Amy sent me a link to this chart about what to read this summer instead of 50 Shades of Grey. I know it’s not technically summer in my hemisphere, but still, it’s a pretty clever chart. Though I’m not entirely sure if someone looking for hot, sweaty, abusive naughty times is going to be that thrilled with Maus as an alternative.
@Aka_Kody suggests this horrible, and entirely true, lowering of the bar for love stories in a terrifying macro.
So, the false tension circus really comes to town in chapter five. Brace yourselves, there’s going to be a lot of drama with little payoff, for confusing reasons. Gird your loins.
After the nightmare Ana has for no reason in the end of chapter four – oh, silly me, of course there was a reason. She had the nightmare so it could be like Bella’s nightmare in the Twilight books – she wakes up to find Christian not there:
I stir, instinctively reaching for Christian only to feel his absence. Shit! I wake instantly and look anxiously around the cabin.
Is she worried that he escaped?
Not to worry, Christian is just creepily watching her from the chair across the room. And he’s wearing his cut-offs and a gray t-shirt. Raise your hand if the thought of a man in cut-offs only conjures up the most homoerotic beer commercial you’ve ever seen. E.L., you truly understand what straight women want to read about.
“Hey, don’t panic. Everything’s fine,” he says, his voice gentle and soothing – like he’s talking to a cornered wild animal.
Or the girl he has his in the pit in his basement.
“You’ve been so jumpy these last couple of days,” he murmurs, his eyes wide and serious.
Gosh, I wonder why she would be jumpy, Christian. You’re constantly telling her your lives are in danger and insisting she travel with an armed entourage to protect her. You think that might, you know, be getting to her a little?
This is the thing about abusers and paranoid people. They want to force the person they’re with to be as paranoid as they are. To be drawn into their delusion, so they have company in there. And as long as Christian can make Ana afraid and powerless in the face of some shadowy, ill-defined conspiracy against her, she has to cleave unto him for protection. It effectively traps her, and now he also gets to show concern over the situation, making him her knight in shining armor! What’s wrong with that, besides the manipulation and control?
“I’m okay, Christian.” I give him my brightest smile because I don’t want him to know how worried I am about the arson incident.
WHAT ARSON INCIDENT WAS THERE SOME KIND OF FIRE I HADN’T HEARD.
“Were you watching me sleep?”
“Yes,” he says, gazing at me steadily, studying me. “You were talking.”
“Oh?” Shit! what was I saying?
You were saying something about how this was another thing plagiarized from Twilight. So, I’m going to assume
Bella Ana said Edward Christian’s name while she was sleeping.
Why is she freaked out if her husband heard her talking in her sleep? Could it be because… they don’t really know each other? Because they’ve only been together like… three months and they’ve never had a real conversation because they’re both trying to be exactly what they think the other person wants, rather than having any genuine thoughts or feelings?
Despite constantly telling Ana to be terrified of everything and everyone, Christian doesn’t want her to be scared. But she’s not, see, she’s just scared for him:
“When you frown, a little V forms just here. IT’s soft to kiss. Don’t worry baby, I’ll look after you.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about, it’s you,” I grumble. “Who’s looking after you?”
He smiles indulgently at my tone. “I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself […]”
Yes, remember, everyone, how big and ugly Christian is? Despite us constantly being told how hot and elegant and charming he is, he’s also a bruiser who can look after himself, provided he has twin French dudes and a scary bodyguard following him around 24/7.
Christian tells Ana it’s time to get up, because there’s one last thing he wants to do on their honeymoon. She thinks:
We’ve had a blissful honeymoon. With a few ups and downs, I admit, but that’s normal for a newly married couple, surely?
Actually, I’m sure lots of domestic violence assaults take place on honeymoons. But that doesn’t make it okay. And it certainly doesn’t make this tripe readable.
The thing Christian wants to do before they head home from France is go on the jet ski with Ana driving. They have some of the most boring banter ever:
“Fair point well made, Mrs. Grey. Are we going to stand on this platform all day debating your driving skills or are we going to have some fun?”
“Fair point well made, Mr. Grey.”
