Huzzah and here we are! The penultimate installment of this round of Jealous Haters Book Club. The Mister is thirty-three chapters in total, but the last two are so pitifully short that I’m going to combine them rather than prolong our misery. I’ll post a more comprehensive update on blog things later this week but since a few people have asked, yes, we will be returning to Beautiful Disaster.
More importantly, however, we’ll be returning to our recaps…with a theme song, courtesy of Bunny. Since Bunny is a big MST3K fan, the song is meant to be sung to its theme tune. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here you go:
In the not-too-distant future,
Somewhere in Michigan,
There was a gal named Jenny
Who fell in love with Ed Sheeran.
She read some tripe that made her say
“These authors suck, they cannot stay!”
She grabbed a red pen with a curse
And in her scathing wit she hits
The very awfulest and worst!
“I’ll dissect cheesy novels,
Whatever you can find. (la la la)
I’ll sit right here and read them all
To save you peace of mind.” (la la la)
Now keep in mind, Jen can’t control
How bad these crap books get. (la la la)
So try not to get so annoyed
You do something you’ll regret!
Jealous Hater Roll Call:
Anger! (You’ll catch it!)
Blayde Trasket! (Hot stuff!)
Weeeed! (*sharp inhale*)
If you’re startin’ to feel the urge to rage
At certain talentless hacks, (la la la)
Then repeat to yourself “That’s what Twitter’s for
Right now I should just relax …
For Jealous Hater Book Club, Trout Nation!”
Since we left the last chapter with Demelssia seeing Moss, it’s only fair that we jump into his POV for his reaction in the next chapter. His heart beats hard while she stares at him and he stares back at her.
She looks stunning. Slender. Sweet. Her hair wild. But her skin is pale. Paler than I’ve ever seen her before, and she has a graze on one cheek and a bruise on the other. There are dark circles beneath her eyes that are shining with unshed tears.
A lump forms in my throat.
What have you been through, sweetheart?
“Hello,” I whisper. “You left without saying goodbye.”
And then we dive right back into Demelssia’s POV because this book is nothing if not a whiplash tour of our protagonists’ every god damn thought. It’s so annoying to have a teeny slice of Moss’s POV just so he could throw out a pithy line. He gives like, a single thought to the fact that she looks so beat up and then immediately it’s the rom-com one-liner. That could have easily been the chapter hook of the last chapter, in Demelssia’s POV, and then we could have opened the next chapter with what comes next in Demelssia’s POV, but god forbid a single breath doesn’t go by in which we get both characters’ reactions to it.
You know what? One time, I had a hard time figuring out which POV I wanted a story to be from. You know what I did? I wrote the same book from both POVs and published them both. I’m not saying that I’m in a place of expertise or skill to advise someone as successful and with such a masterful grasp of prose as E.L. James but like…
Anyway, Demelssia’s reaction:
Maxim is here. For her. Everyone else in the room disappears. She can see only him. His hair is touseled. He looks pale and tired, but relieved.
EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK NEEDS TO BE GETTING MORE IRON. OR SUN.
His startling green eyes drink her in, and his words touch her soul. The same words he used when he came to find her in Brentford.
How does she miss the mark so fucking badly? That line means nothing to the reader at this point. Absolutely nothing. But James set up, “I’ve got you,” to the tune of something like twenty-two times in the manuscript. THAT is the line that needed to get worked in but she was already seeing the blockbuster movie in her head when she wrote this and “you left without saying goodbye” was the line that seemed more cinematic.
But there’s a question on his face, beseeching her. It’s asking why she left.
Who’s asking? The question? His face?
He doesn’t know how she feels about him. But he came anyway.
He’s not with Caroline.
This is a lot of information to infer from a single glance at his face.
She lets out a small, sharp cry and races into his waiting arms. Maxim cradles her against his chest, holding her tightly. She inhales his scent. It’s clean and warm and familiar.
Never let me go.
And this is when Anatoli comes in and sees this embrace and Demelssia’s father stands up all furious. Demelssia tells Moss to trust her and he’s like, “always,” and we go into Moss’s POV.
Alessia turns to her father, who’s looking from us to the arsehole who kidnapped her.
Here’s an interesting point: up until the last chapter, he was still wondering if she’d been kidnapped or if she’d left on her own. Even though he sees she’s bruised up and junk, he never has the explicit thought that oh, clearly I was right, she was kidnapped. There’s no realization that we see on his part. We’re simply meant to fill in on our own.
