The other day, I got the most delightful tweet:
I sit on the barstool beside my husband, who just looks radiant: freshly showered, his hair damp, wearing a crisp white shirt and that silver-gray tie. My favorite tie. I have fond memories of that tie.
And the picture that resulted?
Hanna stands aside, and Prescott enters my office. She’s on a mission, bristling with professional efficiency.
When other people are professional, it’s a positive thing. When Prescott does it, she’s “bristling.”
“Mrs. Grey, Leila Williams is on your proscribed list of visitors.”
“What?” I have a proscribed list?
No, Ana. Nobody is that controlling, right? Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen Jose in a while. Maybe he’s proscribed.
Take a minute to think about how really, truly scary this is. Ana is constantly surrounded by security, allegedly for her own “protection.” But now we know there are a list of people who are never allowed to come near her. Ana didn’t know about this list; for all she knows, people who love and care about her have tried to contact her, only to be turned away, and Ana would never know. Her husband is literally keeping her a prisoner.
There is a reason handcuffs are on the cover of this book, and it has nothing to do with kinky fuckery.
I frown, not understanding. “Is she dangerous?”
Hold up, Ana. She pulled a gun on you, like, three months ago. She broke into your then-boyfriend’s house to watch you sleep. I would say she’s probably not not dangerous.
We find out that the only reason Ana knows Leila is in the building is because she happened to come in when Prescott was taking a pee break.
I realize that even Prescott has to pee, and I laugh. “Oh dear.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Prescott gives me an embarrassed grin, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a chink in her armor. She has a lovely smile.
Ah, Ana. You are nothing if not predictably horrible. She has never had a single nice thing to say about Prescott up until now. Then Prescott fails at something, and Ana can compliment her. Ana can only like other women if she perceives them to be less competent than she is. Now that Prescott has made a mistake, Ana is free to think a single positive thought about her.
Ana knows that Christian is going to be informed of Leila’s presence, and she desperately- for some reason that is never made clear- wants to see Leila. The person she was terrified of all through the last book. The woman who pulled a gun on her and had to go into a mental health facility just a few months before. Time is short, because Ana knows Christian is going to send Taylor and put the whole situation on lockdown. Setting aside the fact that Leila really was a danger to Ana in the past, you are now reading a “romance” in which a woman is playing beat-the-clock in order to talk to someone her husband, the “romantic hero” has forbidden her from talking to.
Furthering our themes of “you have got to be fucking kidding me” and “absolutely none of this bullshit makes sense,” Ana has Hannah show Leila and her companion into the conference room so Prescott can frisk them. This is all going down at work. Now, I know that Ana isn’t worried about getting fired, because Christian plans on giving her the entire company, but she isn’t at all worried about looking unprofessional? Because meeting with your husbands’ ex in the conference room doesn’t exactly scream, “I’m super invested in my career and I won’t let my personal life get in the way of it.”
Hannah reminds Ana she has an appointment across town at four, and Ana tells her to cancel it. Spoiler alert, it’s another appointment for her birth control shot.
What the hell does Leila want? I don’t think she’s here to do me any harm. She didn’t in the past when she had the opportunity.
Except for when she broke in to watch you sleep and when she pulled a gun on you. But let’s face it, Ana has no clue what constitutes harm, otherwise she wouldn’t be married right now.
Christian is going to go nuts. My subconscious purses her lips, primly crosses her legs, and nods. I need to tell him that I am doing this.
I’m sure that will mitigate any damage.
Ana sends an email to Christian telling him she’s going to meet with Leila and she’ll slap her if she has to. No, really:
I’ll use my newly acquired slapping skills with my now-healed hand, should I need to.
Tee hee, she’s tough, tee hee, let’s joke about the woman who committed B&E to threaten you.
I stand, smoothing my gray pencil skirt over my hips, pinch my cheeks to give them some color, and undo the next button on my gray silk blouse.
Is she trying to fuck Leila? Because it sounds like she’s trying to fuck Leila.
Also, don’t pinch your cheeks to put color in them.
Leila looks much better. More than better- she’s very attractive. There’s a rosy bloom to her cheeks, and her brown eyes are bright, her hair clean and shiny.
