Fifty Shades Shallower – “It’s only a small luxury yacht, darling.”

These chapters go on forever. I just read chapters three and four and my brain has gone numb. I am so bored. If hell is real there is a level that even Dante couldn’t imagine – a level that is just one huge library. And every single one of the books in it is Fifty Shades Freed. There is nothing else to read – not even the fire drill instructions (if they have such a thing in Hell) or the EXIT sign (they probably have those in Hell – just to fuck with you) and you have to read Fifty Shades Freed forever and ever and ever, until your brain is made of the same bland, moronic porridgy substance as the book itself. And you drool and smile vacantly and nod. Because you love him. At last. You love Christian Grey.

Right. Yes. Sorry.

 Chapter Three

So. Ana goes to the mirror and finds that her naughty old husband has covered her neck and titties in hickeys, so that she can no longer display her breasts in public. Because her breasts belong to him, apparently.

Where the fuck did she find this man? Some kind of Victorian Sexism museum? A Viz strip from 1992?

How did I not feel him doing this to me? I flush. The fact is I know exactly why – Mr. Orgasmic was using his fine-motor sexing skills on me.

The mere fact that you call them ‘fine-motor sexing skills’ tells me you’re not ready.

My subconscious peers over her half-moon specs and tuts disapprovingly, while my inner goddess slumbers on her chaise longue, out for the count.

That and you are unable to express emotions without involving your imaginary friends.

My wrists have red welts around them from the handcuffs. No doubt they’ll bruise. I examine my ankles – more welts. Holy hell, I look like I’ve been in some sort of accident.

You weren’t. You just married one.

Since she’s in front of the mirror, Ana decides to helpfully describe herself, just like she did on the first page of book one. So that we know she’s changed, you understand. She’s had a manicure and has her split ends snicked off. She’s not a static character or anything.

Actually, in these two chapters Ana demonstrates more character development than she has in the previous two books. Unfortunately, she hasn’t changed for the better.

She’s furious with Christian. She hurls a hairbrush at him and stomps off in a snit. He follows her, accurately divulges that she’s angry (he’s as smart as he is charming) and she tells him she’s close to committing violence.

Of course, he’ll probably stick his nob up her or buy her something expensive and she’ll get over it, just like she always does, but hey – let’s wring the situation for all the petty drama it’s worth.

He shrugs minutely. “Well, you won’t take your top off again,” he murmurs petulantly.

Call his bluff. Seriously. Do it. Next time you’re at the beach, whack some factor 50 on your nips and take it off. Hickeys and all.

He apologises, although he would probably still flip his prissy shit if she did go topless again. She decides it’s actually all okay because his therapist says he was going through some kind of arrested adolescence shit. And she fucking loves that. If he wasn’t a sexually arrested, spoilt, humourless, charm-free manchild what on earth would they argue about? And if they didn’t spend every second of the day arguing then something terrible would happen; they’d have to talk to one another.

And nobody wants that.

Anyway, all’s forgiven until the next pointless spat.

Time for dinner. Ana complains she’s not dressed.

I’m sure my sweatpants and camisole would be frowned upon in the dining room.

“You look good to me Anastasia. Besides, it’s our boat for the week. We can dress how we like…”

Just don’t show your norks to anyone but me. There’s a good girl.

At this point she should put on her high heels and a string of pearls and walk into dinner wearing nothing else. Never mind pas devant les domestiques, darling. Go on. Do it. Fuck with him.

Of course, she doesn’t, because she has the personality of a wet lettuce. It’s at this point that she introduces me to a whole new experience – actually wanting to be married to Christian Grey.

I mean, it’s such a wasted opportunity. No pre-nup, constant unreasonable behaviour and he’s probably still got that handy box of kinky blackmail photos of his ex-girlfriends stashed in the back of the bedroom closet. By the time I’d finished with him the cunt would be eating catfood for dinner.

Back with the plot (such as it is) they’re eating crème brulee and he’s muttering about the ‘crack-whore’ and his painful childhood, just like he always does when she calls him in on his shit. Following dessert he expounds on his theory that orgasms are more intense on a full bladder. They’re not, but it sounds like a really good way to get a bladder infection.

He grins, looking far too knowing. Will I always be on the back foot with Mr. Sexpertise?

