Hello once again. Just a quick reminder before we get onto the recap – my pseud’s new novel Held: A New Adult Romance is currently only 0.99 in the Kindle store, so please pass the link on to all of your book bargain-hunting friends. I know price is a big consideration for people who read three or four books a week, which is why I refuse to believe that 0.99 e-books are dead. And why not grab one yourself while you’re at it? If you’ll hate Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll like it – it’s a book where stalky, unpleasant and controlling men get exactly what’s coming to them.
Unlike Fifty Shades. Yikes. Strap yourselves in, boys and girls. This one’s about to get creepy.
We last left Ana – and the last few sad rags of her pitiful self-esteem – cradled in Christian Grey’s manly arms. She wants him to kiss her and he isn’t going to, mostly because he is a practitioner of really poorly researched S&M and is clearly too dark and edgy for our poor little vanilla sap of a heroine.
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed by a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me…I’m in your arms. Kiss me, please.
Torrid stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Still, I suppose it beats endless descriptions of the wrong sort of teabagging.
Unfortunately Christian Grey does not lower his ‘exquisitely sculptured mouth’ to Ana’s sour little beak. Instead he comes over all Edward Cullen (stop tittering at the back, you) and starts telling Ana he’s not the man for her and oh so very dangerous.
This has pretty much the effect you’d expect on a cheerful, well-adjusted young woman like Ana. She shrugs, figures he’s some kind of weirdo and goes home to concentrate on her exam…pffft, who am I kidding? She doesn’t do that. In fact she curls up in the foetal position right there in the car park and starts sobbing inconsolably because a man she’s met three times in total doesn’t want to kiss her.
No, she really does.
Once underneath the dark, cold, concrete of the garage with its bleak fluorescent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinking? Unbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying? I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself.
I’ve tried, Ana. I’ve really, really tried to like you, but it’s no use. I just can’t stand you.
Romantically, though, I’ve never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity – I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on…
…you missed out the part where you had one of the worst personalities in human history. Seriously, this girl could have the face and form of Botticelli’s Venus and still manage to empty a room every time she opened her mouth.
…So I have always been the one to rebuff any would-be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I’m sure neither of them has been found sobbing alone in dark places…
Sure, Ana. The pain they felt at your rejection could never be as great as yours, because you’re just that special.
…perhaps I just need a good cry.
You need a nice strong cup of shut-the-fuck-up and a reality check, my dear. What an incredibly unpleasant young woman.
Miss Mope then slopes off home, after her ‘subconscious’ tells her to go home and stop ‘all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.’ This lasts all of about one paragraph until Ana faces Kate and once more plunges into the soggy depths of tepid despair. All of Kate’s attempts to ask about what happened are sniffed off as ‘inquisitions’ and when Kate tells Ana that’s she’s easily pretty enough for the likes of Christian Grey, Ana’s reaction is ‘Oh no, she’s off on this tirade again.’
Honestly – I don’t even remember Bella Swan being this much of a bummer.
Kate asks Ana if she’d like to see the article and the pictures of Christian Grey.
Do I need a visual reminder of the beautiful Christian I-don’t-want-you Grey?
“Sure,” I magic a smile on to my face and stroll over to the laptop. And there he is, staring at me in black and white, staring at me and finding me lacking.
Let me get this straight – we, as readers, are being asked to identify with a main character who is so insecure and self-loathing that she thinks photographs are judging her? And let me remind you – this is a man she has met three times. Truly a love story for the ages.
Ana decides Christian turned her down because…
…he’s too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result.
The whole Icarus story was a myth about the dangers of hubris. Is it some dreadful sin of presumption to think that rich, good-looking men are hot? Because if so, hand me a pair of waxen wings and plot a course for Hugh Jackman.
Ana mopes off to bed to have another one of her stone-obvious symbolic dreams, only this time the ‘dark places’ have ‘eerie strip lighting’ and there are leaf patterns in the milk. And then the section breaks and time skips forward about two weeks.
Pacing – who fucking needs it anyway?
We cut to a ‘sports hall’ where Ana is finishing her exams.
It’s Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I’ve never been drunk before.
As if we needed any more proof that Ana is fun.