Because people who are mentally ill are always visibly so, by being unattractive, ashen, and greasy haired, of course.
There’s another woman with Leila: Susi, who is another of Chedward’s ex-subs. Hannah enters and tells Ana that Christian is on the phone, and even though Hannah is just Ana’s assistant, she’s pretty insistent. Which means Hannah probably knows that if Ana doesn’t take the call, her job is on the line, because these two assholes treat people like they’re fucking disposable. Ana doesn’t take the call, and says she’ll call him back shortly.
Susi speaks. “I know this is all kinds of weird, but I wanted to meet you, too. The woman who captured Chris- “
I hold up my hand, stopping her in mid-sentence. I do not want to hear this. “Um… I get the picture,” I mutter.
“We call ourselves the sub club.” She grins at me, her eyes shining with mirth.
So, is this a survivor’s group? Because it kind of seems like they’re there for an intervention or something.
Susi leaves so Leila and Ana can talk alone, and we find out that Leila’s nickname is apparently Lulu, which is fucking stupid because it’s exactly the same number of syllables as Leila and also, why do we need to know her nickname? Why is she even here? What is the point of this?
Susi and Christian… it’s not a thought I wish to dwell on.
But you probably will.
Prescott hands her phone to Ana. Of course, it’s Christian:
“What the fuck are you playing at?” he shouts. He’s seething.
“Don’t shout at me.”
“What do you mean, don’t shout at you?” he shouts, louder this time. “I gave specific instructions which you have completely disregarded- again. Hell, Ana, I am fucking furious.”
Ana tells Christian she’ll talk to him when he’s calmer, then hangs upon him. Let’s all keep in mind, Ana is having all of this go down at work. She’s on the phone to her husband, telling him not to shout at her, as she stands outside the conference room. How humiliating is all of this for Ana? And none of this, not Prescott, not Leila, not shouty phone calls, has anything to do with her. It would be awesome if Ana would get frustrated with this and acknowledge the fact, then come to terms with whether or not this is a life she wants. Then she and Christian could actually work on their relationship, which would be a better and more believable story than constantly running from cartoon villains.
Leila has come because she wants to apologize for breaking into Ana’s apartment and fucking up her car, and to thank her for not pressing charges. Not that Ana had any choice in the matter; Christian is so anti-police that I’m pretty sure his mom’s pimp was a crooked cop or something. Ana asks Leila if her doctor knows she’s there, and the answer is no, because what legit doctor is going to say, “Oh, you want to find the person you tried to kill like three months ago and confront her in person unsupervised? That’s a great idea, pack your bags!”
She looks suitably guilty. “I know I’ll have to deal with the fallout for this later. But I had to get some things, and I wanted to see Susi, and you, and… Mr. Grey.”
“You want to see Christian?” My stomach free-falls to the floor. That’s why she’s here.
“Leila.” I flounder, exasperated. “It’s not up to me, it’s up to Christian. You’ll need to ask him. He doesn’t need my permission. He’s a grown man… most of the time.”
She gazes at me for a fraction of a beat as if surprised by my reaction and then laughs softly, nervously twiddling the ends of her hair.
“He’s repeatedly refused all my requests to see him,” she says quietly.
Oh shit. I’m in more trouble than I thought.
Why are you in more trouble, Ana? You couldn’t possibly have known that Christian didn’t want to see her, because he never once told you that she was trying to contact him.
I’m sorry, but I’m getting to the point with these books that I feel like I’m just saying the same thing over and over again, and that same thing is always just, “Christian is a huge dick.” He’s being contacted, apparently more than once, by his ex who tried to kill Ana. And he hasn’t mentioned this to Ana! What the hell?! If Ana gets a phone call from Jose, Christian acts like she ran out and vengeance fucked thirty-five people, but his murderous exes can call him, that’s fine? I’m so tired of this book, you guys. I’m just tired of this whole thing.
Once again I’m speechless. What does she expect me to say? Surely she should be saying these things to Christian, not to me.
“And for art school. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
I knew it! Christian is funding her classes. I remain expressionless, tentatively exploring my feelings for this woman now that she’s confirmed my suspicions about Christian’s generosity.
