Hold the fucking presses. We’ve got news and it’s going to be music to your dick. Which is, incidentally, one of the more maligned phrases from this god awful book. I mean, imagine, writing “music to my dick” in your manuscript. Imagine how totally devoid of literary self-awareness one must have to confidently put that phrase into the world. Imagine it. The hubris. Imagine sitting down and typing that on purpose.
In the interest of due diligence, I looked up the phrase “music to my dick” in Grey.
Her sharp intake of breath is music to my dick.
We should have started keeping track of the number of copy/paste phrases and incidents have meandered into The Mister from the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. At this point, I’m assuming we’re a few pages from Maxim exclaiming, “I’m fifty Misters of fucked up, Alessia!”
We open the chapter waking up in Demelssia’s POV:
Alessia wakes listening to the low rumble of Maxim’s voice. She opens her eyes to see him sitting up next to her, on the phone.
Rude! Go somewhere else to make your fucking call. But of course, he can’t, because the call he’s making sounds very impressive and important.
“I’m glad Miss Chenoweth agreed,” he says. “I think a twenty-bore for the lady. I’ll have my Purdeys.”
Demelssia doesn’t know it, but he’s talking about clay pigeon shooting. At least, that’s what we call it in America. A 20-bore is a 20-gauge in America, and while it’s always denoted at 20-bore or 20-gauge in text, I’m legitimately stumped as to whether or not “twenty-bore” is appropriate in dialogue or if it should have stayed “20-bore.” I’m going to ask every copy editor I know because it’s going to drive me bananas.
But his “Purdeys,” I assume, refers to Purdey brand, who actually make more than one type of gun. I’m not gonna go look it up because I’m like, 90% positive they make a gun specifically for clay shooting, so I’ll assume that’s what he’s using and not like, a .410 or something.
Now that Moss has woken Alessia up with his rudeness, he tells her she’s beautiful and asks if she’s hungry. She is, but not for food; mercifully, they do not have that exchange. Then, Moss tells her to dress warm and put up her hair, and Demelssia is all pouty because she wants the sex but he’s like, no, you were too sore yesterday. She watches him walk to the bathroom naked and we pop into Moss’s POV after a break.
Before she woke this morning, I called the Hall and spoke to Michael, the estate manager. It’s a crisp, bright day, perfect for what I’ve arranged. After all our rigorous activity yesterday, we need a break and some fresh air.
Trekking across the countryside to shoot clay pigeons is a “break” from “rigorous activity”? I realize E.L. James is rich and therefore she probably has had the opportunity to shoot at some point, so she would probably know. But…it’s a physical activity. It’s not running a marathon, sure, but it’s not exactly a relaxing break.
Also, “rigorous” is the wrong word to use. It means strict, harsh, thorough, demanding, that kind of thing. Not “physically active.” She’s looking for “vigorous,” involving physical exertion, speed, or intensity of motion.
Rosperran Farm has been part of the Trevethick estate since Georgian times. The Chenoweth family has been tenant farmers there for more than a hundred years.
No, the Chenoweth family *have* been tenant farmers there for more than a hundred years. Now, some of you might argue that “family” is a singular noun and therefore “has” is correct. I will furiously disagree; “farmers,” the thing that they have been, is plural. As a result, “The Chenoweth family have been tenant farmers,” flows a lot better and reads as less clunky. Sentences that would have worked better:
The Chenoweth family has farmed there for more than a hundred years.
The Chenoweths have been tenant farmers there for more than a hundred years.
The Chenoweth family has been farming there for more than a hundred years.
Again, you can argue all day that “has” is correct due to “family” being singular but I will continue to argue that the sentence is clunky enough to stop or slow down a reader.
They meet up with someone who has a Land Rover, and Moss tells Demelssia:
“We’re going to shoot clays.”
Alessia looks bemused. “Clays?”
She appears to be none the wiser.
I’m now less certain that this is a good idea.
I’m starting to notice this pattern in their interactions where Moss will say something, she won’t understand, and he repeats it back to her as if just saying it again will make the meaning clearer. Then he remarks on how she doesn’t know what the thing he just referenced is and has a moment of dismay that maybe she won’t grasp the concept at all. Like, all he really would have to say is, “We’re going to target shoot for fun,” and she would probably get it. It’s not like, oh, this was a terrible idea because there may be no way to make her understand what the activity entails. I’m having a difficult time finding the right words to explain it. I guess I have to just leave it as, “I feel like there is a pattern to their interactions that make it seem like Moss views Demelssia’s grasp on the English language as a mark of her overall level of cognition and that’s really gross.”
