You know what’s really difficult? Finding news to report on this book. I haven’t even seen much ado about E.L. James’s BookCon panel over the weekend. Either I’ve unfollowed all the right people on social media, or all the right people have blocked me. Either way, I’m good, but at least Twitter pulled through for me in one respect. My awesome Twitter friend Quiana sent me pictures of some kind of promotional box for The Mister that includes pink granny panties, Windolene wipes, and artsy black-and-white photos of the Cornish countryside.
Imagine opening up your super amazing publisher promo or subscription box or whatever this thing was and finding underpants and cleaning products. Ah, the romance.
We last left Moss on the phone with his neighbor in London. Now, some people have commented on the fact that he even knows his neighbor, and I gotta say…maybe things are different in England, but I live in a small rural village in the United States, the same one where I’ve spent most of my life, ten of which have been in this very house, and I have no fucking clue who the people who live across the street are. Oh, sure, I know some of the people on the road because we all live in the same town. If I met the people across the street, I would probably know them from somewhere else. But in ten years, I’ve never had a single conversation with them. I certainly don’t have their phone number.
But apparently Mrs. B, the London neighbor, does have Moss’s contact info, and she’s called to tell him about how his front door was open and when she peeked inside, the place had been ransacked.
“I was going to call the police, but I thought I’d call you instead, dear.”
“Well. Thank you. I appreciate it. I’ll deal with this.”
Should have called the police, Mrs. B., because Moss isn’t going to do that. If he’s not even willing to call the police when two human trafficking thugs are after his woman, he’s definitely not going to call them when his house has been broken into.
Actually, now that I think of it (and if someone has pointed this out in the comments already, I apologize), he might need to scrub that house of illegal substances before he contacts the authorities about his house.
Shit! Fuck! Bollocks!
Other swear word! As many as I can think of! So long as I can use them in threes!
What have the fuckers stolen? I don’t have much–all the important stuff is in the safe. I hope they haven’t found that.
Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
If you say it three times into a mirror, Anastasia Rose Steele Grey appears behind you, her ghostly voice entreating, “What’s a butt plug?”
What a fucking nuisance.
I may have to go back to London, and I don’t want to go. I’m having way too much fun with Alessia.
Okay, so yes. The plot. That’s what you’re having an issue with here. You’re afraid it might turn up somehow and ruin the more interesting story happening on the page. Let me reassure you that whatever is happening to you at the moment isn’t interesting at all, so you needn’t worry.
He gets up and goes to the other room to call Oliver about the break-in.
“Good morning. My neighbor’s just called me. She says I’ve been burgled.”
And of course, Oliver, being a security expert and well-versed in the laws surrounding things like breaking and entering, immediately suggests that Moss call the cops.
Ha ha ha. Nope. Oliver says he’ll get out of bed and race right over to the apartment himself.
Look. I’m not a fan of the police in many, many, many cases. However, there are times that a rich white person like Moss or Chedward should call the police. Yet in their respective books, they never, ever do. It’s the first call Moss should have made when he found out Demelssia was being trafficked. It’s the first call Chedward should have made when Ana was being held at gunpoint by his ex-sub. These are rich, powerful, white men. The law, and by extension, the police, exist to serve specifically their interests. And if Oliver’s security company wants to stay on the straight and narrow, they should probably call the police when a crime has been committed.
The problem with all of this is that it would be plot. And plot gets in the way of fascinating stuff like going to lunch with the characters, then back to the house with the characters, then to sex and sleep with the characters, then to waking up with the characters, then to lunch with the characters, then back to the house with the characters, then to sex and sleep with the characters, then to waking up with the characters, then to lunch
You get what I’m saying. Rather than write any scenes that would actively advance the plot, James prefers to keep her characters as far from it as possible, even if it requires suddenly tossing in manufactured conflicts like, “maybe she’s a gold digger!” in a desperate bid to keep things marginally interesting. They may have marketed this as romantic suspense but it’s pretty clear that it’s not; law enforcement exists in romantic suspense. It doesn’t in an E.L. James book.
Of course, since Ross Poldark often runs afoul of the law, he rarely invokes their help and often relies on his friends and neighbors to help settle disputes or undertake potentially dangerous missions, so…
What a fucking pain in the arse this is–some fucking lowlife addict or maybe some feral teenage kids wrecking my place.
Fuck. A. Duck.
Fuck a duck, he doesn’t even consider that it could have been the traffickers? That isn’t the very first thing on his mind?
Moss laments the fact that he won’t be spending the day with Demelssia.
Well, I might still be able to do so, but I need to assess the damage–and I don’t want to do it from my phone. If I FaceTime Oliver from the iMac up at the great hout, I’ll get a better view. He can show me via his phone what’s happened.
This doesn’t make any sense. I have an iMac. If a friend FaceTimes me from their phone, do you know what I see? Only what their phone camera can show me. It’s not like it becomes instantly panoramic just because I’m on a wider screen. It doesn’t even look bigger or particularly defined on the larger screen; in a lot of cases, it’s more pixelated.
