No real news, except The Mister did move up from #4 to #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. It has yet to reach #1 on either NYT or USA Today. Which is a great example of exactly how the success of one title doesn’t automatically translate into the success of the next title, even for authors with blockbusters.
Since it’s a slow news day, it’s a great time to remind everyone that any typos or misspellings in the quoted text are my fault unless otherwise noted. I’m really bad at typing. Also, remember that I don’t post the full text of the chapter, just selections, and I sometimes might not mention a detail like, “he took off his shirt,” or something before an excerpt where he’s shirtless. Consider any inconsistencies in that vein the result of omission, unless I point it out.
This is also another great time to remind everyone that I have a book out that has been deemed “adorable” by readers, and you can find out more details here.
Since Alessia losing her virginity was a big moment for…Maxim, we spent the entire sex scene looking through his eyes. Now, it’s Demelssia’s turn to react to having sex for the first time.
Maxim is heavy on top of her, his breathing forced and urgent, while Alessia lies panting beneath him. She’s overwhelmed with sensation and bone-deep fatigue, but most of all by his…invasion.
This is always exactly how you want a woman to feel after sex, by the way. You want her to feel like Poland. Or an Ash tree overcome with beetles. You just want to really make her describe your penis-in-vagina actions in the least positive way possible.
He gets off her and asks her if she’s okay.
She makes a mental inventory of her body. In truth she’s a little sore.
Thanks for being truthful about that, narration. I never thought you’d lie to me until this very moment. Now, I doubt completely. My heart is as shattered as Alessia’s hymen.
She had no idea the act of love was so phyical. Her mother had told her it would hurt the first time.
And she was right.
Though I’ve asserted that E.L. James hasn’t read as many historical romances as she claims, she’s read at least some. Obsession with how much losing one’s virginity hurts, how much you bleed, is kind of a weird focus in historical romance, especially in days of old. I love when I read books where the heroine is a virgin and her reaction is like, wow, this feels different than I expected, instead of oh, the trauma, the pain, the blood, now I have emerged a whole woman on the other side of this rite of passage that must always contain pain to prove my purity.
SHAMELESS PLUG: My new book features a no-big-deal loss of virginity. Did I mention I had a new book out?
Don’t look at me like that. Momma’s gotta eat.
Demelssia thinks about how after the pain and her body got used to him, she enjoyed it.
At the end she’d lost all sense of self and shattered into tiny little pieces, exploding inside–and it had been…incredible.
Now, at that point, she’d had two orgasms with Moss and one that we saw her have solo. It’s only after Moss’s dick gets involved that the orgasms are incredible, though. So, while this wasn’t the full-scale awakening that Christian gave Ana, Moss still does get to be the expert in Demelssia’s pleasure on some level, providing her with an intensity of experience she couldn’t have without him.
He lays down beside her and covers them both up and asks her again if she’s okay and if he hurt her, and she just doesn’t know what to say, so she hesitates and Moss uses that moment to hijack things back into his POV.
I do not understand why E.L. James just didn’t write the entire book from Moss’s POV. She clearly doesn’t care about Demelssia’s experiences or thoughts. At this point, Demelssia has lost her virginity after being raised in what amounts to purity culture and gets a few paragraphs to react to it after the fact, while the entire thing was narrated by a guy who’s had so much sex that at this point it should be like having his taxes done. That’s how unimportant Demelssia is in the scheme of this book. She is not a person, she’s a roadmap for Moss to use while he finds himself or whatever. Just write the whole damn thing in his POV.
I’d been transported from the depths of despair to an earth-shattering climax, but my rosy, postcoital, best-fuck-ever glow vanishes like a magician’s rabbit.
Magicians make rabbits appear.
I reach down and yank the condom off my dick, disgusted with myself.
The following is a faithful transcript of my conversation with Mr. Jen regarding this line:
Me: I’m going to read you a sentence. Or, no, part of a sentence. I’m going to read you part of a sentence, and you just tell me what you think about it. And you don’t have to be nice. I didn’t write it.