And your suspicions that Christian’s money isn’t really your money, after all. My husband and I put our money together; it’s just easier for us than keeping track of who is going to pay what, and it works for us. Our money is our money. If one of us decided we were going to pay for someone else’s education, we’d damn sure have to tell the other spouse about our plans. If Christian truly believed that what is his is also Ana’s, he’d have told her about paying for art school for Leila with what is, according to him, Ana’s money.
To my surprise, I feel no ill will toward her.
To my surprise, too, because it’s completely out of character to the point of being entirely unbelievable. Ana dislikes all women for imagined slights; this woman has an actual connection to Christian.
It’s a revelation, and I’m glad she’s better. Now, hopefully, she can move on with her life and out of ours.
She’s not better. If she were better, she wouldn’t have shown up at Ana’s work in the hopes of seeing Christian. If she were better, she would see how unhealthy her behavior is.
Ana asks Leila if she’s missing classes, and Leila tells her that she is, but only two because she’s leaving Seattle the next day. She also mentions that Christian has two of her paintings.
What the hell! My stomach plunges into the basement once more. Are they hanging in my living room? I bridle at the thought.
That’s a weird word choice, isn’t it? In this context, she could mean she lifted her chin to express resentment, or she took offense. There has to be a clearer verb to use there.
Leila asks Ana if they can speak frankly, then she launches into her personal life, telling Ana she loved her dead boyfriend, her husband, and Christian.
This is not news to me. When she lifts her brown eyes to mine, they are wide with conflicting emotions, and the overriding one seems to be apprehension… of my reaction, perhaps? But my overwhelming response to this poor young woman is compassion.
This sudden shift in characterization makes no sense at all. So far, all we have seen of Ana is that she feels every single woman on Earth is a threat. Even when they’ve had no contact whatsoever with Christian except in very minor capacities required by their jobs. Women whose names he will never even know are out to take him from Ana, so she has to be possessive and give them hateful nicknames. But here is a woman who was not only in an intimate relationship with Chedward, but she was in love with him and willing to kill him. Ana being totally unthreatened by her makes no fucking sense whatsoever, and at this point, we’re reading about a totally different character. And she still sucks.
Mentally I run through all the classical literature I can think of that deals with unrequited love.
Given Ana’s definition of romance as it pertains to classical literature, I assume the books she’s thinking of are Mein Kampf and Frankenstein.
“I know, he’s very easy to love,” I whisper.
Her wide eyes widen further in surprise, and she smile. “Yes. He is – was.” She corrects herself quickly and blushes. Then she giggles so sweetly that I can’t help myself. I giggle, too. Yes, Christian Grey makes us giggly.
Again- and I am loathe to point this out- a waitress even flutters her eyelashes because the air conditioning vent is on too strong and Ana is ready to blind her for the crime of gazing upon the perfection that is Christian Grey. Leila admits to being in love with Christian and it’s happy giggles slumber party times?
Ana’s characterization does a complete 180 in the middle of the last book of the series? Well, of fucking course. Because that’s just how these books roll, and you can either roll with it or get rolled over. So strap in, because Saint Ana, Our Lady of Sisterly Protection, has stepped into the role previously occupied by Ana, Hater of Blondes and Scourge of Seattle.
My subconscious rolls her eyes at me in despair and goes back to reading her dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre.
So, what this is not so subtly trying to tell us is that Leila is the crazy wife in the attic and Ana is Jane.
“You’ll get your chance to see Christian.”
“I thought I would. I know how protective he can be.” She smiles.
So this is her scheme. She’s very shrewd. Or manipulative, whispers my subconscious. “This is why you’re here to see me?”
Reluctantly, I have to acknowledge that she knows him well.
She was probably with him longer than you have been, Ana!
Leila tells Ana that Christian seemed happy with her on those occasions that Leila broke into his apartment to spy on them.
Do I want to hear this? A shudder runs through me. My scalp prickles as I recall my fear when she was the unseen shadow in our apartment.
She wasn’t unseen. You saw her. WORDS MEAN THINGS.
Christian arrives, as Leila was anticipating:
Christian’s burning gray gaze pins first me then Leila to our chairs. His demeanor is quietly determined, but I know better, and I suspect Leila does, too. The menacing cool glint in his eyes reveals the truth- he’s emanating rage, though he hides it well.
