” Miss Steele. The “tenacious” Miss Kavanagh. He sounds like he’s labelling butterflies he’s pinned into a frame. “Here we have the lace-winged honey moth, and here, ah, the gem of my collection, the delectable Miss Steele.”
She has a firm, confident handshake, and I doubt she’s ever faced a day of hardship in her privileged life.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
Chedward is a white man who has literally billions of dollars, and he’s looking down on a college student for being too privileged. Yes, he had a difficult four years of his life, and tragedy and abuse, but at the end of the day, he’s a foster kid from Detroit who got adopted by rich people, given every opportunity in the world, and felt comfortable walking away from Harvard because it was beneath him.
Plus, he can tell that she’s never faced hardship because she has a confident handshake? Because women who have faced hardship can’t be confident? Or shouldn’t be?
You know what, fuck it. It’s because he doesn’t like women, and we all already knew that.
I wonder why these women are friends. They have nothing in common.
YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT EITHER OF THEM!
Ana introduces Christian to José, and of course Chedward is instantly defensive, thinking “Game on, kid,” as they shake hands. One of the things that really rankled in the first series was how dismissive Chedward was of José. He wasn’t just like, “I don’t like this guy, because he likes Ana,” it was always done with words like, “kid” and “boy,” when Christian is really only something like six years older than them. On top of that, a white guy calling a man who is not white “boy” or “kid” is, you know. Racial intimidation.
Christian gets into position for the picture taking:
As the glare recedes I search out the lovely Miss Steele. She’s standing at the back of the room, observing the proceedings. Does she always shy away like this? Maybe that’s why she and Kavanagh are friends; she’s content to be in the background and let Katherine take center stage.
Or–and this will probably sound crazy–it’s Katherine’s piece for the newspaper, so that’s why she’s in charge.
Hmm…a natural submissive.
I am sick to shit of this “natural submissive” bullshit! I AM DONE! WE ARE DONE!
Are there people who are naturally submissive, as in, they always stay kind of passive and will go with the flow for the sake of letting the more dominant people get their way? ABSOLUTELY. Could some of these people be sexually submissive as well? ABSOLUTELY. But one is not indicative of the other and I’m so tired of hearing it framed that way. Let’s say it again, for those in the back who maybe didn’t hear it last time: YOU CAN’T TELL IF SOMEONE IS A SEXUAL SUBMISSIVE WITHOUT THEM TELLING YOU OR SHOWING AN INTEREST IN SEXUAL SUBMISSION WITHIN YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP.
All this kind of malarky does is tell inexperienced kinksters, hey, that creepy guy who just messaged you on FetLife saying you’re definitely a submissive and he can tell? Is a totally safe dude to interact with.
Everything about this book is crap.
Christian locks eyes with Ana:
Back down, Anastasia. I will her to stop staring, and as if she can hear me, she’s the first to look away.
Maybe it wasn’t like, mind control, Cheddie. Maybe it was the fact that you’re creepily staring at her and it’s making her uncomfortable. But whatever, as long as you’re affecting her, right?
After the photo shoot, Christian gets ready to leave, and he shakes hands with José, who is apparently antagonistic, because:
His antagonism makes me smile.
Oh, man…you have no idea.
What kind of prick gloats over trying to steal someone else’s…oh, right. I forgot what book I was reading.
Christian asks Ana if she’ll walk with him.
I mutter some platitude to those still in the room and usher her out the door, wanting to put some distance between her and Rodriguez.
Here’s a really good example of why this book isn’t working for readers:
“I’ll call you, Taylor,” I say, and when he’s almost out of earshot I ask Ana to join me for coffee, my breath held for her response.
The book is about how Christian felt when he met and fell for Ana, right? Yet there are several instances where he’ll say, “I asked her this,” or “I told her that,” instead of the reader seeing the dialogue being spoken and the characters reacting as it’s happening. We’re seeing more interaction with Taylor in this paragraph than with Ana. Since asking the question of Ana makes Christian hold his breath, then that’s the important part of the paragraph, right? It’s backwards; Chedward’s aside to Taylor should have been the bit that was glossed over.