After Moss talks about how handsome Anatoli is, Demelssia says something in Albanian.
There is a collective gasp of shock that rattles through the room.
What the fuck did she say?
What she said was that she’s pregnant and Moss is the father.
I feel a little dizzy. But wait…She can’t possibly…We only…We used…
Her father reaches for his shotgun.
Wait, wait. Are you telling me that Demelssia is actually using some of the cleverness and ingenuity we’ve been told she possesses? On the page? Right in front of God and everybody?!
We go back to Demelssia’s POV because why the fuck not. There are six POV switches in the eight pages of this chapter.
“You told me you were bleeding!” Anatoli screams at Alessia, and a vein in his forehead pulses with wrath.
Mama starts crying.
“I lied! I didn’t want you to touch me!” She turns to her father. “Babë, please. Don’t make me marry him. He is an angry, violent man. He will kill me.”
So, like, did anyone else get the feeling throughout the book that her father knew this and just didn’t care? I can’t remember if it was put that way explicitly, but I got the feeling that her father, being an abusive man himself, didn’t give a shit about Anatoli’s violent temper. Maybe I just misread things. Either way, I’m not sure why she thinks this is going to convince her abusive father not to marry her off. She shows them the bruises around her throat as proof of Anatoli’s violence.
“What the fuck!” Maxim bellows, and he lunges at Anatoli, grabbing him by the neck and throwing them both on the floor.
Both Anatoli and his neck? I’m very confused by this phrasing because like, tackling or tumbling or even bringing or falling would make more sense than Moss throwing himself on the ground.
But don’t worry about that, because it’s time for a POV switch:
He’s fucking dead.
Adrenaline coursing through my body, I take the fucker by surprise, knocking the breath out of him as he hits the floor with me on top of him.
Okay, one, Moss can’t possibly know that he knocked the wind out of Anatoli because that’s not something that’s visible. It’s a physical experience. Or, if we’re watching Buffy or Angel, something that frequently happens to vampires.
Second, we’ve now reached a point where the quick-cut POVs are overlapping. Again, if you want us to see the same thing twice from different POVs, there’s a way to do that. In fact, you’ve already done that before, Erika. Remember the two books you wrote from Christian Grey’s POV and you never did the third and fans are fucking furious about it?
So, Moss punches and strangles Anatoli before slamming his head into the tile floor until Alessia starts screaming and Tom has to pull Moss away and Mr. Demachi grabs a shotgun to threaten both Moss and Anatoli.
“You’re like all Englishmen,” the arsehole snarls. “You’re soft and weak, and your women are hard.”
“Soft enough to beat the shit out of you, you piece of crap,” I snap.
Oh, watch out with that potty language, Miss Steele.
As the red mist clears, I can hear Alessia fretting behind me.
Consider this: Demelssia grew up in an abusive household and was betrothed to an abusive man. She’s just watched the man she loves become incredibly violent, to the point that it makes her scream in fear. You’d think that would be something that comes up when we flip back to her POV, right?
Of course, you don’t think that. You know what this book is at this point. Nothing is a red flag if the hero is doing it.
Alessia’s father stands between the two men, looking at each of them in consternation.
“You come into my house bringing violence? In front of my wife and my daughter?” he addresses Maxim and his friend Tom.
Demelssis wonders what Tom is doing there and watches as the translator tells Moss what Mr. Demachi is saying. Moss apologizes, says he loves Demelssia and doesn’t want to see any harm come to her at the hands of a man…so, I guess a woman would be fine? Anyway, Mr. Demachi has words for Anatoli, as well:
“And you. You bring her back to me covered in bruises?”
“You know how spirited she is, Jak. She needs to be broken.”
“Broken? Like this?” Baba points to her neck.
Anatoli shrugs. “She’s a woman.” His tone implies that she’s of no consequence.
Thanks for cluing us in on the tone because otherwise, that whole exchange would have seemed super progressive and respectful of all womankind.
Again, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to reconcile Mr. Demachi’s abhorrence of violence toward his daughter when Demelssia has said more than once that he’d kill her if she dishonored him. Is he fine with her getting beaten by him, so long as nobody else does it? That makes sense, in a way, but the fact that it does make sense makes it seem wrong in the context of a book that makes very little.