Mr. Jen: Okay.
Me: “I reach down and yank the condom off my dick.”
Mr. Jen: [long pause] …yank?
Mr. Jen: [long pause] Yank.
Mr. Jen: Not…pulled?
Me: Not pulled, not rolled, not removed. This condom was yanked.
Mr. Jen: Huh.
Me: What would happen if you “yanked” off a condom?
Mr. Jen: Well, it would stretch out. And then it would do the rubber band effect. But full of your cum.
So, feel free to imagine Maxim snapping the head of his post-orgasm cock with a rubber band, I guess.
When I drop it on the floor, I’m shocked to see my hand smeared with blood.
Thank Christ! If it was someone else’s blood, it would be fucking weird!
So, like his predecessor, Moss just tosses condoms on the floor? I find this interesting because we know he was a huge slob at home, but he threw the condoms in the trash there.
Anyway, Moss tells Demelssia he’s sorry he hurt her, and she’s like, eh, I was expecting it would hurt the first time.
“So you’d be willing to give it a second try?”
“Yes, I think so,” she says, giving me a coy smile, and my cock thickens in approval.
Dude hasn’t even had time for his erection to go down and it’s on the rise again?
So, they do the whole was-it-good-for-you conversation, then Moss tells her to say his name because he likes hearing it, and then he says he’ll go run a bath. In the bathroom, he thinks about how “giddy” he is.
Sex with her is better than being amped on coke…any drug.
False. Nothing is better than drugs.
I’ve finally laid my daily.
Check that off your to-do list, I guess.
He thinks about how usually, once he’s had sex with a woman he’s basically done with her, but he doesn’t feel that way about Demelssia. And I have to say, that’s a pretty big fucking chance to take, isn’t it? If you’re sooooo in love with this woman, but you know there’s a possibility you’ll be disinterested in her once you close the deal, wouldn’t you have thoughts about that? Wouldn’t it make you resist wanting to have sex with her? Wouldn’t a competent author examine that before the deed is done?
Yes. The answer is yes. But we’re not dealing with competency on any level here.
I run my hand through my hair in an effort to tame it and remember her blood on my hand.
I’ll have to marry her now.
Go hang the sheets off the balcony so the townspeople will know that you deflowered your virgin bride and any issue from her womb is your legitimate heir.
I snort at my ridiculous thought as I wash my hands, but I wonder if any of my ancestors found themselves in that position. Two of my forebears were involved in well-documented, scandalous liaisons, but my knowledge of my family history is sketchy at best.
I’m sure your ancestor Ross Poldark was involved in some kind of scandal from fucking his maid and marrying her. Things turned out okay-ish for them.
Moss thinks about how he should have paid more attention to shit like their lineage and how to keep the earldom in the family and all that. Then he goes back to the bedroom, sees Demelssia, and thinks:
She’s still just the help to him. How charming.
Because he’s naked, she’s shy and doesn’t want to look at him. Then she does and he teases her about it and pulls the covers off her and they’re both naked and headed to the bathroom.
“You don’t have to be shy.” I tease a strand of her hair and wind it around my index finger. “You have great hair. And a great body, too.”
Yes, I’m sure her hair, not her nude body, was her very first concern.
There’s a picture window behind the bathtub, and they gaze out at the sunset over the seat together, which he says is as beautiful as she is.
She’s more than beautiful. She’s the whole package. Bright. Talented. Funny. And courageous. Yes, above all, courageous.
So, when are we going to get to see this “whole package”? Because talented, we’ve seen. But she never speaks in anything other than short sentences and they’re not particularly funny. Maybe they’re meant to be, but she’s been written almost too childlike to have an intentional sense of self-aware humor. Also, courageous? We know she ran from the traffickers at the beginning of the book and when they came looking for her, but since Moss got a chance to rescue her, she’s basically done whatever he tells her to do. I’m not saying her earlier actions weren’t courageous, but she just kind of clings to Moss now, awaiting instruction. He hasn’t seen her do anything courageous.