OMG DO YOU GET IT HE SAID THE THING AND THEN SHE SAID THE THING BACK TO HIM THE THING THEY ALWAYS SAY OMG THEIR RELATIONSHIP MUST BE SO EXCITING WITH THE WAY THEY CONSTANTLY REPEAT THEMSELVES OVER AND OVER IN EVERY CONVERSATION.
They get on the jet ski and oh my god, Chedward has to sit behind her with his thighs pressed to hers and it’s so exciting and thrilling that she has to go zipping off toward the seaside airport. Now, she’s aware it’s an airport, and mentions that she is specifically heading toward the airport, but for some reason, this happens:
As we zoom over the cool blue sea toward what looks like the end of the runway, the thundering roar of a jet overhead suddenly startles me as it comes in to land. It’s so loud I panic, swerving and hitting the throttle at the same time, mistaking it for a brake.
“Ana!” Christian shouts, but it’s too late. I’m catapulted off the side of the Jet Ski, arms and legs flailing, taking Christian with me in a spectacular splash.
Ana gets scared by a plane. Outside of an airport. Which she goes to great pains to describe to the reader in the preceding paragraphs.
Anyway, of course she falls off and Christian panics, but Ana is thinking:
See, Christian? That’s the worst that can happen on a Jet Ski!
I am so tired. Travelling is exhausting, even in first class. We’ve been up for more than eighteen hours straight.
I hear my door open, and Christian is leaning over me. He unbuckles my seat belt and lifts me into his arms, waking me.
So, not only wasn’t she awake for the paragraph before this one, but somehow narrating the events to us, but also it’s time to put your shoes on, sweetie, we’re at Grandma’s house.
I’m starting to agree with the pedophile analogy from the first set of recaps.
Not only does Christian treat Ana like a child, there’s also this bullshit:
“Mrs. Grey, I am very pleased to announce that you’ve put on some weight.”
So, look, we all know she’s pregnant. It happened in Twilight, so it’s going to happen in here, too. But there are better ways to foreshadow that your heroine is pregnant. For example, she could think she had a stomach bug that turned out to be morning sickness, or she could get really busy with work and lose track of when her last period was. You know what’s not a good way for your heroine to notice she’s pregnant? By having the hero call her fat, when he’s completely aware that she’s got fucking food issues that he pretends to care about all the fucking time.
“What do you mean I’ve put on weight?” I glare at Christian. His grin broadens, and he clasps me closer to his chest as he carries me across the lobby.
“Not much,” he assures me, but his face darkens.
“What is it?” I try to keep the alarm in my voice under control.
“You’ve put on some of the weight you lost when you left me,” he says quietly as he summons the elevator.
Oh, that’s right, guys. Remember how dangerously thin Ana got in the five whole days she and Christian were broken up in book two? And lest we forget that Ana is suffering from anorexia nervosa with a heaping side of a narcissistic personality disorder, she just described how hot her body is now two chapters ago. So, not only does it take next to no time for her to lose enough weight that people grow concerned about it, she also can gain weight and look totally hot. She’s the perfect woman, we all lose, pack it up and go home everyone.
Christian tells Ana how happy she’s made him, and she responds:
“Even though I’m fat?”
And he reassures her with:
“Even though you’re fat.”
Ah, romance. I hope there is time in this chapter to show her not eating, so he can tell her to eat, and then call her fat again, because I haven’t had anything really great to talk about in my therapy appointments lately.
Even though Ana is a land whale, they decide to have sex. I don’t know how they manage, what with Christian choking back his revulsion at bedding his fat wife, and Ana barely able to stay awake after a full eighteen fucking hours of consciousness broken up only by travel-induced naps, but the important thing is, we don’t have to read a fucking word of boring sex because it goes right to a section break and we pick up the next morning. Of course he’s still asleep, so Ana gets a chance to watch him and rehash all the fucking boring stuff we’ve already heard over and over again for the last two books:
So much has happened in the last three weeks – who am I kidding, the last three months – that I feel that my feet haven’t touched the ground. And now here I am, Mrs. Christian Grey, married to the most delicious, sexy, philanthropic, absurdly wealthy mogul a woman could meet. How did this all happen so fast?
