Last time, on Fifty Shades Freed, Ana went out for drinks with Kate, and Christian came tearing back from a business trip in New York because she went out for drinks when he wanted her to stay in. For once Ana did not accept his all-encompassing excuse that his mother was a crack-whore and astonishingly, wrote her dingus of a husband an e-mail in which she effectively communicated her feelings about being told where she could and could not go.
Oh, and they apprehended Jack Hyde. You know – him. The antagonist. Our one last, desperate hope that this mess of IKEA assembly sex scenes and mindless money porn might turn out to have a plot somewhere.
Still, he’ll probably be out and enrolling in Art School in a couple of months, just like the last person who attempted to shoot Ana. So there’s that to look forward to. Maybe.
Anyway, it’s not important, because Ana has come home bracing herself for a fight, only to find Christian has dressed up all sexy and is now lounging on top of the grand piano in lace-topped stockings and a blazing red dress like the one Michelle Pfeiffer wore in The Fabulous Baker Boys.
He looks hot – his jeans hanging that way from his hips.
Okay, I was kidding about the stockings and the dress. These books are very dull; I have to make my own fun.
“I like your jeans,” I murmur. He grins a disarming wolfish grin that doesn’t reach his eyes. Shit – he’s still mad. He’s wearing these to distract me.
When it’s so obvious that even Ana ‘My Brain Hurts’ Steele gets it, you know it’s obvious.
“I understand you have issues, Mrs. Grey,” he says silkily, and he pulls something from the back pocket of his jeans.
Oh, does she ever. And here we go. Here we are plunged headlong into the hell-hot mess of horrid squealing that is chapter eleven. Fuck the story. Fuck the antagonist. Fuck anything but mooing over our pointless mess of a marriage because holy shit, arguing like fucking idiots makes us look deep, intense and fascinating. (Spoiler – it doesn’t.)
“Why did you fly back from New York?” I whisper. Let’s get this over and done with.
“You know why.” His tone carries a warning ring.
“Because I went out with Kate?”
“Because you went back on your word, and you defied me, putting yourself at unnecessary risk.”
This is one of those times when I have nothing to add to the notes I’ve already made. The note says ‘wah wah I’m a giant baby’.
“Christian, I changed my mind,” I explain slowly, patiently, as if he’s a child. “I’m a woman. We’re renowned for it. That’s what we do.”
No we don’t. I’m a woman and I thought these books were a pile of misogynist shit from chapter one of book one. I’m on chapter eleven of book three and if anything my opinion has solidified. Based on…you know…evidence.
He blinks at me as if he doesn’t comprehend this.
See? With pre-chewed prose like this, how could I possibly change my mind?
…deep down I’m glad he came back. In spite of his fury, I’m glad he’s here in one piece, angry and smouldering in front of me.
I’m sorry? When was he in any danger? He went on a business trip to New York. On his private jet. Are you seriously saying you would rather put up with this disgraceful behaviour than spend another second apart?
The bestselling romance trilogy of all time, Ladies and Gentlemen. I have nothing more to add.
“Oh, Ana,” he whispers as he tightens his hold on me so that I can barely breathe. “If something were to happen to you – ”
“…I’d have to find another braindead co-dependent with no self-esteem.”
“I don’t know how to deal with this anger. I don’t think I want to hurt you,” he says, his eyes wide and wary. “This morning, I wanted to punish you, badly, and – ” He stops, lost for words I think, or too afraid to say them.
“You were worried you’d hurt me?” I finish his sentence for him, not believing that he’d hurt me for a minute, but relieved too. A small vicious part of me feared it was because he didn’t want me anymore.
Bestselling romance trilogy of all time. “Better that he wants to beat the shit out of me than he doesn’t want me at all.”
“…I knew what you said was an empty, idle threat. I know you’re not going to beat the shit out of me.”
“I wanted to.”
“No you didn’t. You just thought you did.”
I have nothing funny to say about this, mostly because it’s not funny. It’s just terribly, terribly sad.