Then again, Ana was “courageous” and “brave,” too.
She quickly twists her hair into a gravity-defying knot that perches on her head and sinks beneath the bubbles.
Here, the knot on her head sinks beneath the bubbles, rather than her body sinking beneath the bubbles, which is what is supposed to be happening. This is what we call “something an editor should have noticed.”
We go into Demelssia’s POV so she can tell us how expensive the bath gel is and, no shit, how much better the sunset is in England as opposed to Albania:
The sunset in Kukës is spectacular, but it sets behind the mountains. Here the sun is sinking languidly into the sea, illuminating a golden path on the water.
This book should have been called, Albania is good, BUT.
Anyway, we hear more about how her vagina hurts.
She’d done it.
So, here’s the thing. This is the wrong tense. James chose to write in the present tense. The past version of the present tense is…past tense. “She’d done it,” is past-perfect, a.k.a., “even paster tense.” Demelssia’s thought should have been “She did it,” or “She’s done it.” Yet another “something an editor should have noticed.”
Honestly, I’m less of a stickler for stuff like this if it’s written in the first person. I tend to view the first person as the narrator talking directly to me, no matter which tense they use. It’s when it gets into the third person that it comes off wonky to me. Your mileage may vary.
Her mother would be shocked. Her father…she shudders to think what he might do if he knew.
So, she has that thought, then goes on to think about how great the sex was, how she wants to do it again, but then:
She feels no shame.
This is another moment where we’re being told something we’re not seeing on the page, or seeing the opposite of. After sex, she’s too embarrassed to look at him naked, she can’t even speak to him at first, then she thinks about what her parents would think of her. That doesn’t scream, “totally unashamed,” to me. And you know what? I don’t find it all that convincing that a woman raised in a super conservative way wouldn’t have shame. I’m not saying it’s right, but I haven’t been Catholic for like, years, and I still feel a little twinge of, “Shouldn’t have done that,” after sex sometimes. I think it would have been okay for Demelssia to feel shame and interrogate those feelings.
But that would cut into the time we need to take to talk about Moss’s willie.
She’s fascinated and embarrassed at the same time.
Large. Hooded. Flexible. Not how it was earlier.
So much has been made of that line and how terrible it is. I feel like I’ve spent so much time in the bad book trenches that I just can’t even react to that description at all. I’m like, sure, it’s bad. But the things I’ve seen, dear reader. The things we’ve seen together. This is nothing. This is almost good writing in comparison to “music to my dick.”
“You’ll get used to it,” he says, and his eyes sparkle with humor. Alessia wonders if he was referring to the champagne…or his penis, which makes her blush even more.
I’m thirsty…but not for dick.
So, it’s not enough that we’re hardly ever in Demelssia’s POV. We have to skew into Moss’s while we’re in her POV, as well. When he gets in the bath:
He grins, waiting for the water to spill over the sides of the bath–but it doesn’t.
How does she know that’s what he was grinning about? Or thinking at all? She doesn’t, but James is so enamored of her hero’s POV that she absolutely can’t stay out of it.
He takes a glass from her and clinks the one she holds. “To the bravest, most beautiful woman I know. Thank you, Alessia Demachi,” he says, and he’s no longer playful but deadly serious, gazing intently at her, his eyes darker, no longer sparkling.
So much of this reads like a rewrite of Fifty Shades of Grey, in which after her bloody, painful defloration, Ana and Christian bathe together, there’s a lot of talk about his dick and how fascinating it is, and a weird focus on the expensive the bath gel he uses. And the bravery. Christian calls Ana brave throughout the books, but if memory serves, the first time he calls her brave is after their first time because I remember thinking, “What’s so brave about fucking you?” There’s even a line in both books that randomly points that the bathroom has double sinks for seemingly no reason, interrupting a more important train of thought during the consideration of the sex that happened.