He bought you, like he buys everything he wants. And when he gets bored with you, you’ll go into storage beside his glider and his broken helicopter and all the other stuff he used to like to ride. Congratulations on making the shitty life choices everyone tried to help you avoid.
Ana thinks about how crazy it is that she’s going to have to go back to work in the real world and spend time away from Christian, because it’s totally normal and healthy to want to be with another person nonstop without a break every moment of every day:
One would think that spending so much time together would be suffocating, but that’s just not the case. I’ve loved each and every minute, even our fighting. Every minute… except the news of the fire at Grey House.
I honestly can’t remember, can someone who has the poor fortune of owning these books on an e-reader do a search of them and tell me if his building has ever before been referred to as Grey House? It’s possible that the mind-wiping procedure I had done to try and Eternal Sunshine these books out of my head wasn’t entirely successful, but it definitely removed that detail.
My blood chills. Who could want to harm Christian?
Someone in his business? An ex? A disgruntled employee?
Someone who met him once, a person who has read this book, perhaps? How many people could possibly want to fucking murder this guy? EVERYONE.
Ana eventually stares at Christian so hard that he wakes up, and then they have sex. It’s off screen, though, so we can tag along with them to lunch at Christian’s parents’ house. It’s a lunch in their honor, to celebrate them coming back from their honeymoon. Christian and Ana are driving in the R8, and Ana feels
pregnant out of sorts, so she picks a fight by asking if he would ever let her drive his precious Audi. His response is actually playful, instead of horrified:
“Of course,” Christian replies, smiling. “What’s mine is yours. If you dent it, though, I will take you into the Red Room of Pain.” He glances swiftly at me with a malicious grin.
Shit! I gape at him. Is this a joke?
So, Ana can’t tell if he’s joking or not, probably owing to Battered Woman Syndrome, but she appears to be in on the whole thing when she says:
“You’re kidding. You’d punish me for denting your car? You love your car more than you love me?” I tease.
So, she’s teasing him… that makes her in on the joke, right?
“It’s close,” he says and reaches across to squeeze my knee. “But she doesn’t keep me warm at night.”
“I’m sure it could be arranged. You could sleep in her,” I snap.
Okay, so wait, a minute ago you were teasing him, but now you’re offended?
I gaze at him and he gives me a face-splitting grin, and although I want to be mad at him, it’s impossible when he’s in this kind of mood. Now that I think about it, he’s been in a better frame of mind ever since he left his study this morning. And it dawns on me that I’m being petulant because we have to go back to reality, and I don’t know if he’s going to revert to the more closed pre-honeymoon Christian, or if I’ll get to keep the new improved version.
This entire scene in the car completely baffled me, and not in the cracked.com use of the word. Like, this entire exchange was legitimately confusing. At first, Ana is playfully teasing Chedward. Then, he gets in on the fun, and she gets mad. I was trying to figure out how this all fit into the dynamic of an abusive relationship. And then I remembered I wasn’t reading a book that depicted an abusive relationship on purpose, so it’s likely just bad writing. And then I realized what the real problem is:
“I’m kidding, Christian,” I mutter quickly, not wanting to kill his mood. It strikes me how unsure he is of himself sometimes. I suspect that he’s always been like this, but has just hidden his uncertainty beneath an intimidating exterior. He’s very easy to tease, probably because he’s not used to it. It’s a revelation, and I marvel again that we still have so much to learn about each other.
You guys. They don’t even like each other. They are totally incompatible. They do not belong together. They’re just two Barbies being smashed together and made to kiss. When we’re not watching, they’re just two actors without any chemistry pretending to be in love in a bad soap opera.
I have cracked the code.
At the Chevalier-Trevylan-Grey Manse, Carrick is grilling burgers in a stereotypical goofy dad uniform, and Ana is in a better mood until someone mentions a woman who isn’t her:
“Gia is due to come over to discuss the plans tomorrow evening,” replies Christian. “I hope we can finalize everything then.” He turns and looks expectantly at me.
Oh… this is news.