Anyway, they make up and she wants to talk. He wants to fuck, but he agrees to talk about what happened with Jack? Remember Jack? No, me neither.
Christian sits beside me, and leaning forward, puts his head in his hands.
Oh no. Is this too hard for him?
For fuck’s sake, Ana. You’re asking him to tell you what he knows about the guy who broke into your apartment. It’s not hard. It’s not like you’re asking him to invent technology that would allow him to flip open the top of his skull and project his thoughts about Jack Hyde in the form of a 3D holographic five act drama written in iambic pentameter.
Although that would be kind of cool. Like I say – I make my own entertainment.
Christian finally explains that Jack Hyde had a dossier on him and his family, which is shocking because nobody in these books has ever (COUGHChristianGreyCOUGH) kept a creepy dossier on anyone.
Plot point over, it’s time to get sexy.
“Where’s Mrs. Jones?” I ask…
“I’ve given her and Taylor the night off.”
In the light of his previous confession that he wanted to beat the shit out of you, this information is incredibly disturbing. You know what, E.L.? We’d be much better friends if I could recap your stupid books without feeling like I needed to leave a list of domestic violence helplines at the end of every post.
It’s time for a romantic dinner, which Ana eats blindfold because the author has fond, formative memories of the food-sex scene from Nine and A Half Weeks. Admittedly, that was a pretty sexy scene back in the day. These days it’s hard to believe something so tame tickled our pickles, almost as hard as it is to believe that Mickey Rourke used to look like that.
Anyway, this goes on forever and then they go to the playroom AKA The Red Room of Pain; it’s apparently been rebranded, in much the same way that blood-drenched revolutions are now known by that hilariously inadequate Bush II euphemism – ‘Regime Change’. They do some crap bondage that lasts for another geological epoch or two and Christian decides to punish Ana by denying her an orgasm.
Because Ana is a married woman of nearly twenty-two years old who doesn’t know how to finish the job herself.
However, she’s still smart enough to see through his bullshit. ‘This is not love. It’s revenge.’
I want your loving and I want your revenge, you and me should write a bad romance…
Although not one this bad, obviously. Because this is beyond bad. This is just awful.
There’s been a lot made of the scene in Fifty Shades of Grey when Christian beats her with his belt and complains later that she didn’t use the safe-word when it got too much. Fans of the series have pointed out that she could have used the safe-word and therefore that completely negates the endless emotional and sexual manipulation that Christian subjects her to during the previous twenty five chapters of the book. To which I say ‘bullshit’.
She was clearly too frightened of him to use the safe-word. Want to know what happens when Ana finally uses the safe-word? This happens.
He stills. “No!” He gasps, stunned. Jesus Christ, no”
He moves quickly, unclipping my hands, clasping me around my waist and leaning down to unclip my ankles, while I put my head in my hands and weep.
“No, no, no. Ana, please. No.”
Yep. He has one of his ‘oh no, you rejected me!’ shitfits which will no doubt end in pages and pages of tears, psychobabble and probably one of his loud, twitchy nightmares.
Turning my face into his neck, I continue to cry, and it’s a cathartic release. So much has happened over the last few days – fires in computer rooms, car chases, careers planned out for me, slutty architects, armed lunatics in the apartment, arguments, his anger…
It’s almost like life with Christian Grey is really, really horrible, isn’t it?
…and Christian has been away. I hate Christian going away…
Oh dear. Bestselling romance…you know the drill by now.
In case you were wondering (which you weren’t, but E.L. is going to tell you anyway) the last endless fuck session was set to the sound of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which becomes kind of amusing if you know that was the piece that was playing when Hannibal Lecter tore that guy’s face off in Silence of the Lambs.
“Your lips are always so soft when you’ve been crying,” he murmurs.
It says something about their relationship that he never says anything like ‘I love the sound of your laugh’ or ‘I love how your smile wrinkles your nose’ but talks about the V on her forehead that forms when she frowns, or how her lips feel when she’s been crying.
Anyway, time to try and pry some more information about Jack out of him, because it’s probably important.