Demelssia realizes that she doesn’t know Moss’s last name. She actually thinks it’s “Milord” because that’s what people have called him in town. He tells her his last name and of course, she has to sound it out because she’s the world’s oldest toddler and it’s a great opportunity for James to point out how simple this Albanian peasant is.
Skimming over the next bit, all you really need to know is that he washes and massages her feet and legs and it gets her horny. No, sorry, “wanton.” Because she knows “wanton” but not “truck.”
Yeah, I’m never letting the truck thing go. Learn to live with it, everyone.
Anyway, they get out of the bath and he mentions that she doesn’t have to get dressed if she doesn’t want to, because Danny won’t be there until dinner time. And of course, Demelssia thinks about oh, he won’t tell me who Danny is, so expect some jealousy to come up.
We go back to Moss’s POV and the cheap bastard does this:
Downstairs in the kitchen, I switch on the lights and put the champagne in the fridge while I consider Alessia Demachi.
That shit is going to be flat in an hour. You’re rich. Throw it away. Don’t make Demelssia settle for flat champagne.
He thinks about how she’s so sexy, and then goes right back to angst about whether or not he should have fucked her. Like, dude? The time to be all, “Should I fuck this woman?” was before you fucked her. The deed is done. Some things cannot be unscrewed.
I wonder what Kit would have made of Alessia.
You’re not fucking the staff, are you, Spare?
We keep hearing about how kind and good Kit was, but he always sounds like a total dickhole.
At least Moss and Demelssia drink more of the champagne before it goes flat.
So, anyway, like minutes after Moss tells Demelssia not to get dressed if she doesn’t want to, Danny shows up. IDK if he thought he was gonna get a three-way going or what. Moss intercepts Danny outside to get the food. And she tells him that the potatoes have been microwaved? Like, I’m sorry, but if I’m an earl, my baked potatoes better be good and goddamn well done in the oven. Which, by the way, is why the universe will never let me be rich. I will demand too much.
So, earlier in the book, I was imagining Danny as a younger woman. Now, we learn that she has white hair and has worked on the estate since he was a kid. And…he’s making her carry dinner all the way from the main house to his sex nest.
You know what, Danny? Microwave those potatoes. Spit on them, too.
But lest you worry that Danny might still tempt Mister Maxim away, here is her description:
[…]always in her plaid skirt and stout shoes, never in trousers. No. I smile; it’s Jessie, her partner for twelve years, who wears the trousers in that relationship. Briefly I wonder if they’re ever going to marry. It’s been legal for long enough. They have no excuse.
Don’t worry! Danny is a lesbian! Who wears “stout shoes”. And her partner, who has an equally androgynous, male-leaning name? Is super butch! Isn’t that humorous? One is the girl and one is the boy!
God, I can’t wait for E.L. James’s much anticipated M/M novel that won’t perpetuate any stereotypes at all.
There is a way-too-long interaction about putting the baked potatoes in the oven to crisp them up and who is going to put them in the oven. It’s Moss, by the way. Moss does it. There’s also stew involved, but at this point, I’m so fucking bored with hearing every damn move they make to get dinner on the table that I feel like I’m making dinner and I’m like, fuck it, just put a pizza in the oven and call it a day.
Moss asks Demelssia if she knows how to play chess, and she’s like, a little, and he’s like, oh, I wonder what that means, and I’m like, it means she can play chess a little, this is not a hard concept to grasp and would you like me to make a powerpoint or can I just throw my Kindle directly into the sea right now?
Anyway, she touches his hand and he nearly jizzes himself.
She licks her top lip and deliberately traces her index finger over the back of one hand.
Whose hand? It’s never specified, but we assume it’s Moss’s hand because:
A tremor runs from my hand up my arm and directly to my dick.
So, your dick is on your shoulder? Is that what I’m getting here?
They play a game and of course, she’s excellent at it. Why? Because it’s the only primitive form of entertainment that exists in Albania.