But obviously, we need to somehow get him up to the great house so we can learn of its majesty and history.
Moss wakes Demelssia up.
She looks rumpled and sexy and eminently fuckable.
Please take this woman’s thesaurus away.
He decides not to tell her about the break-in, so she won’t worry. There has still been no mention of the possibility that it’s related to the traffickers. I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that if he did tell her, she would immediately bring up the traffickers, which would spoil the chapter hook. Therefore, the subject is avoided entirely. “They won’t see this coming!” the author thinks triumphantly. “Because by now, I trust the reader has completely forgotten the fact that Alessia is being pursued by kidnappers. I know that I’ve halfway forgotten about them! But better not even mention the possibility, lest I ruin the surprise.”
After taking a shower, Moss emerges to find that Demelssia has made him espresso.
It’s hot, strong, and delicious. A little like Alessia.
I love the inclusion of “a little.” She’s “a little” hot. She’s “a little” strong. She’s “a little” delicious. Not totally. Not a lot. Just barely meeting the minimum requirements.
So, Moss leaves and we go to Demelssia’s POV.
Something bad has happened. A frisson skitters up her spine, but she’s not sure why. She signs. There’s so mcuh she doesn’t know about him.
I’m so done with this. I am so officially done with chapters upon chapters of boring small talk wherein she tells him about the fucking weather in her country and he skirts any possible conversational topic. That is not conflict. It’s a cop-out. Obviously, if you refuse to let your characters share any information, they will remain mysterious to each other. But they’ve been isolated together for how many days now? Falling in love? Having sex all the time? Eating long dinners we have to get every excruciating detail of? And all the while, the author makes excuse after excuse as to why they can’t possibly get to know each other. Do you know what that does? It makes the reader question the emotional connection we’ve been told, not shown but told, is there.
And he said they might have to return to London.
She will have to face the reality of her situation.
Again, we’ve been told over and over again in Demelssia’s POV that she can’t think of this as a holiday because she’s still in danger or whatever. She’s had those thoughts more than once. She’s already been aware of the reality of her situation while they’ve been in Cornwall.
So, we’re back in Maxim’s POV as he approaches the great house. Allow me to treat you to the description of the place:
In this winter rain, the landscape is dreary and damp and dotted with the occasional sheep. Come spring, the cattle will be out to graze again. Through the leafless trees, I catch sight of the house. Nestled in the wide dale, slate gray and Gothic, it dominates the landscape as if plucked from a novel by one of the Brontë sisters.
IDK, I was thinking more like from a novel by Winston Graham.
The original house was built on the site of a Benedictine priory. But the land and the abbey were seized by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries. Over a centure later, in 1661, following the restoration of the monarchy, the estate was bestowed, along with the title Earl of Trevethick, to Edward Trevelyan for his services to Charles II. The great house he built was all but destroyed by fire in 1862, and this neo-Gothic monstrosity, with all its finials and fake molded battlements, was build in its place. It’s the seat of the earls of Trevethick, a huge rambling pile, and I’ve always loved it.
Description of the entire country of Albania: IDK, there are like, mountains or something but the whole place is covered in garbage.
Description of just one of Moss’s houses: Allow me to reach back to days of yore and provide the entire history of when it was built, as well as a description of its surroundings.
Moss describes the place in more detail, from the portraits on the walls of the study to the furniture and how much has and hasn’t changed since his childhood. Jessie, who if I remember correctly, is the cooking lesbian, comes into the study and Moss tells her about the break-in. Then Moss asks for coffee, which Jessie is going to bring him and like. Didn’t you just have espresso? Moss must take the runniest, coal-black dumps, I swear.
There. You have that image now.
We go to Alessia’s POV, where she’s in the shower. Because that’s all these characters really do: eat lunch, eat dinner, fuck, and shower. “A rollercoaster ride.” Remember, that’s how this book was described.
Anyway, in the five paragraphs she’s alotted for her thoughts and feelings (one of them a single sentence, one two words, and one a single word), we learn that…she’s sad about going back to London because she’s enjoyed her time with Moss. Which we already knew. And she’s still feeling anxiety about Moss being away from the house, and she wishes she could work up the courage to touch him…everywhere.
Now, if she could just work up the courage to touch him…everywhere.
Yay, a new point of conflict. Let’s add it to the list.
- Moss is a playboy who can never settle down.
- Alessia is being pursued by kidnappers.
- Moss fucked his sister-in-law.
- Moss is a newly-made earl and can’t deal with it.
- Moss is in love with Demelssia but he can’t be with her because he’s an earl.
- Demelssia’s loved ones are in danger, too.
- Demelssia is betrothed.
- Demelssia might be a gold digger.
- Demelssia doesn’t want to be perceived as a gold digger.
- Caroline’s inheritance is all screwed up.
- Moss can’t tell Demelssia he’s an earl.
- Moss is grieving for his dead brother.