Of course, Ana says she can’t go to coffee, because she has to drive everyone home, and Christian tells Taylor to take Ana’s friends back to campus.
“There. Now can you join me for coffee?”
“Um–Mr. Grey, er–this really…” She stops
Shit. It’s a “no.” I’m going to lose this deal. She looks directly at me, eyes bright. “Look, Taylor doesn’t have to drive them home. I’ll swap vehicles with Kate, if you give me a moment.”
Okay, this is interesting. Besides the part where Christian actually knows that “no” is a negative reply and not an obstacle to overcome, this part of the book reads a lot differently than the first book did. In the first book, Ana is still so, “Golly gee, why would anybody on earth like me, I’m so shy and stumbling and shy and insecure and shy and did I mention shy?” that I almost sprained my head rolling my eyes at her. From Christian’s perspective, it doesn’t read as though Ana is insecure, just that she’s worried about the logistics of getting her friends back to where they need to go without ditching them.
Much like Movie!Ana, I like Chedward’s POV!Ana much better than Ana Classic.
Christian waits for Ana in the hallway while Taylor gets his jacket and Ana goes back in to talk to her friends.
What the hell am I going to say to her?
“How would you like to be my submissive?”
No. Steady, Grey. Let’s take this one stage at a time.
Why? It’s not like you’d be the first romance novel douche Dom to pull that instasub bullshit.
How long is Anastasia going to be? I check my watch. She must be negotiating the car swap with Katherine. Or she’s talking to Rodriguez, explaining that she’s just going for coffee to placate me and keep me sweet for the article. My thoughts darken. Maybe she’s kissing him goodbye.
She emerges a moment later, and I’m pleased. She doesn’t look like she’s just been kissed.
Maybe she forgot to turn the neon “I’ve been kissed” sign on.
Again, this is all supposed to be showing us how insecure Grey really is, as a way of excusing his creepy behavior. Instead, he just seems like an impatient dick, checking his watch while he waits on the woman whose plans have just changed because of him.
Christian asks Ana how long she’s known Kate:
“Since our freshman year. She’s a good friend.” Her voice is full of warmth. Ana is clearly devoted. She came all the way to Seattle to interview me when Katherine was ill, and I find myself hoping that miss Kavanagh treats her with the same loyalty and respect.
“Because I sure won’t,” he does not say, because no one asked me to write this book.
They get into the elevator, where the couple inside have just been making out.
As we travel to the first floor the atmosphere is thick with unfulfilled desire. And I don’t know if it’s emanating from the couple behind us or from me.
Well, you know, elevators smell bad sometimes. It happens.
I’m relieved when the doors open again and I take her hand, which is cool and not clammy as expected. Perhaps I don’t affect her as much as I’d like. The thought is disheartening.
I don’t even know anymore with this “affect” thing. He’s not worried about what Ana is thinking or feeling. He’s worried about what she’s thinking and feeling about him, and more importantly, that she have a physical reaction that will gratify him.
At the coffee shop, Christian asks Ana what she wants, and she tells him she wants English Breakfast tea, bag on the side. He asks her if she wants something to eat, and she says no. He goes up to the counter to order for them.
I have to wait in line while the two matronly women behind the counter exchange inane pleasantries with all their customers.
Okay, keep that paragraph in mind as we continue.
“I’ll have a coffee with steamed milk. English Breakfast tea. Teabag on the side. And a blueberry muffin.”
Anastasia might change her mind and eat.
Or she might not, since she said she wasn’t hungry. He’s already trying to control what she eats, this early.
So, Christian is getting the order, and this conversation happens with the woman at the counter:
“You visiting Portland?”
“The weather sure has picked up today.”
“I hope you get out to enjoy some sunshine.”
Please stop talking to me and hurry the fuck up.
Yes, please do. Because this whole sequence could have been taken care of with the paragraph above, where he mentions that they’re talking to all of their customers. I understand that this book is supposed to show us the story from Christian’s perspective, I really do. But I, and a lot of readers, were thinking something more along the lines of seeing what he’s thinking when he and Ana are together, and scenes where he’s living his life and how those events shaped his side of the story. I wasn’t dying to read about what it was like when he ordered the coffee that time they went to the coffee shop. Because it’s not important.