“There is not much to do in Kukës. At home we have an old computer but no games console and clever phones.[…]”
Mobile coverage is excellent, though it’s limited in very remote areas (though most places have some form of connection including Theth).
Albania has good mobile coverage though it can be spotty in mountain areas.
It’s very straightforward to buy a SIM card with mobile data from any mobile phone/internet provider. Prepaid SIM cards cost around 500 lekë and include credit. Special two-week ‘tourist’ packages are available. These include phone calls, text messages and internet data.
Oh, and regarding the internet, again, from Lonely Planet:
Free wi-fi is ubiquitous in all but the most basic hotels. In larger towns many restaurants also offer free access.
Albanians! They’re just like us!
No, seriously. They have all the same fucking stuff. And what really pisses me off is that if E.L. James visited Albania “for research,” she would have stayed at hotels. She would have probably taken her clever phone and used her magic card. These would have been basic things she wouldn’t have been able to avoid learning! She has to know that she is depicting the country incorrectly because she has been there.
Anyway, back to this fucking trainwreck. Hey, want to talk about more inconsistencies in Demelssia’s English? She says she likes to read books.
“Oh yes. Many, many books. In Albanian and English. I wanted to be an English teacher.”
She wanted to be an English teacher.
She doesn’t know the word for “truck.”
“But you enjoy reading?”
“Yes.” She brightens. “Especially in English. My grandmother smuggled books into the country.”
SHE HAS BEEN LEARNING ENGLISH HER ENTIRE LIFE FROM ENGLISH BOOKS AND A NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER. SHE WAS GOING TO BE AN ENGLISH TEACHER. THE ONLY REASON ALESSIA IS DEPICTED AS NOT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK VERY SIMPLE ENGLISH IS BECAUSE E.L. JAMES CHOSE TO DEPICT HER THAT WAY.
Now, I don’t know why she made that choice. And it is, perhaps, unfair to assume that E.L. James is simply a xenophobic garbage person. But I’m really starting to lean toward that explanation.
We’ve also got a very weird time/history/age issue going on. They talk about how dangerous it was for her grandmother to “smuggle” in these books that Demelssia has been reading…but again, Demelssia is twenty-two (or twenty-three, at this point I’ve forgotten because I don’t give a shit). She wouldn’t have been alive during those communist years. She wouldn’t have a memory of that danger. And yes, she is saying that her grandmother smuggling books in during communism was dangerous, but Demelssia wouldn’t have any memory or experience of living that way, so it’s a weird detail to include. Like, she’s constantly reminding him of the time her country was communist before she was born. It feels so forced, like, “Look at me, readers! I, E.L. James, know the history of Albania.”
Which would be a lot more impressive if she didn’t spend like 99% of the rest of the time talking about how shitty and backward the whole country allegedly is.
Anyway, Demelssia beats Moss at chess and they talk some more about her life in Albania.
“You say you wanted to be an English teacher. What happened?”
Her university closed. She already told you this.
“My university closed. They had no money. And my courses stopped.”
She was literally studying English at the college level.
And she didn’t know the word for “truck.”
Also, she mentions that she taught English. In a school.
And she didn’t know the word for “truck.”
But perhaps the most frustrating thing about Moss learning, for the second time, that her university closed, is that it means he must not have been listening to her before.
Moss and Demelssia have dinner, and Demelssia insists on serving it to him.
Surreptitiously I watch her as she busies herself in the kitchen. Her movements are neat and elegant. She has an intrinsic, sensuous grace, and I wonder if she’s ever been a dancer.
Why not? You’re a model/DJ/photographer/pianist/composer/earl. She might as well be a dancer on top of all her other shit she’s got going on.
When she turns, her glorious hair spills down around her elfin face, and with a delicate flick of her wrist she flips it out of the way. Her long, slender fingers holds the knife as she slices open the baked potatoes, releasing wisps of steam. With her brow fixed in concentration, she spreads butter on them, and she stops to lick some melted butter from her index finger.