In a word, yes. For an ‘intelligent’ woman, Ana has all the intellectual curiosity of a bedsock. Honestly – you can find this out for yourself. Just read a book. A sexy book. Unlike this one.

Then they dance. For several pages. I’m so bored. Then they go to bed, because again it’s time for a section break.

She wakes up. Goes into the bathroom. He’s shaving. For about three pages. And now it’s time for another flashback – an exciting new technique that Ms. James only just discovered in this book. Only guess what the flashback’s about this time?

Shaving Ana’s twat. There we go. Book three of the bestselling porn trilogy and she’s only just got around to shaving her mimsy. I feel like the Trading Standards Office should be involved, I really do. Everyone from Jeremy Paxman downwards made these books sound like they were the filthiest thing since the One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom. And they’re just so not.

So yeah – about five pages of minge shaving. This takes place in London, by the way. You know – London. That city Ana is permanently frothing about because she probably thinks Tess of the D’Urbervilles lives there. Christian apparently went off to a business meeting and she couldn’t think of anything else to do but sit around in the hotel room and shave her tuppence. In London. It’s not like there’s any art or culture or anything for an Anglophile American tourist to do in London.

He comes in and offers to shave her. She goes all pink and stupid(er), and complains it’s too…intimate.

“Intimate?” he whisperes. “Ana, I crave intimacy with you – you know that. Besides, after some of the things we’ve done, don’t get all squeamish on me now. And I know this part of your body better than you do.”

I gape at him [lol]. Of all the arrogant…true, he does. But still.

This is just sad. And stupid. How is she this dumb? Hasn’t she ever been curious about masturbation?

Anyway, end of flashback. And then she shaves him.

No, not his bush. His face. God, she’s not going to shave his balls for him. That would be pervy. And we couldn’t have that.

This is the worst dirty book ever.

Then they decide they’re going out to some village.

“…there are some galleries there. I thought we could pick out some paintings or sculptures for the new house, if we find anything we like.”

I lean back and gaze at him. Art…he wants to buy art. How can I buy art?

Find an art. Point at art. Ask ‘Is that art for sale?’ If yes, buy art.

Nobody is this stupid. Nobody.

“What?” he asks.

“I know nothing about art, Christian.”

You know nothing about anything. So what’s new?

So they go to buy some art, because we don’t want anything to happen in the first three chapters of a book. That will just startle the readers. Then he has one of his Mommy-issue spasms, surprisingly not following a fight this time. This is because they’re getting smooshy – awww.

He’ll always be Fifty Shades…my Fifty Shades. Do I want him to change? No, not really – only insofar as I want him to feel loved. Peeking up at him, I take a moment to admire his captivating beauty…and he’s mine. And it’s not just the allure of his fine, fine face and his body that has me spellbound. It’s what’s behind the perfection that draws me, that calls to me…his fragile, damaged soul.

Yep. There it is. It’s all in the open now. She’s admitted that if he was in any way homely or well-adjusted she’d be out the door before you could say Angel Clare. These books would be even more depressing than they actually are if either of the main characters were even slightly nice. But they’re not. They’re assholes. And they deserve each other.

Then he buys her a thirty thousand euro diamond bracelet to make up for putting hickeys on her titties. In a piece of fantastically dicked up symbolism, the Eurotrash bling is wide enough to hide the handcuff welts on her wrists. Part of me already needs a nice hot cup of tea and a blanket.

Stretching up on tiptoes, I put my arms around his neck and kiss him…not for giving me the bracelet but for being mine.

And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

They drive around a bit. We learn that Ana’s inner goddess reads Jackie Collins. If this is a diss on La Collins, James, then we are going to have a problem. Jackie Collins may write trashy, dumb, melodramatic novels, but my God they’re entertaining.

Let me tell you about Jackie. There’s an odd little foo-foo custom in Hollywood. On Oscar Night it’s considered unseemly for a woman to wear her own jewels. The jewellery is usually hired and is as a sought after advertising opportunity for the blingsters of Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston and so on.

One Oscar Night Jackie came out in diamonds. “Where did you hire your jewels?” asked the interviewer, at which Jackie Collins purred, Mae West style “Oh darling – these are mine. I earned these.”

I love Jackie. Fuck you, James.

So. Where were we? Holy shit – something exciting is happening. There’s a fire! At Christian’s office! In Seattle! Or Portland! Or Vancouver! (Where do they actually live anyway?)