Well, if he’s emanating it, he’s not hiding it, is he?
Could you imagine working at SIP? Some random woman just started working there, gets promoted to editor within a week, and now her husband is bursting in unannounced and causing a scene just, you know, whenever? What a stressful environment.
“You,” he says to Prescott in a soft tone. “You’re fired. Get out now.”
I blanch. Oh no- this isn’t fair.
Oh, for fuck’s sake, Ana, make up your damned mind. You have been lobbying for this woman’s termination for fucking ever, now she’s fired, and you don’t want her to be? Oh, wait, I’m trying to assign past Ana’s actions to St. Ana, when she’s CLEARLY not the same character.
Leila peeks up at him through long lashes,
IT’S AN EPIDEMIC, PEOPLE!
He stands, glowering at her. “Leila, if you come anywhere near my wife again, I will cut off all support. Doctors, art school, medical insurance- all of it- gone. Do you understand?”
“Christian-” I try again. But he silences me with a chilling look. Why is he being so unreasonable? My compassion for this sad woman blooms.
Because you’re viewing your own victimization as it’s happening to another person. There’s really nothing else to say about that point. It is what it is.
Christian grills Leila about the purpose of her visit, why Susi is there, and if Susi knew about Leila’s stalking spree when it was going on.
“I had to know.” And for the first time she looks up directly at him.
“Had to know what?” he snaps.
“That you’re okay.”
He gapes at her. “That I’m okay?” he scoffs, disbelieving.
Okay, this is an example of a writer who needs to do some word economizing. This is an easy hole to fall into, because what’s happening is E.L. is writing the way people talk. A lot of writers do this, I’m sure I’ve done it before, but when you have a conversation like the one above, the reader is going to notice how repetitious it is, and they’re going to get annoyed with it. This is a place that could definitely have been trimmed. It could have looked like:
“I had to know.” And for the first time she looks up directly at him.
“Had to know what?” he snaps.
“That you’re okay.”
and then he could go on to say the next part, about being fine. Or, it could have looked like this:
“I had to know.” And for the first time she looks up directly at him. “That you’re okay.”
So many words could have been trimmed there. So, writers, don’t fall into this very easy trap. Readers don’t like to read characters repeating dialogue, even though people actually talk like that.
“I’m fine. There, question answered. Now Taylor will run you to Sea-Tac so you can go back to the East Coast. And if you take one step west of the Mississippi, it’s all gone. Understand?”
*Raises hand* No. I don’t understand. What’s gone if she crosses the Mississippi? The east coast? Will the east coast be gone? Because that’s what that says. I don’t want that to happen, so I really hope Leila stays put.
“It might not be convenient for Leila to go back now. She has plans,” I object, outraged on her behalf.
Christian glares at me. “Anastasia,” he warns, his voice icy, “this does not concern you.”
“This is the Christian Grey I know,” she says, her tone sad and wistful. Christian frowns at her, while all the breath evaporates from my lungs. I can’t breathe. Was Christian like this with her all the time? Was he like this with me, at first? I find it hard to remember.
He’s like this with you NOW, you daffy- UUUUURRRRRGGGH! This is not how you show character development for Christian Grey! Just having Ana say, “Oh, gosh, I don’t remember how abusive he is and was!” doesn’t make Christian magically not an abuser anymore or not an abuser in the past.
Christian asks when Leila’s flight leaves, and tells her he’ll send someone to Susi’s house take her to the airport. I like how he just inserts himself in other people’s plans like that. Shows he really knows how to be a dickbag.
I glare at Christian. He can’t dictate to her like this… and how does he know where Susannah lives?
There’s the Ana I remember! Weird and suspicious because Christian knows where one of his exes lives. Which is a totally normal thing to know, if you’ve been in a relationship with someone.
Leila leaves- although she says “Yes, Sir,” to Christian on her way out, which made me “What the hell?” because it kind of shows that Leila isn’t as better as she says she is.
After Leila leaves, Ana tries to preempt Christian’s anger:
“Don’t even think about being angry with me,” I hiss. “Call Claude Bastille and kick the shit out of him or go see Flynn.”