Christian notices that Ana is watching him, and he wonders if she’s checking him out. Then he’s finally able to join her at the table.
“This is my favorite tea,” she says, and I revise my mental note that it’s Twinnings English Breakfast tea she likes.
I’m surprised it wasn’t on the background check.
As she tells me she likes her tea weak and black, for a moment I think she’s describing what she likes in a man.
This is an important detail, by the way. Once Christian realizes that Ana is talking about tea, the reader is reassured that Christian is not weak and, most importantly, not black. And you might think that’s a joke, but consider the fact that Chedward is hauling some pretty heavy clues around with him, like the fact that he was from Detroit and his mother was addicted to crack. In basically any other story, that would be code for “this guy is a black guy,” because stereotype dictates that crack is a drug only black people use, and Detroit is a black city. In conceptualizing Grey’s backstory, James has basically used the astoundingly negative stereotypical trappings we culturally associate with blackness, but on a white guy, because we’re supposed to view a white guy living a rough “black” childhood as being the utmost travesty of justice in the universe, thus deepening his tragedy.
I’m not saying this was a choice intentionally made by James. I doubt she got up one morning and went, “Aha! I should work an air of white supremacy into my fanfic,” but, like the abuse, rape, misogyny and homophobia, it somehow got in there.
Christian decides to get right down to business, asking Ana if José is her boyfriend.
She laughs. At me.
And I don’t know if it’s from relief or if she thinks I’m funny. It’s annoying.
Ana tells Christian that José is just a friend, and asks why Christian though he was her boyfriend.
“The way you smiled at him, and he at you.” You have no idea, do you? The boy is smitten.
Oh, there’s that “boy” again. And dig the natural speech from a twenty-seven or twenty-eight or whatever year old American man. “And he at you.” I’m surprised this dick isn’t wearing a cravat.
She eyes the blueberry muffin as I peel back the paper, and for a moment I imagine her on her knees beside me as I feed her, a morsel at a time.
There is literally no food I could imagine that would be less sexy to feed to someone during a scene than a fucking muffin. “Mmm, yeah baby, get it all over. Get those crumbs all over me. You know, the crumbs that are really moist and turn into little rolls like dead skin that leave a sticky sugar feeling when you brush them off? Oh yes, god yes! Oh fuck yeah, there’s a blueberry in my bra!”
I’m going to get a bunch of search engine hits from the terms “explicit muffin sex” or something.
Why is she so jittery? Maybe because of me?
Maybe you…affect her.
“And the boy I met yesterday, at the store. He’s not your boyfriend?”
“No. Paul’s just a friend. I told you yesterday.” She frowns again as if she’s confused, and crosses her arms in defense. She doesn’t like being asked about these boys. I remember how uncomfortable she seemed when the kid at the store put his arm around her, staking his claim.
Chedward doesn’t consider that maybe she looked uncomfortable because he was making her feel uncomfortable. He was actually delighting in making her feel uncomfortable, if you remember. She was uncomfortable before Paul even got there.
“Why do you ask?” she adds.
“You seem nervous around men.”
Maybe she just seems nervous around psychopaths.
“I find you intimidating,” she says, and looks down, fidgeting once more with her fingers. On the one hand she’s so submissive, but on the other she’s…challenging.
“You should find me intimidating.”
Yeah. She should. There aren’t many people brave enough to tell me I intimidate them.
So, she’s braver than most people, but she should still find him intimidating? How does any of that follow?
There’s more stuff about how she’s mysterious and he can’t figure her out. She asks him why he hasn’t told her to call him by his first name.
And I remember her leaving my office in the elevator–and how my name sounded coming out of her smart mouth. Has she seen through me? Is she deliberately antagonizing me?
One of my big issues with Christian Grey are the weird standards that he feels everyone should live up to. They’re not things any reasonable person could possibly anticipate. It’s antagonistic to ask to use someone’s first name after they’ve asked you out for coffee and they’re peppering you with personal questions?