- Demelssia is afraid to touch Moss’s penis.
How can there be so much conflict, yet nothing ever happens?
In Moss’s POV, we hear about the damage done to the flat:
Much of my flat is unaffected by the burglary.
Then he describes the fact that his darkroom is okay and his cameras are still there, and that nobody found the safe, before going on to describe:
They’ve stole some of my shoes and some jackets from my wardrobe, though it’s difficult to tell, as there are clothes thrown around my bedroom.
The drawing room, on the other hand, is a mess. All my photography has been ripped off the walls. My iMac is smashed on the floor. My laptop and consoles are gone, and my vinyl is all over the floor. Fortunately, the piano is untouched.
So, how is “much of” the flat unaffected, if they’ve ransacked his bedroom and destroyed all his shit? WORDS. THEY MEAN THINGS.
The door was forced open, and Maxim says:
“Yeah. They must have forced it with something heavy. The fuckers. I must have forgotten to set the alarm in my haste to leave.”
But he never mentions the possibility of it being the kidnappers. Oliver did call the police, at least, and they arrive, ending the phone call. Because why would they want to talk to Moss, right?
I hope Oliver hid Moss’s cocaine. We honestly can’t fit another plot thread into this tapestry of failure.
Danny insists that Moss stay at the great house for breakfast. Rather than saying, hey, no, I’ve got a guest back at the house, he folds because Danny is a maternal figure and also that would interfere with the coming chapter hook.
Back at the other house, Alessia is drying off from her shower and getting dressed.
She cannot seem to shake her apprehension. She jumps at every strange noise she hears.
Gosh, I wonder if something bad is going to happen. We’ve only heard about her anxiety a hundred times in this chapter.
Now, I’m going to skim the fuck over this next scene, because again, after a few short paragraphs, we jump back to Moss at the great house. This is what happens:
- Moss goes into the kitchen.
- Moss describes how many people were on staff in the middle ages vs. how many people they have on staff now.
- Moss describes the farms he now owns and what is grown on them and it’s all organic.
- Moss describes the traditional way the house and outdoor staff eat at separate sittings.
- Moss discusses the break-in briefly with Jenkins.
- We learn that another very minor character that I’m not sure has even ever been on the page is absent due to a dentist appointment.
- Moss thinks about how breakfast was when he was a kid.
- Danny and Moss hash out who will clean up the mess at his flat in London.
Only after all this does Danny think to mention:
“That reminds me,” she says. “There were two very unsavory characters who came calling for you yesterday.”
“What?” She has my immediate attention, and everyone else’s in the room. She pales.
The dialogue there needs to come after the part about her having everyone’s attention. On its own separate line, so it’s clear who is saying, “‘What?'”
“They were asking after you. I told them to bugger off, sir.”
“Rough-looking, sir. Aggressive. From Eastern Europe, I think. Anyway–”
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
They looked unsavory, aggressive, and rough…because they were Eastern European.
No, no, that’s okay, Erika. Make no attempt whatsoever to hide your utter disdain of Eastern European people. I mean, I didn’t think you could make yourself look more like a xenophobic nightmare trash heap of a person at this point but you keep on achieving excellence in the field.
So, obviously Moss thinks:
You know how this whole conflict could have been avoided? If Moss hadn’t decided that everything needed to be handled in the utmost secrecy. If he’d simply told his staff, “If anyone fitting this description comes around here, please call the police.” If he had involved law enforcement in any capacity, all of this would be a non-issue.
Which is exactly why James didn’t have him do that. Because she has no idea at all how to get both the things she wants from her plot, even though it would have been so easy to pull off and it would make more sense in the process. Writing Tip: Sometimes it requires more than a half-hour or so of vaguely thinking about the structure of your novel to actually get what you want from it.
Back in Demelssia’s POV, she’s now brushing her hair, concluding the slowest morning routine of all time.
She switches off the hair dryer, feeling ill at ease and wondering if she heard something. But it’s only the sound of the crashing waves in the cove below. She stands staring out the window down at the sea.
Mister Maxim gave her the sea.
She smiles remembering her antics on the beach. The rain is easing off. Perhaps they could go for another walk on the shore today. And back to that pub for lunch. That was a good day.
Which one?! It’s happened every day!
From downstairs she hears the scrape of furniture on the wooden floor and hushed male voices.
Has Maxim brought someone back to the house?
“Urtë!” someone grates in a strangled whisper. It’s her mother tongue!
According to Google translate, that word means “wise.” Can one of our Albanian Trout Nation friends explain why someone would use that word in this context?
Fear and adrenaline sweep through her body as she stands frozen in the bedroom.
Get under the bed and call Liam Neeson, pronto!
It’s Dane and Ylli.
They’ve found her.
My Impression So Far: Well, we’ve at least reached the point where the plot finally has to interfere with E.L.’s desire to write scene after boring scene of bland internal conflict that will never get resolved. But I’m not gonna get too excited about it. There’s no way it can last.