This is Christian’s cue to pick up the phone and do a lot of expository shouting down it so that we think he actually does work. He doesn’t. This guy puts the laissez faire in laissez faire capitalism. In about three books he’s done more or less fuck all and whenever he is in the office he’s busy e-mailing Soggy-knickers.

“Has he? Good…okay. I want a detailed damage report. And a complete run down of everyone who had access over the last five days, including the cleaning staff…Get hold of Andrea and get her to call me…Yeah, sounds like the argon is just as effective, worth its weight in gold.”

Damage report? Argon? It rings a distant bell from chemistry class – an element, I think.

It’s an inert gas, dear. Rather like the contents of your head.

“We don’t know for sure that it was arson,” he says, cutting to the heart of my anxiety. My hand clutches my throat in fear. Charlie Tango and now this? What next?

A plot?

Or am I just being silly?

Chapter Four

I would feel more excited about getting through these chapters if I didn’t know there were twenty-one more to go. Also there is something called ‘Fifty’s First Christmas’ and ‘Meet Fifty Shades’ awaiting me after the epilogue. Still, there’s always the Copyright page – which is bound to be bleakly hilarious.

Then again, Fifty’s First Christmas. Wonder what that involves? If it’s Christian Grey wearing nothing but a smile and a mistletoe cockring I’m going to be very upset.

Ah, who am I kidding? Cockrings? In these books?

Whatever. Avanti!

I’m restless. Christian has been holed up in the onboard study for anover an hour. I have tried reading, watching TV, sunbathing – fully dressed sunbathing – but I can’t relax, and I can’t rid myself of this edgy feeling.

Yeah. That’s boredom. I know it well.

…I remove the ludicrously expensive cuff and go to find Taylor.

“Mrs. Grey,” he says, startled from his Anthony Burgess novel.

So – let me get this straight. Taylor is a gun-toting badass war veteran who enjoys the operas of Giacomo Puccini and the novels of Anthony Burgess? Welcome to one more reason why I’d actually like to be married to Christian Grey; banging the smoking hot chauffeur.

Anyway, Ana would like to go shopping. Because she’s a bookworm. Apparently she’s read the entire canon of Western literature and can’t be arsed to learn Mandarin this afternoon, so dumb-grunt Taylor must stir himself from Abba Abba and take Mess of the D’Urbervilles here to the nearest Gucci boutique.

I used to work for people like this. You can probably guess what we used to say about them behind their back.

But Ana is nothing if not creative. She’s going to ruin Taylor’s afternoon in an unexpected way. Also possibly his life. Because she is a thing from Hell.

“I’d like to take the Jet Ski.”

His mouth drops open. “Erm.” He frowns, at a loss for words.

“I don’t want to bother Christian with this.”

He represses a sigh. “Mrs. Grey…um…I don’t think Mr. Grey would be very comfortable with that, and I’d like to keep my job.”

Oh, for heaven’s sake! I want to roll my eyes at him, but I narrow them instead, sighing heavily and expressing, I think, the right amount of frustrated indignation that I am not mistress of my own destiny.

Aww. Our little Ana is all grown up. And she is a bitch.

She goes into Christian’s study, tells him she’s going shopping and doesn’t mention the Jet Ski. Ana’s subconscious reminds her of this and is called a ‘harpy’ for her pains. Then she goes out and lies to Taylor, telling him that Christian has said she can take the Jet Ski.

Ana rides about on the Jet Ski and has fun for the first time in…well…ever. Then Taylor gets it in the neck from the boss.

“Mrs. Grey,” Taylor says nervously, his cheeks pink once more. “Mr. Grey is not entirely comfortable with you riding on the Jet Ski.” He’s practically squirming with embarrassment, and I realise he’s had an irate call from Christian. Oh my poor, pathologically overprotective husband, what am I going to do with you?

My notes on this page simply say ‘cunt’. I don’t have anything to add.

I cannot believe how fond I am of Taylor, but I really don’t appreciate being scolded by him – he’s not my father or my husband.

No, he’s just the staff, after all. See what I mean? Character development. And my my my, it’s not very pretty.

The car is waiting, and Taylor holds the door open for me. I wink at him as I climb in, and he shakes his head in amusement.