So, Moss notes that Demelssia looks worried. IDK why she would. She’s only spent a few days with a man who has spoiled her and carefully tried to earn her trust and now he’s driven her to a remote location where they’re meeting a strange man who has guns and big fuck-off SUV. I wonder if there’s something in her past that would make her suspicious of the situation.
But that is never a point that is made, ever. Instead, we move on to Moss’s panic when the driver calls him “my lord.”
“Hi.” I check to see if Alessia has overheard, but she’s climbing out on her side of the car. “‘Sir’ will do, Jenkins,” I mutter as she approaches us.
Remember how the back cover copy promised “a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page?” Have you had enough of this thrilling roller-coaster ride yet? Demelssia might find out that Moss is an earl, which she will find out, eventually, and which isn’t a bad thing.
By the way, the same snake oil sales pitch they slapped on the dust jacket hypes up “wild, rural Cornwall” as if something happens there that’s more interesting than several meals and a shopping spree.
It also describes “the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans,” so they can’t even keep the disdain out of the false advertising.
Back on the roller-coaster, we learn about Jenkins’s family history and how great a shot he is. Also, that he’s a surfer. Which we definitely needed to know about him because he’s a minor character who will appear in only this scene and there will be no surfing involved.
You probably forgot a touching memory from your childhood to store that new information. Aren’t you glad you’re here?
So, Demelssia is like, are we shooting birds and Moss finally takes the time to explain they’re shooting clay discs. Jenkins gives them an itemized list of the guns, equipment, and food he’s brought.
“Good surprise?” I ask her, feeling doubtful.
“Yes,” she says, but she doesn’t sound certain.
Again, it’s almost like there’s something in her past that might make her not want to be alone with men who have guns. She’s never shot one, either, though her father has guns.
“Well, he will go out with his gun. he will go out overnight. To shoot wolves.”
So, yeah. Meanwhile, back on Mypos, I guess. We shoot wolves and do the Dance of Joy or what the fuck ever. Seriously, though, I fully agree with the commenter who said Alessia is like a time traveler. It’s like she just sort of wandered out of 17th century Albania, where her father defends their village from the encroaching wolves with his blunderbuss.
Demelssia notes that though there are wolves in Albania, she hasn’t ever seen one and she suspects her father hasn’t, either. So, what was this passage even about? Is her dad a serial killer? Is that what she’s saying?
Anyway, she wants to learn to shoot, so Jenkins gives her a safety lesson. And you guys? You’re not going to believe this, but E.L. James actually wrote something she apparently knows. She directly references a Purdey 12-gauge over-under, which is absolutely a gun you would use for trap shooting. 12-gauge is standard for trap shooting. Now, Moss has Demelssia shooting a 20-gauge, which is also perfect. 20-gauge is a good first-time gun because they’re not gonna kick the hell out of you like a 12-gauge will. But I have a bone as fuck to pick with the world at large here:
The pair of guns were handed down to my father on my grandfather’s death, and when Kit turned eighteen, my father gave him one of the guns as a birthday gift. When my father died, Kit gave me this one–the one that belonged to my dad.
And now, wwith Kit gone, I own both of them.
I’m hit by a sudden wave of sadness. A vision of the three of us in the gun room, my father cleaning this gun, my brother cleaning his then twenty-bore, and me looking on, as an excited eight-year-old finally allowed in the gun room.
So, okay. I need to know two things:
- Does this gun culture still actually exist among the titled class?
- If so, how the fuck is this any different than when my grandpa died and we divvied up his guns?
Like, seriously, this is some white trash behavior. If earls and viscounts and shit are doing this, they better just own up to being no better than Jim Bob Jithers, Sr. in Dogfart, Nebraska. This is some flyover state inheritance shit.
I guess what I’m saying is, holy shit, these people think they’re better than me?
via GIPHY Image: Some dude from something I don’t recognize saying, “You think you’re better than me because you play by the rules? Whose rules?”