My groin tightens.
It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my potato horniness. This description of baked potatoes is the only time my groin has stirred at all in this novel so far.
Back in Demelssia’s POV, she says she’s going to cook for him the next day:
“Do you?” he asks.
“Cook?” Alessia places her hand on her heart, affronted. “Of course. I am an Albanian woman. All Albanian women cook.”
I mean, obviously! All Albanian women are peasants who exist only to do domestic chores! Duh!
“One day,” he says, “will you tell me the whole story?”
“Story?” Her heart begins to thud.
“Of how and why you came to England?”
“Yes. One day,” she says.
One day. One day! ONE DAY!
Hey, that’s my emphatic device! How are people going to tell the difference between your shitty book and me making fun of it, Erika?!
Her heart skips a beat. Those two words imply a tangible future with this man.
Yup. That’s what Demelssia is gonna naturally focus on when asked if she’ll share the story of her harrowing flight from human traffickers. That’s definitely the reaction that a deeply traumatized person with PTSD is gonna have. Cupid’s arrows all the way.
Alessia is confused about how men and women interact in England.
It’s different in Kukës. She’s seen enough American TV shows–[…]
She’s seen American TV shows but has no idea whatsoever about sex or relationships. This is perhaps the least believable thing in this entire book. That’s literally all American TV shows are about. Even the ones that aren’t about romance have romances and relationships in them. Unless all she was watching was Wheel of Fortune.
So, they eat their dinner and Moss offers her banoffee pie and she’s like, no thanks, I’m full, and he forces her to eat it, anyway:
“You are teasing me. You want me to want your dessert?” she says.
“I want you to want a great many things. Right now it’s dessert.” Maxim smirks and licks his lips. With his fork he scoops up a small piece smothered in cream and offers it to her. “Eat,” he whispers, his voice seductive and his heated stare mesmerizing. In response, she parts her lips and accepts the mouthful.
And obviously he was right in forcing her to eat it because she loves it.
I’m so mad about this scene because, in my latest book (that I have plugged enough in this recap), the heroine makes the hero a banoffee pie as a Christmas present. I guess I could have changed it, but I was like, “No! My book was written before this one came out, damn it! I’m keeping my pie!”
Anyway, Demelssia licks some pie off his finger:
Mmm…he tastes clean. Male.
In case you were wondering what gender banoffee pie was.
Anyway, they have more boring sex that I’m going to skip lots of.
His hands slip into the waistband of her pj’s
Her pj’s what?
and cup her bare backside, kneading her flesh as he rubs his nose over her clitoris, on and on.
So…um. Yeah, you know what? I’m just gonna move on.
“Maxim!” she cries, scandalized, and she tries to pull his head away.
“Hush,” he murmurs. “It’s okay.” And his tongue replaces his nose as he resists her feeble attempts to stop him.
Yeah, hush, Demelssia. It’s okay for him to do a thing you don’t want him to do during sex because he knows better than you do what you really want.
They fuck up against the wall but Moss is just literally too good at sex and they have to switch to the bed because she can’t handle how great he is at it. Not joking, there’s like a whole paragraph about it.
Alessia cries out as she explodes around him once, twice, again, […]
It only counts if it happens three times. And I’m glad to see that explosive orgasms have followed us into this book. I was worried she wouldn’t explode or detonate during sex at least once.
After the sex, we POV switch into Moss watching Demelssia sleep, and then he remembers the nightlight and he gets that all set up and goes to sleep to end the chapter.
My Impression So Far: I expect the xenophobia, lack of consent, and show-don’t-tell to ramp up in the coming chapters. James started off fairly strong in the consent arena until the hero started banging the heroine. Which adds another disturbing layer to the style of James’s writing: once you say yes once (or, in the case of Alessia, twenty-six billion times until you convince the dude you want to fuck him), that’s it. You’ve said yes to everything from pie to oral sex. Because once he gets his dick in, he owns you.