“Sure.” I smile at him, mostly for the benefit of his family, but my spirits take a nosedive again. Why does he make these decisions without telling me? Or is it the thought of Gia – all lush hips, full breasts, expensive designer clothes, and perfume – smiling too provocatively at my husband? My subconscious glares at me. He’s given you no reason to be jealous. Shit, I am up and down today. What’s wrong with me?
You’re pregnant. Also, I love the assertion that Christian has given her no reason to be jealous. For most of their very short relationship, he’s remained friends with an ex who openly admitted to trying to sabotage his love life. He keeps pictures of all the other women he’s fucked. He gave his ex-sub a bath in Ana’s tub, hell, he probably used her loofa to exfoliate Leila’ poor, crazy feet. There are all sorts of reasons for her to not trust him, but the biggest one is that he doesn’t trust her.
On the other hand, what are the chances that Ana has communicated anything about Gia to Christian? Slim to none, I would wager.
Everyone toasts the happy couple for their safe return, and Mia quickly slips in:
“And congratulations to Ethan for getting into the psych program at Seattle,”
That’s right. Kate’s brother got into a good school, but everyone is celebrating these two idiots managing to not drown themselves on their honeymoon. I mean, even Kate doesn’t bring it up, Mia is the one who has to remind everyone, “Hey, someone at this table actually achieved something of measurable value.” Jesus Christ, these people are horrible.
Ana sits sullenly through the meal:
I pick at my food. Christian said I was fat yesterday.
Do we really need further proof that she has an eating disorder?
Elliot accidentally knocks his glass onto the terrace, startling everyone, and there’s a sudden flurry of activity to get it cleaned up.
I was honestly expecting Ana to be involved in that flurry. Then she could cut herself and
Jasper Ethan could try to eat her.
Christian uses the distraction to warn Ana that if she doesn’t knock off her snotty attitude, he’s going to take her to the boathouse to spank her. And this makes her feel better, because apparently she lives in a never-ending state of subdrop that can only be cured by being treated like shit? I don’t know, I’ve seriously given up trying to make sense of this shit as though their relationship were happening between two actual people and not their cardboard cut-out stand-ins.
After dinner, they go inside and Christian plays piano and sings, and everyone gets all flustered because oh my god, they’ve never heard Christian sing before. It’s this big, dramatic moment that I think is supposed to show the reader that he’s made all this progress, but he’s really just singing a shitty pop song, and nothing about him or his psyche have really changed. It’s another moment of false tension, false plot. His mom hugs Ana and cries, because that’s all Grace does. If you open up her day planner, it’s like this:
- 8:15PM marvel at Christian.
- 8:16PM cry and hug Ana
- 8:17PM say something crediting Ana with saving my son, even though I’m the one who adopted him and raised him and shit.
- 8:19PM ignore the fact that my son is still waaaaay fucked up.
“Here.” Christian throws me the keys to the R8. “Don’t bend it” – he ads in all seriousness – “or I will be fucking pissed.”
So, no pressure. Which is good, because Ana needs to be relaxed and at ease for THE MOST NEEDLESS AND BORING CAR CHASE OF ALL TIME.
Where do I start criticizing the car chase? First of all, it’s too goddamned long. It starts on page 96 – and this is trade-sized, not mass-market – and goes all the way to page 102. They realize they’re being followed by a Dodge with false license plates. How do they realize this? Oh, because their security detail is in an SUV behind them.
That’s right. This is a big, scary, freak out scene with a safety net, because if the “unsub” (as security refers to him throughout the sequence) does catch up with them, they have an SUV full of security guards right behind them. Immediately, this destroys the tension. It’s also kind of odd, because there is no mention of the security detail at all in this chapter until the chase is underway. It’s almost as if E.L. began writing the scene, thought, “You know, someone might wonder why they went somewhere without their ever-present security. I should put them into this scene,” without realizing that once your hero and heroine are backed up by people who can easily step in and save them, the tension is gone. They’re not in any real danger.
