I think when something like Fifty Shades catches fire, it's basically impossible for the author to reach that height again, regardless of the quality of her subsequent work. Fifty Shades has the privilege of coming first, and so I expect that The Mister is largely going to go unheralded. It'll be hugely successful compared to, like, books, but I doubt ELJ will stick around as a household name and keep inspiring think pieces and so on.
I also kind of expect this book to be better. Fifty Shades suffers firstly from being chained to the corpse of Twilight. "Will you become a vampire?" is an interesting question. ELJ's human version--"Will you sign this sex contract?"--is not interesting. Plus ELJ waited until quite late in the second book of her trilogy to introduce any stakes, and didn't do it well.
So I'm guessing that in the most basic sense of plotting, this book is going to be an improvement! Our author has done this before, and to my knowledge, isn't writing fanfic. I don't mean that specifically as a knock on fanfic--I just mean that ELJ wrote this new book without having to ask herself pesky questions like, "so what do I do about the werewolves?"
Plus, I feel like the little bit I know about this book suggests that ELJ basically wrote a gothic romance. Alessia is the virtuous woman with the mysterious past who's going to work in a castle. Guessing like we may see some beauty and the beast type stuff too, only our main dude probably looks super hot but maybe has some like, beastly attributes he needs to work on.
So what I'm saying, basically, is that I think ELJ has some pretty shopworn elements available to her, and while I doubt this book will be good, I do expect that on the most basic, technical level, we're going to get less shit that just makes no sense at all. Fingers crossed!
The prologue, however, does not inspire confidence!
ELJ is no longer shackled to Stephanie Meyer, but she is still shackled to ELJ. One of the things we'll obviously be paying very lose attention to is whether or not ELJ can resist copying from herself. I sort of expect we'll get a good bit of that simply because she's not clever. I definitely expect that Maxim is just going to be a slightly less uptight version of Christian Grey, and I expect that Alessia is going to like, I dunno, teach him about love or whatever. I'm genuinely worried that Alessia--the Albanian musician who has suffered so much--is basically going to be Maxim's shelter dog. I rescued her, but you know, I really feel like she rescued me, in a way.
The real heads will remember that ELJ introduced us to CG's traumatic childhood flashbacks in book two, in the prologue. And here we are, starting our new novel with a traumatic flashback!
No. No. No. Not the black. Not the choking dark. Not the plastic bag. Panic overwhelms her, forcing the air from her lungs. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. The metallic taste of fear rises in her throat. I need to do this. It’s the only way. Be still. Be calm. Breathe slow. Breathe shallow. Just like he said. This will be over soon. It will be over, and then I will be free. Free. Free.Ok. Folks, we're back in it! This is how our novel starts and we are back in the proverbial saddle!
Let's not spend too much on this but um. How y'all feel like fear tastes? I've been scared. I guess I haven't ever been fleeing-human-traffickers scared, so I can't rule out the possibility that there's a level of fear where yeah, it tastes like metal.
But the weird thing is that she's running and exerting herself and I would certainly understand if Alessia here caught the pukes a little. That's the stuff that rises in your throat--pukes--and it doesn't taste like metal! It tastes like pukes!
Anyway. Not the black. Not the choking dark. Not the plastic bag. Right! So I guess Alessia is literally in a plastic bag and that's a terrible way to be but ELJ sort of has Alessia contemplate the in an oddly poetic fashion. Who thinks in these terms, in this kind of dire situation?
This makes me think of CG's flashbacks because in those, ELJ kind of goes overboard giving CG a child's limited understanding of his world. He feels less than human in his flashbacks.
In this section, we get a bit of italicized text that's of course supposed to be actual words in Alessia's actual head, but for the most part the prologue is in a distant third person perspective--nearly what we'd call dramatic third person. Watching as if in a play, with no interior access beyond what our eyes and ears can help us infer.
The mix of this distant perspective, interspersed with Alessia's very immediate instructions to herself, makes poor Alessia seem kind of feral. She doesn't fear anything specific--she tastes fear. She's not running anywhere in particular. Just running. The fact that ELJ gives us some of Alessia's thoughts, but only these very primal, brain-stem type of thoughts kind of makes it feel like she doesn't have any other ones! This is why I fear that Alessia is going to be Maxim's shelter pet, and not a human being, but we'll see!
So Alessia is fleeing. Escapes captivity in the back of a store, and then makes her way to an address given to her by her mother to meet a woman named Magda. This has all been arranged, but considering the plastic bag and all, I guess it didn't go according to plan. Magda notes that Alessia is a week later than expected.
So! Is the hook baited? Are we drawn in?
I'm not! I'm nervous that ELJ's attempts to keep Alessia as a mysterious cypher are going to limit her humanity and turn her into whatever the sad version of a manic pixie dream girl is. I need a phrase for this! Damn. I'll work on it. Everything a work in progress and so on. I'll figure it out!
Anyway, Alessia escaped! Good work Alessia. Next time, we'll check in with Maxim and boy howdy! You guys are gonna love Maxim! JK! You won't!