“Hyde is implicated in Charlie Tango’s sabotage. The investigators found a partial print – just partial, so they couldn’t make a match. But then you recognised Hyde in the server room. He has convictions as a minor in Detroit, and the prints matched his.”
Step aside, Johan-Sebastian. I think our man George F. should Handel this one.
My mind reels as I try to absorb this information. Jack brought down Charlie Tango?
YES ANA JACK BROUGHT DOWN CHARLIE FUCKING TANGO JUST LIKE WE ALL KNEW IN CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE MILLION OF THE LAST FUCKING BOOK.
How are people this stupid even conscious? You’d think the effort of blinking, breathing and pushing shit through their colons would be too much like multi-tasking.
“This morning, a cargo van was found in the garage here. Hyde was the driver. Yesterday, he delivered some shit to that new guy who’s moved in. The guy we met in the elevator.”
“I don’t remember his name.”
Noah Logan. His name was Noah Logan. Seriously, you’d think they’d need bibs and waterproof bedding, wouldn’t you?
“Me neither.” Christian says. “But that’s how Hyde managed to get into the building legitimately. He was working for a delivery company…”
Yes. And then your rocket scientist of a security guard decided to let him up to the apartment in the hopes of apprehending him. Dear God, it’s like The Day The Earth Stood Stupid, isn’t it? (Morbo spinning around in his chair fucking destroys me every time.)
Turns out Jack had a mattress, horse tranquilizers, duct tape and a ransom note in the back of his happy little murder van.
“Hyde came here with the intention of kidnapping you.”
No shit. And there was me thinking he just wanted to ask her if she ever thought about Our Lord Jesus Christ and leave her with a copy of the fucking Watchtower.
HOW ARE YOU PEOPLE THIS THICK? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?
“I don’t understand why,” I murmur. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ana, at this point you’re coming across as the kind of person who would hold their hand over a gas flame for five minutes before vaguely registering that fire is hot. Of course it doesn’t make sense to you.
“I know. The police are digging further, and so is Welch. But we think Detroit is the connection.”
“Detroit?” I gaze at him, confused.
“Yeah. There’s something there.”
“I still don’t understand.”
I’m all out of stupid jokes, although to be fair I’ve never been to Detroit. For all I know it could be really confusing.
Christian lifts his face and gazes at me, his expression unreadable. “Ana, I was born in Detroit.”
It says something about the extent and depth of characterisation in these books that it’s taken three books to find out where the main character is actually from. Apparently it’s some kind of shocking revelation, because the chapter abruptly ends.
“I thought you were born in Seattle,” I murmur. My mind races. What does this have to do with Jack?
Did you not grasp that Jack was from Detroit? If this is Ana’s mind racing then I’d hate to think what it’s like when it’s at rest.
Christian knows all about Jack, because he ran a background check on Jack when Ana went to work for him.
“Do you have a manila file on him, too?” I smirk.
Christian’s mouth twists as he hides his amusement. “I think it’s pale blue.” His fingers continue to run through my hair. It’s soothing.
Soothing is not a word I’d apply to finding out that my husband was in the business of spying on everyone I’d ever shared more than two words with, but maybe I’m just old fashioned.
Thinking about Christian’s tragic past as a Victorian orphan sets Ana off again.
“Sometimes I picture you as a child – before you came to live with the Greys.”
Christian stiffens. “I wasn’t talking about me. I don’t want your pity, Anastasia. That part of my life is done. Gone.”
“It’s not pity,” I whisper, appalled. “It’s sympathy and sorrow – sorrow that anyone could do that to a child.”
She’s half right. It’s not pity, but it’s not sympathy or sorrow either. She’s so fond of crying over his misery memoir childhood that it’s almost a relief that she doesn’t know how to masturbate.
“That part of your life is not done, Christian – how can you say that?”
How dare you attempt to move on from your problems when I’m trying to roll around in them like a dog in stink?