So, Moss is about to go ham on Anatoli again but Demelssia stops him. Then her father calls her a whore and she’s like:
“Babë, Anatoli will kill me,” she whispers. “And if you want me dead, I’d rather you shot me with that gun you’re holding, so I might die at the hands of someone who is supposed to love me.”
It’s annoying me to see “Babë” in dialogue and “Baba” the rest of the time. That’s my own personal picky little annoyance, though. I can’t say that as a stylistic choice it’s necessary wrong.
Moss puts himself between Demelssia and her father, just in case Mr. Demachi was gonna take her up on the offer. Anatoli tells Mr. Demachi that the betrothal–and the money he was going to loan him in return for Demelssia–is off the table. So, basically, Mr. Demachi didn’t even sell his daughter. He put her up as collateral for a loan he was going to have to pay back anyway.
“Loan?” Maxim says. He turns his head slightly and speaks so that only Alessia can hear him. “This arsehole paid for you?”
How often are we gonna have to read the word “arsehole” in this chapter? This is turning into that annoying Buick commercial that’s out right now where they say “Buick” so much that it ends up making all the words around “Buick” sound like white noise and nonsense.
But no, Moss, he didn’t pay for her. That’s the fucked up part. I just said that. Aren’t you listening to me?
Maxim faces her father. “I will match any loan,” he says.
“No!” Alessia exclaims.
Her father glares at Maxim, furious.
“You dishonor him,” Alessia whispers.
HOW?! I guess I’m not as versed in Albanian culture as E.L. James is from her two trips and the stew her husband can make, but how on earth do you “dishonor” someone by offering money for their daughter when they’ve already made it abundantly clear that you’re open to that arrangement?
Anatoli says something about how he should have fucked Demelssia.
Maxim lurches at him, bristling with anger once more, but Anatoli is ready this time. From his coat pocket, he whisks out his pistol and takes aim at Maxim’s face.
“No!” Alessia shrieks and she darts quickly in front of Maxim, shielding him.
This is the second time one of them has put themselves between the other person and the barrel of a gun. What’s funny about this one is that we know Moss is taller than Demelssia, so Anatoli could still shoot right over her head.
“I don’t know whether to shoot you or him,” Anatoli snarls at her in his mother tongue, and he looks to her father for permission.
I thought Anatoli was Italian. So…is he speaking Italian? But it’s polite of him to ask permission to murder Mr. Demachi’s daughter. Here’s the fucked up part:
Baba stares back at Anatoli and then at Alessia.
Like, maybe what you say is “don’t shoot anybody.” Baba still has his own gun out. He could take care of this Anatoli problem like, right now. Instead, he’s considering whether or not Anatoli should shoot his daughter.
Alessia leans forward. “What are you going to do, Anatoli?” She jabs her index finger at him. “Shoot him or me?”
But there’s no real danger, Demelssia points out, because she took all his bullets. When Anatoli aims at Demelssia, Mr. Demachi jams the butt of his shotgun into Anatoli, who falls on the floor and attempts to shoot Mr. Demachi. But of course, the gun is empty, just like Demelssia said.
“Go!” Baba bellows. “Go now, Anatoli, before I shoot you myself. You want to start a blood feud?”
“Over your whore?”
“She is my daughter, and these people are guests in my house. Go. Now. You are no longer welcome here.”
Anatoli gazes at her father, his fury and impotence written in every tense muscle on his face. “You’ve not heard the last of this,” he snarks at Baba and Maxim.
“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!”
Anatoli takes off, and Mr. Demachi lays into Demelssia for dishonoring the family. He moves to strike her, but Moss protects her and loses his entire shit:
“Don’t you dare touch a hair on her head,” I snarl, towering over him. “This woman has been through hell. And all because of you and your shit choice of a husband for her. She’s been kidnapped by sex traffickers. She’s escaped. She’s gone without food. She’s walked for days with nothing. And after all that, she was resilient enough to get herself a job and hold body and soul together with barely any help. How can you treat her this way? What kind of father are you? Where is your honor?”
This doesn’t go over great with Mr. Demachi, who listens to rest of Moss’s tirade before cocking his shotgun and telling Moss he’s going to have to marry Demelssia.
Shotgun wedding. Get it?
My Impression So Far: This book just needs to figure out how to end itself. This just needs to be over.