That’s not amusement. He’s probably just smiling to keep from thinking about how much he hates you. And he hates you a lot.

Ana gets in the car, gets on her Blackberry and starts e-mailing Christian. Again, I’ll just let my notes say it for me; it says ‘nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo’.

Why did I want to go shopping? I hate shopping. But deep down I know why, and I walk determinedly past Chanel, Gucci, Dior, and the other designer boutiques and eventually find the antidote to what ails me in a small, overstocked touristy store. It’s a little silver ankle bracelet with small hearts and little bells. It tinkles sweetly and it costs five euros. As soon as I’ve bought it, I put it on. This is me – this is what I like. Immediately I feel more comfortable. I don’t want to lose touch with the girl who likes this, ever.

Given that your little shopping trip almost cost a man his livelihood and you didn’t give two fucks, I’m going to say you’re pretty much there already, Ana. Welcome to the One Per Cent. You hellbeast.

She recalls hanging around the Louvre with Christian.

We were looking at the Venus de Milo at the time…Christian’s words echo in my head, “We can all appreciate the female form. We love to look whether in marble or oils or satin or film.”

Just not on the beach. You whore.

It gives me an idea, a daring idea. I just need help choosing the right one, and there’s only one person who can help me. I wrestle my Blackberry out of my purse and call José.

“Who…?” he mumbles sleepily.

“José, it’s Ana.”

“Ana, hi! Where are you? You okay?” He sounds more alert now, concerned.

It’s always a good sign when you call your friends from your honeymoon and they react like you’re phoning from one of Dexter’s plastic lined murder rooms.

“South of France, huh? You in some fancy hotel?”

“Um…no. We’re staying on a boat.”

“A boat?”

“A big boat.” I clarify, sighing.

“I see.” His tone chills…Shit. I should not have called him. I don’t need this right now.

Oh yeah. Like he needed to be woken up at what the fuck o’clock in the morning. Do they not have Timezones on Planet Ana?

Like I say, here’s some character development at last. Unfortunately she’s developed into a full-fledged, dead-eyed sociopath. Just like her husband.

Anyway, her brilliant idea was a camera. It wasn’t exciting. She asks Christian if he’d like to take nudey pictures of her.

What is he thinking? Oh, this is not the reaction I was expecting, and my subconscious glares at me like I’m a domesticated farm animal.

Ana, your subconscious is really, really weird. Just so you know.

Christian swallows and runs a hand through his hair, and he looks so lost, so confused. He takes a deep breath.

“For me, photos like those have usually been an insurance policy, Ana. I know I’ve objectified women for so long,” he says and pauses awkwardly.

He still does. Go out on deck with your tits out and guarantee he’ll start squawking ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’ like one of the seagulls from Finding Nemo. Go on. Just try it.

Well, anyway. It’s time for another one of those long, wangsty conversations about nothing. Because it’s not like there’s anything important going on elsewhere. Like his office being arsonised or anything.

“I am so confused,” he whispers. When he opens his eyes again, they are wide and wary, full of some raw emotion. Shit. Is it me? My questions earlier about his birth mom? The fire at his office?

How these books ever became international bestsellers?

Time for Ana to have another one of her thick-person psychological insights.

And in a possibly unique moment of extraordinary depth and clarity…

No. It actually says that. I’m not even kidding.

…it comes to me – the fire, Charlie Tango, the Jet Ski…He’s scared, he’s scared for me, and seeing these marks on my skin must bring that home.

Marks that he made. Because he didn’t want anyone else to see your boobs. But we’ll bypass they’re busy whining again.

“Is this about the fire? Do you think it’s connected somehow to Charlie Tango?…”

You mean, does he think that the guy who attempted to rape you in book two and who disappeared without anyone calling the police had anything to do with sabotaging the helicopter and setting fire to the office? Nah. That’d be silly.

Christian then goes quiet, like he always does when there’s a plot point in the way of his issues. Ana gets out the camera and takes pictures of him. Then Christian decides not to sulk and everyone gets mood whiplash as he comes over all playful. Well, kind of playful.

“I could oppress you big-time, Mrs. Grey,” he threatens, his voice husky.

“I know you can, Mr. Grey. And you do, frequently.”

I don’t think that word means what you think it means, E.L.