“You live every day with your past. You told me yourself – fifty shades, remember…I know it’s why you feel the need to control me. Keep me safe.”
Jesus suffering fuck. Is this how Eva Braun felt?
There’s a page or so of more psychobabble, in which moron Ana basically reassures herself that she’s the best woman who ever lived because her husband is more complicated than other people’s. It’s a sad indictment of Ana’s character that while I should be feeling desperately sorry for her as the victim of a monstrous and controlling whackjob, most of the time I just fucking hate her. She’s that horrible.
“Christian, I know you loved your mom, and I know you couldn’t save her. It wasn’t your job to do that. But I’m not her.
He freezes again. “Don’t,” he whispers.
“No, listen. Please.” I raise my head to stare into wide eyes that are paralyzed with fear. He’s holding his breath. Oh, Christian…My heart constricts…
…my gusset throbs. You know she gets off on this. She’s a sick, sick puppy.
“I’m not her. I’m much stronger than [your mother] was. I have you…”
And millions of dollars and a yacht and a helicopter and a house in Aspen and an apartment in New York. She, on the other hand, was a drug-addicted single mother struggling to raise a child in economically depressed Detroit. See what I mean?
“…Christian, I will always love you. No matter what you do to me.” Is this the reassurance he wants?
On the other hand…
Yeah. This relationship is a love story for the ages, isn’t it?
They go back to talking about crap bondage so that he can once again ask him why she used the safe-word, because we all knew he was going to use that to manipulate the shit out of her at the next available opportunity. And apparently they have red satin sheets on the bed. Because that’s not 1970’s porno tacky or anything.
Blah blah blah another endless conversation about neeeeeeeeeds, then it’s time for a section break so they go to sleep.
Then it’s a new section and Ana is woken up by Christian, who is having one of his big production number ‘nightmares’ which mysteriously occur whenever he doesn’t get her complete acquiescence to whatever it was they were squealing about in the previous bit of the book.
“Christian, wake up.” I struggle to sit up, kicking off the sheet. Kneeling beside him, I grab his shoulders and shake him as tears spring to my eyes.
He’s so sad! And so complicated! It’s so tragic! He’s my never-ending source of cheap, overwrought emotional pornography!
He wakes up and they fuck. Then for the first time ever they don’t have a simultaneous orgasm and she’s left there high and not so dry. This has never happened to Ana before because obviously her love is Better Than Yours and this is why she can usually climax every time from vaginal penetration alone.
“You okay?” I breathe, caressing his lovely face. He nods, but he looks shaken and most definitely stirred. My own lost boy.
Oh, that is not an okay thought for a sex scene. Especially considering you look like his Mom. Creepy, creepy people.
Anyway, mark chapter twelve in your calendars because at this point Christian Grey gets down and eats pussy. But don’t get excited since it’s only a preamble to the main event when he sticks it up her clunge and they orgasm together again like the male refractory period wasn’t even a thing.
Obviously because we’ve only just had a section break they can’t very well go to sleep again so it’s time for more of that particular E.L. Jamesian post-coital purgatory, in which our repulsive protagonists attempt to run around like drunk lab rats in the dreadful insoluble mazes of their respective cardboard psyches.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
He nods, smiling smugly like an adolescent boy. “I am now.”
“Oh, Christian,” I scold and gently stroke his lovely face. “I was talking about your nightmare.”
Ana, you are hideous. You’re like some kind of grotesque, insatiable grief-vulture. If you were a real person you’d work for the Daily Mail.
“Don’t,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and raw. My heart lurches and twists once more in my chest, and I clutch him tightly, running my hands down his back and through his hair.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, alarmed by his reaction. Holy fuck – how can I keep up with these mood swings? What the hell was his nightmare about?
Controlling you. Same as all the others.
Section break time again, and this time it’s time for a nap. At this point I think time is dilating in much the way it did in Fifty Shades Darker, when the Greys masquerade ball went on for about forty years in real time and a long weekend lasted for the duration of a short Ice Age. This whole two chapters covers one evening – one evening in which they had a row, did the Nine and a Half Weeks dinner scene, did some crap bondage, had another row, cried a bit, talked about the plot, cried some more, fell asleep, had a nightmare, woke up, fucked some more and fell asleep again.