I guess this is the first time I’m noticing how obvious a name Claude Bastille is. I suppose Jacques Fromage was simply absurd.
“You promised me you wouldn’t do this.” Now his tone is accusatory.
Well, it probably would have been easier for her to not defy you by seeing Leila if you had let her know she had a “proscribed” list of who is and isn’t allowed to be near her. Which, by the way, is still so fucked up that I can’t get my head around it. But this is a new and exciting area of abuse for this couple; now he gets to make rules without telling her, and emotionally punish her when she disobeys them!
The thing that’s really bothering Ana here is Christian’s attitude toward Leila. She asks him why he was so dismissive and cruel to her, and Christian’s response is pure douchebag gold:
“Anastasia,” he says, as if to a child, “you don’t understand. Leila, Susannah- all of them- they were a pleasant, diverting pastime. But that’s all. You are the center of my universe. And the last time you two were in a room together, she had you at gunpoint. I don’t want her anywhere near you.”
Okay, I get him not wanting Ana around a woman who tried to shoot her. This part, I truly understand. What I don’t get is how he feels it is in any way acceptable to refer to women, to OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, as pleasant, diverting pastimes. No, you simpleton. They are people, with feelings. GOSH I WONDER WHY LEILA WENT CRAZY AND WHY THEY HAVE A FUCKING SUPPORT GROUP TOGETHER.
Look, if there is one thing I’ve learned from romantic comedies, it’s that if your exes need to form a support group because of you, you’re doing something very wrong.
Ana points out that Leila was really, really mentally ill- no one notes that she probably still is, by the way. She’s just cured now. Keeping in mind we’re in, what, August? And she pulled the gun on Ana in June, probably? But I’m sure, I’m absolutely sure, that she’s 100% cured and this meeting with Christian and Ana won’t cause her any kind of setback.
“But you’ve just played right into her hands. She wanted to see you again, and she knew you’d come running if she came to see me.”
So, what you’re saying, Ana, is that Leila is not better at all. Because that was why she was stalking you in the first place, because she wanted to get Christian’s attention.
Christian shrugs as if he doesn’t care. “I don’t want you tainted with my old life.”
A chapter couldn’t go by without discussion of BDSM as a filthy thing only diseased perverts do, right? Ana is too good and pure to be “tainted” by his past lovers, the women who willingly engaged in and enjoyed BDSM.
Ana points out that Leila still cares about him, and his response:
“I don’t give a fuck.”
Again, I can see both sides of this. “I don’t give a fuck,” because you threatened my girlfriend with a gun, but at the same time, “I don’t give a fuck,” about a person you had a relationship with that wasn’t bad until she became mentally ill and dangerous (probably due in part to your abusive actions).
This is the Christian Grey I know. Leila’s words rattle around my head. His reaction to her was so cold, so much at odds with the man I’ve come to know and love.
The man who has a secret list of people who aren’t allowed to get near you, and you had no idea it existed or who is on it? The man who gave you so many hickeys on your honeymoon that you were embarrassed to wear a bathing suit, all because you accidentally sunbathed topless in France? The man who shamed you for your virginity and tried to get you to sign a sex contract so he could beat you in order to take out his anger at his dead mother? YEAH THIS SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE THE MAN YOU’VE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE.
“Look, Christian, I don’t think Leila and I will be swapping recipes and knitting patterns any time soon. But I didn’t think you’d be so heartless to her.”
His eyes frost. “I told you once, I don’t have a heart,” he mutters.
Ana doesn’t laugh directly in his face, which is what I would have done. But at least she sees through his bullshit and thinks that he’s being adolescent.
It’s painstakingly obvious that he cares. Why does he deny it? It’s like his feelings for his birth mother. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore. No wonder he’s so mad. I sigh and shake my head. Paging Dr. Flynn, please. How can he not see this?
He has an enormous blindspot, just like you do? Remember that whole, “This is nothing like the man I fell in love with” bullshit you tried to pull just a page ago? Also, it’s “painstakingly obvious that he cares?” As in, “It’s diligent and carefully obvious that he cares?” Yeah, that’s not the right word for that sentence.