So, yeah – I’m kind of baffled now, because he’s supposed to be a control-freak and someone’s set fire to his office, but he’s not cutting his honeymoon short and is in fact rolling around on the bed like a teenager, giggling and taking selfies. I suppose I was asking too much for any kind of consistent characterisation, wasn’t I?

Then it’s time for sex. Because they haven’t boned in this chapter yet.

I gasp and moan against his lips, losing myself to his fervent passion. I dismiss the distant alarm bells in the back of my mind, knowing that he wants me, that he needs me, and that when it comes to communicating with me, this is his favourite form of self-expression.

I love how Ana is basically damning this marriage out of her own mouth; she’s not only admitted that she’s into him because he’s broken and because she wants to fix him, but now tacitly confesses that they fuck more than they talk.

After they fuck they recite their wedding vows back to one another. For some reason. Probably wordcount reasons. Their wedding vows are also fucking stupid.

“I promise to love you unconditionally…”

And I’m going to stop you there, Ana. Unconditionally. I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. All love is conditional. Like some of the conditions of my love are that you remain reasonably true to the person I fell in love with and that if you are going to change then change in a way we can both live with. Like, if you take up serial killing or join a white supremacist group then we’re gonna have a problem; we’re not going to be sharing the same values anymore.

But whatever. We’re living in happy candy fucky nonsense land here, so on we go.

“I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals and dreams, to honour and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, to share my hopes and dreams with you, and bring you solace in times of need.”

Aww. It’s like all my aunt’s Facebook shares threw up on my Kindle.

That’s all you need to know about then. Then they cry and she’s all “Why won’t you talk to me, Christian?” and he’s all “No, but then we’ll have to pay attention to the plot,” and I’m so bored, reader. So bored.

He sighs and opens his eyes, his expression bleak. “It’s arson,” he says simply, and he looks suddenly so young and vulnerable.

We officially have a plot! It’s taking place on the other side of the world and they’ll probably ignore it for the next twenty-one chapters, but we have one!

The familiar painful ache sweels inside me, and the profound sadness that I hold in my heart for Christian as a little boy seizes me once more. I know I would do anything for this man because I love him so.

I know everyone talks about how Christian Grey is basically an even less charming version of Patrick Bateman, but Ana really is a foul young woman. She’s like one of those creepy little fangirls who write horrifying torture porn about their favourite fictional characters, so that they can pity them and wallow in their beautiful, beautiful trauma.

Then there’s another flashback and they’re in Versailles this time. E.L. James attempts to give us a history lesson, because she’s been on Wikipedia.

Once a humble hunting lodge, it was transformed by the Roi Soleil into a magnificent, lavish seat of power, but even before the eighteenth century ended it saw the last of those absolute monarchs.

The Hall of Mirrors is of course ‘stunning’, and ‘breathtaking’, because God forbid our slack-jawed narrator cough out a word she didn’t directly rip out of a tourist brochure.

Christian tells her he would build the Hall of Mirrors just for her and then it’s back to the present.

“What are you thinking about?” Christian asks softly, taking a sip of his after dinner coffee.

“Versailles.”

“Ostentatious, wasn’t it?” He grins. I glance around the more understated grandeur of the Fair Lady’s dining room and purse my lips.

“This is hardly ostentatious,” Christian says, a tad defensively.

It’s only a small luxury yacht, darling.

They’ve got two more days of their honeymoon and just as predicted, he’s ignoring the plot. Then Ana gets an e-mail from Kate.

I skimmed over the last e-mail exchange because I was rocking back and forth, sobbing, trying to pretend that this wasn’t happening again. However, this has some interesting information.

It’s August. The 17th, to be precise. Given that they’ve been on their honeymoon for about two weeks they must have married in the first week of August.

They got together in late May. Of the same year.

Ana has discovered Skype. Too late. Skype would mean Kate could have conducted the interview from her sickbed and Ana and Christian would never have met. This whole book series could have been avoided.

Kate is curious about the arson attack, because she is the only person in this book who hasn’t had her brain surgically removed and set on fire.

Then Ana goes to bed and has a nightmare about the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, because in the dream Christian is walking away from her. Then she wakes up and it’s okay.

Drinking in his scent, I curl around him, trying to ignore the loss and devastation I felt in my dream, and in that moment, I know that my deepest, darkest fear would be losing him.

After three months. Just saying.

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