Then Ana wakes up to find it’s twenty past three in the morning and Fuckface is once again playing the piano in a melancholy way that she finds heartrending and his neighbours presumably find really fucking annoying.
The tune he’s playing is so sad – a mournful lament that I’ve heard him play before.
At this point in the book I thought I had deja vu or was having some kind of brain event. ‘Mournful lament’? She uses the same fucking tautology every time he goes near that sodding piano. And to add insult to injury she now slaps a ‘sad’ on it.
“Did I wake you?” he asks.
Yes. Because you were playing the piano at twenty past three in the morning.
“Only because you were gone. What’s that piece called?”
“I call this ‘Lick My Lovepump’.”
Reaching over, I take his hand. “You’re really shaken up by all this, aren’t you?”
He snorts. “A deranged asshole gets into my apartment to kidnap my wife. She won’t do as she’s told. She drives me crazy. She safe-words on me.” He closes his eyes briefly, and when he opens them again, they are stark and raw. “Yeah, I’m pretty shaken up.”
GO TO FUCKING SLEEP AND STOP WHINING.
Sorry, that’s all I have left at this point. Oh my God, do these fucking people ever shut up?
Finally they piss off back to bed and wake up in time for the next section break and for Ana to congratulate herself on being Better Than You.
Boy, what an evening. I feel like I’ve been run over by a freight train…
Same. A very, very boring freight train.
I gaze up at the ceiling and it occurs to me that I always think of Christian as strong and dominating – yet the reality is he’s so fragile, my lost boy.
This is how Eva Braun felt, isn’t it? Oh God. I feel ill.
“Shall we have a better day today?”
“Okay,” I agree. “What do you want to do?”
“After I have made love to my wife, and she’s cooked me breakfast, I’d like to take her to Aspen.”
I gape at him. “Aspen?”
Yes, Ana. Aspen, Colorado. No wonder she’s confused by Detroit. Then again, this is the woman who thought you could fly from Seattle to New York in a helicopter. Basic geography is not her strong suit.
At this point it appears that even the author is desperately, brain-bludgeoningly sick of writing page after page of boring, pointless arguments and decides that everything is now sunshine and lollipops and they’re all going on a jolly trip to Aspen.
Again, I’m bound to ask – do these people ever do any fucking work?
Apparently not. And apparently nobody else in the book does either. Ana hops aboard the GEH (again, an unfortunate acronym) private jet to find the whole merry fucky crew waiting for her.
Guests? I turn and gasp. Kate, Elliot, Mia and Ethan are all smiling and sitting in the cream coloured leather seats.
But not José, obviously. Because he’s brown.
Holy shit, why isn’t this chapter over yet? Why?
Ana finally gets to talk to Kate and explains that Jack ‘made a pass at her’. Actually he tried to rape her, but since this book is all about minimising the terrible things that terrible people do to one another, why stop there?
“It can’t just be a grudge about that, surely. I mean his reaction is way too extreme,” Kate continues…
Yes. Why would anyone want to hurt Christian ‘Sunshine and Puppies’ Grey and his fragrant, sweet-hearted young bride? After all, they’re such lovely people.
We get some more information about Jack.
“His dad died in a brawl in a bar. His mother drank herself into oblivion. He was in and out of foster homes as a kid…in and out of trouble, too. Mainly boosting cars. Spent time in juvie. His mom got back on track through some outreach program and Hyde turned himself around. Won a scholarship to Princeton.”
Yeah. Why on earth would a man like that have a grudge against the chippy little wet-behind-the-ears princess who threatened his job when her billionaire boyfriend bought the company where he worked?
And why couldn’t this book be about Jack?
The chapter ends with a further question when the flight attendant steps out of the galley.
“May I offer anyone coffee?” she asks.
I don’t know. Does it come with a cyanide chaser?