So, anyway, the interesting part about the guns is over. I know I’m super anti-gun and stuff, but I grew up in a gun house, okay? I hunt when I feel motivated. It is what it is. At least there was some point of reference or interest I could get excited about in this fucking book because lord knows I’m not interested in any of the sex.
I mean, I like sex. Just not boring sex.
After like, two pages of dancing around it, they’re ready to shoot.
And I feel like showing off. She’s a better pianist than me, she can cook better than me, and she beat me at chess…
Okay, the cook thing is really wedged in there. E.L. needed something else about Demelssia’s personality so that there would be more than two things cited in that sentence. And the ball. My god, but Erika hath dropped it. Because we already know that Moss doesn’t cook. When Demelssia cleaned his kitchen at home, she notes that the oven appears to never have been used. The dinner Moss served her was cooked by someone else and he just heated it up. We’ve never gotten any indication that cooking is really important to Moss, so it wouldn’t matter that she could do it better than him. The worst part is, James could have simply justified his wanting to show off with the piano thing. By listing two more wan comparisons, she just highlighted the fact that her hero and heroine don’t have strong connections in any area of their relationship.
Moss shoots two clay pigeons and Demelssia is suitably impressed but doubts she can hit the moving target.
“Feet apart. Your weight on your back foot. Good. Look at the trap. You’ve seen the trajectory of the clay, you’ll want to follow it up in a smooth movement.” She nods vigorously. “Mount the stock as hard against your shoulder as you can. You don’t want any recoil.”
Maybe you should stand directly in front of her to make sure she’s got the stance right.
Oh, yeah, by the way, those lines were said by Moss and tagged with Demelssia’s action because surprise, we’re in hell.
So, Demelssia tries and fails three times and on the fourth, she manages to hit the pigeon. She’s so excited that she does a little dance about it and inadvertently aims the gun at Jenkins and Moss and sadly Moss is not killed and Jenkins is not put out of his misery. Woe, this innocent side character, trapped in such a book!
After a section break, we’re in Demelssia’s POV while they sit around eating sausage rolls and talking about the shoot. Moss says she got twenty out of forty and that’s not too bad, but like…that’s fucking miraculous. Not just for a first trap shoot, but for the first time she’s ever shot a gun before? Ever? Trap shooting is fucking hard.
Anyway, she says she wants to go shooting again when it isn’t so cold, they finish their coffee and sausage rolls, everything gets packed up and put away, but Moss is going to take the gun back to the house to clean it.
“It is your gun?”
“Jenkins keeps it for me. By law, it has to be locked up. We have a gun cabinet at the Hideout.”
“Oh,” she says, her confusion obvious.
“Ready?” I ask to distract her.
“I’ll have to take this home.” I hold up the gun case. “And we can go for a walk on the beach, then somewhere nice for lunch.”
I open the car door for her, and she gives me a fleeting smile as she climbs in.
That was close.
…how? How was that close? How the hell was she going to make the leap from “Oh, that’s your gun?” to “You must be an earl?”
Every day I don’t tell her who I am, I’m lying to her.
It’s as simple as that. I open the boot and place gun case inside.
Just fucking tell her.
It’s not like you’ve got to tell her you’re on the sex offender registry or you once accidentally killed a man. Jesus Christ.
He’s about to tell her the truth when God intervenes. Well, God or whoever it was who wrote the screenplay for The Queen.
Before us stands a magnificent buck deer, its coat gray and long, appropriate for the winter months,
I’m glad you approve of its fashion sense?
its usual white spots hidden in among its fur. Where the hell did it come from?
The God of your universe. She is desperately trying to get to the big reveal she has planned.
“Have you ever seen a deer?” I ask.
There are three god damn different types of deer in Albania.
Look. Decide, ma’am. Either your heroine is from a city or the mountainous countryside where wolves must be hunted for the safety of the village. You can’t have both. If it’s the latter, your heroine has seen a fucking deer.
“I didn’t know there were wild animals in this country,” Alessia says.
There are like.
So many birds.
But you thought.
You know what? No. I’m not going to engage. My life and my time are too precious.
Moss uses the deer as an excuse not to tell Demelssia that he’s an earl, because the moment is gone. You know, those perfect moments where you just have to seize the chance and tell your girlfriend that you’re an earl, and then she’ll be all like, “What is this word, earl?” and you’ll be like, “Nothing, your tiny peasant brain couldn’t even begin to comprehend, let’s make sex some more.” But the moment has passed.