Following the exam, Ana and Kate head home where Ana finds a package waiting for her. It’s been left on the doorstep and apparently nobody even had to sign for it, which happens sometimes, but generally not when the package contains first edition copies of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
There’s a quote, just in case you thought E.L. James hasn’t read Tess of the D’Urbervilles (she hasn’t):
Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…
It’s maybe the one Tess reference that’s almost on point – this is Tess talking to her mother after she comes home from the Stoke-D’Urbervilles’ house, having been raped, made pregnant and abandoned by Alec D’Urberville. Of course, the point here is that when she was packed off to ‘claim kin’ Tess was sixteen years old and innocent. Unlike Ana, who is twenty-one and simply stupid.
I recognise the quote from Tess. I am stunned by the irony as I’ve just spent three hours writing about the novels of Thomas Hardy in my final examination. Perhaps there is no irony…perhaps it’s deliberate.
That’s not irony, Alanis. That’s stalking. He’s probably snagged a copy of your exam papers.
Kate asks Ana what this card means, and Ana once again proves that she’s the smartest cookie in the room.
“I have no idea. I think it’s a warning – honestly, he keeps warning me off…”
We’re supposed to believe that a woman who was just writing about Thomas Hardy three hours ago, after four years studying the novels of Thomas Hardy, doesn’t understand the context of a quote from Tess of the D’Urbervilles? I mean, it’s not a stretch in itself, but when you’re asking me to believe that this sieve-brained dingbat is ‘bright’? Come on. Give me a break.
This is why your character research should be a little bit deeper than ‘She’s an English major and she reads classic British novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ – so that your characters don’t come off dumber than a third coat of paint.
Anyway, as we’ve all figured out immediately, the books are from Christian Grey, which is in no way creepy or manipulative of him at all. It’s just an ordinary romantic gesture – from a man who could afford to buy all the hookers in the world if he wanted to – to the twitchy and insecure young woman who he left in the foetal position in a parking garage. Totally normal and healthy relationship going on here.
That night, Ana, Kate and José head to a bar and drink a bucket of margaritas. Ana is on her fifth margarita, which seems unlikely considering she weighs about 90lbs and never seems to eat anything to soak up the booze. Astonishingly she is still speaking in sentences.
And José’s middle name is Luis, by the way. I’m sure you needed to know that. Everyone has stupid middle names in this book. Ana’s is Rose, making her initials ARS – maybe something the writer should have thought about when she find/replaced Isabella Marie Swan. (Ana’s married initials are ARG, which is so much better.)
At this point José Luis Rodriguez is all but twirling his moustache as he pours drink after drink down our heroine’s whiny little throat. This is because he used to be a creepy Native American werewolf and through the power of find/replace, is now a handsy Mexican photographer.
Ana then does some barely-veiled complaining that Kate is ‘her usual stunning self’ while mimping sourly that she herself is at least ‘wearing my most flattering jeans’, further cementing my view of her as a whiny, do-nothing womanchild. Then she makes her drunken way to ‘the powder room’, which when I was at university was a euphemism for ‘someone in there has coke.’ Of course, nothing as exciting as that is going to happen and instead Miss Piss takes out her phone and drunk dials Christian Grey.
“Why did you send me the books?” I slur at him.
“Anastasia, are you okay? You sound strange.” His voice is filled with concern.
“I’m not the strange one, you are,” I accuse.
Okay, I’ll admit it – I can almost stand her when she’s shitfaced. Even if she still does terrible things to commas.
He figures out she’s drunk and starts demanding to know where she is. She says she’s in a bar, in Portland, and he starts acting in a way that would cause most sensible women to think about calling the police.
“You’re so…domineering,” I giggle.
“Ana, so help me, where the fuck are you?”
Christian Grey is swearing at me. I giggle again. “I’m Portland…s’a long way from Seattle.”
“Where in Portland?”
And then she hangs up on him, which is the first good decision she’s made in the book so far. Then he calls her back and he says he’s coming to get her, which is about the time I’d stop thinking about calling the police and actually call them. Reminder – she has met this man three times.
Ana staggers outside to get some fresh air and is promptly set upon by José, who attempts to stick his tongue down her throat, at which point Christian Grey steps out of the shadows and says “I think the lady said no,” which later becomes darkly hilarious when you consider that every time she says ‘no’ he finds a reason to make her say yes. And by ‘darkly hilarious’ I actually mean fucking horrible.