I change the subject. I want to know about her.
“Are you an only child?”
Her eyelashes flutter several times before she answers that she is.
“Tell me about your parents.”
She rolls her eyes and I have to fight the compulsion to scold her.
How gallant of you to not police the facial expressions of a stranger.
You know, coming from Christian’s POV, Ana seems less and less interested in him. She rolls her eyes, she evades questions by giving only short answers, she’s basically seems entirely disinterested in being there with him, and her dialogue comes off as less golly-gee-I’m-so-not-interesting and way more assertive. I like her so much more in Grey than in the original series. If only we could have seen this Ana in 50 Shades of Grey.
Ana tells Chedward about her mother and stepfather in Georgia, and Chedward thinks:
Of course I know all this from Welch’s background check, but it’s important to hear it from her.
No it’s not. If it were important to you to get to know her, you wouldn’t have run the background check, and you wouldn’t do what you do next, which is to ask about her father:
“My father died when I was a baby.”
For a moment I’m catapulted into my nightmares, looking at a prostrate body on a grimy floor. “I’m sorry, I mutter.”
Okay, wait. He knows what happened to Ana’s father. Chedward doesn’t have any idea how she feels about any of it, but he’s going to bring it up, even though it could be as traumatic for her as his memory of his mother’s death. But Ana’s feelings have never really been important to the plot of these books. Ana is just a vehicle for the reader to experience Christian Grey.
Just in case the reader doesn’t realize how much better Ana is than all other women, here’s another reminder that Christian wants her, and only her, and all others are trash:
She’s one of the few women I’ve met who can sit in silence. Which is great, but not what I want at the moment.
It’s GREAT that Ana doesn’t talk on and on and on like other, less desirable women. But it’s not great that she’s unwilling to perform on command.
“You’re not giving much away, are you?”
“Neither are you,” she parries.
This is another example of Ana just somehow, when stripped of her self-doubting, self-critical inner narrative, seems much more assertive.
And it’s with great pleasure and a smirk that I remind her that she’s interviewed me already. “I can recollect some quite probing questions.”
Yes. You asked me if I was gay.
Is asking someone about their sexuality in an interview invasive? Yup. Is constantly bringing it up over and over again in your novel as a way to remind the reader that your hero is nothing but the most manly and heterosexual of all creatures that ever walked the earth homophobic as hell? Yup.
Ana tells Chedward about her mother and how she’s on her fourth marriage:
I suppose someone on her fourth marriage is embracing hope over experience. Is she like her mother? I can’t bring myself to ask her. If she says she is–then I have no hope. And I don’t want this interview to end.
Why is that em dash in there? What part of that statement needs an em dash? It’s all one thought. If/then. Not hard. Em dashes can be used in place of commas for readability, but it’s an odd choice here.
Either way, Chedward once again rises above all expectations for asshole behavior when he explicitly states that this person, whom he seems to have a genuine interest in–insomuch as he can have an interest in anything outside of himself–will be completely useless to him if she doesn’t fit his criteria for fuckable women.
Christian tells Ana about his family, briefly, and then Ana says she would like to go Paris someday, but that she really wants to visit England.
“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.” It’s obvious this is her first love.
She said as much in Clayton’s yesterday. That means I’m competing with Darcy, Rochester, and Angel Clare: impossible romantic heroes.
Fret not, gentle Chedward, you can easily live up to Alec D’Urberville and impress her.
Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother–and this isn’t going to work. To add insult to injury, she looks at her watch. She’s done.
It’s insulting to the man who acts like his time is made of twenty-four carat gold shit directly from King Midas’s asshole that someone else would value their own time as well. And her personality injures him.
Ana tells Christian that she has to go home and study. She thanks Christian for the tea:
“You’re welcome, Anastasia. It’s my pleasure.” As I say the words I realize that the last twenty minutes have been…enjoyable.
That must come as quite a shock to you, considering how little you think of women.
Giving her my most dazzling smile, guaranteed to disarm, I offer her my hand. “Come,” I say.