Christian tells Ana that the discussion is over, and they’re going home, but it’s too early, Ana still has work.
“Home,” he insists.
“Christian.” My voice is weary. “I’m tired of having the same argument with you.”
He frowns as if he doesn’t understand.
“You know,” I elucidate, “I do something you don’t like, and you think of some way to get back at me. Usually involving some of your kinky fuckery, which is either mind-blowing or cruel.” I shrug, resigned. This is exhausting and confusing.
Christian seizes on “mind-blowing” and runs with it to distract Ana from the very real concern she’s brought up.
Crap! I do not want to discuss this in SIP’s meeting room. My subconscious examines her finely manicured nails with disdain. Shouldn’t have brought the subject up, then.
You’re right, subconscious. She should have just kept her mouth shut and not called Christian out on the fact that he uses sex to punish her. If she just ignored it, it would all go away. Because that’s what’s making her relationship so awesome right now.
So, because it’s worked in the past and will continue to work in the future, Christian decides to seduce Ana, running his finger over her lip and getting real close so he can talk softly in her ear.
Pursing my lips, I strive to appear unaffected by his touch. He is so artful at diverting me from anything painful, or anything he doesn’t want to address. And you let him, my subconscious pipes up unhelpfully, gazing over her copy of Jane Eyre.
I’m torn. On the one hand, her stupid subconscious has a point. Christian is doing this because he’s found this behavior affective in the past. On the other hand, I resent the implication that women should train men like they’re fucking toddlers. It’s a little too close to, “If I love him enough, he’ll change.”
Christian wants Ana to list off all the “mind-blowing” things he’s done to her, because god forbid she cease feeding his ego for even a moment. Then he tries again with the “come home” bullshit:
His lips curl in a slow carnal smile. “Come home.” His tone is seductive.
“I have work to do.”
“Home,” he says, more insistent.
We gaze at each other, molten grey into bewildered blue, testing each other, testing our boundaries and our wills I search his eyes for some understanding, trying to fathom how this man can go from raging control freak to seductive lover in one breath.
He didn’t. He’s still being a control freak, demanding that you come home and fuck him because he wants you to.
“We could stay here.” His voice is low and husky.
Oh no. No. No. No. Not in the office.
Remember in the first book, when they’re in the restaurant and he basically threatens to rape her there? And remember how everyone insisted that he’s suuuuuuch a different person in this book from the first one? He’s done this big emotional journey that turns him into a nice guy? Yeah, so basically if Ana doesn’t go home and fuck him, he’s going to try to seduce her here.
Ana says she doesn’t want to have sex in a room where his mistress has just been.
“Don’t overthink this, Ana. She’s history,” he says dismissively.
I sigh… maybe he’s right. I just want him to admit to himself that he cares for her. A chill grips my heart. Oh no. This is why it’s important to me. Suppose I do something unforgivable. Suppose I don’t conform. Will I be history, too? If he can turn like this, when he was so concerned and upset when Leila was ill… could he turn against me?
Yes. Yes he can.
“Oh, Christian, you scare me sometimes.” I grasp his head in my hands, twist my fingers into his hair, and pull his lips to mine. He stills for a moment as his arms fold around me.
How does he manage that? He’s either moving or not. He can’t do both.
“You could turn away from her so easily…”
He frowns. “And you think I might turn away from you, Ana? Why the hell would you think that? What’s brought this on?”
Then Ana goes, “Uh, just exactly what happened like two seconds ago, right here in this room.” And then Christian goes to the hospital because he has jerknesia.
Not really. What happens is:
“Nothing. Kiss me. Take me home,” I plead. And as his lips touch mine, I am lost.
So basically, his manipulative ploy worked again, and we’re once again being told that this is romantic. That if a woman doesn’t do exactly what a man wants, when he wants it, he can cast her aside like trash and that’s ROMANTIC.
They go home, they have sex, and she gets him to admit that he does care about Leila. Then there’s a section break, some emails that reveal it’s now three days later, and Jose senior calls Ana to tell her that Ray is in the hospital, presumably after an attempt on his own life in a desperate bid to escape this book. Hey. We needed MORE subplots in this mess, right?