Thankfully Ana’s digestive tract intervenes and turns her whole head into a novelty garden sprinkler as she ralphs exuberantly over José, the parking lot and a bed of azaleas. Christian Grey hands her a handkerchief.
Only he would have a monogrammed, freshly laundered linen handkerchief. CTG. I didn’t know you could still buy these. Vaguely I wonder what the T stands for as I wipe my mouth…
…Tedward, Truckstop, Trimalchio. Everyone else in this book has stupid middle names. It’s actually Trevelyan, but let’s pretend it’s Thundercat. He’ll always be Christian Thundercat Grey to me. That way whenever Ana has qualms about accepting expensive gifts she can wonder if this makes her a Thundercat’s ho.
This has to be the single worst moment of my life. My head is still swimming as I try to remember a worse worse – and I can only come up with Christian’s rejection – and this is so, so many shades darker in terms of humiliation.
Cheer up, Ana. At least you didn’t puke on his dick while you were giving him a blowjob. I hear that can happen when you’re really, really drunk (so I hear – stop looking at me like that). And isn’t it surely true love when the person you’ve known for five minutes has already been associated with shame and rejection in your tiny, plastic mind?
She thinks about swearing at José, but thinks better of it because Christian will think she’s some kind of slatternly mess.
Ana, who are you kidding? He’s just seen you hurl all over the ground and into the local flora. There’s no disguising your lack of ladylike behaviour.
Yeah, because that’s a normal reaction, isn’t it? Someone attempts to sexually assault you and then some fucking creeper turns up unprompted and steps out of the shadows like he thinks he’s fucking Batman or something. And you’re worried about looking like a lady? Is this drunk-logic or are you simply insane?
Knowing Ana, it’s probably option B. Having expelled a huge quantity of booze out through her nose, mouth and possibly even her eye-sockets, she then does the logical thing and apologises.
No, I don’t know either.
“What are you sorry for, Anastasia?”
Oh crap, he wants his damn pound of flesh.
“The phone call, mainly. Being sick. Oh, the list is endless,” I murmur, feeling my skin colouring up. Please, please can I die now?
So. This is a healthy, normal young woman with no-self esteem issues. You should totally hit that, Christian. Oh wait – you will. Because you’re a predatory fucking psychopath.
He asks her if she ‘makes a habit of this kind of behaviour’ and says he’s ‘all for pushing limits’ in a tone which you know is just so hur-hur-I-do-bondage. Like the tiresome sex-nerd he is.
Ana admits she doesn’t know why he’s here and that’s a question we would all like an answer to, Ana. He says he’s come to take her home, at which point it’s time for any girl with a nodding acquaintance with the works of Tennesee Williams to start screaming FIRE. Her friends can take her home, Captain Creepo. Maybe not the werewolf, but her other friends.
Then Ana asks him how he found her and he says he tracked her cell phone.
Okay, no. I would like this book to go back to being boring, please.
Oh, of course he [tracked my cell phone]. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
No, really. I’m all for hearing about the veneers on tables and all fucking kinds of sandstone, E.L. I don’t mind – bore to me to death, just stop with the creepy. Please. Holy fucking shit. It’s okay if he stalks me because he’s pretty? Did I just read that?
So. Kate is on the dance floor with Christian’s brother Emmett Elliot. Apparently the Greys hunt in packs, as if you needed any more reason to run screaming. Then Christian presents Ana with a very large glass of ice water and commands her to drink – all of it.
That’s totally not laced with Rohypnol or anything. Am I supposed to be finding this sexy? It’s not sexy. It’s like I’m reading a date rape PSA.
Ana sees Kate dancing with Christian’s brother and thinks ‘I need to do the safe sex lecture’, because everyone takes sex advice from clueless virgins who can’t even say the word ‘vagina’ without blushing. Then everything starts to go all blurry and fuzzy because that drink he gave her was totally not spiked.
The last thing I hear before I pass out in Christian Grey’s arms is his harsh epithet. “Fuck!”
Epithet n. an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned: old men are often unfairly awarded with the epithet ‘dirty’ [Oxford English Dictionary]
Certain English majors are reasonably awarded the epithet ‘illiterate’, just as some stalkers are referred to as ‘creepy’ or ‘unsettling’ or ‘flat-out fucking terrifying’. The worst part of this is that I know we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. It’s going to get a lot worse than this, people. A lot worse.