I totally forgot about the “come” and “come on” flip around in the first series. If you haven’t read it, Christian always tells Ana to “come” when he means he wants to go somewhere. Which, you know, is totally natural dialogue for an American guy in his twenties. Then, when they’re having sex and Ana is getting close to orgasm, he says, “come on.” It’s like…that’s so backwards and hilarious, and I can’t believe I forgot it.
Oh, but also:
“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask.
“Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: incurable romantic who only wears jeans…I like my women in skirts. I like them accessible.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks out of the blue, and it’s the third strike. I’m out of this fledgling deal. She wants romance, and I can’t offer her that.
Okay, but how is it “out of the blue?” You interrogated her about whether or not she had a boyfriend right at the beginning of this whole getting-to-know-you conversation. And you thought she wasn’t interested in you in the first place. She’s given absolutely no indication that she might be into you. For all you know, she’s making small talk.
The whole, “Woe is me, I’m such an insecure billionaire, Miss Steele could never want me” nonsense would be a lot more believable if he didn’t clearly believe every single woman on the planet wanted him.
He tells her he doesn’t do the girlfriend “thing,” and I think it’s safe to assume that by “thing” he doesn’t mean “relationship” but “women are things.” Maybe that’s unfair of me.
HA HA NO IT ISN’T.
Then, the magical Twilight moment occurs:
Stricken with a frown, she turns abruptly and stumbles into the road.
“Shit, Ana!” I shout, tugging her toward me to stop her from falling in the path of an idiot cyclist who’s flying the wrong way up the street. All of a sudden she’s in my arms clutching my biceps, staring up at me. Her eyes are startled, and for the first time I notice a darker ring of blue circling her irises; they’re beautiful, more beautiful this close. Her pupils dilate and I know I could fall into her gaze and never return.
I wish you would. I wish Ana’s bottomless pupils would just swallow him up and we never had to read about his existence from this point on.
Christian is holding Ana in his arms, not at all like Edward Cullen in the exact same scene in Midnight Sun:
Too frightened to have her this close to me, knowing what I would smell if I allowed myself to inhale. Too aware of the heat of her soft body, pressed against mine–even through the double obstacle of our jackets, I could feel that heat… (Stephenie Meyer, Midnight Sun)
Her body is pressed against mine, and the feel of her breasts and her heat through my shirt is arousing. She has a fresh, wholesome fragrance that reminds me of my grandfather’s apple orchard. Closing my eyes, I inhale, committing her scent to memory. (E.L. James, Grey)
Fun fact: Bella also smelled like plants. According to Edward in Twilight, she smells like freesia or lavender. In Midnight Sun, Emmet has a vivid memory of a woman and the scent of apple trees. And, of course, there’s a friggin’ apple on the cover of Twilight. But E.L. James’s works are not at all, in any way, connected to Twilight ever. How preposterous.
Chedward thinks about how Ana wants to kiss him, and he wants to kiss her, but he can’t because he doesn’t do “hearts and flowers,” a phrase that will be referenced over and over and over and over until you’ll never again see a heart or a flower without thinking of this franchise.
“Anastasia,” I whisper, “You should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you.”
The little v forms between her brows, and I think she’s stopped breathing.
“Breathe, Anastasia, breathe.”
Because women literally die when he turns them down.
“Thank you,” she adds.
“For saving me.”
And I want to tell her that I’m saving her from me…that it’s a noble gesture, but that’s not what she wants to hear.
No, she probably doesn’t want to hear that your assumption that she’s ready to leap into your arms, wet and willing, is noble.
There’s angst because Ana isn’t into him now, after he’s told her not to be into him.
“Anastasia…I…” I can’t think what to say, except that I’m sorry.
“What, Christian,” she snaps.
Whoa. She’s mad at me, pouring all the contempt she can into each syllable of my name.
I think you mean both syllables of your name.
She disappears into the building, leaving in her wake a trace of regret, the memory of her beautiful blue eyes, and the scent of an apple orchard in the fall.
That’s all for this time. Check back for more blatant rip-offs of Stephenie Meyer’s work!