Well, at least, they’re not until Ana starts trying to outrun this Dodge. Except, we’re not sure what kind of Dodge it is. Is it a Dodge Dart? A Dodge Ram? A Dodge Charger? Dodge makes an insanely varied range of models. Some of them could keep up with an Audi R8, but without knowing which one is chasing them, the whole scene, again, feels like there isn’t much tension there. The first thought I had was that there was a guy chasing them in a Dodge Neon, and I thought to myself, “Oh, well, they should be fine. The Neon was mostly styrofoam and shook like it was going to come apart if you got it over 80 m.p.h.”
Author abandons continuity from the first book:
I touch eighty-five. I don’t think I have ever driven this fast. I was lucky if my Beetle ever hit fifty miles an hour.
She drove Kate’s Mercedes pretty fast on her way back from interviewing Christian Grey.
Ana does the driving for the chase, by default since she’s behind the wheel. But Christian and Sawyer (in the SUV) feed her information like this is a goddamn NASCAR race. At one point, Christian says:
“Where are the cops when you need them?”
Why not call them? Oh, that’s right, because staying on the cell to your security, who are following the follower, is more important.
Because they’re being chased, the obvious thing to do is to head straight home, so the pursuer will know where they live. They don’t go into the underground garage, though, they pull into a parking lot near the building and fuck. No, I’m not kidding. First, Ana has to wipe her nose on fucking everything in car, though:
I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and take a deep steadying breath.
“Use my shirt.” Christian kisses my temple.
“Sorry,” I mutter, embarrassed by my crying.
“What for? Don’t be.”
I wipe my nose again. He tips my chin up and plants a gentle kiss on my lips. “Your lips are so soft when you cry, my beautiful, brave girl,” he whispers.
Then, without any hand sanitizer or anything, they just start banging. Leaving aside the creepiness of complimenting how sexy your wife is when she’s crying because she was just the driver in a high-speed car chase, GET SOME FUCKING KLEENEX AND PUT IT IN THE FUCKING CAR. Seriously, the infantilization of Ana is gross at the best of times, but it’s especially disgusting when it involves wiping her snot on her hands like a fucking four-year-old.
What’s worse is, they get right to the making out and intercourse in the car. Seriously, there is now snot on everything. Is this another of Chedward’s fetishes? Or are we supposed to believe that they’re both so turned on and hot for each other that snot doesn’t matter? Because I can’t imagine any situation, not even a high speed car chase, in which I would be such an emotional wreck that I could move from snot to sex without a stop at wash your hands junction for a track change.
I won’t excerpt the car sex, because it’s basically the same thing from every other scene, but this time in a car. Then they get out and call Sawyer for information on the person who was following them.
“Her?” he gasps. “Stick with her.” Christian hangs up and gazes at me.
Her! The driver of the car? Who could that be – Elena? Leila?
“The driver of the Dodge is female?”
“So it would appear,” he says quietly.
Is this an elaborate set up for a joke about female drivers? Because if so, I’m not impressed.
Christian drives the car to the Escala, while Ana asks questions about Sawyer and tries to initiate road head or something by feeling up Chedward through his jeans. Apparently, Sawyer is ex-FBI. Considering what we’ve seen of Christian’s bang up security operation, I think I know why Sawyer is ex-FBI. If you know what I’m saying.
I’m saying Christian’s security people are incompetent. Is what I’m saying.
I mean, they don’t even ride in the same car as the bodies they’re supposed to be guarding.
When they get into the parking garage at Escala, Christian suggests they should have sex again, this time over the hood of the car. But then they are smacked by the mighty hammer of foreshadowing, when a BMW drives in and this guy gets out:
He’s young, casually dressed, with long, layered dark hair. He looks like he works in the media.
What, like, he’s got a face for radio? Could you make that more of a broad generalization for us, E.L.? “He looked like he had a job doing something.” I mean, I still kind of get a sense of this person being a human male, are you sure you don’t want to be less specific in your description?
The guy introduces himself as Noah Logan, a new neighbor.
Noah flushes a little as he gazes at me a fraction too long. I mirror his flush and Christian’s arm tightens around me.
“Hermit. Stuck in your ivory tower,” I state matter-of-factly.
You know those hermits. Always living in ivory towers.