Which is a good thing, because we’ve apparently just abandoned the roller-coaster ride of the kidnapping plot for the holiday train at the mall that is Moss’s internal conflict over how to tell Demelssia something that isn’t a bad thing and hasn’t been set up to suggest in any context that it should be a source of shame or anxiety. He’s just been making it one in his mind and lying to her by omission and distraction.
Caroline calls, Moss ignores her, Demelssia and Moss have sex again, and Moss lays awake with his manufactured crisis:
Why am I so reluctant to come clean?
Because I don’t know how she feels about me.
And also, apart from my title, there’s the small matter of my wealth.
My mother’s suspicious nature has left its mark.
Women will only want you for your wealth, Maxim. Remember that.
Are you kidding me? Like, are you actually kidding me right now? We are 65% into this book and we’re just now introducing the internal conflict that Demelssia might, despite all appearances to the contrary, be a gold digger? Moss has flaunted his wealth, from his cars to hiring private security to taking Demelssia on a whirlwind vacation with shopping sprees and dinners out and luxury accommodations, and now he’s like, oh no, what if she finds out I’m wealthy? I don’t think you can avoid that now, Moss. I really don’t. I think the cat is out of the fucking bag on that one.
She was reluctant to let me buy her clothes, reluctant when she has nothing. She doesn’t want me to buy her a phone, and she always chooses the cheapest item on the menu. This is not the modus operandi of a gold digger.
Moss. You have fucked 80% of the female population of London, most of whom you picked up in exclusive clubs. Have you never run into a gold digger before? For real?
I’m so mad. I’m just so mad. Moss uses his wealth to up-end this woman’s life and the lives of her friends. He forces her to let him buy her things and overrules her when she says no. And now he’s using that as evidence that she might be a gold digger?
I’m so mad. I’m just so mad because none of this has come up until 65% into the book, and it’s so obvious that it’s here just to stretch out the incredibly thin plot. If the characters ever made a single logic-based decision, this story would be over already.
You know, just like Moss’s fear that she’s a gold digger, which evaporates a paragraph later.
There’s a break and Moss gets woken up by his neighbor in London, who calls to tell him that his apartment has been robbed. And that’s the end of the chapter. A whole chapter where the characters do nothing and the storyline doesn’t advance until the last line.
My Impression So Far: This book could have been saved. Someone asked me how it could have been saved when I was doing Fitshaced Fortuneteller (if you’ve never heard of it, Fitshaced Fortuneteller is a weekly live stream on my YouTube channel every Saturday night at 10pm EST, where I get super drunk and read tarot cards and get wildly off topic and tell stupid stories). These are some of the points I came up with and probably didn’t make very clearly because I was hammered.
- Rather than Maxim deciding that he will rescue Alessia, Alessia could have approached him for help, giving her agency in the situation and the choice of whether or not she wanted to go with Maxim to the hideout. This would have separated Maxim’s actions from the actions of the kidnappers.
- Maxim should have alerted the authorities. The fact that he did not means that this entire time that they’re romancing it up, nothing is being done to rectify Alessia’s predicament. The traffickers are still out there and they’re still looking for her. Her problem is not being solved. They’re simply waiting for the plot to arrive in Cornwall.
- There must be a better reason for the traffickers to expend so much energy looking for her than just, “she got away.” So did two other girls. What makes Alessia worth all this effort?
- Both Maxim and Alessia have too much backstory and it’s too inconsistent. Connections to England and Poland aren’t necessary for Alessia’s story, but we’ve heard about them over and over. Maxim started the book out fucking his brother’s widow. Now, that plot thread is being ignored. We’re told that Maxim’s brother was well-liked and the better son, but every memory we see of him suggests he was a total a-hole. There are too many unnecessary details that will need to be wrapped up somehow but there’s just not going to be room.
- Maxim’s evolution should have been shown on the page. This goes back to how the dynamic would have been different if Alessia had asked for Maxim’s help, rather than having it forced upon her. Imagine a moment where the Earl of Laying Down Fat Beats has to consider whether or not he’ll help this woman in this dangerous situation and wonders what it is about her that makes him want to help her? That would have set a much better foundation for his total personality 180.
Those are just a few of the ways the book could have been better. But what the fuck would I know?